One thing is for certain: Marvel Phase 4 certainly is… continuing.
Thor finds himself on a journey of self-discovery after the events of the Infinity War, having lost everything dear to him. However, a powerful enemy rises from the dark, proclaimed to be “the god butcher”. Allies have to be found, and one surprisingly arrives from Thor’s past…
Following the immense popularity of 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, that film’s director (and Disney’s new darling, it seems) Taika Waititi returns to continue Thor’s story with Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Natalie Portman, and the entire Guardians of the Galaxy cast reprising their roles.
If Thor: Ragnarok wasn’t already divisive for the cinema audience, its follow-up certainly will be. Taika Waititi was considered by many to have breathed creative fresh air into what was said to be a mediocre franchise within the MCU, but other audiences decried his fixation on comedy. Radically different from the more stoic (should we say, Nordic?) stylings of the first Thor movie, directed by the prestigious and Shakespearian-trained (and Thor comic book fan!) Kenneth Branagh.
So now that we’ve established a brief history of Thor in the MCU, what can we say about Taika Waitiki’s own character, the rock alien Korg giving a brief history of Thor in the MCU? With a running joke of confusing Natalie Portman’s character’s name with other cultural references, and also making light of massive plot points like Thor’s mother dying… One could ask, are all MCU films now going to require a bloated summary like this? Or is making a joke out of everything Waititi’s style?
Well, it seems so. We then cut to New Asgard, on Earth, where the once noble and honourable Asgardians now treat themselves like a tourist trap; monetizing their existence (an Old Spice advert? What?)
Then we come crashing down to a character having cancer, and another character who’s enter family is dead from starvation.
Yeah, when you say the film has tonal issues, it isn’t an exaggeration.
Indeed, we live in an MCU age where there can be a dance-off at the final confrontation, or a heroic entrance at the eleventh hour can become a pratfall instead. With Thor 4’s flip-flopping tone, nothing can be taken exactly seriously; audiences find themselves listening to poignant dialogue, dialogue that should mean something, and a part of their brains is thinking “is there going to be a fart joke here or something?”
You would think the Asgardians would want to prepare for battle more than ever. In fact, the film delights in showing gods as being, well, incompetent (with a sly post-credit scene that debunks that complaint, like sticking a plaster over a fault line) and yet our big scary villain Gorr the God Butcher appears to be “God Butcher” in name only. What can we say about him?
Well, Thor appears to be killing more gods himself than Gorr, in this movie. Go figure.
Christian Bale is having a riot playing the villain. Visually, the movie becomes quite striking whenever he is involved, drowning the screen in shadows, while he himself is a ghostly apparition. But it would seem he is all bark and no bite. Despite being a proclaimed god killer and a threat so serious Thor says they need an army to defeat him, Gorr… doesn’t really manage anything? Hell, Malekith (the MCU villain you forgot) achieved more, and the cinematic universe joked about him later on.
He couldn’t even kill people who weren’t gods.
Which is baffling. In watching the trailer, and remembering the devastation that Hela brought in Thor: Ragnarok, one could imagine a similar event happening with Gorr. Our characters taking a detour to “Omnipotent City”, to meet Russell Crowe’s distressingly-Italian-voiced Zeus, a land full of gods. But no, this entire sequence felt unnecessary, and only leads to a post-credit scene that is very similar to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.‘s credit scene.
So what is there?
Well, it is ultimately subjective. If you enjoy comedies, you will probably get a chuckle out of it. As mentioned earlier in the review, there are some moments of impressive visuals, as well as intriguing scenes for Marvel lore enthusiasts.
The relationship between Portman’s Jane Foster and Hemsworth’s Thor is nice to see, and for it to have some resolution. But the film doesn’t focus enough (you might have already gathered) on it to give it the emotional depth and weight it deserves. Especially after nine years, the result feels a little flippant.
Perhaps it is too easy to be hard on Phase 4 movies. After all, we weren’t nitpicking Phase 1 and 2 movies as much (albeit they were very formulaic) and Phase 4 is effectively a restart of a new story arc.
However, remember Tony Stark? He was kind of a big deal. He had three solo movies, a Captain America movie, and four Avenger movies and he went through a full character arc, from selfish war-profiteer, through neurotic isolationist, to universe-saviour. Thor is the first character to have four solo movies, with four Avenger movies, yet the character still feels the most… vague. He doesn’t so much evolve as react to things happening.
Thor: Love and Thunder feels very indulgent on the part of the director, and ultimately, very forgettable. It doesn’t do anything new in the grand scheme of the MCU, it doesn’t stand out especially well on its own merits (unless you like zany, directionless humour).
Phase 4 is currently struggling.
Additional Marshmallows: This is really, really close to a 1.5 rating. Similar fate to Eternals. But when you consider similar franchise films such as X-Men: Dark Phoenix existing… no, they aren’t quite that bad.