Ronit Ray

Over the years, Marvel have released a LOT of pretty average to bad comics. It takes a good writer to be able to glean the best parts from these and ignore the cruft, and MCU writers have, for the most part, done great at this. It does take a truly incredible writer to take some of the best comics and produce something truly awful though, so congratulations to Taika Waititi for the absolute travesty that Love and Thunder is.

I love Thor: Ragnarok. It was a romp, and is one of the best MCU movies in my opinion. I’ve spent a long time arguing with people who said it was too light or Thor was too much of a buffoon (have y’all read ANY comics with Odinson Thor in them?) in it. So when I say this is a step too far, you know it is a goddamn hike away from where it should have been. But even that is not the biggest issue with this movie. The issue is that Waititi wanted to make a “fun ride” and seems to have actively opposed any attempt to make it anything more than that. The writers on Ragnarok (Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost) were all established “comics” people, having worked on actual Marvel comics or their adaptations for several years. So they were able to bring the plot, and Taika was able to bring the fun- culminating in a pretty solid synergy. Which is why it’s baffling that the only writers on Love and Thunder seem to be Taika himself, and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, someone who seems to have only worked on a handful of casual comedy projects. It feels unfair to judge without knowing what went down in the writers’ room, and I would definitely have been regaling them with garlands and fanfare if they pulled off a great movie. But they did not.

This movie draws heavily (or should have drawn heavily, but instead draws cursorily) from Jason Aaron’s Gorr Saga and Mighty Thor saga, which are fantastic comics. The Gorr saga especially is an absolutely mind-blowing generational tale of Thors coming together to face a threat unlike any other. Mighty Thor is about preconceived notions of “worth”, what it means to be a Thor, and a new chapter for a beloved character. This movie is… not that. To be fair, it was never going to be that because that’s not how the chips have been set up in the MCU, between Jane being a god awful character whose only role in the previous movies is to go starry eyed at the idea of Chris Hemsworth’s arms, to various common sense and contractual obligations preventing them from wholesale copying other plot points from the Gorr saga. Even so, there is absolutely no excuse for whatever this ended up being.

One would think the bare minimum for a character called Gorr the God Butcher would be that the audience would get to see him butcherin’ some Gods, but alas, one would be mistaken. Sure, let’s pretend they shot those scenes and the fat cats in the boardroom slashed it for some inexplicable reason. Coolcoolcool. What then, is the reason that the villain in a movie with two and a half heroes (two Thors and a Valkyrie) does not have a clear and distinct moral conflict with ANY of them? Even the way the movie is set up provides ample room for dynamics-

The necrosword is also awful here. It’s a pretty terrifying weapon, but for Sony reasons it was always likely we would not be getting its symbiote level origins here. To make it generic evil weapon with evil powers and also exposition powers like once is… certainly a decision. I can’t begin to imagine someone thought a sword that just TELLS GORR WHERE TO GO, FIVE MINUTES INTO THE MOVIE is good storytelling?!? It also massively takes away agency from Gorr, who is supposed to be driven purely by his misery and his mission- not a sharp thingamajiggy. Making the sword evil is a mistake but they don’t even commit to that. For the rest of the movie it is just a generic sword with a magic wand in it.

Speaking of Gorr, Christian Bale is obviously competent and grabs attention whenever he is on screen. Unfortunately, personally, I felt there was too much Christian Bale in this, and I kept seeing Christian Bale the actor rather than Gorr the character despite his mostly solid performance and the copious amounts of competent makeup used. It doesn’t help that the characterization is way off too- why is the most miserable creature in the entire universe instead a Joker-template funny sadist? Beyond the idea of showcasing Bale’s acting chops, I’m not sure.

The next few paragraphs will be random thoughts that I don’t have the patience to weave into a coherent review, which is assuming all the things you’ve read so far haven’t already been that.

There’s no good reason for the door to eternity to be opened by the Bifrost. The universe is huge and I really dislike this trope of a problem far across the universe surprisingly being solved by something handy or inherent to the hero.

In the comics, Jane Foster IS Thor. No doubt about it. She has an awesome arc and is the perfect synthesis of what we know about Jane and Thor. In this movie she is just a sidekick with a hammer. You could replace her with Hanuman or Chhota Bheem, and Valkyrie with some other random character and the B plot of the movie would have zero functional changes. They bring nothing to the table that is exclusive to their characters.

This is Zeus’ lightning bolt. It can do whatever the hell the plot needs it to! Especially if the plot needs the loss of any variety of hammer or axe to be super easy, barely an inconvenience.

sigh.

I… AM EVIL, and YOU… ARE DEFEATED.

But… hear me out, have you tried… not being evil?

You son of a thunderclap, I’m in.

NOTHING leading up to that point showed any indication that Gorr would mellow down. it’s a “Martha” moment.

Oh Sif is dying… So sad… Nah not really mate

Holy shit! Korg is gone. RIP… LOL NOT REALLY

Omg he killed Zeus! Thor is hardcore. Nah not really mate

Omg Valkyrie was stabbed 😭😭😭 nah she’s okay dummy!

Four times in one movie is too many times. Korg and Sif absolutely should have died.

I love nothing more than Disney pandering to queer folk, but only in bitesize chunks that can be cut in the blink of an eye to profit from regimes who oppress them.

The funky 80’s aesthetic of the posters and credits is not committed to enough, while Guns N Roses is committed to WAY too much, and it only works once in the entire movie. The soundtrack, when it shows up, is forgettable, which I NEVER say about Michael Giachhino’s work.

Jason Aaron’s Thor is a deeply caring individual who puts his life on the line to save people, who understands the weight of responsibility, and who often fails, but still tries every day to be the kind of God that Gorr doesn’t believe exists. And, for all intents and purposes, there’s no reason MCU Thor cannot be the same thing at this point in his story. Instead, he is a callous moron who is flitting from one set piece to another with nary a care in the world. This, if anything, is what you would imagine a Thor would be before losing his hammer for the first time, somewhere leading up to the first Thor movie. Instead, he abruptly speeds through what Waititi thinks is a character arc, to suddenly rise to the occasion and become the hero everyone deserves somewhere near the final act of the movie.

Can you tell I dislike this movie?

All doom and gloom aside, this movie is occasionally still funny (say 3 jokes out of every 10). It has some high points, and they genuinely are great, like the final fight and the entire sequence leading to the final title card. I will admit I enjoyed most of it in the theatre, and left with a rating closer to 6. Since then though, the movie feels a bit worse every time I think about it. I have no qualms calling Captain Marvel a meh film, but I do not know how I’d make it better without significant rewrites. This, on the other hand, is incredibly low-lying fruit. There are a hundred things I could change off the top of your head to make it better, so it is infuriating to me that no one bothered to take the effort or try to make a couple more drafts before churning out this travesty. The mid-credits scene is fantastic, and brings an actor I absolutely adore into the universe. Too often, though, it is a clumsy mess of a movie that is nothing more, and doesn’t aspire to be anything more than the most expensive improv comedy skit in history.

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