Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post

Thor about to smash some aliens with Stormbreaker in Thor: Love and Thunder, now playing in theaters (Photo provided via @MarvelRetouches on Twitter).

Film Review: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ falls short of its predecessor (no spoilers)

Thor: Ragnarok is one of the MCU’s best entries and a great action-comedy. Just don’t ask Twitter. Thor: Love and Thunder, however, doesn’t live up to its predecessor.

It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s underwhelming by comparison. I was disappointed by it, but I still immensely enjoyed my time. My disappointment was heightened by how close the film comes to being something truly great and special; instead, it becomes a movie I watched, enjoyed and will most likely never think about again once I’m done writing this review.

There’s been much talk recently about how movies have just gotten longer and longer, to the point that they are seldom shorter than two hours long, or in the case of comic book movies, two and a half hours long. Thor: Love and Thunder dares to be (barely) shorter than two hours. That dare doesn’t work out for it, however; hurting the pacing, emotional beats and, especially, the villain.

Thor: Love and Thunder find the titular god of thunder on a journey of self-discovery. As a part of the Guardians of the Galaxy, he hasn't felt complete; he's searching for something or someone to fill that void inside him. When Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) starts making waves by living up to his namesake, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must return to New Asgard to defend his home. He gathers his friends, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (Taiki Waititi) and tries to rekindle his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, turned Mighty Thor, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).

I've already mentioned that director Taika Waititi's first Thor film, Ragnarok, is a better film than Love and Thunder, but my job isn't to complain about what I wanted or expected from the film, it's to critique the film that's there. This film is a fun but deeply flawed excuse to munch down a bucket of popcorn. That being said, a sequel's ideal goal is to improve on the foundations laid in the previous entry. Comparing a sequel to what came before is necessary to solidify an argument on whether it's worth your time and money. 

Thor: Love and Thunder improve on some aspects of its predecessor, including more emotional resonance and compelling antagonists. The weakest moments of Ragnarok are those without Thor or Loki in them, meaning the scenes of Hela overtaking Asgard. They're a necessary part of the film, familiarizing us with what makes her such a threat, but they drag down the pacing and make the audience want to get back to the characters they care about. It also doesn't help that she's woefully underwritten, only made somewhat interesting by the fantastic screen presence of Cate Blanchett. 

The lesson Love and Thunder took away from Hela's mediocrity was to cut a lot of the scenes with its antagonist from the film. This is a shame because Bale is truly one of the best villains the MCU has seen. I can only imagine how much more he would've cemented himself into fan's S-tier rankings if he was given extra time and care. As it stands, he's barely in the film. Essentially bookending it, he shows up for a cold open in the first act, a couple of minute-long vignettes in the second and third act and one final battle.

The fault seems to fall on the film's pacing; it's not slow or boring, everything just moving so damn fast that there is no time to breathe. This is a romantic action-comedy, not a thriller; viewers shouldn't be getting whiplash from how fast the plot moves along.

The film's struggles with pace, emotional resonance and a compelling villain are self-inflicted. It's been stated in several interviews by Waititi, Bale and Portman that they shot a lot more with Gorr that was left on the cutting room floor. Whether it's explaining how he got all his facial scars or showing him butchering some of the background gods only implied to be killed, there's a good chunk of meat that's been torn from the movie's bones for the sake of Waititi's breakneck directing and writing style. The ten-minute length difference between Ragnarok and Love and Thunder is really felt here, Ragnarok being the longest film of the two.

The insane pace also makes it feel like a two-act film, unlike the typical three-act structure. The three acts are technically there, but80 to 90 minutes of this 119-minute-long film comprises the second act, which is not normal. The setup and conclusion feel rushed, especially when viewed in the context of the whole film and not just in the moment while watching. It doesn't help that the film seemingly takes place over the course of about twelve or so hours, so there isn't any room to breathe for the characters or audience. I won't say why, but there's no real reason why the film couldn't take place over two or more days instead of just a few hours. This lack of time, alongside the rapid-fire jokes, just makes some serious moments not hit the way they were intended, even if those moments are handled better than Waititi has in his past.

Waititi had more creative freedom with Marvel here than he did previously, as he both directs and co-writes this film, as opposed to just directing as he did before. He wasn't as reigned in by producers or Kevin Feige, leading to problems that are more ingrained in the film's DNA rather than with what was just shot and left out by choice. For "spoilery" reasons that I won't go into, this is a much more emotional film than Ragnarok, which means some things need to be treated as being more serious, not being undercut by jokes. 

It's one thing to see Korg (Taika Waititi) crack a joke about Asgard's fall considering the disconnect with the audience, but it's another thing to undercut meaningful character interactions and force comedic moments. One of the biggest issues with Love and Thunder is its absolute barrage of jokes. 

Yes, Ragnarok also functioned as a hilarious action-comedy, but the jokes weren't just flying at you every other second; they were more polished and spread out to hit harder. Love and Thunder always fires on all fronts, never giving you a chance to prepare for the next joke. I could compare these films' comedy styles to different types of shotgun blasts, Ragnarok being buckshot, containing fewer but bigger projectiles, and Love and Thunder being bird shot, containing many but minuscule projectiles. Sure, you get more laughs, but they're never at the same level as some of the laughs in Ragnarok

It reminds me of the stark difference between James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy films and his work with DC, whether it be The Suicide Squad or Peacemaker. Waititi's self-indulgence just isn't as entertaining or as well-thought-out, and his writing is often weaker. Regardless, Love and Thunder is consistently really funny, but I don't know if the jokes will hold up over time. Those that will overstay their welcome were uniquely written for each member of this fantastic cast.

Chris Hemsworth is great as Thor. I would say he always has been, but those first two Thor films were rough. Regardless, his commitment to the role can never be questioned. I don't think he's ever looked more impressive than he does here. Natalie Portman also got beefed up beyond belief to play the Mighty Thor, which is great to see. Their respective performances are great and their on-screen chemistry is the best it's ever been. Also, the chemistry between Tessa Thompson and Natalie Portman was a pleasant surprise. Thompson isn't given a lot to do, which sucks, but she is given some great lines here and there. The same goes for Korg; you'd think Waititi would give his own role more, but I guess he checked his ego in this one singular way. 

It's clear the film's focus was on the two Thors, but it would've been nice if other characters were given time to shine. This all goes back to the film's length. The issues are all cyclical. 

In considering technical criticisms, the score isn't all that great. Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad collaborated to create it, but it doesn't show. Giacchino is a renowned film composer, but he outputs way too much to give all the films he works on the proper time and care they deserve. It's clear that some projects, like The Batman, are a much higher priority to him than others. I'm not familiar with Melumad's work prior to this film, as it's mostly in TV and short films, but I'm sure she's capable of a much more memorable score than what we get here, especially as she's composing all the music for the most recent Star Trek series. 

There's not a single song or track here that I can remember standing out, unlike the Ragnarok score by Mark Mothersbaugh, the lead singer of Devo. I would've much preferred if Mothersbaugh returned, but Love and Thunder is going for a much different vibe than Ragnarok, so his replacement is understandable.

The real score for the film is all the licensed music. There are twelve songs used throughout the film and four of them are by Guns N' Roses. So, you could say that Axl Rose and Slash are the real composers of the film. Regardless, the songs fit well and enhance the scenes they're in.

One of the things that made Ragnarok stand out so much was its use of "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin. It was used twice and both scenes became iconic MCU moments. Love and Thunder lack those moments, which is super disappointing. Nothing rivals Ragnarok's bridge scene, the Valkyries scene, the Hulk vs. Thor fight or even its opening. It's another knock on a film that I feel is destined to become a middle-of-the-pack entry in the MCU pantheon instead of something truly memorable and important. 

Thor: Love and Thunder isn't a bad film, it's just a merely good one. It's enjoyable, funny and sometimes emotional, but doesn't reach the heights it could have if the director didn't constantly get in his own way. Maybe my perspective will change when I see it again. Who knows? It might grow on me a lot upon a second viewing. But, as it stands, it's a huge case of missed potential. This review is going to come off as more negative than it is because there are issues with the film, but those issues don't stop it from being fun, they just stop it from being truly great. I hope that in the future, Marvel and Waititi learn that overcorrecting their past mistakes just means that you're creating entirely new ones.


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH