Thor: Love and Thunder is Disney’s latest addition to the MCU and the fourth Thor movie. This is actually a pretty big deal. Thor is the first MCU hero to get a fourth movie outside of the ensemble Avengers films. And Thor as a series had not one, but two lackluster offerings at the outset, only hitting its stride with Ragnarok.
Obviously, trilogies are something of a tradition in film, and with Iron Man dead and the original Captain America retired if not dead by now, there aren’t that many opportunities for a hero to rack up four movies, but Thor has done it and still gotten a “Thor will return” tag after the credits.
But the most important question is, how was the movie? And I’d say it was pretty good. It’s not stellar. It didn’t live up to Ragnarok, but it’s still a pretty solid movie and up to Marvel’s standards.
My rating: 4 out of 5.
Like many of the Marvel films, Love and Thunder is a loose adaptation of a storyline from the comics, in this case, the much-publicized “Female Thor” storyline from 2014, in which Jane Foster picks up Thor’s hammer and takes on his identity as a hero. (Using Thor’s name as a title seems a little forced to me, but whatever.)
In the movie version, when last we left Thor, he had teamed up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to have some new adventures, but he never forgot about Jane, his ex-girlfriend who left him after his constant adventuring drove them apart. Now, Thor is called back to Earth and New Asgard when a new enemy known as Gorr the God Butcher starts (obviously) killing gods around the universe.
(And honestly, the whole thing raises a lot of questions about just what gods are and what their role is in the MCU–especially given that Valhalla exists–but that’s too complicated to get into here.)
Back on Earth, Thor discovers that Mjolnir, which was “destroyed” by Hela in Ragnarok has reassembled itself (ironically increasing its offensive power) and is now being wielded by Jane. Gorr kidnaps a bunch of Asgardian children, and Thor, Jane, Korg, and Valkyrie have to team up and get them back, and also stop Gorr from killing the rest of the gods.
And there’s a lot of other stuff going on, too, but I thought it worked pretty well. The ending was not was what I expected, but it was surprisingly uplifting after everything that had happened.
In fact, people may disagree with me, but the part I found most annoying was Korg’s narrating. Korg is a good character in general, but having him tell the story just rubbed me the wrong way. It felt too jokey for the tone of the rest of the movie, and it broke the immersion for me.
The other major impression I had of this movie was that Phase 4 of the MCU has definitely taken a turn for the darker. This isn’t entirely a surprise. You had the (appropriately censored) sex scene in Eternals and an entire team of big-name heroes getting brutally murdered by a character who used to be a hero herself in Multiverse of Madness, but I feel like it came together for me in Love and Thunder. In this movie, they killed off yet another longstanding character, showed Chris Hemsworth’s butt onscreen, had Thor straight-up kill Zeus* without second thought, and included a surprisingly increased amount of swearing (within the PG-13 limitation). That last one was a surprising move to me, especially for Disney.
Oh, and there’s also the nine-year-old kid hero “Love” (played by Hemsworth’s real-life daughter) yelling “Go to Hell, demon!” at her father and shooting lasers at him.
Meanwhile, Love and Thunder is also notable for having what I think may be the first openly transgender character in the MCU—although I was more surprised by Thor’s less than stellar reaction to him. That seemed like a questionable part to give to the protagonist and has been criticized more broadly in the media.
Anyway, what’s the point of this? I’m not sure if it really means anything. However, I’m reminded of Harry Potter and how that was meant to be a series that kids grew up with, deliberately becoming more mature over time. It worked great if you’re my age and actually did grow up with it—a bit awkward if you’re younger and the series was already completed.
I’m don’t know if that’s what Disney is doing here. It’s taken longer in the MCU’s case; it’s been 14 years since Iron Man 1. (Ugh, now I feel old.) It’s not just that the fans have grown up; they have a whole new generation of fans. When Iron Man came out, the core of the audience were Millenials. Now (if they’re targeting the same age group), it’s Gen Z. But either way, there’s no doubt Phase 4 is trending darker and edgier. As long as they don’t go full Game of Thrones, I don’t really mind it, though, so it will be interesting to see what the future holds.
*He got better.