Thor: Love & Thunder

Pom Klementieff, Chris Pratt and Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Love & Thunder.

The god of thunder is back in this radical adventure

By Diana Beechener

After saving the universe, losing his family, and the disastrous breakup of his relationship, Thor (Chris Hemsworth: Spiderhead) is left a little listless. He’s tagging along with The Guardians of the Galaxy, meditating, and single-handedly ending disputes with amazing displays of power and strength. And yet, it all feels a little…empty.

While Thor hunts for purpose, a man with a very clear purpose hunts for him. Forsaken by his gods and left to watch his daughter die, Gorr (Christian Bale: Ford v Ferrari) swore to avenge his family and all mortals. To do this, he allowed the Necrosword, a blade so powerful it can kill any god, to possess him. Now known as Gorr the God Butcher, he cuts a swath through all the worlds, finally arriving at New Asgard, looking for Thor.

But there’s something Gorr hadn’t anticipated: There are two Thors who protect New Asgard. Thor is pretty shocked to discover this, too.

His old flame, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman: Lucy in the Sky), has somehow reassembled the pieces of Mjölnir (Thor’s hammer) and wields it with all the powers of Thor. Now, Thor must save New Asgard, stop Gorr, and face his ex. That’s a lot for a god going through a midlife crisis.

Fun, funny, and surprisingly thoughtful, Thor: Love & Thunder continues director Taika Waititi (Our Flag Means Death) streak of thrilling Marvel films. Waititi has a knack for sneaking touching moments into comedy, leaving this film with the emotional wallop of Mjölnir. Love & Thunder is clearly the start of another multi-film arc, and it’ll be interesting to see where Waititi leads Thor from here.

The true appeal of Waititi’s work is the blending of absurdist humor with sharp observations. Waititi’s sneaky ability to add heart to big-ticket Marvel features is still his greatest strength as a filmmaker. Thor: Ragnarok was secretly a reflection on colonialism, hidden under candy colors and rock music. On its surface, Thor: Love & Thunder is a bombastic ‘80s-themed romp filled with bright colors, gonzo action, and great jokes. But dig a little deeper and underneath the neon colors and workout montages you’ll find a story about grief, coping, and finding meaning in life.

Waititi’s second greatest strength might be visual styling. While much of the film has a bright and poppy 1980s look, there are some startlingly beautiful sequences. The Shadow Realm, for example, contains a stark and stunning action sequence shot mostly in black and white. There’s also a bit of gore (though it’s mostly in shadow), so be aware when taking little ones.

Waititi also has a great cast to rely upon to bring both pathos and humor to his story. Hemsworth is never better, getting a chance to stretch his dramatic muscles while flexing the ones he uses to beat up the baddies. He’s joined by his usual cohorts: the ever-wonderful King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson: Passing,) and the slightly blockheaded rock creature Korg (Waititi). The trio has dynamite chemistry and keeps the story moving and the laughs coming consistently. Even the villain, though he displays real menace, is basically a broken man driven to violence in understandable ways.

Portman, however, might be the star of this movie. Jane Foster has a large arc that is both emotional and empowering. While she and Hemsworth have struggled to create chemistry in the past, they work excellently here as star-crossed lovers. Portman also has an easy rapport with Thompson as Jane and Valkyrie have formed an effective team protecting New Asgard and they’re bemused by Thor’s attempts to reassert himself.  

While I’ll try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, please stay through the credits for two stingers that expand the universe and conclude the story.

With a surprisingly nuanced plot, a cool visual style, and a running time that’s mercifully below 2.5 hours, this might be the best Marvel movie since Shang-Chi.

If you’re in the market for a feel-good blockbuster that has some emotional heft, Thor: Love & Thunder is well worth the ticket.

Thor: Love & Thunder is in theaters July 8.

Great Action Adventure * PG-13 * 125 mins.