Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

One of the things I loved about “Love and Thunder” is that Taika Waititi holds true to the message that Stan Lee held for his heroes. Anyone can be Spider-Man. Anyone can be an X-Men, and in “Love and Thunder” anyone can be a mythic hero. While it does in a sense take away value from the concept of Mjölnir, the concept behind “Love and Thunder” is a wholesome one, one that celebrates its audience of children and inspires heroism in the vein of virtue and morality and less on revenge or malice.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced — a quest for inner peace. But his retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who — to Thor’s surprise — inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

The introduction of Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor is a welcome addition to the Thor trilogy, as it closes up what was a sub-plot left wide open for a long time. Natalie Portman has fun in the role of the Mighty Thor, giving her character the justice she sorely deserved while also helping Thor to come to a realization. Thor is spending his time trying to figure out how to start his life, while Jane is spending her time dwelling on the end of it as she’s faced with terminal cancer. Much of “Thor: Love and Thunder” starts off rocky, with a lot of the introduction sloppily telling the story of Gorr the God Butcher.

Meanwhile the first twenty minutes or so border too much on parody at times, making Thor’s whole journey feel low stakes. We’d just seen a child die in the arms of her emaciated father, and Waititi cuts over immediately to slapstick comedy. I found the tone to be jarring at times, especially the major shifts in tone from dark science fiction to light action comedy. I also didn’t really enjoy the flashbacks to Jane and Thor’s relationship as it felt like it was sliced out of a bad rom-com. It just stopped the narrative’s momentum to a screeching halt. Once you get past the bumps in the road, “Love and Thunder” manages to be a visually remarkable and exciting epic for Thor.

Waititi takes us in to the deeper galaxy of the Marvel universe, exploring the being known as Eternity, and brings us in to the shadow world. That’s easily the most striking moment of the film, as Waititi’s use of colors and lack thereof adds to the substance of the drama. As for Christian Bale, he’s delightfully creepy in the role of Gorr the God Butcher, he’s just painfully under utilized. And there’s never a real emphases on his being a threat to the Gods. I was never entirely sure why he kidnapped the children, and why he did it in such a raucous manner. Bale does a good job with what he’s given, while Chris Hemsworth is once again having a ball in the flesh of this character.

Thor is such an interesting hero who is always at risk of falling for his own hype, but needs humbling time and time again. Despite jarring flaws in the first half, “Love and Thunder” is a fun outing for the God of Thunder that, while it may not be the best comic book movie of 2022, has some really good action and fantasy fodder for Thor fans. Taika Waititi is just incapable of making a bad movie.

Streaming on Disney Plus.