Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor: Love and Thunder

Audiences: Why isn’t it possible (for you to make a good movie Taika)?
Taika Waititi: It’s just not.
Audiences: Why not, you stupid bastard?

[Spoilers for some minor plot details and jokes within the movie]

[In short]

Whereas Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, despite its abundant flaws, rekindled my love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its campy charm and striking Sam Raimi visuals, Thor: Love and Thunder has ostensibly killed it for good. Put simply, this was one of the most miserable movie-going experiences I’ve ever encountered. While I wasn’t necessarily surprised given that I don’t particularly care for the rest of Taika Waititi’s filmography, I was shocked to see that this was the movie that was the straw to break the camel’s back (so to speak) and radically make audiences despise the MCU and Taika Waititi as a director because this is more or less exactly what Waititi gave audiences back in 2017 when he released Thor: Ragnarok (even down to the structure of the movie, its placement of gags, and musical cues which swap Led Zepplin for Guns N’ Roses), a movie which was universally praised by audiences and critics alike.

[At Length]

Thor’s arc that was set-up at the end of Avengers: Endgame is basically completed offscreen through a montage sequence narrated by Korg as a half-hearted joke. This in turn makes his character rather aimless for a large portion of the runtime. During this narration we are greeted with flashbacks to every major character moment that has led Thor to where he is now in a similar way to how Mobius re-capped Loki’s entire life to him in Loki. And that’s exactly what this montage seeks to do; to recap everything for general audiences who may have forgotten where we last left our protagonist while also squeezing as many jokes in as possible. This scene truly sets the tone of the entire movie. Whereas the scene before it establishes the tragedy of Gorr the God Butcher, this scene shows you that despite the underlying seriousness of the movie, that audiences should not take any of it too seriously because this is a comedy (which becomes especially apparent when Korg makes jokes about major character deaths that have played a formative role for Thor and his character development throughout the MCU). If we were to analyse this scene a little further, we could assume that the deliberate decision to have Korg (Taika Waititi’s self-insert character) narrate as opposed to any other character, that this is a message directly from Waititi to his audience that none of this matters and you should just treat all these major events (and the rest of this movie for that matter) as one big joke.

And speaking of jokes, I feel like I need to get this criticism out of the way sooner rather than later. I acknowledge that comedy is subjective, but much like Thor: Ragnarok, the comedy that Waititi employs in Thor: Love and Thunder is some of the most low-brow, pedestrian comedy that I’ve seen in a movie for quite some time. But unlike Thor: Ragnarok, the comedy is not woven into the scenes, instead, the comedy becomes the scene. The best way to describe it is by using that handshake gag between Thor and Star Lord as a metaphor. After an overly long handshake initiated by Thor, Star Lord says, “You’re really dragging this out.” This can be said about practically every joke in Thor: Love and Thunder. Remember the Matt Damon bit from Thor: Ragnarok? Well, what if it was 5 minutes longer and Melissa Mcarthy was also in it this time and did her shtick? If you mean to tell me that you even remotely scoffed when the goats screamed for the first time (let alone the 30th) or when Valkyrie danced to a portable speaker and then later tickling Thor’s nose as he’s trying to obtain important information that will help save dozens of lives, I really don’t know what to say. Some other miscellaneous jokes that were especially atrocious (in no particular order) were (1) Russel Crowe playing Zeus with an offensively bad Greek accent; (2) Zeus stripping Thor naked being played for laughs when in any other movie this would be considered a horrific and traumatising experience; and (3) whatever the hell the whole Mjolnir and Stormbreaker love triangle thing was which was absolutely repulsive. Either way, Waititi doubles down on anything and everything that worked in Thor: Ragnarok, almost to the point that it became a parody, undermining everything else in the movie. But credit where credit is due, at least Taika treated Jane’s cancer subplot with a relatively mature level of seriousness.

While it might be unfair to criticize the lack of tension, stakes, and overall serious tone of this movie because it does brand itself as a comedy (and very much commits to it), so were both Guardians of the Galaxy films which knew when to be serious and weren’t afraid to shy away from emotionally complex moments. What this creates is a movie hellbent on telling jokes (regardless of their implications on the plot or characters) rather than crafting a compelling or coherent story. Chris Hemsworth has even gone on record to corroborate that claim in a Collider interview in which he stated, “The story was sacrificed for jokes.” I could name an abundance of examples, but for the sake of this already overly long review, I’ll keep it relatively concise.

Put simply, Thor: Love and Thunder is contrived and mostly nonsensical. Other than this being the second MCU movie in a row to feature a villain who is in part made evil (or corrupted) by an evil item (most likely because this is a caveat for creating a character who must suffer the consequences of the atrocities that they commit), the movie also operates through a convenient series of events (obviously this happens a lot in many movies, especially in the MCU, but it feels more noticeable because of how loosely the entire movie is held together). The worst of these being either (1) Gorr stumbling upon the god-killing sword by sheer luck and being told exactly what it is and how to use it in that moment, or (2) the introduction of Heimdall’s never beforementioned son who has the same powers as his father and is the only reason that Thor and the gang are able to find the kidnapped children just because of the vision projection thing that it was established Heimdall could do in Thor: Ragnarok. It just seems like Waititi wanted to include Heimdall in the movie but couldn’t ignore the continuity established by Avengers: Infinity War.

However, his use of the character Eternity does pose questions of why Thor didn’t go to him to either stop Thanos and/or undo the Snap in Avengers: Infinity War (among other cataclysmic events), especially when Thor knew about Eternity’s existence and exactly how to reach him. I know that these may seem nitpicky, but I would disagree. To be nitpicky would criticize something like Thor: The Dark World or Captain America: The Winter Soldier on the grounds that none of the other Avengers got involved to help save the day. However, when so much of the movie rests on embracing these premises and accepting that these characters and their abilities have existed in this universe for far longer than we the audience have known, it really works to break the emersion of this movie and the continuity of the MCU as a whole (something I’ve discussed before in my Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review if you were interested in reading another one of my long-winded tangents). Maybe some of this would have been averted if the movie wasn’t drastically cut down and mandated to be less than 2 hours by Marvel Studios, but at the same time, Waititi said that most of what was cut is just more jokes, so who knows.

The role of comedy in the movie also works to (once again) irreparably damage the characters in the film. Thor is reduced to a dumbass now. He’s basically reverted back to how he was in the 2011 Thor movie before he lost his powers. He exudes a blatant disregard for people and really anything around him. Take for example that scene where he destroys a sacred temple after single-handedly putting a stop to the villains that were occupying it. His blatant disregard for its value, despite being told to proceed with caution moments earlier is meant to be seen as funny because Thor is a silly, goofy guy, but this obliviousness undermines the journey of his character. Say what you will about the Russo Brothers turning Thor into a joke in Avengers: Endgame by making him a bumbling drunkard, but it still fit the natural progression of his journey. More than that, it’s emotionally powerful to see that despite his shortcomings and battle with depression, he still remained worthy through it all. Now in Thor: Love and Thunder, we see Thor revert to the characterization that made him unworthy in the original Thor film through his carelessness and lack of compassion for others. Really, everything that Thor does throughout this movie proves Gorr right, so much so to the point that I’d consider Gorr the real protagonist of the story.

Speaking of which, Gorr could have been an interesting villain, and his motivations are interesting and actually thematically complex, but the movie absolutely wastes both the character and one of this century’s best working actors, Christian Bale. The idea of being mad at a God who you give your devotion to and pray to, asking for help or guidance but receiving nothing but silent apathy in return is rather dark for an MCU movie to take-on, but nothing comes of it. There is no questioning of whether we should put our faith into God(s), disregard their existence, or be indifferent to them if they do exist. Instead, the movie seeks to play it safe once again by using comedy as a crux to get to the next plotpoint. It’s a shame too because these ideas permeate (at least in a subconscious, not explicitly stated way) in the minds of our protagonists throughout the runtime as they learn that the gods who they once admired and now seek the assistance of are mere egotistical and uncaring megalomaniacs that want nothing more than to have a careless good time. The internal conflicts were right there and ready to be explored, but Waititi instead time and time again chooses to resort to comedy whenever the narrative becomes even remotely meaningful.

As a final note, I’d just like to add that I can’t stand the smugness of Taika Waititi. The fact that he referred to Thor: Love and Thunder as independent art cinema and mocked the work of his VFX artists during his Vanity Fair interview. Regardless of whether these were genuine statements or just more nonsense that he spews in a quick attempt to be funny, they’re tone deaf and mean-spirited either way and not the type of attitude that the director of a massive blockbuster for the biggest film studio in the entertainment industry should outwardly have. The amount of money that this movie not only cost to make, but that Waititi himself will inevitably gain from it is so unfathomably large, that for him to practically spit in the faces of his VFX artists and audiences alike without an ounce of care is despicable. After these comments and watching both Thor: Ragnarok and Thor: Love and Thunder, I can’t say that I’m particularly excited for any future Marvel Cinematic Universe projects, especially those with Taika Waititi’s name attached to it.

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