PG-13 for butt nudity, some swearing, violence, and a really scary villain. Yeah, that scene in the trailer where Thor's butt is blurred out? Not blurred out in the movie. But we saw Hulk's butt in the last Thor movie, so I don't know what you expected. While overall being a silly movie, there's some heavy themes throughout the story. Also, kids are endangered, which made my kids feel a bit nervous. But all said and done, this is another MCU picture. It has a lot of the same content that made Thor: Ragnarok so great. PG-13
DIRECTOR: Taika Waititi
You don't want to guess how low my readership is right now. I take two weeks off to go to Italy and then everything goes to pot. I would like to put a disclaimer here. I saw Thor: Love and Thunder on opening night over a week ago. We found an English speaking movie theater in Florence and caught this in almost the best format ever. Sure, the audio could have been better and there were Italian subtitles distracting me throughout the film. But it was this rad old theater that screamed the '70s and I didn't care. It was amazing. But there is one thing that time has given me when it comes to writing and that's fan backlash.
Listen, I loved this movie. I loved this movie despite one serious flaw and even that I can take in stride. (It's Jane Foster and I'll be talking a lot about her in this blog.) But people are really ragging on Love and Thunder and that confuses me more than anything else. The funny thing is, as much as people say that they hate it, they are still giving it okay reviews. I don't agree that this is a 7/10 film. I'd go as far as to say it is a 9/10 film (although there is me trying to be a bit of a rebel in that rating, so keep that in mind.) But the big complaint that I'm hearing about this movie is that it is too much of a comedy and doesn't take the source material seriously. Now, I can't throw stones at this. From moment one in this film, the movie sets the tone as an aggressive comedy. If you thought that Ragnarok was a departure from the tones established by the MCU, Love and Thunder puts that to shame. Love and Thunder is straight up silly for a lot of the movie, despite the fact that it has one of the most upsetting villains in the MCU. (Remind me to talk about Christian Bale a whole lot later.) But now I have to confront something very real: I fought the fight that people are talking about with The Lego Batman Movie.
I often turn to Lego Batman as one of those movies that I love, but is really afraid to be vulnerable for even a second. There are so many jokes in the movie that it almost gets in the way of storytelling. Love and Thunder almost commits the same crime. Taika Waititi is a silly dude and I'm always going to give him creative control over things. (Because I have that power.) Waititi's wheelhouse is making grandiose things seem hilariously mundane. Now, if you were to fly though his ouvre, you could accuse him of being a one-trick pony. I mean, you could. I couldn't. I think that the man is an absolute genius and I probably hate you for thinking that he's not. But then you have stuff like Jojo Rabbit and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He's got the chops to mix comedy and tragedy. So what you are seeing in Love and Thunder is a choice. It should also be noted that I read that Love and Thunder's first cut was over four hours long, so maybe it is an editing thing. But at the root of Love and Thunder are some heavy themes that are treated with silliness because --and here's my thesis statement --Thor needs to be goofy.
Can we be honest for a second? I think that every MCU movie works. Some work better than others. For example, I wouldn't really want to sit down and watch The Incredible Hulk right now, but I don't dislike the movie either. But even with every MCU movie working, Thor and Thor: The Dark World aren't exactly perfect films. Many people look at The Dark World as an actively bad movie, which I consider hyperbole. Even Thor itself, while watchable, doesn't really carve its own niche in the MCU. But do you know what really fixed Thor? When it stopped treating it so seriously. Stan Lee was a goofy dude. The guy turned imposter syndrome into potentially the most lucrative careers in pop culture history. It's not like Lee was this great lover of Norse Mythology. He wasn't Neil Gaiman. He knew stories of the Norse myths and he knew that he could make a buck. So he imitated his best Shakespeare and put dialogue in hard-to-read fonts and that was The Mighty Thor. To try and do it seriously almost misses the point to a certain extent. As much as I like Thor as a concept, those early books are hard to read at this point. Even Jason Aaron, who has more respect for the original tone than Waititi does, still has a very heavy metal slant on his comics involving Thor. (Note: Much of Love and Thunder uses Jason Aaron's source material.)
But Thor works really well as a goofball. Thor is naturally a fish out of water alongside Captain America. But to make Thor different, Waititi made the fish-out-of-water confident as heck. And you know what? It worked. It still works. I would actually say that it needs to stay that way because anything else would be a step backwards. And to step it up, Chris Hemsworth is really good at comedy. I wouldn't have thought so from the first film, but that dude is hilarious. Why not keep letting him do what he's doing? So yeah, maybe the movie isn't vulnerable enough, considering that it deals with cancer, mortality, and religion. (I mean, his name is Gorr, the God Butcher. It isn't exactly hidden.)
But there is one complaint that people have that I also have difficulty with: Jane Foster. Now, I adore Jane Foster as Thor. When Jason Aaron introduced Jane as the Mighty Thor, I could not be more happy. It was at this time when Marvel was shaking up its line a little bit and stopped making all of its top tier hero white dudes. Again, a lot of White Knighting here, but I loved it. The OG Thor was still around, but going by the moniker "Odinson" or "The Unworthy Thor" and Jane was swinging Mjolnir from a dual perspective of being both human and a god. It was great. And while I always questioned that Jane got a second chance at life, her story was fantastic. The Mighty Thor was this powerhouse of a character. She had the insecurities of being a human and trying to live up to this mantle that she absolutely deserved, even if she didn't always understand that. She took down really weird villains and had this epic storyline as the Odinson faced Gorr the God Butcher. And for years, she fed her cancer. She went through this awesome character arc and stepped into her own. So when a movie gives her the mantle and kills her in the time of two hours, I don't know if that character was ever properly conveyed. It almost seemed like a hiccup in the story versus something that should be at the crux of the mythology. When I saw Natalie Portman receive the hammer years ago at Comic Con, I thought that Marvel was taking this great risk. That's not what really happens in this movie. It almost felt like Natalie Portman just wanted to end her time in the franchise on a high note.
But with those complaints, I want to talk about the greatness of this movie. If Ragnarok made Thor relatable, Love and Thunder makes him real somehow. A lot of this movie is about what it means to be in a relationship. While it uses superherodom as its foundation, the message applies for people who are defined by their careers. Thor genuinely mourns the greatest thing in his very long life. He grows as a person, realizing that he has defined Jane in what he thought was convenient to him. It's this absolutely fabulous story about how love needs to evolve beyond the feelings stage into something that is real and honest. I'm talking about the end (and how that might be the gutsiest thing in this film.) Listen, I know that I talk about spoilers a lot, so please forgive me, but I have to talk about the end of the movie. I love that Endgame gave Tony Stark a kid. But we never were offered the long-term effects of what it would mean to have a kid and still be a superhero. I love that Thor is a single dad at the end of the movie. It's perfect. Just perfect. As much as I would love to see the further adventure of Jane Foster, the Mighty Thor, I do love that the Odinson gets to raise a kid on his own.
I'm going to close on Christian Bale. Sure, I would have loved to see more Gorr. My kids probably wouldn't agree considering that he's absolutely terrifying. But I wanted to see more Gorr. But Thor: Love and Thunder almost is Exhibit A for the prosecution when it comes to the following phrase: "It's way more fun to play the villain than it is to play the hero." I've always found Bale's Batman boring. I love the movies. I love his Bruce Wayne. But Batman himself? One note. He can't be anything else. If there was a moment in those movies where Bruce dropped the Batman voice because he was vulnerable, there might have been something. But look at Gorr? God, it looks like Bale is having a blast with that. He's so dynamic and scary. We all know that Christian Bale is a fantastic actor and those Batman movies might not be the best exhibit of his talents. But Gorr, the God Butcher? He's all over the place with that character and it all works. When Waititi says that Gorr might be the creepiest villain, I think that he's right. There's something haunting about him. And don't tell me that the end doesn't work. We know that this is a traumatized and broken man who is corrupted by that blade. When the blade is removed, he's given a choice. Sure, it's a far more optimistic choice than I was prepped for, but I loved it.
This movie is great. It's not perfect, but it is great. Like Ragnarok, I can see myself laughing and watching it over and over again. It's what Thor movies should be and I can't wait to watch it again.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.