Movies like this make me ponder my responsibilities as an amateur film critic. The vast majority of the time, it’s relatively easy to form an honest opinion that I only hope can benefit you few loyal readers, whether that is to convince you to or dissuade you from watching something at the cinema or on your TV at home. One variable in particular stands out as consistently enigmatic in my quest to better critique: do I base my reviews more on my beliefs regarding the actual quality of the film, or rather, my own personal enjoyment regardless of that quality?
Where am I going with this long-winded excuse for an intro to my Thor: Love and Thunder review? To simplify, I have little to no idea what kind of stance to take in my opinion of this newest MCU property. If we’re talking pure enjoyment on my part, this was a thoroughly worthwhile trip to the cinema; if we’re talking actual quality, this is one of the most idiotic, inconsistent, and creatively-repulsive messes I’ve ever seen projected onto screen. Herein lies my great inner controversy: how do I review a movie I am simultaneously enamoured with and appalled by?
Here’s the thing… I think the enjoyment one finds in watching this depends entirely upon HOW one watches it. If you enter the theatre expecting a captivating superhero story (or an honourable follow up to Thor: Ragnarok) you won’t find it here. Occasionally we get some chilling acting chops from Christian Bale as the main villain — the fittingly-named Gorr the God Butcher — but otherwise the movie comes across as more of a parody of a superhero story than anything else; think Deadpool, if you replaced the crude humour with silly humour. But if you expect a (frankly satirical) comedy that over-commits to its bits, you can definitely have a good time with this one.
But exactly how absurd are we talking here? While the main plot involves good ol’ Thor (Chris Hemsworth) trying to stop Gorr the God Butcher from butchering all the gods — in what he constantly describes as another “classic Thor adventure” — the story given the most attention is one between the God of Thunder and his ex-girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman). Since we last saw her (back in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World) Jane has been diagnosed with stage four cancer, and seeks help in… let’s say… alternative medicine; according to a flashback during Thor and Jane’s time together, Thor made his hammer Mjolnir promise to always protect Jane (something that I guess can just happen now?). When Jane seeks out Mjolnir (shattered as of Thor: Ragnarok), the hammer reassembles itself and lets Jane become her own thunderous god.
Then, when Jane returns to the picture, Thor finds himself struggling not only with his ex, but with the awkwardness between his old hammer and his new weapon, the Stormbreaker axe. As Korg (Taika Waititi, who also directs) so bluntly puts it, “It must be hard for you to see your ex girlfriend and your ex hammer hanging out and getting on so well.” But the love-quadrilateral doesn’t stop there… it further includes gags such as Thor trying to summon Mjolnir and having Stormbreaker suspiciously and judgmentally float around the corner. If you go in expecting this level of ridiculous humour, it isn’t altogether difficult to sit back, turn off your brain, and chuckle along with the absurdity.
That’s the advice I’d give to the average moviegoer. However, my critical integrity still requires me to call out the bounty of flaws we’ve got here. First off, the pacing is far too rushed; the plot jumps all over the place and rarely settles down… it gave me a headache. Second, the visuals are decent here and there, but the kaleidoscope of colour on display is turned up to 11 almost ALL THE TIME; it’s like someone put a fruit roll up into the projector instead of a film reel… it worsened my headache. Third, although Gorr is a great villain, he’s also one of the most menacing we’ve ever seen… which is great other than the fact it feels like a drastic tonal shift every time he’s on screen, since every other scene refuses to take itself seriously.
So yeah… make of that what you will. This is maybe the closest a Marvel movie has been to an actual fever dream, with its giggling stylistic gusto. It’s maybe the funniest this universe has ever been while also being quite possibly the worst thing… ever. Really, it feels inappropriate to give it any definitive rating, but if I’m choosing a side once and for all… it’s watchable. That said, enter at your own risk.
Overall rating: 6/10