Thor: Love and Thunder

Marvel has apparently stopped reading the Thor scripts before handing them over to Taika Waititi to direct; producer Kevin Feige must just chuckle and greenlight the project before going off to Maui, confident that there will be a whole new pile of money waiting for him on his desk when he gets back from vacation.

The Thor movies have always been a bit looser than some of the other Marvel films. This one goes even sillier and takes the legend of the mighty God Thor and surrounds him with ridiculous characters, screaming goats, and Matt Damon in a chin length bob that makes him look like Severus Snape. I am 100% on board with this approach.

The last Marvel movie I saw was Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and it felt like the studio had cranked it out because someone looked at the calendar and realized it was almost Memorial Day and they needed a movie in the theaters, stat. It was a lot of jumping into different time lines and frantic battle scenes that had little humanity and even less humor. I like my superheroes to take themselves a little less seriously.

Which brings us back to Thor: Love and Thunder. The movie starts out on an endlessly bleak landscape as we get the grim backstory of how Christian Bale becomes the villain known as the God Butcher, setting off his search to take out the Gods who allowed his daughter to starve to death. Back on earth, Thor’s old flame Dr. Jane Foster is on her own quest to find a cure for the cancer that is killing her. Both these stories are a bit depressing, but set up genuine reasons for the way the characters behave.

Things lighten up a bit as the narration continues by Krog, the giant rock creature who befriended the Asgardian God in Thor: Ragnarok. Krog has a very chill approach to storytelling, and his accent makes every syllable an adventure. (Originally I thought Krog was voiced by one of the guys from Flight of the Conchords, but it is director Taika Waititi. I love a New Zealand accent!) The Legend of Thor is acted out by a troupe of thespians, each one chewing the scenery as if they hadn’t eaten in days. The film is full of surprise cameos, such as the aforementioned Matt Damon as Loki, who owes Tom Hiddleston an apology. I won’t spoil the others in the play, but the guy playing Thor has a certain family resemblance.

Characters from other Marvel films keep showing up; there is a whole sequence involving The Guardians of the Gallery and various characters from previous Thor films. Valkyrie is still King of Asgard and is wearing a Phantom of the Opera t-shirt, which I guess means that in addition to becoming a theme park, the town now has Broadway shows? In what seems like a complete non-sequitur, someone gives Thor a pair of Giant Screaming Goats, who are then put to work pulling a Viking ship that used to be a ride in New Asgard. There is absolutely no reason for these goats to be in this movie; yet I found myself hysterical every time they bleated an anguished scream.

With the help of Thor’s Hammer, Jane has developed superpowers; and has also inexplicably turned blonde (Don’t call her Lady Thor!) Thor, Korg, Jane and Valkyrie eventually find their way to Mt. Olympus to warn the other Deities about the God Butcher, and an almost unrecognizable Russell Crowe shows up as Zeus, his toga quite a bit snugger than it was in Gladiator. His accent seems to have been lifted from the dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding; I kept expecting him to pull out a bottle of Windex and spray it on someone’s zit. A huge fight breaks out as the adventurers try to steal Zeus’s Lightning Bolt, and the ensuing battle is very glittery as it turns out that all the Gods bleed gold. I would like to commend the person who decided that Thor should be naked and covered in golden gore in this scene.

The movie deals with some fairly heavy subjects that are not usually addressed in Marvel films; fear of death and what awaits in the Afterlife, kidnapped children, Thor’s inability to move on from a past relationship. I found it refreshing to have the conflicts be a bit more human-scaled, as opposed to more giant alien monsters attacking from outer space. As goofy as a lot of the scenes were, at least the characters were fighting for something that was relatable.

I laughed more during this film than I have in a long time, and it was the perfect two-hour retreat from reality that I was craving. And even though I had just sat through 35 minutes of previews and two hours of the film while drinking a giant Diet Coke, I knew enough not to rush out of the theater before the final credit scenes. The first one came almost immediately and involved a conversation between Zeus and his son. It happened so fast that I’m not even sure if I would have recognized who was playing Hercules unless I had been spoiled. Stop reading right now if you don’t want this little hint:.

 “He’s here! He’s there! He’s every-fucking-where! Her-cules!”

The Popcorn Kernels of Truth give this film Three Kernels. The delightful addition of Guns N’ Roses on the soundtrack (and a character who changes his name to Axl) create a tempo that hits hard and fast and drives the film.

New Category: FlicksYouShouldPick, FlicksIWantToLick