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Film Reviews

Thor: Love and Thunder

Published July 9, 2022
Nothing ridiculous about the new Thor movie

The Thunder God went for a ride

Upon his favourite filly

I’m Thor! he cried

The horse replied:

You forgot your thaddle, thilly!

 

This little rhyme has remained lodged in my mind from the day I read it in a Marvel comic, when I was still in primary school This was decades before the Marvel Comics Universe became a cinematic juggernaut, but even in those days the Mighty Thor seems to have cut a slightly ridiculous figure.

In Thor: Love and Thunder, any shreds of dignity still clinging to the blonde boofhead after the previous movie, have been remorselessly stripped away. From the moment he agreed to helm Thor Ragnarok (2017), Taika Waititi has seen the God of Thunder as an open invitation to comedy, and Chris Hemsworth, in his own odd way, has embraced that vision. Although he is indisputably the hero of the film, Hemsworth’s Thor bumbles and blusters his way through every bit of dialogue. Accents have never been Hemsworth’s strong suit, but in this film he seems to have settled on a tone that sounds like some old duffer holding up the bar in a London club. Did any Viking ever talk like this?

I began to think better of Thor’s stuffy accent when Russell Crowe appeared, dressed in a gold breastplate and an unflattering short white skirt, playing the God, Zeus. Rusty excelled by making Zeus sound like the kind of caricatural wog we used to meet in comedy sitcoms in less enlightened days. All he needed was a piano accordeon.

Are you getting the idea about this movie? It’s a riotous entertainment, but don’t come along expecting high drama. Although Waititi includes all the monsters, fight sequences, and CGI-generated mayhem that any fan could desire, there’s never a moment of suspense. The action sequences are pure pantomime, with all the depth of a video game.

Thor: Love and Thunder is a movie that tries to do several things at once, never pausing to worry if anything seems illogical or incomprehensible. The plot resembles a smörgåsbord, from which ideas and gags are picked up in any old order. From another angle it’s pretty simple: an unpleasant customer called Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) is going around murdering Gods, and Thor has to stop him. We know why Gorr does this, because we get his origin story at the beginning of the film, but his main role is to be the all-powerful- supervillain-who-threatens-the-very-existence-of-the universe. Or, if you’re an aficionado of the superhero genre, “the usual”.

Although Thor is the centre of the story, he is such an incorrigible nitwit one begins to despair for the universe. An immortal God with extraordinary powers, he is suffering a permanent lifestyle crisis. All his relationships have fallen apart, due to his non-stop superhero duties, including his love affair with earthly scientist, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). When we tune in on Jane we find she’s got problems of her own, in the form of stage 4 cancer. She realises that her only hope is to join Thor as a superhero, a feat she achieves with such ease I still can’t figure out how it was done.

And so it is when Gorr attacks the tourist town of New Asgard, unleashes a horde of shadow monsters and kidnaps a bunch of children, Thor and his buddies set out in pursuit. Accompanying our hero is Jane (as a feminine doppelganger of Thor), and two familiar cronies, Korg the rock man (Kiwi accent supplied by director, Waititi) and new age lesbian warrior, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). Their first stop is Omnipotent City, a flying palace that looks like a Las Vegas casino, where all the Gods hang out. The aim is to raise a great army to confront Gorr, but Zeus is unwilling to help, being more concerned with his forthcoming orgy.

This means Thor and his pals must take on Gorr alone, which proves a tricky proposition, but I won’t elaborate any further. The tragic subplot is that Jane has been using up her dwindling energies by flying around wielding Thor’s hammer, and cancer is something even the Gods can’t seem to fix. In any other movie this would open the door to pathos, but nobody will be shedding a tear in this saga. Love, of course, is the answer to every question, but Thor is still coming to terms with the concept. It was explained to him in the early part of the film by fellow superhero, Peter Quill, but he struggles to figure it out.

The Gods in this film come across as such a decadent, selfish bunch one can understand Gorr’s animosity, although he does take matters to extremes. One need not delve too far to see the ‘Gods’ as the celebrities who dominate our popular media, becoming objects of worship for millions while being vain, self-indulgent and notably lacking in redeeming features. Since he became a Hollywood director, Waititi has had plenty of opportunities to study the type.

Thor is a celebrity too, whose hunky good looks compensate for his stupidity. He does, at least, mean well, which sets him apart from most of the Gods, but he needs friends to shape his thoughts and point him in the right direction. Left to his own devices he’s as much of a blonde wrecking ball as Miley Cyrus.

What makes Waititi’s approach so different from other directors of these big-budget superhero features, is that he never falls for the idea that someone in a cape, tights and a shiny plastic breastplate can have a rich inner life. Over the years we’ve watched Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Black Widow, and many others, battling their inner demons in between action sequences. Waititi has taken that trope and exaggerated it to comic effect. Thor spends an inordinate amount of time trying to get in touch with his feelings, but is too dense to locate them. It’s no different when he has to make an inspiring speech, which invariably comes out as a collection of clichés and inanities. He is a man-child, with no more sense of adult life than Elvis or Jacko.

Thor: Love and Thunder is a self-conscious spoof on the entire superhero genre, a send-up of its formulaic mix of apocalyptic doom and personal mawkishness. The idea is to make us believe that these heroes, despite their super powers, are fundamentally just like us. Thor may be saving the universe, and Gorr trying to destroy it, but they are both looking for love. Some folks turn to on-line dating, others work off their frustrations on a cosmic scale.

Thor: Love and Thunder

Directed by Taika Waititi

Written by Taika Waititi & Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, based on characters created by Stan Lee

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, Jaime Alexander, Chris Pratt

Australia/USA, rated M, 119 mins

 

Published in the Australian Financial Review, 9 July, 2022