Review by Tim Robins
Thor! What is he good for? Almost absolutely nothing, if the new MCU Phase Four movie, Thor: Love and Thunder, is anything to go by. The movie itself is entertaining enough, but quite honestly, it’s perhaps best watched so you can enjoy your cinema’s air conditioning during the Stephen King-ish “heat dome” that has settled over the British Isles.
Thor: Love and Thunder pits Chris Hemsworth’s god of thunder against Christian Bale as Gorr The God Butcher – who, as in the Thor comics, written by Jason Aaron, after the death of his daughter, believes that there’s nothing after death except death, and the so-called ‘gods’ are nothing but a bunch of hedonists who care nothing for their flock.
The film follows the quixotic adventures of Thor and his gang – Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (CGI), and Jane Foster aka The Mighty Thor (Natalie Portman) – who together must stop The God Butcher’s attempt to make mince-meat of the gods or wish them into non-existence. Along the way, Thor must rescue new Asgard’s children, who The God Butcher has imprisoned in the Shadow realm.
I’d forgotten that in the MCU Thor is a self-aggrandizing nitwit. But that’s the film’s point, I suppose. Thor’s personal journey is created from paths not travelled. Is Thor only worthy of The God-Butcher’s contempt? Events suggest otherwise. By rescuing Asgard’s children, Thor also saves them from the tawdry path their parents have taken, New Asgard having become a tacky tourist destination for cruise ships.
The children’s heroism is juxtaposed with the denizens of Omnipotence City, a generally hopeless menagerie of deities led by Zeus, whose only aim is to get naked and party on down.
Hemsworth delivers a sincere but goofy performance as Thor, making for a sharp contrast to Bale’s take on the God-Butcher. Bale is excellent at the outset, working beneath excruciatingly convincing sunburn make-up. But as the film progresses, Bale’s performance is inflected with over-the-top twitching and grimacing that, in the context of the rest of the film, becomes unintentionally comedic.
Director Taika Waititi returns as the voice of Korg, Thor’s rocky friend, who info dumps throughout the story and presents Thor’s adventures as if they were a fairy tale or, not inappropriately, a story from the Edda. But this is only one-way Waititi would have the film interpreted. Another is to cast the film as some kind of poodle rock concept album. Yes, here Thor is a god of thunder and rock ‘n’ roll although, disappointingly, the script’s and score’s reference point is Axel Rose rather than Kiss.
Thor: Love and Thunder sometimes has the painterly visuals of a gatefold sleeve concept album, just not a particularly interesting one. If only the work of Rodney Mathews could have been used as concept art. But, mostly, the film looks like an eye-wateringly garish mobile phone game. Gorr, we are told, is a master of shadows, but they hardly register on the spangly screen. Even force of the universe, Eternity looks like a glam buddha, rather than Steve Ditko’s ominously looming colossus.
The Thor series could have been Marvel’s Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Instead, it has become Marvel’s take on a screwball comedy. Thor loves Jane Foster, but she has usurped control over Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, whose healing abilities seem to counter Foster’s rapidly advancing cancer – but in reality the ‘magical’ hammer is working against her treatment. To make matters worse (than stage IV terminal cancer, mind you), Thor’s axe, ‘Stormbreaker’ has become jealous of Thor’s love for Mjolnir.
The only piece of comedy that made me smirk out loud was the introduction of two screaming goats, given as a parting gift to Thor by a not-entirely grateful congregation, who have just witnessed him accidentally demolish their temple. The animals’ ghastly shrieks punctuate more nuts and bolts moments of the plot. But sadly, the script forgets to give the animals a justly warranted, heroic pay-off and they are just written out. Surely The God-Butcher’s shadow creatures could have been scared of the animals?
Otherwise, the film’s constant quipping made it hard for me to care about what are clearly supposed to be the film’s heart-rending moments. I have had two parents die in hospital of cancer, but even Foster’s situation failed to involve me emotionally. And, anyway, her final fate, which is to arrive on the foothills of Valhalla amidst a golden shower, simply rides roughshod all over the idea that her mortality teaches Thor anything about human heroism.
(It turns out, however, that there is something waiting after death – Marvel end credit sequences).
Marvel’s choice to bathetically debase their hero has undoubtedly paid off at the box office, but this movie left me underwhelmed, and uninvolved. Too late, Thor: Love and Thunder tries to explore emotional depths, but instead it just leaves its characters paddling around in the shallows.
Thor: Love and Thunder is as enjoyable as a light summer breeze but it is unlikely to blow you away. I suspect that, a week later, all recollection of the film will be gone with the wind.
Dear reader, a review is an opinion, not a statement of fact – other opinions are available, including yours
• Thor: God of Thunder – The God Butcher Omnibus
ISBN: 978-1804910016 | Buy it from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
The gods are vanishing, leading Thor on a bloody trail that threatens to consume his past, present and future. To save these worlds, Thor must unravel the gruesome mystery of the God Butcher!
A cracking collection of the hit series by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic that brought Thor face-to face with his deadliest foe ever… Gorr, the God Butcher!
Collecting: Thor: God of Thunder (2012) #1-11
• Marvel Select: Thor – Goddess of Thunder
ISBN: 978-1804910207 | Buy it from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
The story of Jane Foster’s transformation into the all-new Thor is one of Marvel’s most incredible modern tales! With the once-mighty Thor now deemed unworthy, Jane Foster steps up to claim the fabled hammer Mjolnir for her own. As an ancient foe returns to bring war upon the Nine Realms, the incredible powers of the Thunder God are needed more than ever – can Jane prove she has what it takes to be the Goddess of Thunder? Dive in to discover the dazzling debut of this incredible new hero, as the legend of Thor is reborn.
Collecting Thor #1-4, Thor Annual #1 and The Mighty Thor #13-14
• Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Thor – Deluxe Edition
ISBN: 978-1804910030 | Buy it from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
Thor – Norse God of Thunder, protector of Asgard and Earth!
Immensely powerful and a warrior without peer, Thor is cast down to Midgard (Earth) by his father, the almighty Odin, to learn humility. Trapped in the frail mortal form of Dr. Donald Blake, when he strikes his cane upon the ground he is transformed into one of Marvel’s most powerful super heroes!
Marvel Platinum: The Definitive Thor is wonderful collection of Thor stories, bringing together the very best tales from the character’s 60-year history, including some of his greatest and most pivotal moments. One of those collections that leaves you wanting further stories in the same vein.
Collecting: Journey into Mystery (1952) #83; The Mighty Thor (1966) #159, 200 and 337-339; The Mighty Thor (1998) #1-2 and 84-85 and Thor (2007) #3
• Thor Goddess of Thunder – Omnibus
ISBN: 978-1846533419 | Buy it from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
The God of Thunder is unworthy. Mjolnir lies abandoned. But when Frost Giants invade Earth, a new fist will grasp its handle — and a mysterious woman will take up the mantle of the Mighty Thor!
Who is this new Goddess of Thunder? That’s exactly what the Odinson wants to know, so brace yourself for Thor vs. Thor! All-Father Odin isn’t exactly happy either, and he’ll call on some very dangerous, very unexpected allies in a bid to reclaim the enchanted hammer.
Meanwhile, Malekith the Dark Elf forges his most lethal pact yet. But as the new Thor faces the unstoppable machine of death and destruction that is the Destroyer, she will prove herself a worthy successor to the heroic mantle. It’s a bold new chapter in the illustrious history of Asgard and Thor!
252 pages, softcover.
Contains: Thor (2014) #1–8, Thor Annual (2015) #1, What If…? (1977) #10
A freelance journalist and Doctor Who fanzine editor since 1978, Tim Robins has written on comics, films, books and TV programmes for a wide range of publications including Starburst, Interzone, Primetime and TV Guide.
His brief flirtation with comics includes ghost inking a 2000AD strip and co-writing a Doctor Who strip with Mike Collins. Since 1990 he worked at the University of Glamorgan where he was a Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Media Studies and the social sciences. Academically, he has published on the animation industry in Wales and approaches to social memory. He claims to be a card carrying member of the Politically Correct, a secret cadre bent on ruling the entire world and all human thought.