TL;DR – Thor learns to open his heart again and pays the price…again.
Review (warning: spoilers)
I am probably one of the few people who did not enjoy Thor: Ragnarok. And before I continue, let me preface this by saying I’m a big fan of Director Taika Waititi. I thought Jojo Rabbit was sublime, and his comic acting chops in Free Guy as the antagonist, Antwan, was hilarious. He is incredibly talented and knows how to tell a story that is both funny, moving and poignant, and his unique style and vision in films is eye catching.
I was let down by Thor: Ragnarok because I felt the humour overwhelmed the plot. Norse mythology is rich in material, and Ragnarok is a critical (if not the most critical) event in the Norse mythos. Yet, Marvel Studios appeared happy to go in a direction that was more for laughs than any sense of delving deeper into the God of Lightning and Thunder.
So when I learned that Thor: Love and Thunder was again to be directed by Waititi and the script also co-written by Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, my hopes for a Thor film with a little more gravitas were dashed.
But even with my expectations so low, somehow my ‘expected’ disappointed was exceeded by Thor: Love and Thunder because the story of Thor is now one of farce. Waititi has been given licence to go whole hog on the slapstick and comedy to the point where I found the character of Thor to be largely unrecognisable from the stories I grew up reading as a kid (and this includes the Marvel comics).
Maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy but I still crave a good fantasy story over a bunch of laughs. Marvel’s Thor doesn’t have to go “Lord of the Rings” fantasy style, but it has now gone in a direction that I no longer know what the point of the character is.
The only point I see with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) now is that with great power comes great heartache. In Thor: Love and Thunder, we get a recap of all the loved ones he has lost, which includes his parents, his brother Loki, his estranged sister Hela and his best friend, Heimdall.
Now, we can add Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) to the list. Jane is Thor’s ex and has stage four cancer. Thor who has walled off his heart to prevent any further hurt, finds himself opening up once more when he reunites with Jane. But wait I’m getting ahead of myself.
The story’s primary antagonist is Gorr (the excellent Christian Bale). Gorr and his daughter are the last of a tribe of followers who worship the god, Rapu. When his daughter perishes, and he discovers that Rapu never cared about his believers, Gorr denounces Rapu and kills the god with the Necrosword (a cursed blade that can summon creatures of darkness and allows him to move between shadows). Gorr vows to rid the universe of all gods and becomes the “God butcher”.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Jane is unable to prevent the cancer from spreading, so she turns to New Asgard and being drawn to the broken pieces of Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer, which was shattered by Hela in Thor: Ragnarok) hoping that maybe magic can cure her. Mjolnir responds to Jane and transforms her into “Jane Thor”. Though she has the powers of Thor, the transformation is temporary and does not stop the cancer.
Gorr kidnaps the children of New Asgard, triggering the eventual showdown between Thor, Jane, Korg (Taika Waititi reprising the role as the rock creature), and Valkyrie (the under utilised Tessa Thompson).
But not before Thor and company make a stop at Omnipotence City to seek the aid of Zeus (Russell Crowe) and the other gods. Crowe plays a very camp Zeus and is ridiculous, but this is totally in theme with the rest of the film. Zeus has no interest in helping Thor, thinking that Gorr will never reach Omnipotence City. This leads to a short confrontation where Thor uses Zeus’s lightning bolt against him and escapes with the bolt to use against Gorr.
One particular sequence in the film demonstrates what could have been. When Thor, Jane and Valkyrie venture to the planet where they believe Gorr has kidnapped the children, everything on screen becomes largely black and white and shades of grey. It reflects perfectly Gorr’s shadow realm and when there are flashes of colour from our trio using their weapons it is done with restraint (instead of the overtly rainbow colours of Omnipotence City). It is the only time where there is a sense of tension.
And this brings me full circle with the depiction of Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At no point, do you ever feel that Thor will be defeated or even wounded. Unlike his fellow gods, there is never an inkling that Thor will ever get a scratch on his beautiful blonde head. He is so powerful that not even Zeus manages to disarm him (the Greek god does manage to disrobe Thor while he is chained on stage in Omnipotence City) in an act of pure fanservice. I guess Hemsworth figured that if he had to work out that much for the role, he might as well have one nude scene to show off all his rippling muscles including his gluteus maximus.
So, the only way to really hurt Thor is through his heart. Thus the whole “with great power comes great heartache”. Prior to the final battle, Thor begs Jane to remain on Earth and fight the cancer, saying that each time she uses Mjolnir to transform, it makes her weaker when she inevitably turns back to being human. Jane agrees but only on condition that Thor will return.
When Thor confronts Gorr and is put on the ropes, Jane senses it and rushes to save him but in turn sacrificing herself to the cancer as she uses Mjolnir one final time. Thus, in the end, does Thor lose yet another loved one.
This cycle of loss is meant to be somewhat broken when a dying Gorr asks Thor to take care of his daughter. Turns out Gorr was not just looking to destroy all the gods, but he was also looking for “Eternity” (a magical being) who will grant one wish if you manage to find him (or her or it… it’s not quite clear what “Eternity” is). Gorr wishes for his daughter to be alive and she comes back only for him to die. But she’s in good hands as Thor now takes on the adopted father role, signifying that he is not alone anymore.
In the post credits, we see that Jane gets to enter Valhalla.
All a bit ho-hum in the end.
4 out of 10