Thor: Love and Thunder has finally struck theaters, its arrival disproving the myth that lightning cannot strike twice in the same place, as Taika Waititi’s second entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is just as invigorating as the first.
Returning from the well-received and instantly loved third installment, Thor: Ragnarok, is Waititi, who directs the fourth installment as well as co-writing alongside Jennifer Kaytin Robinson. Chris Hemsworth reprises the titular role as Thor Odinson with additional returning cast members Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Jaime Alexander, and Waititi also reprising his role as Korg, amongst many others. As is the trend with new entries from Marvel Studios and as was revealed in casting announcements and trailers, there are plenty of other returning faces, but (without getting into spoiler territory) no one overstays their welcome.
The MCU has been hailed for its master-class cinematography for years, and with Thor: Love and Thunder comes an entry with some of the most awe-striking and beautiful visuals we’ve seen from the franchise to date. There are a delightful number of singular frames that will leave you with goosebumps, though nothing else can be expected from two-time Emmy winner Barry ‘Baz’ Idoine serving as director of photography, given his proven record of providing the same on The Mandalorian. In addition to absolutely beautiful scenes, audiences are treated with some of the most well-executed, and honestly just flat-out cool, fight scenes throughout the nearly two-hour film.
The soundtrack for Thor: Ragnarok was an instant cause for audience and critic recognition, and the soundtrack only got better for Love and Thunder. A plethora of Guns ‘N Roses, a delightful sprinkle of Enya and ABBA to effortlessly match the campiness of the film, Mary J. Blige, and a flawless use of Dio, plus more, contribute to a flawless soundtrack for the film. In a movie full of little treats, audiences can look forward to a character karaoke moment nestled into one of the scenes.
When I see the words “story by Taika Waititi,” I generally accept that I am in for two things when I watch the project: a. to laugh until I cry and b. to cry until I cry harder (and this film is no exception). Thor: Love and Thunder once again proves that Waititi is the King Midas of film-making and that anything he touches is guaranteed gold. As is the case with so many of his projects, this film is emotionally compelling and will have audiences experiencing a wide range of human emotions alongside the characters. You will smile, laugh, despair and grieve alongside the characters, because the story is so graspable for anyone who has loved and lost, which is an obvious theme that has been arising for Thor Odinson over his now four solo film arc.
Waititi, in addition to once again providing a fun and compelling story, has also provided a film that has effortless and beautiful representation all the way to its core. We don’t just see and hear about the Greek and Norse gods in this film, there are many different cultures represented — particularly the Māori god Tūmatauenga, which was a lovely personal touch from Waititi. In addition to the delicate and respectful representation of cultures, we once again have Waititi representing queer identities and relationships throughout the film in a way that (similar to Our Flag Means Death earlier this year) feels natural — being queer isn’t a plot point here, it’s just who the characters are.
Plus, Waititi returns as Korg and … come on, everyone loves Korg.
I hope we see Hemsworth in this role for another 10 years as he continues to deepen his understanding and grasp on the character with every appearance in a way that always leaves audiences wondering what is next for him. We’ve seen the former Prince and King of Asgard take quite the journey since his introduction all the way back in 2011 — arguably having lost the most out of any character in the franchise, Thor’s emotional state has teetered on a delicate balance for his last couple of appearances. Love and Thunder brings this emotional rollercoaster to an ultimate head, and Hemsworth displays this emotional journey impeccably.
Everyone that anticipated Christian Bale providing another mesmeric performance in his career in his MCU debut will not be disappointed by his portrayal of Gorr the God Butcher. Bale, in my opinion, instantly surpassed the rest of the ranks of live-action MCU villains to reach the top as the most genuinely terrifying villain we’ve seen to date. His performance is engrossing, and every moment he is on the screen will demand every ounce of your attention (as it should, because there isn’t a single moment that should be missed). Gorr’s motives really upped the ante and added to the recent exploration into darker themes by Marvel Studios, and Bale was a phenomenal choice to bring such a complex character to the screen (as he is certainly not a stranger to complexity).
Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were spellbinding from the moment they stepped onto the screen and electrifying in every scene they were in. It was lovely to see Portman back as Doctor Jane Foster and even better to see a script that respected her, with dialogue that supported her talent. Becoming the Mighty Thor is no small feat, and yet Portman was such a natural as a Thor I was left wishing we had seen this storyline long before now. As for Thompson, King Valkyrie continues to be a fan favorite for a reason, and Thompson continues to bring her A game to the role with each new installment. This time around, we see Val having to take things a bit more seriously considering her depth of responsibilities, but there is still that relatable comedic aspect to the character that so many love.
Overall, the well-deserved fourth installment to the Thor franchise is action-packed, heart-warming, a little scary, fun, and hilarious in a way everyone can enjoy if they are just going to the movies to be entertained, and I won’t be surprised to see this movie rank high on Marvel fans’ rankings of the franchise. As a bonus, the mid-credits scene sets up a monumentally exciting future for the MCU that will leave many fans screaming in their seats.
I would, however, be amiss if I didn’t mention the real stars of the movie — Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder.
Thor: Love and Thunder is playing now exclusively in theaters.