Thor: Love and Thunder (Spoilers)

“You’re over 1000 years old and you don’t seem to know who the hell you are”

This is the analysis of Thor made by Starlord in the opening scenes of Love and Thunder. It’s an astonishingly non-self-aware statement because, after 11 years, the MCU doesn’t seem to know who he is either. He is, at the very least, a character re-experiencing the same narrative for multiple films in a row. Thor is unsure what kind of man he is and must embark on a journey of self-discovery either by choice or by force. Being unsure of yourself can be a lifelong experience but Thor seems to revert to stage 1 after every adventure so that he can be easily molded into whatever kind of hero that specific narrative requires. This time, he’s a buffoon whose trauma and emotions are often the butt of the joke.

By contrast, Thor in the previous solo installment Ragnarok was often the one setting jokes up. Actor Chris Hemsworth has excellent comedic timing and it was on full display there but here, he’s more akin to the man we saw in Avengers: Endgame. You remember, he was funny because he was fat(!). Had this film taken him seriously it could have had more to say about toxic masculinity and how stereotypically “feminine” emotions aren’t societally accepted in men. Instead, the audience is invited to laugh at his pain, or at the very least to find the image of a grown man crying amusing. This tone isn’t just directed at Thor, it’s present throughout the entire movie, and this makes it near impossible to care about any of the characters.

One such character is Doctor Jane Foster who returns after being absent from the MCU for 9 years barring a minor Avengers: Endgame cameo. Actress Natalie Portman had previously declined to return to the role due to “creative differences” during the making of Thor: The Dark World (which is one of my favourite Hollywood reasons by the way. Like, was there a screaming match? Were you refusing to pay her as much as Chris? I need specifics). As a result, the announcement of her return was a major deal for fans, with the added excitement of seeing her take up the Mighty Thor mantle. In the comics, she uses the mystical powers of Mijolnir to combat her cancer before it becomes evident that the iconic hammer is hindering her healing as opposed to helping it. Given how serious this subject matter is, fans were unsure if it would make it into Love and Thunder but it did. If done right, this could have provided solid emotional grounding for the plot and characters as well as providing a new Thor for a new age but this isn’t what happened. Her cancer is treated with the same levity as everything else, although it’s never used as a punchline. To cap it off, she dies. Despite a long run in the comics and the popular fan perception that she would be taking over as Thor…she dies. This makes Thor very upset, which seems to be the only role that MCU Jane is destined to play. She makes it to Valhalla so if she happens to get resurrected later (a la the comics) then her death will be even less impactful in retrospect.

On the subject of being non-impactful, Love and Thunder‘s gay representation is abysmal. Director Taika Watiti and actress Tessa Thompson both claimed it would be “queer AF” whilst many reviews heralded it as being for “the she’s, they’s and gay’s” but this isn’t the case. The one canon gay character is the rock-being Korg who holds hands with a male of his species, which is their equivalent of intercourse, however it falls flat because Taika is (as far as we know) straight. This somehow isn’t the first time that a straight director has portrayed a gay character in the MCU either. Why wasn’t this effort being put into Valkyrie, who passes for straight so well that she might as well be locked in the closet? Making seductive eyes at a woman and using the term “girlfriend” isn’t queer representation, it’s every party girl after a couple of drinks. All of this accounts for less than a minute of screentime too, so those foreign markets that Disney loves so much can cut it without losing anything. The “she’s, they’s and gay’s” deserve better and have better (Jennifer’s Body, Heathers and Booksmart to name few).

As mentioned in the Spoiler-Free review, there’s still things to like. The designs of the costumes and sets (like Omnipotence City) are gorgeous, whilst the soundtrack is comprised of some of the greatest Rock and Roll anthems of all time. However, Love and Thunder‘s biggest asset is the drastically underused Gorr. Actor Christian Bale turns in a riveting performance, as he so often does, with this semi-tragic God butcher. He feels betrayed by these all powerful dieties, feeling that they serve only themselves and care not for their subjects, including Gorr’s recently deceased young daughter. He’s still willing to kidnap and threaten the lives of all the children in New Asgard though, which seems a bit odd for a recently bereaved parent. Of course, this is a Marvel film so these children are never actually going to die but Gorr feels like he would murder these children without hesitation if the age rating allowed it. He’s also delightfully manic, giving off what can best be described as Joker Vibes. The Dark Realm, where he resides, is amazing too with its monochrome pallette which is only filled with colour from the light of Mijolnir and Stormbreaker. Tragically, he’s only present for 20 minutes and dies at the end so this is likely the only time we will ever see him.

“Tragic” is an apt description for Love and Thunder as a whole. It has plenty of potential in its foundation with the option for major character progression and grand Galaxy-wide scale but it never goes down these routes. Instead, it spends two hours filling the screen with cringe-worthy humour and a large amount of flat shots which are broken up by action scenes and establishing shots. Had it chosen to commit to all the great aspects hidden within, it might have been a great send-off for Chris Hemsworth…although Hemsworth isn’t leaving. After 11 years playing Thor, which makes him the longest-standing Avenger, he’s sticking around for whatever comes next. Maybe it’s for the best because he deserves a better send-off than this.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Thor: Love and Thunder

Comedy and film journalism are vaguely similar concepts. Responses to both are based on objectivity and are there to entertain, so when it comes to reviews of comedy films it’s probably best to form your own opinion. You can certainly gauge what your reaction might be if you have a reviewer whose opinion you often share but their objectivity is not yours. The following piece is a reflection on how I felt about Love and Thunder (the good and the bad) which some may agree with and others may not. Regardless of that, here’s hoping it still entertains.

Thor: Love and Thunder follows the titular God as he embarks on a mission to stop Gorr the God Butcher from carrying out his murderous plan. He is assisted by old friends Valkyrie and Korg, as well as returning romantic interest Dr. Jane Foster who has gained the powers of Thor. Director Taika Watiti returns, having helmed the previous installment Thor: Ragnarok, but it feels like his best comedy was used there. When the running gag is a couple of screaming goats, it’s not a great sign. Regardless of the fact that it’s a dead meme from over a decade ago, it only works when it has shock value to it, which is lessened over its 5 or so uses.

The dialogue isn’t great either. When it isn’t spouting exposition, which it so often is, it’s one-liners with a snarky undertone. Very few lines in Love and Thunder feel genuine or grounded in these characters that have been around for so long. When it isn’t that, it’s the several voiceovers from Taika as Korg, which feel unnecessary. They seem to be there to set the tone as opposed to carrying the plot forward, but the tone is so in-your-face that a voiceover isn’t required.

There are things here that are likable. The film is visually gorgeous, from the cast to the locations. Every scene is bursting with colour, much like Ragnarok was,, which gives the film a more comic-book feel compared to the Earthier hues of other MCU installments. When the cinematography is allowed to fully display these locations crafted by the talented (and over-worked/underpaid) folks in VFX, it’s utterly gorgeous. Omnipotence City (home of the Gods) is caked in classical, golden architecture akin to Asgard. The shadow Realm (residence of Gorr) is totally devoid of colour but is still interesting with its barren landscape across a miniature planet.

Gorr the God Butcher is Love and Thunder‘s greatest strength. Christian Bale’s performance is occasionally comical but never loses that sinister edge and is best demonstrated when talking with the Asgardian children he’s kidnapped. None of these children are going to die because this is an MCU flick but there’s never any doubt that Gorr would take them all out. Unfortunately, he isn’t present for the majority of the film’s runtime, which brings us to the largest of the issues. Thor: Love and Thunder wastes its characters.

A big deal was made about the return of Natalie Portman as Dr. Jane Foster but her presence here seems to primarily be furthering Thors arc. His arc, as per usual, is about discovering what kind of person he is but the plot refuses to take his arc or character seriously. His fragility is often the butt of the joke and his trauma is dismissed with similar hilarity. Meanwhile, Valkyrie (who still isn’t gay enough) is here to primarily chaperone Jane, whilst Korg (who is somehow gayer) is here to spout one-liners and exposition. Then there are the Guardians of the Galaxy who feel like a hold-over from Avengers: Endgame that need to be gotten rid of before the real plot can progress. Nebula is still great though. Her lines are some of the film’s best.

Ultimately, Thor: Love and Thunder is damaged most by its lack of seriousness. If the film doesn’t care about the lore, characters, or stakes, then why should the audience? It’s one of the weakest entries in the MCU and no amount of classic rock songs on the soundtrack can hide that.

Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer

Thor: Ragnarok

The MCU has an odd relationship with comedy. When it lands—as it did with Ant-Man—it makes for great entertainment, but when it doesn’t, as with much of Age of Ultron, it comes across as cringeworthy. Thor: Ragnarok manages to have a mixture of both, although it errs more on the side of cringe. To top it all off, the film itself comes across as one bad joke, with Avengers: Infinity War as the punchline.

After vanishing during Age of Ultron Thor is revealed to have been restoring order to the chaotic Nine Realms, which is an adventure that ends upon his return to Asgard. It is his hope that this will prevent Ragnarok- the end of days- but it arrives just the same, along with his sister the Goddess of Death Hela who kicks Thor and Loki halfway across the universe to the wasteland planet of Sakkar. after reuniting with Hulk and making friends with former Asgardian warrior Valkyrie, they escape The Grandmaster’s rule and return to Asgard for one final battle.

Hulk’s presence here may seem odd given his often strenuous relationship with Thor, but it is a matter of contracts. In the late 1990s, Marvel Studios sold the rights to a solo Hulk film to Universal, who promptly released Ang Lee’s Hulk in 2003 before striking a deal with Marvel to release 2008’s The Incredible Hulk as part of the fledgling MCU. The film received mixed reviews, and for that reason or another, there would not be another solo Hulk adventure. Instead, he was used in team-ups, as Marvel still had rights to use the character that way, which led to his appearance in further MCU projects. However, fans of the character clamored for more, specifically adaptations of the Planet Hulk and World War Hulk comic book storylines. The former of these sees Hulk exiled to the distant planet of Sakkar by the Illuminati where he becomes a gladiator and ultimately leads a revolution, whilst the latter deals with the ramifications of Hulk’s return to Earth. With the possibility of a solo Hulk film outwith their grasp, Marvel decided to incorporate Planet Hulk into a buddy movie with Thor. As the only Avenger to frequent other planets, Thor is a perfect match for this story which ultimately ends up being Planet Hulk focussed as opposed to Ragnarok focussed, though that isn’t a bad thing. It would be better if more of that time had been spent with Bruce Banner instead of Hulk, who acts as a comedic sidekick stunned into stupidity by his circumstances instead of an intrigued scientist with 7 PHDs.

A comedic sidekick can work well provided they are working off a less comedic partner. For instance, in Ant-Man, Scott Lang is the funny one reacting to the bizarre scenarios while Hank Pym is the more serious elderly gentleman. In Thor: Ragnarok, everyone is a comedic character. Arguably the least humourous is Valkyrie who often has her alcoholism used as a punchline. It’s quite juvenile, much like the majority of humour. Taika Watiti is an interesting director who can be hilarious, like in What We Do In The Shadows, but it doesn’t feel like he brought his A-Game for this. It feels like he took the Disney-sized paycheck to pay for his independent projects, which is clearly where his heart lies. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Korg.

The character of Korg made his first comic appearance in the Planet Hulk storyline where he was the leader of the rebellion with a tragic backstory. Here, he is portrayed by Taika Watiti, who feels like he improvised every single line resulting in a lot of cringe-worthy humour. Improvisation can be funny, like in Ghostbusters where improvised lines were only kept in if they were funnier than the already funny script. This worked because Ramis, Ackroyd, and Murray still had regular lines which carried the script forward. Korg on the other hand feels like every single line is improvised and none of them carry the plot forward. The character himself could be removed from the plot without affecting it since the revolution is kickstarted by Valkyrie and ultimately led by Loki. It’s unfortunate because Korg could be a fun and important character instead of what feels like a role written specifically for the director.

Perhaps the biggest flaws of Ragnarok‘s stem from the context that surrounds it. The first is Valkyrie, although this is only an issue for those who were present for the film’s initial release. Her actress Tessa Thompson and aforementioned director Taika Watiti both made a big deal about how Valkyrie was going to be the first openly gay character in the MCU, mourning the death of her girlfriend at the hands of Hela many decades ago. This scene was supposedly scripted but never filmed, although her death remains in the final version of the film as she takes a spear for Valkyrie. The other issue is Thor: Ragnarok‘s placing within the MCU. Thor has spent the entire plot desperately attempting to save his people, managing to save a great number of them by boarding them on an escape ship. He has made what will likely be his biggest achievement and lost an entire eye in the process. He can finally be happy. He is immediately greeted by Thanos’ ship because this film leads directly into Avengers: Infinity War. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the fault of the team but the fault of the corporation. Taika made the best film he could despite presumably being told it had to end this way. It makes this film feel like a joke at Thor’s (and Taika’s) expense.

With all that said, Thor: Ragnarok is still highly entertaining. When the performances aren’t bogged down by attempts at humour, they are heartfelt and emotional, particularly with Loki and Thor who are closing their arcs here. The casting of Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster can’t be ignored, nor should it be. He oozes his regular Goldblum charm throughout and the screen simply lights up whenever he appears. Cate Blanchett is brilliantly vicious as Hela who feels like a more intimidating version of Rita Repulsa from Power Ranger while Karl Urban as Skurge is a complex character with his own mini-arc. Then there’s the cinematography which is stellar. The Thor films have always been grand in scale, although the first film practically perfected it straight out of the gate. Here it is matched with vibrant colours which make each scene pop like an Andy Warhol painting. Capping it all off is the outstanding score which has a heavy synth base making the whole film feels like an epic 1980s adventure. This culminated in probably one of the best moments in the MCU where Thor, adorned with lightning, jumps onto the Bifrost bridge while The Immigrant Song plays.

Thor: Ragnarok is seemingly the best that could be done given constraints although it is let down by the juvenile humour that had mainly been confined to the first two Avengers films. It closes arcs brilliantly and entertains plenty but it deserved deep exploration. Both the Ragnarok and Planet Hulk storylines deserved their own exploration but as a mash-up, this is pretty good.


Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer


Every director in Hollywood has their own distinctive creative flair and artistic vision. For example, you may not recognise the name Wes Anderson, but all of his work has similar dialogue and his shots fill the frame in a unique way, so if I was to tell you he produced both The Grand Budapest Hotel and Fantastic Mr Fox you’d think “oh that was him”. I find myself compelled by his work, as well as the work of others like Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) and Christopher Nolan (Tenet), but there is a lesser recognised filmography that I also admire, and that is the work of Sir Kenneth Brannagh. From acting on stage, to acting on screen, to stepping behind the camera, he’s a man of many, many talents though he’s most widely known these days for his 4 hour long film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which he was writer, producer and titular actor. As an aside, if you want to experience Hamlet but it isn’t currently playing in a theatre near you, this is the next best thing. It’s probably the closest adaptation we have ever and will ever see on screen and Brannagh brings such a scale of grandeur that you’ll never mistake Prince Hamlet for anything other than royalty. So it is perhaps no surprise that he was hired as the producer for the MCU’s most splendid and theatrical Avenger – The Mighty Thor.

It’s the simple tale of an arrogant God, banished from his homeworld by his father, who meets a girl and learns to be humble. Meanwhile, his unknowingly adopted brother attempts to prove himself to their father by slaughtering their greatest enemies. There are two distinct plotlines in Thor, one about the God himself on Earth and one of Loki back on their homeworld of Asgard, and both of them are given an appropriate amount of attention. The story of Thor being so arrogant that he starts a war with the Frost Giants, meaning his father has no choice but to banish him is fraught with emotion. It’s clear that Odin trusts his son to redeem himself, otherwise he would not have put the hammer Mjölnir within his reach. The friendships that Thor forms with Dr Erik Selvig, Jane Foster, and Darcy Lewis are integral to him acknowledging and dealing with his feelings, which is a very human trait (explaining why he is so fond of this dumb little planet and the people on it). He laughs, cries, falls in love, and ultimately realises that battles are only worth fighting if it is to protect the people you care about. In the end, he believes this so strongly that he is willing to sacrifice himself twice – once physically to The Sentinel and once emotionally when he destroys the Bifrost.

Then there is our second main character, Thor’s younger brother and the God of Mischief, Loki. He really started a trend of sympathetic villains and re-watching this film again, I kind of get it. Loki isn’t as much of a villainous character as he is a tragic victim of circumstance. He has lived his entire life in the shadow of his brother, is attempting to put a stop to war that Thor started, and he’s just discovered that not only is he adopted, but he was a Frost Giant baby stolen (saved?) from his birth home by Odin. The Joker once so eloquently said that “all it takes is one bad day” and Loki is having one of those for sure. His attempted destruction of Jötunheimr, planet of the Frost Giants, is a clear act of desperation for validation and his final brawl with Thor is riddled with anguish. I won’t sit here and tell you that what he did was right, or that it completely negates his actions, but I will tell you that I understand why he did it. We are going to see Loki go through a decade long redemption arc moving forward but, arguably, a redemption arc is only as good as the person and actions you are redeeming and the character of Loki (and the acting of Tom Hiddleston) nailed it from day one.

The 4th MCU film to be released and the 6th chronologically, Thor is an interesting one. Until Guardians of the Galaxy 4 years later, his was the only instalment to take place in space, but even after that it held the title of the first MCU film in the timeline to be set there. Now that title goes to Captain Marvel, although it only really uses space for the first and last 20 minutes, whilst Thor is practically drenched in it. Even on Earth, there are descriptions of the Tree of Yggdrasil (first mentioned in The First Avenger) and explanations for how the Bifrost works which make it all sound so simple. The story is fantastical, but still feels grounded to the parameters of the universe set out by the MCU. The continuity from the previous films is present in the form of Agent Phil Coulson who, at this point, is essentially the lynchpin of the MCU. Sure, there’s Nick Fury, but he’s still more of a shadowy figure whilst Coulson is physically present in 4 of these films. He isn’t present for The First Avenger, because he is a child at the time it takes place, and he isn’t present in The Incredible Hulk because he’s dealing with the events of Iron Man 2 and Thor at the time. He has been Nick Fury’s right hand man for quite some time now, and he is so freaking likable that it’s no wonder he became a fan favourite. My fiancé has often asked why Phil is as liked as he is, and I can’t say for sure… but his general attitude, the way he plays the straight man to the absurdity around him and his tragic (unnecessary) conclusion certainly all play a part.

There’s also a small amount of set-up going on in Thor. We are introduced to Clint Barton/Hawkeye and it’s clear through his very brief interactions with Coulson that the two have a professional history. This now means that we have been introduced to all 6 members of the original Avengers line-up, in time for the team up itself. Thor also sets up his own appearance in the following film through his final conversation with Coulson, in which he determines his status as an ally and that, should he be required again, he will return. Meanwhile, the post-credits scene is a direct set-up for Avengers Assemble as it shows Selvig meeting with Fury to discuss working on The Tesseract, and shows that Loki survived his (first) supposed death. This also reintroduces our favourite Cosmic Cube, which hasn’t been seen since the end of Captain Marvel, 3 films ago. The biggest setup however is that Thor shows us exactly why Loki would want to go after Earth in particular. Not only is it home to people that Thor cares about, but it also contains the greatest source of power in the known universe. It’s a war for revenge and self-gain.

To me, the only issues with the film are purely subjective. First is the romance between Thor and Jane Foster which is going to bug you if you aren’t a fan of romance in your superhero movies. Personally, I don’t mind it because I think it’s one of the better MCU love stories, although that isn’t really a high bar. The second is unavoidable and one of those “fun facts” that people love to bring up – Thor’s eyebrows. Actor Chris Hemsworth wore a blond wig for this film, and to make sure his naturally dark eyebrows match, they were dyed blond. It’s especially odd here because that decision is never made again and, personally, I think he looks better without them dyed. However it is worth noting that naturally blond people can and do have naturally blond eyebrows, and much of the filmic medium gives people blond hair without changing their eyebrows. So Kenneth Brannagh’s decision here is the most accurate, we’re just not used to seeing it. Apart from these two things, Thor is brilliantly paced, well written, beautifully scored and visually stunning. It’s a perfect prelude to Avengers Assemble and proof once again that the sole purpose of origin stories does not need to be launching a cinematic universe. In fact, it shouldn’t be.


Signed: Your friendly neighbourhood queer