Thor: Ragnarok confirmed that Taika Waititi and Thor are a match made in Valhalla, and the Kiwi director is back at the helm for a second round with the Norse god in Thor: Love and Thunder.
Kenneth Branagh’s Thor (2011), unsurprisingly, featured Shakespearean overtones, while Alan Taylor’s disappointing follow-up Thor: The Dark World (2013) dropped the ball, which was picked up by Waititi, who tapped Chris Hemsworth’s considerable comedic abilities and larrikin nature to triumphantly reinvent the character in Thor: Ragnarok (2017).
Love and Thunder finds Thor perched on a mountaintop in a kaftan searching for inner peace, only to have his reverie rudely interrupted by the Guardians of the Galaxy, who enlist his help to save an alien race. Then it’s off to New Asgard, now flourishing as a popular tourist destination and under attack from shadowy monstrosities and their master, Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), a cadaverous lost soul who has declared that all deities must die – and that includes the God of Thunder.
It’s here that Thor finds himself reunited with ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), albeit now in the guise of ‘Mighty Thor’ – clad in his armour and wielding his hammer. While he’s getting his head around that surprise revelation, Gorr abducts New Asgard’s children, retreating to the Shadow Realm with an angry Thor, Korg (Waititi), Jane/Mighty Thor and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) in hot pursuit.
Confronting Gorr, our heroes learn that his plan to destroy all gods will threaten the entire universe unless they can find a way to stop him…
Jane’s return is the ‘Love’ aspect of the title, and the explanation for her sudden and rather bizarre transformation into Mighty Thor won’t be spoiled here, although comic book devotees will already know the reason. Portman revels in her newly minted powers with tongue firmly in cheek, while Waititi milks Thor’s bewilderment for ample laughs.
Gorr brings the ‘Thunder’. Looking like he’s just stepped off the set of Blade II, Bale brings both malevolence and pathos to the resident villain, whose dark intentions are fuelled by grief for a lost daughter.
And kudos must of course go to Chris Hemsworth, whose fixed grin reflects his love of flexing some comedic muscle for Waititi; Thor always has more spark under Taika’s direction, and Hemsworth’s enthusiasm here is infectious.
Propelled by a soundtrack of Guns N’ Roses hits (with some ABBA and Enya thrown in for good measure), the film’s gleeful sense of fun is enormous, despite the ominous threat, with Waititi’s gonzo humour front and centre. One of the highlights is a visit to God central, Omnipotence City, where a deity for absolutely everything (even dumplings) can be found, along with Russell Crowe in an amusing cameo as a portly Zeus – a performance seemingly modelled on Con the Fruiterer.
In the interconnected realm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Waititi’s Thor films stand apart, not just in their eagerness to embrace the absurd but also their accessibility to audiences who have never seen a Marvel movie. They don’t rely heavily on MCU lore or possess the self-importance that some instalments project, yet still maintain a respectful connection to the whole. What you get is a light and breezy, fun-filled romp in the company of actors and a director who are in on the joke and having an absolute blast.
Thor: Love and Thunder is the gust of fresh air the MCU needed following the horrors of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and is guaranteed to thoroughly entertain and amuse die-hard Marvel fans and novices alike.
In cinemas: July 6, 2022
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale
Directed by: Taika Waititi