Thor (Chris Hemsworth) hasn’t been seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, where he decapitated Thanos, got really fat, and eventually left to go on space adventures with the Guardians of the Galaxy. I remembered the first two parts well, but I needed to be reminded of the third before Thor: Love and Thunder. It seems like the film needed a reminder as well, like it only remembered at the last minute that it had to involve the Wardens. Chris Pratt and co. make an appearance early in this film, but she and Thor soon break up. If you’ve seen this movie’s commercial and thought you had a 50/50 split between Thor and Guardians, you’ll be disappointed.

Thankfully, the old-fashioned Wardens are being replaced by something arguably even better: the return to the MCU of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor’s former lover from the Asgardian god’s first two standalone films in 2011 and 2013. Jane’s mind is as sharp as can be ever, but her body is failing her. She travels to the city of New Asgard, now a tourist trap run by a bored Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), to see if she can be killed by the remains of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok. 2017. Due to a protective spell Thor placed on the hammer while he and Jane were together, the hammer repairs itself with Jane as its new wielder.

Jane joins forces with Thor, Valkyrie, and Korg (Taika Waititi, also the film’s director) to battle villain du Jour Gorr (Christian Bale), a heartbroken former worshiper who wields a god-killing necro sword and a grudge against all gods the death of his daughter. Our heroes travel to Omnipotence City to request Zeus (Russell Crowe, who for some reason plays a Borat voice) for an army to fight the God Killer, but are met with ridicule and rejection. It turns out Gorr is right about gods caring more about indulging in hedonism than doing anything godlike. But he has kidnapped a pack of New Asgardian children to use as Thor bait, so he must be stopped.

Writing Gorr is probably the worst part of the film. Bale plays his heart and soul, and the character is genuinely likable at times, but he’s just an afterthought for all but about three scenes. And between those scenes, he’s a sarcastic jerk, which doesn’t jibe with his overall tone or motivation. The film really lost the ball with this character.

But the best thing about the film is Hemsworth’s effortless chemistry with everyone, especially Portman. The ups and downs of their relationship are far more gripping than any action sequence, which is pretty much what to expect from the MCU at this point. It’s thanks to them that life and death seem to matter again in the MCU, which is refreshing after a couple of movies where I’ve been convinced characters can always be brought back via Infinity Stones or Multiverse shenanigans. Second to Portman is Hemsworth’s chemistry with the new weapon Stormbreaker. Not since Joan Rivers has an ancient battle ax had so much personality.

I give Thor: Love and Thunder a mild recommendation, thanks largely to the efforts of Hemsworth and Portman and Bale in the few scenes where his character’s pathos really comes through. The humor can be hit-or-miss (this movie thinks there’s nothing funnier than screaming goats) and the action is unforgettable just because it’s set to Guns N’ Roses music. This movie isn’t a must-read for the MCU view, but it’s fine for something on the second or third level.

grade B-

Thor: Love and Thunder is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, language, some salacious material, and partial nudity. The running time is 118 minutes.

Contact Bob Garver at [email protected]

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