Thor enlists the help of Valkyrie, Korg and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster to fight Gorr the God Butcher, who intends to make the gods extinct. (from IMDB)
While I’ve always thought the Kenneth Branagh-directed first Thor movie was pretty good, and took itself seriously for the most part, it seems as though fans only consider the 2017 Taika Waititi-directed Thor: Ragnarok to largely be the best of the “God of Thunder”‘s solo outings. Taika’s Thor is a more contemporized version of the character, with Chris Hemsworth giving a more humorous and more human portrayal of the character. This updated version of Thor was celebrated by many, so it was no surprise that Taika would return to direct the next Thor entry, Thor: Love and Thunder. It was quickly made known that Jane Foster, who is played by Natalie Portman and was absent from Ragnarok completely, would be turning into Lady Thor in this one, causing quite a stir (good AND bad) among fans. However, after seeing Thor: Love and Thunder, I can say with confidence that how they handled Jane becoming a Thor was well done, and that (SPOILER ALERT) she is actually not positioned to replace Hemsworth’s Thor.
What seems to be surprising most viewers about Thor: Love and Thunder, however, is how much Waititi has doubled-down (maybe even triple-downed?) on the comedic tone of the movie. It opens dimly with a very serious origin story for Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher, before the movie explodes into a cartoony, humor driven comedy. The problem is that a lot of it is genuinely funny, but I can’t say it’s the right fit for the character of Thor or the movie itself. It’s as if Waititi just didn’t know when it was appropriate to back down from the humor (and no one advised him otherwise). Nearly every single character in the movie has a comedic / sometimes goofy air about them (even Gorr gets some creepy-funny moments), and it makes the movie feel inauthentic at times, especially in how it connects to Marvel’s already-established MCU. Thor was made into a kind of joke in Avengers: Endgame (although it was used also to represent his spiral into depression, but it could have been handled less as a joke if that was the case), so to keep him as this oblivious oaf does a disservice to the character. Thor was funny in Ragnarok, but I wouldn’t say he was necessarily oafish. Here, he unwittingly destroys the very temple a helpless race of aliens is trying to protect from attackers, and he’s oblivious to what he’s done and its impact. Yes, it makes for a funny sequence, but it’s also a lot of cringe, too. Waititi seems to have lost the fact that humor can naturally come out of an awkward situation without having to dumb down a character in the process.
With that said, Thor: Love and Thunder is definitely a really fun romp. While Marvel seems to be struggling to regain its footing in the post-Infinity Saga life of the film series, Thor: Love and Thunder is still enjoyable despite its flaws. It may not fit well, tonally, into the MCU, but it’s quite entertaining on its own. And while having Jane become Thor, on the outside, looks like a social attempt at continuing to elevate strong women over men (and maybe there is some of that here in the dumbing down of Thor’s character), the reasons for why and how Jane becomes Thor is pretty good, and I actually appreciated what they were going for. But they do present enough evidence to support the idea that Jane’s Thor — AKA “Mighty Thor” — along with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie warrior, Valkyrie (also, now King Valkyrie, mind you), is an attempt to continue to push strong women while turning strong men into a joke. (But I’m not here to get into that; just know I have no problem with strong women characters. For example, I love Black Widow, Wanda Maximoff, Gamora, Peggy/Captain Carter and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, to name a few.) Natalie Portman delivers a great performance as both Jane Foster and Mighty Thor, and I’m thankful she returned to the franchise for this entry. It’s also great to have Waititi’s performance as Korg return after he debuted in Ragnarok. But I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t give the greatest credit to Christian Bale’s Gorr and his fantastic performance. He’s a sympathetic character who has his faith derailed when he meets the god his people worshipped only to find that the god doesn’t care at all about his people. Gorr lost his daughter and all his people but never lost his faith, and when he finds that his god had no love or appreciation for Gorr’s sacrifice or the loss of his kind, he makes it his mission to rid the universe of all gods when he comes into possession of the Necrosword – which can kill any god. The sword consumes Gorr, turning him into something truly evil that allows him to move by way of shadows, with creepy monsters that also travel by shadow. It definitely gives our heroes a worthy adversary to worry about, and Bale does not disappoint with his performance. (It also is an interesting commentary on religion and “gods,” that is sure to be a conversation starter.) I do also want to say that the presence of the Guardians of the Galaxy here is kind of wasted and underused. Maybe there was more planned for them that inevitably got cut (like how leaked photos of a transformation sequence for Jane turning into Thor also isn’t in the movie), but their presence is really here as a cameo to connect Thor joining them after Endgame with his next solo story. I honestly wouldn’t have minded an entire movie of Thor with the Guardians, but at the very least, it would have been great to get a little more time with Thor being with them. There’s just so much potential there.
Not surprisingly, love is a major theme in Thor: Love and Thunder. Not only is it what drives Gorr (the loss of his beloved daughter), but it’s really what Thor realizes he’s missing, just before finding Jane again. But with Disney and Marvel’s frustrating mission to be as (offensively) “inclusive” as possible these days, they make sure not to leave anyone out of the picture, making reference to the death of Valkyrie’s “girlfriend,” and revealing Korg’s species to basically be all gay males. In an exchange about love between Korg in Valkyrie, Korg describes how, in his rock-beast culture, two men get together and make a little rock baby. Later in the film, Korg reveals that he meets another man of his kind and falls in love. One could argue that it’s just his alien species, but anyone aware of Disney’s agenda these days (which they’ve even clearly admitted to — seriously, just Google it) would know it’s not that simple. I understand that the worldly viewpoint on these matters keeps morphing and changing (even if the Christian viewpoint does not), but it’s especially frustrating when story and morality both get compromised in an effort expressly to be inclusive just for the sake of inclusivity. (It’s getting to the point where it’s actually distracting in movies and shows when diversity and inclusivity exists just to check a box — not because it makes sense to the story. It should just be a natural thing as a benefit or characteristic of a story, not an obligation.)
The content for Thor: Love and Thunder continues to push the envelope a bit for the MCU. For starters, we get the first bit of nudity in the MCU with Thor’s bare butt. It’s not the most offensive thing they could do, certainly, but it definitely wasn’t necessary and could have been avoided. Aside from the aforementioned references to alternative lifestyles, Zeus’s character (played amusingly, but much too goofily, by Russell Crowe) makes several references to scheduling an orgy with other gods during his speech to an arena of gods. Violence is frequent, but seldom graphic, although some very bloody instances are sanitized by making the blood of gods look literally like gold. Early on, a character is stabbed in the throat, but golden liquid pours out. Later, a large action sequence breaks out involving people in the Omnipotence City, where all kinds of slashing and cutting happens, spilling a great deal of the shiny gold blood. It’s obvious that Waititi knew it’s not a traditional blood color, so he makes sure to be liberal with the amount of golden blood that sprays. Other scenes involving the shadow monsters show purplish or black blood being spilled, and we also see a familiar character after their arm had been cut off. There’s a short scene where Gorr shows a group of children a slug-like creature, and then rips its head off, spilling purple blood, before tossing it aside. And an unexplained brief scene shows what looks like the bloody red heart of an animal or creature placed on top of Jane while she’s sleeping (presumably as a sign of affection from Thor?). There are also flashbacks to several previous MCU movies, often with violence included, like Thanos breaking Loki’s neck, for example. Overall, it’s probably par for the course for Marvel, and not really one suitable for littler viewers. But I will say, it isn’t nearly as gruesome as this spring’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Thor: Love and Thunder seems to be polarizing fans already. It may be too lighthearted and silly for its own good – even if it is genuinely funny at times in the process – making it an “either you love it or you hate it” entry in the MCU and Thor film series. Either way, if you do decide to watch Thor: Love and Thunder, stick around for a mid-credits bonus scene, and a heartwarming post-credits bonus scene.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 7/9/22)
iTunes / Digital Copy Bonus Features Review
Thor: Love and Thunder is now available via digital retailers (and streaming on Disney Plus) and will be releasing on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD September 27. Seeing Thor: Love and Thunder a second time, I still kind of have mixed feelings about it. In some ways, it actually felt less goofy the second time around, but it’s definitely still overtly silly. The things that irked me the first viewing are still kind of irritating, but overall, the movie is entertaining. I’m not loving the MCU’s trajectory at this point, so seeing them put out movies like this and the recent Doctor Strange is a bit worrisome.With that said, along with the feature film, the iTunes digital copy of the latest Thor features includes the following extras:
Hammer-Worthy: Thor and the Mighty Thor (5:37) – Surprisingly, Thor: Love and Thunder is a little light on the behind-the-scenes featurettes, but what is included is pretty good. This one kicks this off with a spotlight on Natalie Portman’s return as Jane Foster. She talks about her training and how she did more action training than ever before for this movie. They also talk about Chris Hemsworth taking the initiative to bulk up bigger than ever for his return as Thor. (We see a clip of his bare butt scene from the movie here.)
Shaping a Villain (6:11) is all about Christian Bale’s casting and performance as Gorr the God Butcher. They talk about interpreting the comic version for the big screen, and Bale talks about the role and how his family really wanted him to do it. We also learn that Christian spent 4 hours in the makeup chair for them to transform him into Gorr each time!
Another Classic Taika Adventure (7:54) – The final featurette is dedicated to Taika Waititi returning as director for Thor: Love and Thunder. This segment starts off by covering Taika’s journey through the Thor franchise, starting with Thor: Ragnarok and his experience directing it, before returning for Love and Thunder. Cast and crew talk about Taika’s process and how Ragnarok was unexpected when audiences first saw it, and they tried to make Thor: Love and Thunder another unexpected film. At least that explains their intent for this one.
Gag Reel (2:46) – The gag reel is a lot of laughing and line mess ups. We get some bleeped out language sprinkled in – and one audible use of “h*ll.”
Deleted Scenes (7:46) – There are four deleted scenes with a Play All option. “Looking for Zeus” (1:06) is a brief scene where Thor and friends meet Zeus’s youngest son, who turns out to be kind of a jerk. “Wasting Time” (2:05) takes place at the beginning of the film when Thor is meditating and Star-Lord tries to get him to join the fight. Mantis and Thor make sounds and goof off (which is pretty cute, not gonna lie), and then Mantis, Star-Lord and Thor get on his ax, but it won’t fly. (1 “h*ll”). “A Safe Vacation” (1:23) takes place in what looks like battle trenches, where Star-Lord yells at Thor for misleading him that they were going to have a “safe vaction” on that planet. (We briefly see a humanoid alien holding his own intestines and guts in his hands briefly as he’s carried off on a stretcher). Lastly, “Fighting for You” (3:04) takes place in the hospital when Thor tries to reassure Jane he’s there for her. They then hear crunching and Thor pulls back a curtain to find Zeus there eating an ice cream cone (!?). Zeus then offers to show Thor how to use his Thunderbolt. This must have been filmed before they decided to make Zeus more of an adversary of Thor.
Finally, there’s an option to Play Movie with Commentary by Taika Waititi (1:58:44)
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 9/9/22)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Zeus is seen addressing an arena of gods where he talks about an upcoming, planned orgy. When Thor addresses Zeus, Zeus threatens to uninvite him to the orgy, and then later says he’s not allowed to go to the orgy (Zeus says the word “orgy” three times); Zeus flicks off Thor’s clothes and we see his entire bare back side, include Thor’s bare butt cheeks. The beautiful women on either side of Zeus look pleased and pass out at the sight of Thor’s genitals (which we do not see), slumping over a railing (played for laughs). When Zeus puts clothes back on Thor, the girls are visibly disappointed; Korg (a male rock alien) and Valkyrie (a woman) talk about romance and there’s mention of Valkyrie’s girlfriend that perished in the past. Korg then talks about how his species reproduces when two men get together and make a little rock baby out of lava; We later see Korg with another man of his species and Korg mentions in narration about finding a mate; We see a montage of Thor kissing various women of different species; It’s suggested that Thor and Jane lived together at one time while not married, and we see a montage of them around the house together; When Thor tries to dismiss the humiliation of being stripped naked by Zeus, he asks if it bothered anyone. Jane and Valkyrie said they didn’t mind and Korg says “I loved it!”; When Zeus flicks off Thor’s clothes, it sounds like Korg mutters something in amazement like “It’s like the head of a serpent!”; When Thor is talking to Valkyrie and Val hints that Thor has feelings for Jane, he defensively quips back that she does.
Vulgarity/Language: 11 “S” words, 5 “d*mn,” 4 “h*ll,” 1 “*ssh*le,” 1 “p*ss off,” 1 “G-d,” 1 “Oh my G-d,” 1 “cr*p”
Alcohol/Drugs: People have wine and beer a couple times; Thor is seen drinking a beer and he offers it to Stormbreaker, his ax, pouring it over the ax and saying it’s his first drink; Valkyrie drinks with Korg and appears to be drunk.
Blood/Gore: Gorr’s skin is a little scabby and burned from being in the desert; In a flashback, we briefly see what looks like a bloody creature’s heart that Thor placed on top of a sleeping Jane; We see an Asgardian lying on a battlefield littered with death that has some blood on their face and one of their arms missing from having been cut off (it’s a little bloody); We see black shadow monsters attacking a town and when Thor shows up to fight them, we see some purply/black blood when the creatures are sliced and hacked. One particular monster is shown being torn apart (with lots of purple blood) in slow motion as Mjolnir flies through it; Gorr pulls the head off an alien slug and we see purple blood dripping from the severed head. He then throws it against the wall and it bounces into the laps of some children; There’s a lengthy battle sequence where Thor, Valkyrie and Mighty Thor fight a group of gods that spill golden blood when killed, sliced and dismembered. It’s VERY exaggerated with golden blood squirting from their fallen bodies, splashes of the gold liquid raining down on them, etc. If it were red blood, it would be very, very gory; Jane has some bloody cuts on her face; A character who has been wounded has blood on their mouth; We see a flashback of Thanos killing Loki and we see Thanos strangling Loki as his beaten face loses color and his nose bleeds; In a flashback from Ragnarok, we see Thor with a bloody eye socket (and missing his eye) after Hela had cut him there; We also see a flashback from Ragnarok of several Asgardians falling over dead from Hela’s attack. One is quickly seen being impaled on a spike.
Violence: Gorr is wandering the desert, dying of thirst when his little daughter he’s carrying perishes. He then finds himself in an oasis where the god he worships is. They talk and the god strangles him by the throat. Gorr picks up a sword and stabs the god in the throat. We then see golden blood poor from his neck down his body. Gorr beheads him and we see the head out of focus in the background; We see a flashback to Thor’s mother in battle with hundreds of soldiers fighting and she has little Thor strapped to her in a baby carrier; We see flashbacks from other Marvel movies where characters like Thor’s parents and Loki are all shown dying; Thor travels to a battle field where he finds a warrior that is wounded and missing one arm, with dead creatures all around them; We see black shadow monsters attacking a town and when Thor shows up to fight them, we see some purply/black blood when the creatures are sliced and hacked; Gorr pulls the head off an alien slug and we see purple blood dripping from the severed head; There’s a lengthy battle sequence where Thor, Valkyrie and Mighty Thor fight a group of gods that spill golden blood when killed, sliced and dismembered; A lightening bolt goes through an alien, presumably killing it. It’s emotional as we watch it fall to pieces (We soon find out it is not dead); Thor impales a character with a lightning bolt and we see a burned hole through their chest. The victim falls from a high platform to the ground, presumably dead. We much later find out that they survived; We see Mjolnir come apart into pieces and fly through various alien attackers before coming back together; Thor fights Gorr in a village but he escapes; Gorr kidnaps the children of New Asgard and keeps them in a creepy cage; A character is stabbed and badly wounded, but they survive; We learn that a character has stage 4 cancer with not much hope of being healed. We see them grow sicker during the course of the film; Children are given the power of Thor and we see them rush into battle, using weapons (and toys as weapons) to attack and defeat the creatures of Gorr; Gorr and Thor fight again; A character dies in the arms of a loved one (it’s an emotional scene); A man dies when succumbing to his wounds; We see a man and a child run into battle; and other sci-fi, comic book action violence.