While it’s Loki who’s normally known for his miraculous resurrections, surely the most impressive comeback the Odinson clan have ever pulled off was Thor’s comedy glow-up in Taika Watiti’s bombastic Thor: Ragnarok. Taking the rather drab fantasy wasteland of Thor: The Dark World and emptying a dunk tank of garish, primary colours all over everything, it gave our jocular God of Thunder a genuinely hilarious make over and gave us essentially the 80’s, hair metal version of a comic book hero like we’ve never seen before. But now, believe it or not, comes the hard part. You see, a big component of Ragnarok’s success was surprise as all the shrewd slapstick and goofy heart infused the character with a rejuvenating breath of fresh air and sequels are know to go bigger and brighter… is Waititi and Marvel’s decision to go wilder than even Ragnarok – a movie that proudly turned shit up to eleven at every available opportunity – something that a cinema screen (or an audience’s patience) is able to withstand?
After duel titantic struggles with depression and a jacked, purple, alien with a hard-on for genocide, Asgardian God of Thunder Thor (and his rocky mate, Korg) has spent some time in the chaotic company of the Guardians Of The Galaxy and has finally managed get his mojo back due to some inner peace and a herculean workout regime. It’s a good thing too, because after saving an alien race from destruction, the Odinson learns from them that the gods they would normally pray to have been murdered by an unknown assassin who turns out to be a vengeful creature named Gorr who has stumbled upon a weapon of immense power and has decided to use it to get vengence on every deity he can get his claws on.
Finding out that New Asgard is next on Gorr’s “to butcher” list, Thor streaks back to earth in order to aid his people, but upon arrival he’s met not only another, female, version of the thunder god, but they’re even wielding a reformed Mjolnir, the hammer Thor used to wield before it was seemingly destroyed. While he’s reeling from this, he’s further rocked by the revelation that this “Mighty Thor” is in fact his old flame Jane Foster who has mysteriously gotten a power boost in order to combat some serious problems she’s experiencing in her personal life, but even though there’s a thousand questions to ask, both Thors, Korg and King Valkyrie saddle up a pair of giant, screaming, space goats and head off in pursuit of Gorr who has left with hostages in tow.
Stopping off at the fabled Omnipotent City – a hangout place for various gods – in order to scavage an army, or at the very least a super-weapon, our heroes have to weather the indifference of the Olympian God Zeus if they’re going to have any chance of stopping Gorr’s masterplan.
One of the best things about Ragnarok was that the constant ad-libbing of virtually everyone involved (I suspect even the catering service may have played it by ear a time or two) was fresh and innovative for a superhero epic of that size but at no point did it feel that way, because when ad-libbing goes too far you tend to lose the joke in a mountain all the random witty things people did on the day. It happened with Anchorman 2, and regrettably its happened here too, because despite drawing consistently big laughs throughout, Thor: Love And Thunder ends up being a bit of a God-sized tangle that grows ever more knotted with every well meaning and scatter-shot joke the filmmakers hurl into the candy-coloured visuals.
So, let’s start with the pros, and like I stated earlier, a Taika Waititi movie without some genuine laughs is as rare as a Sam Raimi movie without a crash zoom or two and Love And Thunder is peppered with killer running gags and incredibly inventive absurdity. Be it the addition of two hefty goats whom literally won’t stop screaming to the fact that Thor’s current hammer, Stormbreaker starts showing jealousy whenever the reformed Mjolnir is around, the movie regularly flirts with comic genius and draws consistent laughs throughout. Vast chuckles are also summoned due to Russell Crowe’s shameless mugging as a preening and orgy obsessed Zeus who’s accent is twice as broad as the actor’s midsection. Elsewhere, the movie goes hard on that ludicrously colourful, 80’s, sci-fi/fantasy vibe that gave us the devastating camp of Flash Gordon and it’s rainbow shaded arteries even trickles down through to the Marvel Studios title card whose theme even gets a nifty, guitar solo redux. The eyeball searing visuals also get a cool balance in the personage of Gorr who’s so evil, when he’s on screen even the visible spectrum is to alarmed to go near and the monochromatic scenes are punctuated with little bursts blues and reds whenever our heroes scorecards hit. Finally, Waititi’s regular infusion of heart is fully present as he attempts to give us Marvel’s first romcom whether we like it or not.
However, the problem here seems to stem from te curious issue of both the director and star have been allowed way too much leeway in order to literally do whatever the hell they want – and what they want to do, apparently, is make an oddly sexy movie for seven year olds. Now I’m a huge believer that not every superhero flick has to be shrouded in angst and grit, but the filmmakers seems to have gone out of their way to directly make a movie designed to make acolytes of the Snyderverse violently retch all over their twitter threads. It also doesn’t help that the story of Gorr (Christian Bale amusingly alternating between Leonard Rossiter and the vampire from the 70’s version of Salem’s Lot) and his murderous plot is way too dark to comfortably butt up against the unrestrained silliness to carry the appropriate weight it needs to feel like a genuine threat.
It’s a genuine shame, because I genuinely love Thor, I genuinely love the MCU and I genuinely love the original Mighty Thor storyline that a returning Natalie Portman does well to bring to life (not to mention those impressive guns she’s sporting on her arms), but ultimately the movie feels like the equivalent of binging on your favorite ice cream – it’s sweetly delicious but after a while a headache is inevitable…
There’s been some talk these days of Marvel’s Phase 4 experiencing some quality issues and the longevity of superhero flicks in general and while these points may have some merit, it’s the first time this die-hard MCU fan has actually felt it in action and while I won’t put the boot in by demeaning the whole experience with an awful pun (although I’ve got to admit, I did have Love & Chunder loaded in the chamber ready to go…) it may actually be time for Waititi to put the hammer down…