A contributed perspectives piece by C.A. Mills
Summer block-busters are usually good distractions from the chaos of the world. On a recent evening, I decided to indulge in cold movie theater air and see “Thor: Love and Thunder”.
There is a lot to be disappointed about in this film (the writing is uneven, the tone often feels forced, the editing is harsh), but also many things to find interesting, charming, and even funny. It is clear Marvel execs have seen the handwriting on the wall as their stable of actors has aged and are moving on. Introducing new actors to carry the brand forward with new characters and storylines was inevitable.
Of all the franchises, Thor always had the most sense of humor about itself (with Guardians of the Galaxy a close second), and was often the most kid friendly. So it was no surprise that this film went full-on targeting to kids. Adults in the room might feel pandered to, but still find empathy for the “bad guy god-killer” played by Christian Bale who once again finds brilliant, complex pathos and humanity in an otherwise throwaway role.
Chris Hemsworth has his vanity moment where we see his entire back side in all its glory, proving that the actor continued to work his body to the extreme in the eleven years since the first Thor was released and not lost a step. In the same scene, an aged Russell Crowe who once was equally as buff (“Gladiator”) but now embodies more of the aging dad bod edging toward falling over the “old man” line flits and flies as Zeus, making me wish to see outtakes of the two of them laughing at the goofy dialogue exchange.
Tessa Thompson (as generic “Valkyrie” and New Asgard king) makes the most of what little she is given to do, and the brusque editing cuts her off when she has the opportunity to actually react to things that are said to her. Natalie Portman returns as Dr. Jane Foster who is dying throughout the film while simultaneously becoming another Thor.
I liked the tacked-on scene at the end of the credits when Foster finds herself walking into a sparkling city on the hill, with Heimdall (Idris Elba) there to welcome her. What it implies about the multiverse, or an afterlife is up to you.
Cameos from the likes of Luke Hemsworth, Matt Damon, Sam Neill, Melissa McCarthy, and Brett Goldstein (Yes, the grunting punter of Ted Lasso fame) as well as many others feel like a Where’s Waldo game, but everyone seems to be having fun.
Directed by Taika Waititi, the film retains his trademark zany influence. Special effects and costumes range from seamless to crude, and in such an explicit way I can’t help but think they were clunky homages to much older fantasy films and original comics.
Giant screaming goats, a pantheon of gods that looks like a Star Wars cast of extras wandered onto the set, Viking cruise lines getting their background shots, and a nod to the Eternals are all in the mash up.
As Korg reminds us with his opening and closing “Once upon a time”, storytelling is the way we make sense of the world. All of us gathering to keep back the shadows as we create our gods and keep ourselves going no matter how strange or silly; and everyone should participate. But just don’t expect the stories to completely make sense.