While there are some references to the MCU stories, this is largely a stand alone Thor film, and it has the same vibe as “Thor Ragnarok”, for the obvious reason that it was directed by the same Taika Waititi who directed that film. It is in large part successful at being amusing with some fun comedic moments, but it does not quite live up to the standard set by the earlier film. “Love and Thunder” lacks some of the elements that made “Ragnarok” work. Those missing elements are critical characters from the other stories. There is no Loki or Hulk to play against, we are provided with Valkyrie and Jane Foster, two good characters but they don’t stack up well in comparison.
The Guardians do make an appearance in this film, but it is basically an extended cameo, and they are gone within the first ten minutes of the movie. That means that the main link to the Asgardians and the events of the past is Korg, voiced by Waititi himself, as a sort of storytelling narrator, injected sometimes in odd places to provide exposition, but also present for much of the action. The device has a comic effect, but it also tends to take us out of the flow of the story, which makes the movie feel a little bit like a mess. I certainly would not get rid of the character, he is too amusing to leave out of the film, but the way he is utilized emphasizes the comedy and not the narrative.
The plot, such as it is, concerns a being who comes into possession of the NecroSword that can slay a god. The character becomes Gorr, the God Butcher, played by Christian Bale. Initially, the story seems to be about Gorr’s mission of vengeance, and there is a plot device added to make the danger seem more immense, but it turns out that the ultimate goal is a means to rectify a problem, or lay waste to all the Gods at one fell swoop. The strategy for achieving the objective involves Thor’s weapon Stormbreaker which has somehow assumed the power of the Bifrost bridge. To be honest, there is a pretty clear shortcut in the story that doesn’t get used, and it seems like it would have been something the God of Thunder might have considered.
A secondary plotline, and one that is actually more engaging and dramatic, involves Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her acquisition of Mjölnir, giving her the powers of Thor. Following this story line makes it clear why Natalie Portman was willing to return to the series after having abandoned it subsequent to “The Dark World”. Jane Foster is a more interesting character here and she faces a crisis that makes the decisions she choses feel more justified. The Restored Mjölnir, Stormbreaker and Jane, all vie for Thor’s attention and the comedic bits that come from that are quite clever and character based.
There is an extended sequence in the hysterically named Omnipotent City, where Thor and his band of heroes, implore the Gods, in particular Zeus, to aid them in fighting Gorr. This scene is mostly a plot point for humor rather than necessity. Zeus is portrayed by Russel Crowe, and he assumes an accent that is both offensive and whimsically hilarious at the same time. I have already pointed out in other films, that Crowe has been slammed by middle age weight issues, but he is still a compelling persona, even if he lacks the musculature of Hemsworth’s Thor [and by the way, Chris Hemsworth looks amazing in physical form.] This is the eighth time he has played Thor, and given the credit stingers it looks like we can anticipate some more work from the current iteration of the God of Thunder.
My reaction is positive but not with the same level of enthusiasm I had for Ragnarok. Of the four Thor Centered films (minus the Avenger movies) this ranks above “The Dark World” but below “Ragnarok “and “Thor“. I think the movie has potential to grow on me, but for the moment this is only a mild endorsement.