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It pains me to say this, but I have very little love and only stern, judgmental thunder for Marvel’s newest Thor movie. They’ve only been getting better since the first Thor hit theatres in 2011, making 2017’s Ragnarok the best of the bunch, delightfully goofy fun. But every streak has to end, and director and co-writer Taika Waititi loses his way here.
Love and Thunder’s opening feels more like a post-credit scene from another Marvel movie, as a grungy grump named Gorr (Christian Bale) reinvents himself as Gorr the God Butcher. He looks like a nosier version of Voldemort and is armed with something called a necro-sword, which is like a regular sword except I’m guessing from the name that it – kills people? No wait, it kills gods! Which is what Thor is! Oh no! (Rule one of spoilers: Anything in the first 10 minutes is fair game.)
So Thor has to stop Gorr, who for good measure has kidnapped all the young’uns of New Asgard, a city in Norway where Thor’s people settled after the planetary destruction that was Ragnarok. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is aided by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (a rock creature voiced by Waititi) and Thor.
Yep, Love and Thunder features two Thors, the second played by Natalie Portman, the thunder god’s erstwhile love interest, who also sat out the last movie. Seems her scientist character, Jane Foster, is suffering from stage-four cancer – an oddly specific and dire real-world malady for a Marvel movie – and only Thor’s hammer can keep her alive. But it’s also slowly killing her. Not sure how or why, but it is. (Rule two: You can’t spoil what you don’t understand.)
So while Thortman gets Mjölnir the hammer, Hemsthor has to make do with Stormbreaker, a hefty battleax. His subsequent pining for his old weapon is funny for about half as long as it lasts, and indicative of one of the main problems with this movie – old jokes get overtold, while new ones are undersold.
And speaking of underselling, enjoy the Guardians of the Galaxy while you can, because despite their prominence in trailers, they’re little more than a collective cameo in the finished film. They do get to fight creatures that look like Muppets reenacting Mad Max on Star Wars pod racers, which is indicative of another of the movie’s problems – it’s as though a film from the 1980s had been given a budget from the 2020s. Given Thor’s reported price tag of $250-million, we’re now at the point where Waititi finally has more money than he knows what to do with.
He throws a lot of that cash into a scene in Omnipotent City, which I briefly thought was the name of that Google-run neighbourhood which almost got built on Toronto’s waterfront. It’s actually the hangout of the gods, and the one part of the film that nearly takes giddy, entertaining flight, though I don’t know if we needed the Loki cameo. (Rule three: It’s not a spoiler if you just made it up.)
But the rest of the movie is a bit of a wash. Even the climactic battle feels uninspired, like the film is just going through the motions on its way to a resolution and a couple of post-credit sequences. (Rule four: It’s not a spoiler if you know it’s coming.) Oh, and can we please instate a 10-year moratorium on putting Guns N’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle into your movie to pump things up? I feel like Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was a good time to let it rest, but it’s still in heavy rotation at the multiplex.
The film ends with a promise, once relegated to the Bond franchise, that “Thor will return.” We can also presume that Waititi, now with two Marvel movies under his belt, will also be back for more. I just hope that both these gods of comic thunder can manage to once again capture lightning in a bottle. Love and Thunder wasn’t it.
Thor: Love and Thunder opens July 8 in cinemas.
2 stars out of 5