Caryn James describes Chris Hemsworth as “thundering and sensitive” in Taika Waititi’s latest Thor.
The encounter between Thor (Chris Hemsworth), that big-hearted hunk of a god, and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), his big-brained, astrophysicist, Earthling ex-girlfriend, is wild even by superhero standards. Thor notices Jane in the midst of a battle against the latest evil force, now carrying his own famously powerful hammer. She has flowing blonde hair and is dressed in armour and a red cape. “That’s my hammer you have,” he says, staring into each other’s eyes. “And that’s how I look.” Thor: Love and Thunder by Taika Waititi is a romcom interspersed with Universe-saving battles. It may make you wonder: What if Bogart and Bacall had superhuman abilities?
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The first thing to know is that this movie is a lot of fun. Waititi brings his distinct voice to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s cookie-cutter franchise, as he did in Thor: Ragnarok (2017). His formula balances a lighthearted tone with adventure, emphasising wit over action; a welcome change from Marvel’s more sombre offerings. (Doctor Strange has his qualities, but he’s not particularly witty.) Waititi injects more emotion into Love and Thunder than he did in Ragnarok and explores heavier themes such as nihilism and belief, love and death. The themes aren’t perfect, but they’re there.
The next thing you should know is that this is not Jane’s story. Disney’s marketing makes a big deal about Jane wielding Mjolnir, the God of Thunder’s hammer. and has evolved into the Mighty Thor superhero. True, but this is still the original Thor film. Fortunately, Hemsworth excels at portraying the character as the most human, lifelike, and appealing of gods, a regular guy except when he’s saving the world.
Early on, his sidekick, Korg – a giant, sweet-tempered pile of rocks with Waititi’s voice – tells children the story of the Thor-Jane romance, filling in any gaps a new viewer may require. It’s a wacky account that reveals details about their breakup while also mentioning Jane Fonda.
Voldemort with a nose
Soon, the familiar characters are threatened by a new villain, Gorr (played chillingly by Christian Bale), who has lost faith in gods in general. Instead of becoming an atheist or agnostic like most people in his situation, he seeks vengeance and is dubbed the God Butcher. He is basically Voldemort with a nose, grey-toned from head to toe.
Hemsworth plays into the meta while making his vanity comic and insecure rather than obnoxious
The plot moves so quickly that Jane’s transformation is cut short. We see she is seriously ill, but we don’t learn anything about her new identity until Thor spots her in full battle gear. Waititi’s strategy was pointless if he was saving that image for a big reveal. Portman’s role in Mighty Thor was announced three years ago, and it’s right there in the trailer. It might have been more interesting to know from Jane’s point of view: how strange is it to suddenly become a superhero?
Hemsworth is given a lot more to work with and gracefully transitions from comedy to drama. Thor’s character has always had a meta theme, as his ego causes him to be hyper-aware of his image and stature. Hemsworth contributes to the meta by making his vanity funny and insecure rather than obnoxious. In this installment, his love for Jane is especially deep and touching.
En route to the final battle, Team Thor seeks assistance in Omnipotence City, a land of deities ruled by the head god, Zeus, hilariously played by Russell Crowe in golden armour and an intentionally comic Greek accent? He calls Thor a “pretty boy” and hurls lightning bolts that explode like golden fireworks – one of the best special effects in the film. Another inventive touch is a pair of goats pulling a boat through the sky, with fairy-tale pastel-colored lights beneath. Overall, the effects and even the fast-paced action are more efficient than spectacular, which works perfectly for the film. Waititi’s strength or main interest has never been special effects.
Surprisingly, Gorr is the film’s most problematic character. We see the devastating tragedy that turned him evil in a fantastic opening sequence. His character is forced to confront the most existential issues. “There is nothing after death except death,” the failed god declares. But the intensity fades quickly. Despite Bale’s lethal coldness, the episode lacks suspense when Gorr directly threatens the major characters in their final battle.
It’s a problem that has now become ingrained in the Marvel universe, where no one ever has to die. Off-screen events can sometimes lead to the death of a character. Because of the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman, there will be no more T’Challa in the Black Panther films, as far as we know. Otherwise, even a snap of the fingers that annihilates half the population (Avengers: Infinity War) can be undone in a subsequent film (Avengers: Endgame), and if that fails, there are infinite alternate timelines and universes to play with. When the stakes are so low, it’s difficult to create tension. However, the film’s lighthearted tone and ultimately strong emotional depths compensate for this flaw. Thor, who has a big heart, It’s a problem that has now become ingrained in the Marvel universe, where no one ever has to die. Off-screen events can sometimes lead to the death of a character. Because of the untimely death of Chadwick Boseman, there will be no more T’Challa in the Black Panther films, as far as we know. Otherwise, even a snap of the fingers that annihilates half the population (Avengers: Infinity War) can be undone in a subsequent film (Avengers: Endgame), and if that fails, there are infinite alternate timelines and universes to play with. When the stakes are so low, it’s difficult to create tension. However, the film’s lighthearted tone and ultimately strong emotional depths compensate for this flaw. Thor, who has a big heart, Thunderous and sensitive, he could be the distracting hero we need right now.