Taika Waititi’s latest film, Thor: Love and Thunder, is out this week. Does it live up to the success of Thor: Ragnarok? The Spinoff writers review.
Very mild spoilers ahead.
Both director and film stretched too thin
Out of all of the horrible accusations made by Gawker’s incredibly nasty recent takedown of Waititi, it got one thing right: he’s doing too much. From Reservation Dogs, The Auteur and Our Flag Means Death to two Roald Dahl Netflix shows, the Elisabeth Moss soccer film Next Goal Wins, a Flash Gordon reboot AND a freaking Star Wars project, it’s clear the director is stretched too thin. Thor: Love and Thunder feels like that problem writ large on the big screen. It’s a flaming hot mess that’s packed with too many characters, cameos and stupid green screen CGI action scenes that leaves little room for Waititi’s delicate and finely-tuned personal touch.
It feels much more like a Marvel movie than a Taika film, and is desperately missing Ragnarok’s very specific genre subversion – and, probably, The Hulk. Christian Bale’s villain Gorr the Butcher, while awesome, feels like it’s stolen from another, much darker, movie; Natalie Portman’s cancer journey is tonally jarring when up against straight-out-of-SNL skits like Russell Crowe’s Zeus; and Tessa Thompson’s awesome snark is wasted with a series of dud one-liners. Any film that needs four – four! – Guns ’n Roses songs to get its point across is doing something wrong. It’s not easy to say this, but Love and Thunder is Taika’s first dud. Also, I didn’t like the goats. /Chris Schulz
Some good moments but no real pay-off
I quite liked the goats. Thanks to being barely on time to the screening, I watched this movie from the front row, where the seat is literally a bed and the angle makes everyone look just a little bit warped. Were Natalie Portman’s forearms really that big? I hope so. The goats were funny and stupid and had no pay-off, which works when it’s one gag. Unfortunately it doesn’t work so much when it’s an entire movie. Maybe there’s some sort of almighty Marvel requirement when it comes to cameos but Waititi’s movies have always been best when honing in on a few characters, and this movie had a lot. Give me a Thor-Hulk buddy comedy over the entire Marvel universe any day.
There were funny moments and fun scenes and even some brief sparks of chemistry (between Valkyrie and Jane, not Thor and Jane) but overall it lacked coherency, with running gags and standalone skits tumbling into jarringly earnest sequences about being a father and finding yourself. Chris Hemsworth has settled into his lovably arrogant comedic persona and the sequences where he struggled internally felt the most authentic. Unfortunately that story arc sat along half a dozen other arcs, none of which were seen through to completion. Characters entered for a meaningful conversation, then disappeared forever, like we’d moved onto a different movie entirely. And for everyone who got excited by the “gay Thor” tease in the trailer, there’s no pay off to that either. / Madeleine Chapman
A misguided entry in the MCU
It took about half an hour into the new entry in the Thor leg of the Marvel cinematic octopus to lock eyes with my plus one and realise that we were watching a genuinely bad movie. After the unqualified, near miraculous, success of Thor: Ragnarok, Thor: Love and Thunder comes out as being one of the strangest, most misguided, entries into the universe thus far.
It’ll keep it simple: Nobody involved with this film is a good match for the material, on or offscreen. Thor: Love and Thunder is, on the simplest level, a straight-faced story about Thor and Jane Foster finding their purpose in life and rediscovering their love for each other. Nothing that Taika Waititi has done in the past suggests he’s an especially good fit for this deeply sentimental material. At his best, Waititi’s work blends a bleak existential undertow with wry, winning humour. It feels warm, full and human. Here, however, the comedy cuts away at anything thoughtful the film is trying to do, and it ends up at the worst of both worlds: neither funny nor compelling.
Everybody onscreen throws what they can at the film, but with such a rocky foundation, it’s no surprise that they don’t come away smiling. Chris Hemsworth, who managed to find a delightful groove in Ragnarok, is back to being woodenly pompous, whiffing more jokes than a comedian on a raw night. Natalie Portman, a famously intense performer, is asked to sell Jane Foster’s infamous Mighty Thor arc despite the film refusing to commit to it. Tessa Thompson rests on a curled eyebrow to sleepwalk through another stint as Valkyrie. Worst of all is Waititi himself as Korg, comic relief in Ragnarok, but pure comic agitation here, getting nearly as much screen time as the leads.
The MCU has struggled to find a concrete path after Endgame, and this feels like the most aimless entry yet. Ragnarok felt freed from the rigid MCU in a fun, exciting way that gave it a compelling urgency. Love and Thunder is the exact opposite; unmoored and yet somehow obligatory. Why are we here, nobody wants to be here. / Sam Brooks
Look, it’s a good time
Maybe it is because I drank a big thing of Fanta during the movie, but the goats honestly made me laugh like a big old happy toad. Goats that scream like humans was funny in 2012 and it is still funny now. Also funny in 2012 was Russell Crowe barking out that extremely long and under-the-pump death ballad in Les Miserables, but at least this time in Thor he is being funny on purpose. Flouncing around as a grouchy Borat-sounding Zeus in a poorly-hemmed tennis skirt, Crowe stole the showe. Did the whole movie feel like a post-credits scene where the superheroes get to do “a fun one” except Voldemort Christian Bale is there and also… cancer? Yes. Did I have a good time? Yes. Could it have been the Fanta? Yes. / Alex Casey