It’s often said in many respective circles that the concept of comedy relies on the combination of tragedy and timing. When done cohesively and coherently, pure uproarious entertainment is the result, and that very result can last long after the laughs have ceased and can span across utter generations. Even though the recipe has been refined, tinkered, and shifted over numerous decades, with the act itself being rather subjective in terms of response and interpretation based on societal changes, the core basis remains clear — The right timing can make comedy not only relevant but downright everlasting. A rejuvenation that rattles the funny bone and the depths of a normalized or tortured soul. It can very well save a life.
Which is why the timing of this particularly aimless, noisy, and confusing joke is absent any kind of reverence or longevity. A shell of what it’s supposed to be from the highest highs to lowest lows. Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) is a grand reminder of Marvel/Disney’s capabilities to dance the proverbial line between tragic failure and flawed solidity. It’s a multicolored, vivid, and festive continuation of the god of thunder’s solo adventures that’s thematically and comedically a jumbled, disorienting mess on all sides of the spectrum. From start to finish there’s some elements worth loving and mostly loathing about it in various degrees. And directional decisions that didn’t make a sprinkle of sense. So yeah, let’s talk about it.
As the story goes, months after the events of Avengers Endgame (2019), Thor Odinson (An acceptable Chris Hemsworth), along with the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper, showing up for like two minutes), are traveling across the galaxy to help and assist with conflicts on different planets. Soon the group receives a distress call, warning Thor about a vengeful man named Gorr (An uber-creepy and devilish Christian Bale putting in the strongest showing of the entire film) whose been killing Gods using a powerful weapon called the Necrosword. As the thundergod investigates the murders, he discovers that the next target is New Asgard on Earth. Once there to protect the last remnants of the asgardian people with the current leader of the settlement, Valkyrie (Solid but underused Tessa Thompson), Thor discovers his ex-girlfriend, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman returning since 2011 to put in a semi-decent showing), is wielding his old hammer, Mjolnir. Now the trio must stop Gorr the god butcher from exacting his ultimate revenge and wiping out all deities. Love, thunder, all-powerful beings, and…screaming…goats…ensue.
Let’s discuss the positives first, as this sequel does have quite a bit going for it. First off, this could easily be one of the most beautiful entries in the entire Marvel collection. Throughout the film’s runtime, there’s a almost unending bounty of soaring colors, blended hues, and diverse palettes that craft a thriving symphony of visual texture and ambition that’s implicitly tough to deny. There’s quite a few places that creativity takes an audience to including different strange worlds, the infinitive cosmos, and an entire sequence involving a shadow realm that’s thick with bright greys, blacks, and whites that has to be seen to be believed. So yeah, there’s little doubt that the cinematography, effects, and synchronicity of it all indomitably carried this entire affair. The shots and imagery could’ve all been works of art framed on any wall….or heavy metal album covers…or even electronic dance music covers. Honestly can’t praise this part of the project enough.
Next up, as per usual with any marvel installment, there were quite a bit of references to geek out on. Cameos from characters we haven’t seen in a while and even appearances of gods from various religions, cultures, and mythologies. Another treat to witness. I swear the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse is literally so vast now. You never know what planet, universe, timeline, or realm you might encounter on these adventures. Anything really is possible and it’s a point that’s abundantly made with every new feature including this one. Truly marvelous on that front.
Now, onto the negatives. At the beginning of this review, this humble schmoe made a few points about the concept of comedy. There’s little doubt that when it comes to the genre, there has to be a certain rhythm to things. Even with the quirky, unpredictable nature of the stories. Plus an unspoken, unwritten balance. Narratively. But in rigorous fashion, the lack of balance, effectiveness, and cohesion is what ultimately stops Thor’s 4th solo film from being a completely worthwhile addition to the catalogue. And that certainly can be blamed on the methods of director Taika Waititi.
It’s perplexing that the talent Taika possesses seems to have overstayed its welcome. What was once a refreshing, original style of filmmaking that blends irreverent humor and serious ideas in such films as What We Do in the Shadows (2014) and Jojo Rabbit (2019), has now deteriorated to a methodically destructive phase. It legitimately felt like this film was fighting against itself to tell a story, being sabotaged at nearly every single turn. A majority of the so-called jokes don’t land, being painfully unfunny and tonally awkward. And since there was little to no time in-between the attempts at levity, it ultimately drained whatever impact the entire feature was going for. Plus, considering the plethora of important topics and themes that’s revealed it feels proportionately disrespectful to what’s been established in earlier god of thunder fares. Back in 2011, director Kenneth Branagh knew exactly how to blend and balance the comedic elements of the first Thor film, even built up the majestic significance of Asgard as a wondrous realm and made the whole story somewhat Shakespearean in its depth, with poise and dignity. Presently, all of that established prestige is gone. And at the end of the day this was executed as an insipid, grating comedy with some dramatic elements when it should’ve been a genuine drama with some comedic elements. And that’s what reduced it to barely a rumble in the sky.
Luckily, Marvel can sustain a misstep or two. Plus this isn’t the abomination half of the internet is making it out to be. It’s just too silly and handicapped for its own good, and while it does bring the ravishing imagery, because of this execution, it falters in everything else. And unfortunately all the love and lightning won’t change that. Let’s just chalk this up to a lesson for future installments and move forward, which the studio definitely is.
This humble schmoe emphatically owes Thor Ragnarok (2017) an apology because that film is subtle, nuanced, and steadily reasonable in tone, structure, and performance next to…this. Taika directed that one too but actually knew what he was doing there instead of going completely off the rails in this one. Tragic, and not in a funny way. What a difference a gorgeous, goat-screaming dud makes, huh? Nuff said.
Review by Marcus Wilturner