Of all the individual series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the one belonging to the god of thunder did not truly take flight and rise above middling-to-decent until the third entry, Taika Waititi’s excellent Thor: Ragnarok. Colorful, hilarious, and exciting, it was just the jolt that the self-proclaimed strongest Avenger needed to continue on to an unheard of (for the MCU, anyway) fourth solo film after the events of Avengers: Endgame concluded the storylines of many of his compatriots.
What worked so well in Ragnarok, however, wildly misses the mark in Love and Thunder, and the fourth Thor film instead stands as a disappointing testament that lightning sometimes doesn’t strike the same place twice.
Ragnarok’s successes owe a great deal to director and screenwriter Taika Waititi’s deft ability to balance humor and drama. And while the latter mostly works in no small part thanks to Jane Foster’s storyline (Natalie Portman returns to the character for the first time since 2013’s Thor: The Dark World), the former is oddly dull and uninspired.
I rarely laughed during Love and Thunder, even when the film was clearly trying to elicit such a response. The meme-inspired screaming goats were more obnoxious than anything else, and the rock-skinned Korg (voiced once again by Waititi himself) transitions from fan-favorite to unnecessary annoyance in record time.
The small addition of Russell Crowe’s flamboyant Zeus helps the funny a bit, as does the recurring love triangle gag between Thor, his current weapon Stormbreaker and his newly resurrected hammer Mjolnir, but for the most part the humor of Love and Thunder engenders eye rolls, not chuckles. It’s really too bad, because Chris Hemsworth and his supporting cast have all proven themselves to be gifted comedic actors in the past, but here none of them really have anything funny to say.
There also isn’t much story to Love and Thunder, nor is the action particularly exciting despite the liberal use of Guns N’ Roses songs as backing soundtracks (I swear the score of Love and Thunder is a 1:1 copy of Appetite for Destruction, the only GNR album you will ever need).
The actual acting is well done, however, particularly in the case of Christian Bale as the terrifying yet sympathetic Gorr the God Butcher (he’s the bad guy, if the name didn’t tip you off). Every time he is on screen (which isn’t often, unfortunately), I found myself wishing that the rest of the film that he was in was worthy of his performance.
And as weak as Waititi’s script is this time around, his directing remains as impressive as ever, with some interesting shots and beautiful visuals.
Thor: Love and Thunder is definitely not the worst movie ever and may not even be the worst that the MCU has to offer, but it really should have been so much better considering the talent involved. Let’s hope Waititi, Hemsworth and crew pull things together for a fifth film and recapture what made Ragnarok special, because this ain’t it.
Thor: Love and Thunder is now available exclusively in theaters.