Thor: Love and Thunder

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is utterly unique in movie history. Using entire movies to develop characters and build worlds, and then bringing them together for special events in huge blockbusters, was a new approach, and it’s been working wonderfully well so far. Even the worst of the MCU movies (toss up between The Incredible Hulk and Thor: The Dark World in my opinion) is still pretty good, and better than a lot of what’s coming out based on comic book or pulp heroes. Thor: Love and Thunder is the 29th movie of the MCU, which doesn’t take into account the assorted short films and the Disney+ series. Thor becomes the first MCU character to get four solo movies, and brings back some old favorites in new ways, paying homage to a few other characters along the way. I’m going to try and avoid spoilers, but I will comment on some things I’ve seen in the trailers and posters.

The opening sets up the origin of the new big villain: Gorr the God-Butcher. Gorr was created by Jason Aaron, a comic book writer who has been impressing me a lot over the last several years. It’s a tragic beginning, and we can see where he gets his hatred of the gods from. Like most Marvel villains, there’s at least a bit of his story that makes him a sympathetic character.

When we last saw Thor in Avengers: Endgame, he left Earth with the Guardians of the Galaxy. He’s still with them, having some fairly goofy adventures, with some really entertaining voiceover from his pal Korg. Korg, of course, is voiced by director and comic actor Taika Watiti. I think the humor gets a bit strained and overplayed in some of these early sequences. Thor, sporting a look similar to his comic book ally Thunderstrike, gets an unsual reward, and, after more chaos with the Guardians, hears a cry for help he can’t ignore. Setting off with Korg, Thor goes to save an old friend, there’s a bit more slightly misplaced humor, but the God of Thunder learns about Gorr. Knowing he needs help, Thor sets off for New Asgard. Just why he doesn’t contact any of the Avengers is never addressed, but that happens a lot in these kinds of stories (see the Arrowverse, especially).

We see some of the changes New Asgard has undergone, another funny play with star cameos, and then there’s a monster attack. Thor fights to defend his people, and finds an unexpected ally. We’ve seen some of what this character has been through, and gotten a cameo or two from others over the course of their story. Now, things have changed, and Thor has a lot to adapt to. The fight ends with an unexpected strike at the heart of New Asgard, and the heroes have to come together to devise a plan to save the day and defeat the villain. We see a new hero, a legacy, rise up and give some guidance about what’s going on, and the new team risks everything to go someplace very dangerous.

Korg, Thor, Valkyrie, and the new Thor (a magically empowered Jane Foster, who gets an origin different from that of the comics, but still works and draws on the power of magic and myth) go in search of help. Not the Guardians; they’re never mentioned again for some reason that’s never explained. We see some new characters that range from titans of myth to something from a Disney short film. Thor pleads his case, and things go badly. They don’t get the help they wanted, do gain a new weapon, but one of the team gets seriously wounded. There’s also a quick visual joke about Korg’s culture in the midst of many quick shots.

The stakes are getting raised as we learn what Gorr’s plan is, the price one of the characters is paying for their heroism, and what could be at stake. One of the most powerful beings from the Marvel Comics Universe makes an appearance, and I have to say, it’s a visually stunning representation that I would have bet against them pulling off. Thor shows a bit of growth, which he seems to gain and lose throughout the different movies at various points, and then there’s a spectacular final fight that mixes action, humor, and sacrifice. I have to say, I didn’t see the end coming, and even when it was getting close, I was on the wrong track entirely.

The heroes prevail, but at great cost. Some wounds are seen to, but some apparently can’t be tended. At the end, we see Thor’s life taking on a new direction and focus, and a remarkably powerful ally at his side. It being an MCU film, there are two end scenes. One shows the fate of one of the characters, and brings back a fan favorite for a few moments. The other circles back to something earlier in the movie, introduces another powerful character that often appears in the Avengers comics and sets up for some future conflict. We do see that “Thor Will Return,” but given the events of the movie, that could mean a few different things.

What I Liked: It was, of course, great to see Thor, the Guardians, Valkyrie, and Jane again. There were a few nods to other events in the MCU, including cameos from beings of great power that have been in other movies. The effects were great, and there were some surprising twists along the way. They drew heavily on Jason Aaron’s writing, and as I said, he’s really good. If you enjoy comics at all, I strongly recommend everything of his I’ve read. The legacy hero hinted at some new things to come, and I hope we get to see them again. I liked both end scenes.

What I Didn’t: These movies, while great, have been really disrespectful to some of Thor’s most loyal allies. The Warriors Three were butchered in Ragnarök, and then mocked again here. Sif has been underused, and she was actually treated well only in the first Thor movie, and then, of all places, on Agents of SHIELD. I think the balance of humor and action was about perfect in Ragnarök, but left a bit to be desired here. I may be in the minority, but I’m not a huge fan of Korg.

This was another fun chapter in the ongoing saga of the MCU. We know more is planned, and there have been some interesting reveals in recent movies and tv shows. I’ll give this a 3.5 out of 5. It probably would have been a bit higher had they done a few things a bit differently.

We know that Thor will return, in some way or another. Our next visits to the MCU will be Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever, which will introduce another powerful Marvel character in live action for the first time on November 11th, and She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, the next Disney+ series, debuting on August 17th. Rumors abound about cameos in that series, and we already know Shulkie’s more famous cousin will be in it.