Director, writer, and actor Taika Waititi returns to the MCU with Thor: Love and Thunder (2022). The fans of Thor: Ragnarok (2017) will find much of the same comedic tone as that film, but with some of the silliness dialed up to eleven. Waititi is one of the few directors in the Marvel machinery whose artistic voice shines through, and he really pushes up against the boundaries with both the comedic and stylistic choices. For me, those elements really work, and Waititi’s movies have made Thor one of my favorite MCU characters.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been in an emotional funk since the end of Ragnarok, and the major events in Infinity War and Endgame. He teams up with the Guardians of the Galaxy for a bit but turns his focus towards fighting Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who has set out to make all the gods extinct. Gorr is heading to New Asgaard, and Thor recruits Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and Korg (Taika Waititi) to manage this threat.
There are so many cool visuals in this movie. Gorr’s powers provided Waititi the opportunity to truly emphasize shadows. He employs a unique visual here, utilizing black and white while isolating colors that absolutely make for an incredibly stylized action sequence. It stands out against the entirety of the MCU as one of the most distinctive visual moments we’ve seen. However, the vibrance of the colors in the film is striking before that scene, with Thor’s costume looking more like something out of a comic book rather than those we have seen before.
Bale’s performance and his character are the clear standouts of the film. The villain problem in the comic book genre has been discussed time and time again, but Thor has had some of the best. Gorr may push his way to the top of that list as a character that is relatable and empathetic, being given so much life by Bale’s performance. Of course, calling him the standout may sound like a slight to the other performances – but they are all wonderful. Hemsworth clearly loves playing Thor, and Thompson, Portman, and Waititi appear to be having a total blast being back in their roles. The amount of love I have for all of them really speaks volumes as to how much they’ve been developed.
After Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, I was worried that the MCU may have outstayed its welcome. Thor: Love and Thunder manages to narrow the focus on Thor, and not worry as much about the table settings for the larger universe. While there are still repercussions from the previous films, Thor felt like a story about this character and ones closely related to him – and I quite appreciated that. Thor: Love and Thunder earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.