"So this is my vow. All gods will die."
By the time the Marvel Cinematic Universe enters the homestretch of its Phase Four approach to its slew of movies and tv series, I would have thought they had already hit their stride. Phase Four has not been an impressive side of the MCU, particularly the movies that have made their way into theaters worldwide. Black Widow was a disappointment. Shang-Chi was fun, but Eternals was pretty forgettable. No Way Home kept nostalgia alive while Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness shit the bed. But these are just the opinions of one guy who feels like Disney was starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
Then in walks Thor: Love and Thunder.
Thor: Love and Thunder is the fourth installment of the Thor franchise for the MCU and finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey of self-discovery. But Thor's retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat this new threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi), and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). To Thor's surprise, Jane inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher's vengeance and stop him before it's too late.
Directed by Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Jojo Rabbit), Thor: Love and Thunder is one part Marvel popcorn picture, one part romantic comedy, with a sprinkling of death and destruction. From the beginning, when Waititi's Korg introduces us to everyone's favorite Space Viking through narration, the God of Thunder transforms from "dad bod to god bod" with comedy abound. Thor is busy helping the Guardians of the Galaxy save a planet to the tune of the Guns N' Roses hit "Welcome to the Jungle," while New Asgard has become a cruise port full of Disney cruise ships. By the time Gorr's presence is felt, Waititi provides fans with a whimsical look at Thor's life, creating a crowd pleaser of a movie that strikes a perfect balance of terror and humor.
There is an abundance of cameos. There are surprises and deaths galore. There are running gags that generally would get tiring after a while, but they end up perfectly spaced out like a synchronized piece of music. The soundtrack boasts fan favorites like "Sweet Child of Mine" and "Paradise City." Bale's portrayal of Gorr the God Butcher is menacing and simultaneously heart-wrenching, a scorned and stunning villain that deserves attention just as Thanos did in the Avengers films. An incredible black-and-white sequence takes the principal cast into a quasi-reverse Wizard of Oz, adding to the moment's suspense. With the impressive Thor: Ragnarok and now Thor: Love and Thunder, it's easy to make the comparison that Taika Waititi is what Mel Brooks would be if the latter had a $250 million Marvel budget at his disposal.
Taking the character of Thor and making him comedically entertaining is a feat that many storytellers have tried to do for other characters in superhero movies. But Waititi seems to do it with ease. Sometimes, these types of films can feel draining trying to keep up with every nuanced character that might come back in later films, but the newer Thor films have created a world where absurdity is focused on just as prominently as the tension on the screen.
"Thor: Love and Thunder" opens in U.S. theaters tonight!
Ticket rating: 🎟🎟🎟🎟1/2