For the MCU, the Thor franchise should be one of Kevin Feige’s proudest accomplishments. He took something than ran its course by the 2nd movie, and with Taika Waititi’s help found a way to pivot the character onto a new, exciting path. Suffice to say, my expectations were pretty high with Love and Thunder after the delight that was Thor: Ragnarok. Unfortunately with Love and Thunder, we might be hitting what William Shakespeare would describe as the “too much of a good thing” range of the pendulum.
After Avengers: Endgame, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his buddy Korg (Taika Waititi) left New Asgard under control of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), opting to go on more adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Meanwhile on Earth, Thor’s ex Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Built with a desire to “keep fighting,” a desperate Jane travels to New Asgard to see if any of Thor’s magic can help solve what science cannot. Conveniently, also with eyes on New Asgard is Gorr (Christian Bale), nicknamed the God Butcher, which might prove perilous to, say, The God of Thunder.
I get the feeling watching Love and Thunder that this is the MCU’s version of a Saturday Morning Cartoon. Waititi has said in interviews that every actors’ kids gave him inspiration to put their fantasies onscreen. So in a movie built by kids for kids, of course there’s two screaming goats driving our band of heroes from one locale to the other and a bunch of crazy worlds with funny accents. The movie goes from glossy colors to black and white and back again to keep those kids’ attention. Hell, one of the major plots of the movie involves kidnapped children who may or may not get the chance to be superheroes. Waititi’s silly energy is all over Love and Thunder: that boundless childlike imagination finding some really funny stuff more than a few times, especially for kids. The best runner is Waititi giving the hammer Mjolnir and axe Stormbreaker personalities like Dr. Strange’s cloak, which works everytime Hemsworth treats them like a former/present lover.
So what’s the rub? Well, in this case, when you design something to be a kid fantasy, you’re inclined to leave out what kids might call “sad stuff.” Tonally, Love and Thunder skews way too hard into quippy and funny territory. Narratively, this can get irritating because when we’re supposed to be scared for our characters, they’re joking all the way through, undercutting any tension the scene wants to happen. I can understand why Thor might downplay everything since he’s a god, but why would Jane Foster completely ignore her diagnosis, and more importantly, why would Valkyrie, running New Asgard, be so laissez faire about all the kidnapped children of the people she’s sworn to protect? These choices undercut their characters pretty hard, and put them in positions they’re not as talented as Chris Hemsworth is to be naturally funny. At least Christian Bale, since he’s the villain, gives us a weird, modulated performance with not a lot of screen time like the pro that he is to give the audience a different beat. But all of the joking at his expense completely undercuts any menace he might have brought to the part, and “mehs” through the real tragedies that have befallen his character. All these little issues basically ruin the stakes of the final fight, which the movie undercuts in the end credits aggravatingly as well. Thor: Love and Thunder is great for kids yes, but its ONLY great for kids, failing to live up to the MCU’s high standards of entertainment for all ages.
But maybe that means Thor: Love and Thunder will be a blessing for parents? They probably won’t be super into it, meaning they can go do other, you know, parent activities while their kids can see screaming goats, Guns N Roses songs, and Thor butt. I take it back, the ladies and gay men might stick around for that scene in particular. Now THAT’s entertainment for all ages!