Thor’s last full-length movie was 2017’s overloaded “Thor: Ragnarok,” with the god of thunder dealing with sibling duel issues, the impending destruction of his planet, an alcoholic sidekick, a huge dog, a Hulk friend having a panic attack and the death of his father.
It was Taika Waititi cinema at its most intense, with slow-motion wanderings, silly wooden headdresses, sharp swords and laser cannons, capes and undead soldiers, a bobbed-haired Thor, a character typically unbalanced by Jeff Goldblum, a prophecy, alien spaceships and lots of Led Zeppelin.
If you thought it was a banana movie, its sequel is all fruit basket.
‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ – a rare fourth Marvel installment for a character – has giant bleating goats, a gruesome Zeus, children in cages, space dolphins, Jodie Foster jokes, bears plush toy with laser eyes, an Old Spice commercial parody, Natalie Portman headbutting a villain, blue aliens and lots of Guns N’ Roses.
Waititi is back as co-writer, director and voice of the stony Korg, with Chris Hemsworth as our space Viking, a man who really needs to get more credit for taking Thor over the years from brooding to hysterical. His ability to utter superhero things in spectacular fashion and then become a goofball is endlessly endearing. Tessa Thompson is also back as Jaimie Alexander’s Valkyrie and Sif.
One problematic character is Jane Foster, Thor’s ex who he still loves for eight years after they broke up and she skipped the third movie. But now Foster – played by Portman – has Thor’s old magic hammer, Mjolnir, and has become his own superhero, the Mighty Thor. She’s working on a catchphrase, like “Eat that hammer!”
Thor, of course, evolved not with his romantic feelings, but with his preferred weaponry. He now wields the enchanted axe, Stormbreaker. He doesn’t have eyes for Mjolnir, does he? “Are you okay? I know it’s a little weird having my ex-gun around,” he asks his ax in a delightfully goofy scene, essentially reflecting a love triangle between a Norse god and two metal armaments.
Our villain this time is superb: Christian Bale embodies the delightfully named Gorr the Butcher God. A once pious man who prayed in vain to the deities, he has now decided to annihilate them after having a personal setback. Bale is so creepy and committed, you can feel his hate melting your popcorn. “The gods will use you but they won’t help you,” he growls.
Another weird punch comes from Russell Crowe, who plays Zeus as a conceited tyrant with a Roman outfit (a “Gladiator” riff?) and an atrocious Mediterranean accent. He is surrounded by lackeys – some called Zeusettes – and frustrates Thor, even stripping him of his clothes, much to the delight of many onlookers. “You know what they say: never meet your heroes,” says the Viking.
The jigsaw of death and suffering at idiocy is staggering, with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson credited alongside Waititi for a script that looks like it’s been glued on after the gerbils rip open a bag of words. You go from a hospital room on Earth struggling with a terminal illness to Thor dressed as a hot dog to a low-gravity shadow realm where the film goes completely black and white. There is very little logic and the connections between the scenes are tenuous, giving the film the feeling of constructing nothing clear.
Maximum madness is reached at Omnipotence City, where the gods of the universe hang out. There is the Aztec god, various Maori goddesses, the Mayan god, and a round dough called Bao, the god of dumplings. It’s a gag that looks like it came out of a Mel Brooks movie, but given how the Marvel Cinematic Universe has evolved, don’t be surprised to see the 47th installment titled “Bao: Steam and Sauce.”
The film is full of cameos – many of which critics aren’t allowed to reveal – but look out for Hemsworth’s real wife and one of his sons, a bunch of weary Guardians of the Galaxy and a fairly famous comedienne playing Cate Blanchett as “Ragnarok”.
What to do with this glorious intergalactic mess? There’s no better answer than slipping in one of our hero’s catchphrases: “What a classic Thor adventure, Hooray!”
“Thor: Love and Thunder,” a Walt Disney Studios release that hits theaters July 8, is rated PG-13 for “intense sci-fi violence, action, language, partial nudity, and some suggestive elements.” Duration: 119 minutes. Three out of four stars.