REVIEW: Fourth ‘Thor’ is not an electrifying experience

“Thor: Ragnarok” was a success for Marvel, featuring an aesthetic that captured an 80s, hair metal, colorful look.

This latest movie takes a lot of what was in that film, but the nuance seems to have been forgotten.

After letting himself go after the Infinity War, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back in shape at the start of “Love and Thunder,” but doesn’t feel completely right working with the Guardians of the Galaxy. The two decide to part ways, which comes at the right time, too, since there’s trouble in New Asgard on Earth, requiring Thor’s attention.

A being known as Gorr (Christian Bale) was wronged by gods in the past and is now on a crusade to slaughter as many as he can. He ends up targeting Thor, and abducts a group of Asgardian kids to lure the God of Thunder out. Thor has help in his rescue mission, though, as his ex girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman) can now wield the hammer Mjolnir, inheriting Thor’s powers in the process.

“Thor Ragnarok” was a really good movie. It was energetic and full of great comedic moments. There was really more going on there than just its memorable humor and action, though.

There’s Thor’s arc, where he’s coming to terms with who he is and how he must be a leader to his people, even if he doesn’t feel ready. The film also features a Bruce Banner who is absolutely tired of fighting and Valkyrie, who’s finally ready to face her past when she realizes what’s at stake.

Even more importantly, though, that film called out Asgard’s past. The viewers learned that the extravagant world of Asgard with its gold palaces was built through war, conquest and colonization.

Thor and Hela acknowledge this past, with one wanting to continue Asgard’s embrace of war and the other wanting it to be a benevolent kingdom. Not only does it add more in terms of world building and intrigue, it’s also commentary about how many nations in reality have built themselves up on bloodshed.

The point in bringing all of this up is that “Love and Thunder” noticeably lacks compelling character development and an intriguing narrative. It also doesn’t have much in terms of themes other than “love is important.”

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Courtesy Marvel Studios.

Now, the latter point isn’t inherently a bad thing to focus on to give a movie meaning. Loving relationships are a major part of the human condition. Yet the way the film goes about exploring the subject isn’t done all that well.

We learn early on that Gorr’s motivation for his genocide of the gods is that they didn’t bother to help save his daughter from dying. However the audience barely gets to know the daughter, and so when she becomes an important factor in the third act, especially toward the end of the film, it doesn’t have much of an impact.

The same is true for the main emotional core of the movie: the restarting of the romance between Thor and Jane. The film mostly plays it for comedy, with a lot of humor revolving the awkwardness of being around exes.

However, there’s also the fact that Jane has cancer in the film, and is partly using Mjolnir to give herself the strength to improve her health. It’s not a bad concept, but it’s just harder to get as emotionally invested when so much of the couple’s shared time leans toward comedy.

It also doesn’t help that Jane hasn’t appeared in the MCU for nearly a decade, her last appearance being 2013’s “Thor: The Dark World.” So, it’s not a character viewers have been really attached to in recent entries with Thor, and it makes some scenes in the film not have the emotional punch they should.

Back to the storytelling, “Love and Thunder” doesn’t work particularly well. First, it has to be noted that the film has two scenes recapping what happened in previous “Thor” movies. One would think we’ve reached the point in this franchise where that isn’t necessary.

That’s not a major flaw here, though. What’s more of an issue is how weird the pacing is. This is a film where there’s little urgency, despite a group of children being abducted by a brutal killer.

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One would think it would be a stressful situation for our main characters, where they’re actively working to make the rescue in a race against the clock. But it’s more often that they seem somewhat relaxed. I’m not asking for “Prisoners” from 2013, but maybe take things more seriously?

I guess not, because the fourth “Thor” is filled to the brim with jokes and comedy. The unfortunate thing is a lot of it falls flat.

Maybe the best example of this is a reoccurring gag where Thor’s weapons are sort of sentient, apparently. He misses his hammer Mjolnir, and his axe Stormbreaker can apparently feel jealousy, because it sort of moves on its own when he’s reminiscing about his hammer. It was cute the first time but the movie just runs the joke into the ground.

Much of the supporting cast is used mostly for comic relief, too. Valkyrie, for example, is given mostly comedic quips to deliver, which is disappointing because the character hasn’t really changed since becoming the leader of New Asgard.

Tessa Thompson is a great actress, and one really wishes they gave her more to do, to get a glimpse of how her character deals with the stress of leadership. Thor’s rock buddy Korg, meanwhile, just seems unnecessary this time around.

He worked as a sort of one time character in “Ragnarok,” but he’s not interesting enough to be one of the main players in this one. The character, voiced by writer and director Taika Waititi, mostly is added for humor, rather than an actual relatable presence on screen..

This isn’t to say the film should have no comedy in it, since humor is not just a staple of Marvel movies, but action pictures in general. From “Star Wars” to “Die Hard,” comedy moments are important. But they serve a film like this best when they compliment the movie, giving it more personality.

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It doesn’t work as well when the film’s main goal seems to be comedy, as there can be a sense that it’s trying too hard. What really demonstrates this is Thor gaining custody of two big space goats that scream who go on the journey with the crew, because screaming goats are a meme on the internet.

Animal companions are fun, just think of Appa from “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” But the goats in this film never actually become true companions and are just on screen to make a noise people have heard before in YouTube videos.

Character-wise, I think Hemsworth has been and continues to be the right actor for Thor, but he seems a bit too silly this time around. As previously said, he had his silly moments in “Ragnarok,” but there was more depth to his hero’s journey in that film than this one.

Gorr seems like a wasted opportunity, too. The idea that the gods of the MCU don’t seem to do much for those who worship them and that people mostly suffer despite their prayers for action seems like an interesting angle for a villain.

Yet it’s only used as an inciting incident for Gorr’s motivation, rather than questioning what purpose these gods actually serve in the Marvel universe. It feels like an underdeveloped concept, which is unfortunate because it could have been interesting to see Thor questioned on his purpose as a god.

This review has definitely been harsh, but the movie isn’t really awful. It’s a lighthearted adventure with some good action set pieces and characters who are likable. There’s also a few scenes that are emotional and heartfelt that can make an audience feel.

But there’s just not much to get excited about or invested in during “Love and Thunder” to make it a great cinematic experience. Even the big climactic battle seems poorly executed. It all leaves a person wanting more.

Clocking in at just two hours and having some entertainment value, it’s OK to check out on Disney+ when it’s available, but not rush out to the theater for. 2.5 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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