‘I’ ON CULTURE
I’ve been looking forward to Thor: Love and Thunder since I first heard about it. Thor: Ragnarok was one of my Marvel favorites, a film that managed to take the Hulk and Thor and make them funny. The new movie also is funny, although it works a bit too hard. But it is still a fun experience. I took my grandkids, and we all had a great time.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is trying to live a life of peace and contemplation, disturbed mostly by trying to settle major confrontations along with his Guardians of the Galaxy comrades when he suddenly hears from Sif (a tragically underutilized Jaimie Alexander) of a new force in the universe, Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale). We first see Bale with his little daughter begging the gods on his dried-out planet for help, watching her die, and then finding out the gods there thought it was a great joke. Somehow a nasty sword that can kill gods winds up in his hands, and he starts a campaign to kill them all throughout the universe.
That leads us to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Remember Thor’s first human girlfriend? She’s now famous and not doing well in her battle with cancer. She travels to New Asgard, comes near the broken Mjolnir hammer, and it joins together and turns her into Mighty Thor, complete with blonde hair and great muscles. She and Thor fight off Gorr, but he kidnaps all the kids there. Thor, Mighty Thor, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Thor’s rock body Korg (Taika Waititi, who is also the director) join forces to fight Gorr. After a disappointing trip to the “Home of the Gods,” led by a dissolute Zeus (Russell Crowe), they go off to battle. Of course, we know the good guys will win, but there are interesting twists along the way.
There has been some controversy with the film, but besides a couple of quick lines that most kids won’t even notice (my grandsons certainly didn’t), the film plays out like the other movies in this collection, just funnier than most. There is a quick scene with a nude Thor, which manages to actually be funny.
The cast is really good. Hemsworth has turned into possibly the best comic actor in the Marvel movies. He manages to be heroic, sort of godly, but also very human. He has many tender moments and makes them work, perhaps even better than the action scenes, a major reason for the popularity of his Thor films. His scenes with his former weapon, Mjolnir and then dealing with the jealousy of his new battleax, Stormbreaker, are hysterical. Somehow two inanimate objects take on complex personalities of their own.
Portman does a nice job, both as sick Jane and Mighty Thor. The part could have been used simply to set off Thor’s modes, but Portman makes her fascinating, sensitive and real. Thompson has some great lines and manages to make her relatively small part interesting. The CGI character Korg, voiced by Waititi, also has great lines.
Bale, however, is so strong as Gorr that he sets the film on its ear. He is more anti-hero than villain. He has good reason to hate the gods, and his ferocity is awesome. He is more fearsome than even Thanos. That may be because anti-heroes like Gorr (and Erik Killmonger in Black Panther) have clear reasons behind their actions, but a lot of it is brilliant acting. And Bale, essentially unrecognizable in the makeup of the character, is incredibly strong. Despite violent killings, the kidnapping of children and attempts on our heroes’ lives, we actually feel bad for him.
The film tries to jam a few too many themes inside itself, and that makes it less than perfect. But this is a really fun picture, one that pretty much everyone will enjoy. That has been a problem, by the way, with some critics. They wind up loving some small-scale movies that attempt very little and are often not interesting while holding the big budget films to almost impossible standards.
Forget those people. If you like fun action films, this is certainly one you will enjoy.