THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER (2022) makes the absolute most of Taika Waititi’s quirky comedic style

The God of Thunder returns for his fourth solo outing in Thor: Love and Thunder, written and directed by comedic genius Taika Waititi. When a new threat arises in the form of Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) enlists the help of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) to prevent the extinction of the gods.

Coming off the back of Thor: Ragnarok, the God of Thunder received a major tonal shift at the hands of Taika Waititi that arguably saved the character from another depressingly boring sequel. Now, Taika brings that same comedic flair to Love and Thunder, going even harder on the comedy and packing this superhero adventure full of fun action sequences and big laughs. There’s no questioning that this film has Taika written all over it – his quirky humour and quick-witted dialogue fills nearly every scene, especially within the first half. There’s a number of great laugh-out-loud moments – from well-timed comedic beats to running gags that span the entire length of the film. As much as I loved the majority of the comedy, I didn’t need all of it. There’s some gags that don’t quite hit, as well as a couple that feel a little out of place. It’s nowhere near enough to ruin the film, it’s just that Taika could have maybe reigned it in just a tad.

Where the first half was more of a comedy, giving us moments like Thor’s brilliantly ridiculous first big action sequence, the latter half had this tonal shift that I had a blast with. Once the presence of Gorr becomes more prominent, there’s this extreme contrast in tone between the horror-esque sequences of Gorr’s wrath and the comedic one-liners dropped by Thor and his crew. Actually, I’d call it more of a marriage of the two since they work together so seamlessly. Something like this could easily be jarring to follow, but the two tones bled into each other well. It made me appreciate the back end of the film more than the front – mainly as it delivered laughs and thrills, while the first half didn’t do too much in the way of intense moments.

Speaking to the narrative itself – it felt a little emotionally flat at times. The return of Jane Foster is a point I liked, and I enjoyed seeing Natalie Portman flex her muscles as the Mighty Thor, but I wasn’t entirely invested in her personal journey. Sure, Thor and Jane have some touching moments, especially when going into the third act, but I just wasn’t fully latching on to the emotional aspects of her character’s gruelling journey. Aside from that, the story was pretty straightforward – a fact that’s not out of the ordinary in the MCU. Despite some minor little twists here and there, everything progresses more or less as you’d expect. This isn’t a bad thing, since it’s an entertaining film overall, but it just means it’s not going to crack many MCU top 10s.

One thing this film handles better that most other MCU films is its villain. I thought Gorr the God Butcher was an appropriately menacing villain whose scenes were genuinely chilling. He has a motivation you understand and a reputation that sets the stage for some scary interactions with our heroes. Obviously the writing plays a part, but I feel the effectiveness of the villain comes down to Christian Bale’s performance. A brilliant actor with a tonne of range, Bale transforms into this manifestation of fear and revenge so well that you completely forget you’re watching Batman. Without his presence, I feel this film falls completely flat within the final act – indicating his importance in the narrative.

As per usual, Chris Hemsworth is hilarious in the titular role. This sillier version of the character is what people expect of Thor, and he does it really well. On top of that, he also hits every note when he needs to go deeper and bring out some emotion. The multiple layers of the character are seen through the emotional depth of his performance and chemistry with Natalie Portman. Her return is very welcome and she does a lot more in this film than she has in the MCU to date. It’s a moment of redemption for her character and she does well. I loved Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, so it’s a little unfortunate to see the character without a whole lot to do in here. She has a decent amount of screen-time, but there’s not a whole lot of impactful moments for her to contribute to.

In the end, Thor: Love and Thunder seems to be a polarising watch for many audiences, all coming down to whether you’re a fan of the humour Taika Waititi has bought to the franchise so far. Yes, it’s perhaps a bit too heavy in that respect, but there’s no denying the consistent laughs make for an enjoyable ride from beginning to end. The narrative works in servicing the growth of each character, and Christian Bale’s villain is a fantastic piece of the puzzle. Coming out the other end, it leaves characters in an interesting place within the MCU, keeping me keen to see what happens next within Phase Four. If you’re looking for quirky laughs and more Thor awesomeness, then this is for you!

7.5/10

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