“Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Eternals,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and “Thor: Love and Thunder.” What does each of these films have in common? Outside of all being a part of Phase Four of the MCU, I couldn’t tell you. I appreciate this universe trying something new, going in a new direction, and letting the cast and crew having fun telling entertaining stories, but pre-“Avengers: Endgame” there was a plan where everything comes to a head in the end. I don’t see any hints or clues as to how any of these films are connected through loose threads. It seems to me that with the introduction of the streaming shows, the division of focus between films and series’ have led to shortchanged quality products on the big and small screen. When there are three-to-four films and around five streaming shows released over the span of a year (not many matching the quality of those that came before), maybe that’s a hint to slow it down. I love the MCU, but if all it takes is a larger amount of time in between everything and not as much overlapping in content to make these feel like “real” movies again then I’ll take it.
Something happened in the past year online that I can’t exactly put my finger on where everyone seems to despise Taika Waititi’s style of comedy. Personally, changing the entire archetype and personality of Thor himself in “Ragnarok” saved the character. How long can Waititi keep doing this? I’m not sure, but I’ve grown used to humor in a “Thor” film, and “Thor: Love and Thunder” is one of the funniest MCU films to date. Otherwise, Waititi couldn’t quite balance the more serious side of the film’s tone as well as the predecessor. The overlying theme of love and desire gives the greatest purpose to this film, but (and this truly goes to the entirety of the MCU) I wish not everything had to have to be set up for a joke. It’s hard to take any sort of emotional scene seriously when that happens and it really pulls you out of the moment.
Chris Hemsworth is the last of “the big three” left standing, yet they keep adding new layers to the character of Thor. What’s funny is that after “Ragnarok,” “Infinity War,” and “Endgame,” aside from his entire family dead and Asgard still being destroyed, we’re back to square one Thor. Only now he’s funny and has an adopted daughter. Every franchise needs a face and I can see them milking every bit out of this character until he dies. Thankfully, Hemsworth is wildly charismatic. His performance here, being just as charming as every time he’s played Thor before, does not diminish the quality of the film in the slightest.
While Thor is still the main character of the film, a lot more focus is put on the relationship between Jane and him. I appreciated seeing that, and honestly, Mighty Thor might be one of the best executed female superheroes in this universe. It’s funny how not once did I miss seeing Natalie Portman in the Marvel Universe after “The Dark World” nearly a decade ago, but now all I want is to see more of her wielding Mjolnir. I’m not sure when that day will come because she died at the end, though I’m fairly confident in saying Natalie Portman will get her own solo MCU project someday. She was the best part of this movie.
As if the MCU couldn’t more be labeled the fake-death universe, after Jane Foster dies from stage four cancer, she is welcomed into Valhalla by Idris Elba’s Heimdall. This end-credit scene was completely unnecessary. To my knowledge, Elba was done with these movies, and as much as I said I loved Portman in this movie she didn’t need to come back. Valhalla is basically the mythological afterlife so it could just be that she is dead and there’s no coming back. Not a chance, this is the MCU. There’s going to be some inexplicable way that Heimdall and Jane escape Valhalla and are brought back to life unscathed. It would be awkward to have this scene and do nothing with it, hence why I believe there will be a Mighty Thor film at some point.
I want to be the one to say that Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher is one of the greatest MCU villains yet, but he’s not. Bale’s performance is fantastic don’t get me wrong, but for one he’s barely in the movie, you don’t know exactly what he wants until the end of the film (despite easily inferring he’s doing this for his daughter). You don’t see him carrying out his plans of revenge on screen, so the only way he can feel menacing is the expressions on Christian Bale’s face. By no means is Gorr a bottom-tier villain (he’s no Malekith), but getting an Academy Award Winner to play this dark and creepy of a role, it should be a lot darker and creepier. Again, this movie was far too short considering the load it is carrying with two major storylines.
I really liked Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie in “Ragnarok,” but for how long she’s in this movie we don’t exactly learn much of anything new about her. She’s just kind of there for extra battle power the whole time. I’m very curious to see how much of this movie was cut and what had to be smaller-scale due to COVID restrictions because this movie – which is under two hours including credits – is incredibly rushed and flies by. I haven’t even mentioned the Guardians of the Galaxy because there’s no reason to talk about them. They were there, that’s about it. I liked seeing Sif again. Korg is still cool, but there’s not much left to his character either. I was surprised to see that Russell Crowe’s portrayal of the God of Lightning, Zeus, was not just a short cameo meant for laughs, but that he’ll be a major player and threat to Thor in their next encounter. The final tease of Hercules – played by Brett Goldstein from “Ted Lasso” – only leaves me eagerly awaiting the next “Thor.” Even that scene is oddly inserted considering they were only there to get Zeus’ Thunderbolt and didn’t quite need it in the end. It feels that there’s so much of this movie that’s integral and missing; we got the action, but there are people who come to MCU films for plot and character development and franchise progression as well. Overall, I enjoyed this movie, but if this is what the MCU continues to do I, unfortunately, couldn’t promise I have hope for the distant future of these films.