Thor: Love and Thunder ⭐️⭐️1/2 Review by Andrea Carnevali
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. Out in cinemas this Friday.
While sitting down watching this latest Thor at a special preview screening in a packed Imax theatre, listening to the audience cheering and clapping, a worrying realisation started to creep up on me: maybe I’m getting too old for this type of film.
It is clear by now that what Marvel is doing is producing big-budget serialised instalments, within a sprawling bigger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which can hardly be watched on their own. Taken that for granted, it still creates oddly paced stories, which spend an awful long time picking up the pieces from previous films in order to dismiss them as quickly as possible so that they can tell the story they need to tell.
In the case of this film for example, the whole section with the Guardian of the Galaxy at the front is not just pure “fan service”, but also completely redundant for the development or the outcome of what the rest of the film is about.
Does that matter? Probably not, because Taika Waititi’s film, with or without the “Guardians” preamble, is generally all over the place anyway. But this kind of film is clearly NOT written for people like me or snooty old film critics, but rather for the millions of fans who crave this kind of stuff.
Just indulge me for a moment and look at the numbers at the box office if you need any proof of what I am talking about:
Black Widow for example, released in the middle of the pandemic, grossed around $380 million worldwide and was considered one of the worst performing films of the franchise.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (a film which I really hated) is currently at around $952 million.
The latest Spiderman released last Christmas stands close to $2 billion and finally Avengers: End Game, the top grossing film in the franchise so far, is now close to $2.8 billion, just behind Avatar as the biggest film in cinema history.
And that’s without any income from streaming, DVDs and merchandising.
In other words, Marvel is sitting on a gold pile and cannot be bothered about what I may think or say.
Having said all that, I still want to talk about my feelings towards these films, mainly because, despite everything, I am still a movie fan, but more than that an action film fan, sci-fi fan and a comic book (casual) fan.
Thor’s character has evolved over the years, and even though his film trilogy rates as one of the least favourite among fans, his popularity has also increased.
Kudos to Chris Hemsworth’s charm of course, who’s managed to give a rather dull superhero (at least on paper) a swaggering personality. His look certainly doesn’t hurt and I’m sure people will be taking screenshots of his perfectly chiselled buttocks shown in this film for years to come.
Director Taika Waititi is now one of Hollywood’s new golden boys… Well, not really a boy anymore, but with an Oscar under his belt for the screenplay of Jojo Rabbit, his name cemented in the Marvel Parthenon and now scheduled to direct the next Star Wars film, you can see why the “golden” part is correct.
He completely upended Thor’s universe by taking the helm on its third film, by delivering an absurd, humorous and irreverent instalment, which ended up being the most successful in the trilogy, Thor: Ragnarok.
With its funny one-liners, 1980s-inspired soundtrack and relentless wackiness, the film gave the undeniable jolt of energy to the superhero and fans seemed to respond to that.
So much so that Taika Waititi was called again for this latest film to bring some of that same style and sensitivity to it.
And so, once again random ‘80s music plays out for no apparent reason except to make people to cheer.
The film is, once again, a chaotic mishmash of absurd irreverence, slapstick, cartoony characterisations, CGI-heavy and relentless action mixed in with emotional beats too.
Waititi’s ability to switch from farce to drama had proven to be a winning card with his Oscar-winning JoJo Rabbit, but I have to say I found the mix here a little bit more jarring, probably because of the pace required by these sort of films is by nature a lot faster, hence there is never enough time to take a moment to reflect on the emotional impact of some of what we are witnessing.
I have to be honest, despite the joyous atmosphere around me, when watching this, most of the irreverence seemed to wash over me. I found the jokes fairly cheap, rather predictable and, let’s face it, a bit puerile. Most of them hardly raised a smile on my face but most importantly I felt they completely undermined the emotional core of the story itself.
I mean, we actually have a character who has cancer here, whose life is being drained out even faster by choosing to be a superhero. We also have a baddie whose daughter dies in his arms and is now looking for some sort of revenge by kidnapping other children (or at least I think that was his motivation… not too sure about that).
I mean, if that isn’t recipe for high drama, what is? And yet, we seem to rush through all of that, as if the script was more a bullet point document than an actual written-down story, more concerned about hitting all the bits and throwing in a couple of cheap jokes in the process.
There’s a danger about making everything, including (and especially) your hero and your antagonist looking more and more like a parodies of themselves. It diminishes their characters, it cheapens them and it makes the stakes feel less threatening and less important.
I’m also afraid that in the long run it’ll hurt the franchise rather than revitalise it, as it’ll be harder and harder to come back from that.
I’m looking at Zeus, played by Russel Crowe, basically wearing a tutu as the epitome of all that. Hard to see how that character can be made scary again or even just be taken seriously when the new franchise about Greek Gods will be coming out in the near future (all that is hinted in the obligatory post credit scene).
The film relies a lot of Chris Hemsworth’s charming personality (he was really born to play this part, but also his comedic timing is undeniable) and Natalie Portman’s always reliable presence. She can make anything seem believable, though at times you can tell how even this Oscar-winning star didn’t really quite know how to take some of this material, switching from an ill-stricken human to an all-powerful goddess in the space of seconds.
Meanwhile Taika seems throw everything at the screen hoping that something will stick… and to be honest some does stick, but on the whole there seem to be very few rules and even those few are often broken. Characters show up and disappear when it’s most convenient, laws of gravity don’t exist (I know we are talking about superheroes, but even among superpowers there must be some sort of boundaries), geography is meaningless and the action taking place is often so fast that even on a big screen like the Imax looked fairly confusing. Not to mention the cartoony look of the scenery, which looked more like out of the ‘80s Flash Gordon, than anything.
I’ve seen worse and suffered through much more terrible films of course, but in the end I can’t shake the feeling that I found this was a rather inconsequential instalment, which actually changes next-to-nothing in the big scheme of things, but also left me pretty cold throughout. But hey, at least they kept it under two hours. Hooray!
Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick
Thor: Love and Thunder is out in cinemas this Friday.
See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali
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