July 16, 2022

The trailer for the very first MCU movieIron Man, in 2008 began with music from AC/DC. Now, a staggering 27 movies later, the MCU’s Thor: Love and Thunder appropriatelyfalls into late-era AC/DC territory: It offers nothing new, recycles a proven formula, and, with self-awareness, makes fun of itself.

In Love and Thunder,Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as the chiseled space Viking. He’s aimlessly sauntering through the universe with the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy until word gets around that someone is out assassinating all the universe’s gods.

Director Taika Waititi, who was lauded by critics for Thor: Ragnarök’s tasteful balance between mirth and action, also returns to his role. But in Love and Thunder,Waititi indulges in his juvenile whims, entirely at the expense of his film’s integrity.

While Thor’s physical prowess has remained unchanged through all four Thor films, his IQ and situational awareness have been consistently downgraded to such feeble proportions that he’s effectively reduced to a brawny imbecile. In the first act, defending a destabilized planet that had just lost its god, Thor, while effortlessly eliminating a hoard of attackers, blithely razes the defending tribes’ palace in the process. In response, he bears a puzzled countenance like Larry David from a Curb Your Enthusiasm scene: “No good?”

Love and Thunder may have downgraded Thor into a muscle-clad Homer Simpson, but Natalie Portman, who previously played his mortal muse, returns to the franchise as a lady God of Thunder. In contrast to Thor, Portman’s Jane Foster is stoic, smart, and just as strong.

Christian Bale, as Gorr, the God Butcher, exists in an entirely different movie from the rest of the cast. His dark, brooding revenge plot was born out of betrayal. Scorned by his gods after losing his daughter in the desert to malnourishment, Gorr sets out to rid the universe of deities. Bale’s performance is menacing and entirely at odds with Waititi’s cartoonish approach to the rest of the movie.

Gorr’s goal is to reach the center of the universe, entry to which grants anyone a single wish. Guess what the God Butcher plans to wish for? But this raises the question: Why spend half the film painstakingly fighting individual gods when, ultimately, he’s going to wish them all into oblivion?

In an effort to make up for its lack of a coherent plot, any time the movie wants to evoke an emotion, it dips into its soundtrack. Suffused with classics from the ’80s, it acts as a facile substitute for a script. But while it’s entertaining to watch a beefy Chris Hemsworth ream down CGI goons to the backdrop of Guns N’ Roses’s “Welcome to the Jungle,” it feels hackneyed.

Leaping past the line that separates the funny from the juvenile, Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder is one goofy gag after another. The film uses its eponymous hero as comic relief, but it never offers sufficient respite from its puerile skits to build any tension to relieve. If Love and Thunder doesn’t even take itself seriously, why should anyone else bother?

Originally Published at The Washington Examiner