Thor Love and Thunder (2022)

This is a movie of weird inconsistencies and you’re either going to be forgiving or you’re going to hate it. Or maybe you’re a Marvel fan and will just love anything they put on screen. I’m predisposed to enjoy comic book movies because I remember an era when all we got was Ron Ely as Doc Savage — and we liked it — and fake Iron Man TV movies like Exo-Man, so I always wonder when people dislike these movies for reasons — that I’ll get into — it kind of makes me wonder how filmgoers went from being so afraid of the train in The Great Train Robbery and then a few years later didn’t think motion pictures were dark magic and started saying, “Oh, this is kind of boring.”

Mining the work of comic book writer Jason Aaron — having Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) gain the hammer and powers of Thor as she battles cancer; Gorr the God Butcher attacking gods throughout time and space — director, co-writer (with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) and co-star (as Korg) Taika Waititi has created a movie that is as much about Thor (Chris Hemsworth) seeking his identity as it is superheroics.

Gorr lost his daughter and realized he was the last being left on his planet. After praying for salvation to the god Rapu, he discovered that the gods no longer care or hear these pleas. He discovers a weapon called the Necrosword and immediately slays that god, deciding that there’s no need for them. You know, kind of like how we have monarchs and leaders who beg so much of us with no return.

Thor has been with the Guardians of the Galaxy, who have begun to tired of him and a call from Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) informs him that Gorr the God Butcher is coming to Asgard to destroy any of the gods who survived. It’s intriguing that while Thor took Gorr’s arm in their first comic book battle, Gorr takes hers.

Asgard has become a tourist spot and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) has begun to miss the life of combat she once savored, instead being trapped by bureaucracy. Gorr is a threat she can handle more easily than red tape, so she dives into the battle, soon joined by Jane as Thor, Thor’s friend Korg, two braying space goats named Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher, and Thor himself, carrying Stormbreaker, a hammer that begins to grow jealous of its owner’s old weapon.

Gorr ends up kidnapping the children of Asgard and makes his way to find Eternity, the being in the center of the universe that he can ask to end the gods. Thor and his friends head to the Galactic Senate on Coruscant — err, I mean Omnipotence City. There, they petition Zeus (Russell Crowe) for help, but start to realize that maybe Gorr went on his mission to end the gods with good reason.

The movie is, at the end, about the love that binds us to people and defines us more than hitting shadow creatures with axes and hammers. The tone may vary throughout the film, as major threats are joked at throughout the film, a fact that was embraced in Thor: Ragnarok and yet disliked here. I’ve ever read comments that people wanted the entire film to be like the dark opening as Gorr loses his daughter and I wonder, “Have they ever seen a summer blockbuster with four Guns ‘n Roses songs blaring on the soundtrack?”

Christian Bale is what made this movie, playing a role that finds him frightening children and laying powerful gods low. After The Dark Night Rises he claimed he’d never make another superhero film, but his children begged him to be in this. I hope they have the action figure of their dad; he’s one of the best — if not the best — Marvel Cinematic Universe villains, one that may be more right and devoted to his cause than Thor, whose only cause is his own life for most of the film.

I also loved that Korg starts and ends the film almost as a riff on Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, telling the children of the adventures of a legend. His constant fumbling as he tells the tale is actually pretty endearing. And hey — any space Viking ship that names its bar after Cocktails & Dreams, the one Tom Cruise works at in Cocktail — is going to make me laugh.

Are people tired of superhero movies? Sure. But they’re the reason to leave our homes and go see a movie. This is the natural evolution of the summer blockbuster and if big studios could have made a Star Wars every few months, they would have. As for most comic book fans, we get it. We get hundreds of new blockbusters released every Wednesday at comic shops and keep thousands of characters and timelines and alternate realities straight. I just wonder what people expect from movies now and what would make them happy. Honestly, I get the feeling that some people instantly dislike a movie just because they need something to kvetch about. Then again, I’m a forgiving lover of 80s sword and sorcery movies, Jack Kirby and neon colors on film. So maybe I was predisposed to like this.

That said — I never thought that I’d see so many Celestials — much less one — in a movie. Yes, I realize they were in The Eternals, but seeing so much of this movie is like reading through old issues of Journey Into Mystery. Sometimes, you just need to enjoy things, find the good and love the feeling of summertime, when movies just want to entertain you.

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