As the dust settles post-multiverse shenanigans, we are again debating whether Marvel and the MCU is still a good thing for the industry or very damaging, only making things worse with every new release. Even now, we have seen many new shows, returning heroes, multiple versions of characters, and a wealth of even further-reaching interconnectivity that even the most ardent of fans are having trouble keeping up with. Still, the more those tills keep ker-chinging, the more we see it ramp up but is there really much more longevity for the franchise? Will it soon buckle under the weight of its own mighty expansions? And do we really need a fourth movie revolving around The God of Thunder?
Yes, following his mental breakdown post-Endgame after Thanos clicked those long purple fingers that saw him look more like The Dude from The Big Lebowski than the mighty god he once was, Thor is back for another go-round under the watchful, playful eye of Taika Waititi, whose off-kilter, boisterous take breathed new life into a character that had seemingly run of steam two solo films in. Enter Waititi and Thor: Ragnarok and it’s gleeful, whimsical, electrifying kaleidoscopic thunderbolt that brought the character into a brand new realm, with tongue firmly nestled in cheeks. The New Zealander saw something in Thor that not many had and, through a Jack Kirby-inspired lens, was able to resuscitate him when all hope had seemed lost and, with huge acclaim and box office bonanza, it was near inconceivable the director wouldn’t have one more trick up his sleeve.
This brings us to Love and Thunder, an equally chaotic but brilliantly conceived fourth outing that is as funny and electric as its predecessor but with an added bonus this time that packs one hell of a punch: Christian Bale, who swaps his Bat-cowl for a murderous sword as Gorr The God Butcher, one of the MCU’s most complex, transfixing, menacing villains we’ve seen since its inception. Yes, Cate Blanchett was fantastic as Hela in Ragnarok (she makes an appearance here in a “new” form) but Bale’s magnificent and thoughtful turn is as good as you would have imagined, and he too is even allowed a few campier moments that, under anyone else’s watch but Waititi’s, would have fallen to Earth with a thud.
We also get Mighty Thor in the form of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who returns after her Ragnarok absence, and she too helps breathe new energy (and love and thunder) alongside Hemsworth’s stoic hero and Tessa Thompson‘s superb return as Valkyrie. Utilising some stories from some more recent comics, Foster’s story is one of second chances and heartbreak that is meatier and more meaningful than anything Portman‘s wealth of talent was given in her previous run-ins with old blue eyes and she revels in both the fun and the responsibility of bringing the iconic character to the fore.
It isn’t without its flaws, mind you: for all Waititi’s visual flair and hedonistic designs and styles, the humour does miss a few times – a sequence with Russell Crowe‘s awkward portrayal of Zeus the worst offender – and doesn’t quite hit the heights it’s aiming for. But in the never-ending conveyor belt of Marvel‘s continual world domination which is showing its first signs of wear that has started to show its first signs of wear, this thunderbolt of colour and whimsy is perfectly timed to give it the caffeine rush it arguably needed.
2022 | Action, Adventure, Comic Book | Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios | Dir: Taika Waititi | Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel