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How Taika Waititi wrecked the joy of the himbo Avenger in 'Thor: Love and Thunder'

Chris Hemsworth has returned, but that's where the good news stops.

Thor: Love and Thunder appeared to be Taika Waititi's victory lap, with a rock n' roll soundtrack and a slew of renowned performers. Following the failure of Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World in 2013, this charismatic writer/director/actor not only transformed the title God of Thunder into an adorkable himbo for Thor: Ragnarok, but also cast himself as the endearing rock monster Korg. Waititi also added thirst trapping to the MCU via a strapped Valkyrie, a bare Hulk, and Jeff Goldblum, a long-established sex icon. Fans would have hoped for more of the same in Waititi's follow-up. But, while many of our favorite characters return in this fourth installment, the excitement is gone. Thor: Love and Thunder is a jumbled mess that can't figure out what's important.

Thor: Love and Thunder, co-written by Taika Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, opens up with the titular Avenger gallivanting around space with the Guardians of the Galaxy, stretching his massive biceps for good and escaping from the sorrow of his long-ago break-up with human scientist Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). That is, until Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale in the role of Voldemort) lands on New Asgard with shadow animals in tow, stealing a slew of Asgardian children along the way to launch his war against the gods.

It's difficult enough to run into an ex, but Thor is disappointed to learn that Jane has a post-split glow-up thanks to Mjölnir magic. Jane is now Mighty Thor, and she can kick all kinds of monster butt. She is blonde, buff, and dressed in Viking gear. But, in order to put an end to Gorr's vengeance-fueled annihilation of all gods, these ex-partners will need to band together — and bring along some already established buddies, such as Korg (Waititi) and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson).

Unfortunately, Thor: Love and Thunder doesn't have much time for fan-favorite characters among the obligatory action sequences, the introduction of new MCU entities, and the numerous flashbacks that painstakingly depict the frigid disintegration of Thor and Jane's once-piping hot passion. Korg and Valkyrie are both painfully shelved to make place for Jane, Thor, and Gorr, but even those key stories seem underdeveloped.

The odd pair dynamic of Thor and Jane does not work here.


Thor's irresistible chemistry was between the arrogant jock deity and the brainy yet gorgeous scientist. Even though Hemsworth goes nude and Jane has a seductive new appearance, the sexual spark is dimmed in this film. Their moments together lack fire and feel more like teens trying to flirt than worldwide sex symbols/immortal gods finding their spark.

Perhaps the issue is that Jane and Thor are set up for polar opposite tones throughout the picture. Thor is jumping from one adventure to the next with the enthusiasm of a Golden Retriever, bringing with him a silly charm that would fit perfectly with any of Waititi's prior efforts. Meanwhile, Jane is going through a comic-book-inspired arc about mortality and sickness. Jane's sad plot colliding with Thor's whole bargain is jarring throughout, never allowing the audience to relax and enjoy the trip. However, this is only one aspect of the film's discomfort.

Gorr, an underappreciated MCU villain.


With Loki, Thor delivered fans the first MCU villain we couldn't help but root for, but Gorr has a fairly legitimate complaint - albeit, like Black Panther's Killmonger, Gorr's answer is pretty overboard. Thor: Love and Thunder, you see, does not begin with entertaining Thor pranks. The film begins with an emaciated Gorr urgently dragging his dying daughter through a burned desert. Only when she dies in his arms does he find refuge in a verdant oasis, where the deity Gorr worshiped sits and laughs at his plight. So Gorr murders his deity. Then he goes on a killing spree.

Because of a rush of ambiguous distress calls, we're supposed to conclude this is all terrible news. But what distinguishes Gorr's journey from that of the Avengers, Guardians, or Eternals when they defeated Loki, Hela, Ego, or Arishem? Even in Thor: Love and Thunder, there are gods that are either cartoonishly evil or callously heartless. However, there is no room to investigate Gorr's mission's possible moral ambiguity. It's just cursed vengeance brought on by grief. Even with such constraints, Bale gives an outstanding performance.

While others frolic or smolder for the camera, Bale drips with misery and a perverse glee in bringing down the gods who would turn mere humans into playthings. His tiny smile exudes an exhilarating danger. But the greatest part is when he transforms into a hellish kids' show presenter, decapitating a snake monster and using it as a puppet to terrify the children he's stolen. Bale adds color and a twisted suggestion of a loving father whose soul has been wounded by grief to a dismal cell on the dark side of the cosmos. Waititi offers us enough to chew on here, but Bale's screen time is far too limited.

After all, there must be space to witness the dreary flashbacks of Jane and Thor's tepid seclusion of loves. Forget the drama of Marriage Story. Their lengthy, inexplicable split carries the emotional weight of a damp napkin.

Russell Crowe

Crowe is wonderful fun as Zeus, with his barrel chest, beard, and roaring about orgies. Crowe had me at "Babycakes" when he called Thor in a heavy Greek accent. Crowe doesn't mind portraying an over-the-top villain, whether in Virtuosity or Winter's Tale. Here, he outshines even Hemsworth in confidence, serving as a refreshing reminder of how much fun a Thor film can be. Unfortunately, Crowe is not given much to do in his debut MCU appearance.

Other brief but enjoyable features include bringing back the Asgardian theatrical group (Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth, and Sam Neill) as a smart recapping device, a soundtrack pounding with Guns N' Roses, and a Jean-Claude Van Damme-style split with a God of Thunder extravaganza. Thompson is underutilized, yet in a few sequences, she smirks and sizzles. During the Zeus phase, there's also a slew of brilliant gods on exhibit. While they are compelling in their intricacies, designs, and cultural inclusion, the blink-and-you'll-miss-them aspect of this sequence points to the sloppy approach that makes the picture immensely irritating, as it is replete with missed possibilities.

Waititi packs so much into Thor: Love and Thunder that we're supposed to be amazed by the crazy (CGI) stunts, attractive actors, heroic spectacle, and out-of-the-blue wackiness of screaming goats and a jealous warhammer. These dazzling pieces, however, are thrown together rather than weaved together. The storytelling is sloppy and inept, making the emotional beats appear clunky. The characters are abandoned. The conclusion is a rush of ideas but little thinking, culminating to a groan-worthy epilogue that drags our himbo hero into a new chapter that belongs in corny '80s comedies, not film.

Waititi gave us a funny hottie in Thor: Ragnarok who set hearts (and loins) on fire. With Thor: Love and Thunder, he seems to promise more of the same, but squelches an epic romance, loads the picture with maudlin moments that feel hurried and unresolved, and never really delivers a great punchline. In the end, Love and Thunder is boisterous, dazzling, and vapid, with no satisfying enjoyment.

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