20 Jul 2022

Thor - Love and Thunder

From At The Movies, 7:30 pm on 20 July 2022

Review - Thor: Love and Thunder is the fourth standalone Thor movie from Marvel Studios since Chris Hemsworth first wielded Mjolnir the hammer back in 2011.

Where the last two Thors have been much more interesting and – dare I say it – entertaining than the first two has been the introduction of Taika Waititi to the creative hot seat.

Since the last Avengers film, Thor has been pootling around the universe with the Guardians of the Galaxy, doing heroic things with his usual mix of muscle-bound innocence and incomprehension.

Meanwhile, on another planet, a simple peasant named Gorr prays for the life of his daughter during a terrible drought. His devotion to the god Rapu is not rewarded – in fact quite the opposite – the source of Rapu’s power, the Necrosword, offers itself to him so he can take his revenge on Rapu and then on all the other selfish, indolent and indifferent gods in the universe. He becomes Gorr, the God Butcher.

Incidentally, in the comics the Necrosword is also known as the All-Black which strikes me as a promotional opportunity missed.

Suffice to say that Thor, his amusing rocklike sidekick Korg (once again played by Waititi himself), Foster and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) team up to try and stop Gorr from destroying all the gods, one by one. Even though some of them clearly deserve it.

Gorr is played by a brilliant and committed Christian Bale, the latest in the long line of top-of-the-line movie actors to front up for a Marvel movie and he really is jolly good – get the best actors you can find, I say, even if you then bury them under a mountain of makeup.

I’ve heard some carping from critics that this film is Waititi at his most indulgent, it’s just Taika being Taika, they say. The schtick is getting old. But I disagree. This is clearly Waititi mining the same seam and same themes as all of his films since Eagle Vs Shark back in 2007 and even before that.

But I’m not sure if he’s pulled off the balancing act quite as successfully as before between sincere emotion: pain, loss, grief; and the need he has to undercut that emotion with a silly joke. It’s a natural human habit, we’ve all done it, but Waititi has made it his signature effect to the extent that the tonal shifts can seem confounding.

His central characters are often lost, alienated from father figures who are missing like JoJo Rabbit or Ricky Baker in Hunt For the Wilderpeople, or useless like Alamein in Boy, or a despotic bully like Odin in the Thor films. His central characters are always being let down by the people who are meant to love them and have to go and find someone else who will do the job, even if those people are not always appropriate family material.

I once described Waititi’s Boy as either the saddest comedy I’d ever seen or the funniest tragedy and I couldn’t pick which. There’s a reason I think why Thor, the character, fits in so well with Waititi’s endless exploration of these themes. Hemsworth plays him as the innocent abroad, the naïve man-child with a limited set of skills but a big heart and a big ego.

But he also plays those brief moments of sadness terribly well, they’re very brief because – like every Waititi hero– the disappointment has to be hidden and the brave face put back on. In Love and Thunder, he even goes looking for the greatest father of them all, Zeus, and is, of course, disenchanted. He has more in common with Gorr the God Butcher than he knows.

So, I absolutely loved Thor: Love and Thunder. I laughed at the fun bits, and I cried at the sad bits. I’m sure I’ll enjoy watching it again, in fact this one might be worth adding to the ‘at home’ collection. It’s about as much as anyone can ask from a film, these days, I think.

Thor: Love and Thunder is rated M for violence and is the number one film all over New Zealand now.

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