Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok hit the MCU like a bolt of lightning when it was released back in 2017. It was filled with striking visuals, hilarious dialog, and a killer soundtrack — Thor fighting evil minions to “Immigrant Song” = chef’s kiss — but more importantly, it turned Chris Hemsworth’s Thor into the MCU’s resident himbo, a mass of muscles whose goofy charm proved his most divine power.
Suffice to say, a new Thor movie from Watiti and Hemsworth comes with no small amount of expectation, especially in light of how underwhelming the MCU’s fourth phase has been to date. This time around, Thor is reunited with his ex-girlfriend Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who has somehow become her own Thor and wields his old weapon, Mjölnir. Which proves fortuitous when a malevolent new foe emerges hellbent on killing all of the gods.
Can Waititi’s style and Hemsworth’s himbo charm reinvigorate the MCU? Or is Thor: Love and Thunder just more of the same old, same old? Read on for an assortment of critic reviews and reactions.
Thor: Ragnarok was a movie that came along at just the right time. Marvel didn’t seem to have a handle on the character of Thor in the movies quite yet, and the sequel, Thor: The Dark World, despite being important to the greater MCU, ended up on many “worst of” lists. The character and that corner of the Marvel universe needed a kick in the ass, and director Taika Waititi came along and did exactly that. The movie is considered one of the best in the MCU, so it wasn’t surprising when Marvel announced they would try and make the lightning strike with Thor: Love and Thunder. However, this movie has run into a problem that has plagued other entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that the spectacle of the revamp is no longer there. The film needed to amp up the emotional connection to the character to compensate but failed to do so.
[Taika Waititi’s] wannabe-breezy comedy has always struck me as awfully strenuous, and the Marvel enterprise seems to encourage his worst instincts; too often he mistakes sloppiness for irreverence and self-satisfaction for self-mockery. Sometimes his comic instincts do pay off, as when Thor, Jane and friends crash a neo-Olympian, Vegas-ready paradise called Omnipotence City, where Crowe’s Zeus preens, prances and speaks in a hilariously awful Greek accent. But the movie is considerably better in those infrequent moments when it strives for sincere, unironic emotion, whether it’s relaying the tragedy that gives rise to Gorr’s murderous reign of terror or exploring Jane’s struggle to evade her own mortality.
For those who were not fans of Thor’s more comedic treatment in Ragnarok, Love and Thunder may feel disappointingly familiar. There are also moments that are primarily there for a recap, but even then, it’s done in a tongue-in-cheek way that’s entertaining. Meanwhile, those who love seeing this side of the self-proclaimed strongest Avenger will not be disappointed. Thor: Love and Thunder lives up to its name and sets the stage for an exciting future for this corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Despite the film’s wit and geniality — and despite the himbo perfection of a Chris Hemsworth performance so refined and self-possessed that it single-handedly justifies the decision to build another blockbuster around it — Love and Thunder is clouded by its uncertain place in the universe from the moment it starts. And yet, the same thing could be said about Thor, whose mega-swole aimlessness mirrors that of his new movie in a way that sometimes allows this chapter of the MCU to feel more intimate and personal than many of the 28 installments that came before it. Even moving, on occasion.
After four installments, [the] Thor franchise only continues to build interest from audiences when the studio inevitably makes more of these films, especially as — and directly because — Waititi takes advantage of the studio’s more recent laissez faire attitude towards its directors. But by the end, he vividly reminds audiences that his talent as a visualist and storyteller helped earn him and others that freedom. Even with Ragnarok looming large in this film’s rearview mirror, Waititi’s work here marks an important and exciting untethering of MCU films from their obligations to a larger mythology — even if this one almost certainly carries much significance for the future.
Thor: Love and Thunder doesn’t come anywhere near being as much of a letdown as Multiverse of Madness was, but the two movies are alike in how they both seem to be the products of the MCU settling into an era where its future is still being figured out. At least some of that future’s teased out in Love and Thunder’s mid- and post-credits scenes — both of which are almost certain to be crowd-pleasers that satisfy those who show up already certain they’re in this for the long haul. But as the latest piece of lore defining the Odinson and his allies in the present, Thor: Love and Thunder is a clunky chapter in what feels like a franchise that’s still figuring itself out.
Even in Valhalla or Paradise City, though, there is still love and loss; Thor dutifully delivers both, and catharsis in a climax that inevitably doubles as a setup for the next installment. More and more, this cinematic universe feels simultaneously too big to fail and too wide to support the weight of its own endless machinations. None of it necessarily makes any more sense in Waititi’s hands, but at least somebody’s having fun.
Thor: Love and Thunder is both entirely the movie you expect and not at all the film you thought it would be. It’s a rollicking romantic adventure — about exactly who you think, no matter what the lead-in interviews might have had you wondering — but it’s also a story about parenthood. It’s as rambunctious and colorful as Ragnarok but also a different sort of film entirely.
Thor: Love and Thunder is not nearly as cohesive or propulsive as Thor: Ragnarok, but it’s more ambitious and heartfelt. The cast all bring their A-games, and even when parts of the film don’t line up with the others, they are never boring to watch. There are moments where you’ll think, moments when you’ll cheer, and moments when you’ll cry. Love and Thunder can be a bumpy journey at times — but the destination is well worth the trip.
Ultimately, Thor: Love & Thunder can be enjoyable in spots, but disposably and inconsequentially so. Results will vary on Marvel’s latest theme park ride and how enjoyable it is, but there’s decidedly much more thunder than heart, despite an element that tries to tease the “I believe the children are our future” theme. Laughter is ultimately either disposable or echoing in its belly-fullness and let’s just say it’s super doubtful the Love & Thunder giggles are going to sustain themselves enough to end up on any of the all-time MCU lists like Ragnarok has.
As the next chapter in the story about a character who audiences have been getting to know for more than a decade, a film meant to present a new world of possibilities for what these movies can be, Thor: Love and Thunder isn’t just a misfire, it’s a scam. Its characters only move forward in the most artificial ways. Their status at the end of the film is no more intriguing than it was at the beginning. It’s the worst thing a film in this mode can be: inconsequential.
Thor: Love and Thunder feels like the product of a Thor: Ragnarok focus group. We get more of what audiences liked about Ragnarok — jokes, tunes, the Korg of it all — but what once seemed bracing and revelatory now feels familiar, safe, even rote on occasion.
Thor: Love and Thunder arrives in theaters on July 8, 2022. Watch the trailer below.