The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema] - THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema] - THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER

Thor: Love and Thunder review
Thor attempts to rescue children abducted by a villain with the power to destroy Gods.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Taika Waititi

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

Thor: Love and Thunder poster

Watching a new instalment of the never-ending Marvel Cinematic Universe can often feel like beginning to read 'War and Peace' on page 473. With 15 years and 30+ films, the franchise boasts a roster of characters bigger than the population of many small towns. Names and references are dropped to movies released three years ago, and with theses things coming out every three months, unless you're a die-hard fan it can feel like you haven't done your homework. The other main issue with MCU movies is that they always seem more focussed on setting up future storylines than concentrating on the current movie.

Thankfully Taika Waititi's Thor: Love and Thunder is one of the few MCU movies that avoids both these problems. It opens with a helpful recap of its hero's recent adventures (why can't they all do this?), and it keeps its plot to a bare minimum. Waititi's film never feels like it's simply laying the groundwork for a movie to come three years from now, and is as close to a standalone movie as this TV-like franchise has produced.

Thor: Love and Thunder review

The plot is refreshingly simple. A prologue sees an alien named Gorr (Christian Bale) grow angry with his God when his daughter dies. Discovering a sword that possesses the power to slay Gods, Gorr travels the universe putting the weapon to its intended use. Determined to make Thor (Chris Hemsworth) his next victim, Gorr kidnaps the children of Asgard (who all speak with English accents despite being raised in a Scandinavian village), knowing the God of Thunder will attempt to rescue them.

Meanwhile, Thor's old flame Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is dying of cancer. Taking possession of Thor's hammer Mjolnir, Jane transforms into a Thor-alike. Along with Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Thor's rock-like buddy Korg (Waititi), Thor and Jane set off to rescue the children of Asgard and end the God-slayer's reign of terror.

Thor: Love and Thunder review

See? Nice and simple. We know exactly what our heroes' goals are and don’t spend two plus hours being subjected to constant exposition. This minimal plot allows Waititi to focus on his characters in what is essentially a hangout movie. Hemsworth and Portman have a winning chemistry as ex-lovers Thor and Jane, both hilariously embodying the awkwardness between them. Hemsworth has become such a skilled comic actor that he manages to pull off several comic moments that involve him speaking with an inanimate hammer. He plays this mid-life Thor as a mix of the unearned bravado of Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China and the bumbling buffoonery of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Portman is finally given something to do in this franchise, and we're gifted with her most enjoyable performance in quite some time. Bale manages to make Gorr a little more than the usual one-note villains the series is known for, with one great moment in which he goes full panto villain to terrify a cage full of abducted kids.

It's Russell Crowe who provides the comic highlight however as Zeus. Far from the great saviour Thor expects of his hero, the Greek God turns out to be a Silvio Berlusconi clone, more interested in orgies than saving the universe. Crowe is having an absolute blast here, and his 10 minutes of screen time might be the most enjoyable of the entire MCU.

Thor: Love and Thunder review

Of course, this is an MCU movie, and no amount of Waititi's Mel Brooks influenced escapades can cover how visually bland the movie looks. Like most of these movies, it has the look of a TV with the motion smoothing setting left on (no wonder Tom Cruise has never appeared in one of these things). At one point the heroes enter a vast citadel and tell us how over-awed they are by its magnificence, but as the camera pans around all we can see is a blur of colour. Like all these movies, it inevitably ends up in a punch-up that appears to take place inside a lava lamp, though this one does have a surprisingly sweet denouement.

MCU devotees may complain that this doesn't move the series forward, but the rest of us will be refreshed by an MCU instalment that is happy to simply exist in its own moment.

Thor: Love and Thunder
 is in UK/ROI cinemas from July 7th.

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