The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is arguably its most absurd. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, and that the actors aren’t having a great time, but there are a number of tonal shifts in the narrative that leaves the film feeling a little unbalanced.
But that may be because of the storyteller. I don’t mean Waititi the director, but Waititi’s character, the rock creature, Korg. He serves as the story’s narrator, and consequently, all we can do is buckle up and hold on.
And while uneven, the film puts forwards some interesting commentary on religion (though some of that is clouded by a thunder god being the titular hero), and Christian Bale turns in a creepy performance as the villain of the piece, Gorr the God Butcher.
Backed with some classic Guns N’ Roses tunes, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gets back into shape, leaves behind his new-found traveling companions (guest stars The Guardians of the Galaxy), and answers a call for help that sees Gorr traveling the universe slaying gods large and small with the cursed necrosword.
Gorr’s next destination? New Asgaard, on Earth. It is here that he catches up with his friend Valkyrie (Tessa Tompson), and his old flame, Doctor Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who, surprise, surprise (not really as she’s on the poster and in the trailer as such) is the new Thor, wielding Mjolnir.
While Thor tries to discover his place in the universe, and in Jane’s life, he tries to deal with jealous weaponry, screaming goats, abducted children, ancient Greek gods who are true to their mythology, and what will happen if Gorr achieves his goal of vengeance.
The film plays like a giant Boris Vallejo painting brought to cinematic life, with all the beauty, darkness, horrors, and strangeness that one would expect from that statement. Waititi knows his form and uses the film to explore and experiment with different types of visual storytelling (he also includes a wonderful nod to a classic Georges Melies film). He also uses it in his portrayal of the Shadow Realm, and the film’s effects work, from the monsters to the sweeping land and starscapes.
Waititi has fast become a favorite director/storyteller combining a sense of the absurd with stories that have an emotional core. This time around, it misses the mark a little, but, like all good stories gives us a villain with motivations that can be understood and related to.
It’s a little out there. It’s a risk-taker. It definitely puts a larger humorous slant in the MCU, which began in earnest with The Guardians of the Galaxy and seems to culminate here in Love and Thunder.
As always continuity comes into play, arcs are completed, new tales begun, and the seeds for future adventures planted.
Thor: Love and Thunder hits theaters Friday!