A strange thing has happened to Thor’s branch of the Marvel universe since director Taika Watiti took it on with Thor: Ragnarok in 2017.
The Kiwi wit that Waititi’s famous for in films like Hunt for the Wilderpeople and the Oscar-winning Jojo Rabbit has not only brought a pleasing uncharacteristically self-depreciating tone to the franchise, but sadly, dumbed down one of the strongest heroes of the Avenger’s line-up.
In theory Thor: Love and Thunder promises us a hero who’s trying to redefine who he is outside of his relationship with Jane Foster, and find his place after the events of Endgame. Thor has saved the world “500 times” and needs to look after himself and plan his future – if for no other reason than to add another chapter to the saga of Askard that’s become marketable fodder for ticket-holding onlookers in a theme park-esque version of his hometown.
Instead, Thor: Love and Thunder is messy, over-full and not that funny – if the silent audience was anything to go by.
Weirdly too, in an industry that’s fought hard to broaden the depiction of women on screen beyond the “pretty side-kick” and detach beauty from “being a bimbo”, Thor: Love and Thunder pushes Chris Hemsworth’s character dangerously close to being nothing more than a well-built blond hero. All brawn and no brains. It doesn’t suit his role as an Avenger, and undermines Waititi’s creative genius.
Chris Hemsworth’s character dangerously close to being nothing more than a well-built blond hero… It doesn’t suit his role as an Avenger, and undermines Waititi’s creative genius.
The Hollywood Reporter nails it when they said it’s a movie “too busy being jokey and juvenile to tell a gripping story”.
In other words, the cast and crew – and all their kids that got a role in it – may have had a tonne of fun making the movie bringing business to the Australian film industry, but that’s not translating so well to viewers.
It’s a pity, because there’s one in interesting through-line Thor: Love and Thunder could have capitalised on: how we relate to the idea of, and deal with, God.
In the opening scene the “baddie” Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) is near death in a desert alongside his daughter, praying that water would come and bring them respite. His prayer isn’t answered and, disillusioned, he seizes an opportunity to become a hunter of the gods, eliminating the seemingly useless deities.
Interjecting between moments of strained humour and celebrity cameos, Gorr is someone we can relate to. His darkness may be overwhelming for younger viewers, but he is each of us who have ever wondered why God doesn’t respond in the way we want, or expect. He represents the choice we have to make between bitter, vengeful disbelief and a quiet trust that while not all “gods” are worthy of affection, there is a God that is working all things together for our good.
Thor: Love and Thunder is in cinemas now.