4-Color to 35-Millimeter: The Great Superhero Movie Rewatch

A Gods-Awful Mess — Thor: Love and Thunder

From August 2017 – January 2020, Keith R.A. DeCandido took a weekly look at nearly every live-action movie based on a superhero comic that had been made to date in the Superhero Movie Rewatch. In this latest revisit we’ve covered some older films—Barbarella, Vampirella, and Sparks—and we now take a gander at the releases from the latter half of 2022, starting with Thor: Love and Thunder.

While it was far from your humble rewatcher’s favorite movie, Thor: Ragnarok was a big success, which was welcome after the rather lukewarm reception to Thor: The Dark World. It was therefore not really a surprise that Taika Waititi was brought back to direct the next film featuring the god of thunder, which adapted two recent popular storylines from Thor comics.

Waititi mined two Jason Aaron-written storylines from the 2010s for the plot of Love and Thunder. The first was the God-Butcher arc in the first five issues of 2012’s Thor: God of Thunder series by Aaron & Esad Ribić, in which we’re introduced to Gorr the God-Butcher, who has vowed to murder all the gods. The second was the arc that started in the Thor comic that launched in 2014 by Aaron & Russell Dauterman wherein Thor was no longer worthy to wield Mjolnir, and Jane Foster picked up the hammer and became Thor. The storyline also brings in Eternity, created by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko for the Doctor Strange story in 1965’s Strange Tales #138, established there as the living embodiment of the entire cosmos.

Chris Hemsworth’s contract with Marvel Studios had ended with his appearance in Avengers: Endgame, but he agreed to do another Thor film due to Waititi’s involvement, as starring in Ragnarok revived Hemsworth’s glee in playing the character. Waititi had read the Jane-as-Thor storyline in Thor while filming Ragnarok and wanted that to be the storyline he adapted for the next film.

Back from Endgame are Hemsworth as Thor, Waititi as Korg, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, Dave Bautista as Drax, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Pom Klementieff as Mantis, Sean Gunn as Kraglin, Vin Diesel as the voice of Groot, Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket, and Stephen Murdoch as the voice of Miek. Back from Loki is Jaimie Alexander as Sif. Back from WandaVision is Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis. Back from Avengers: Infinity War is Idris Elba as Heimdall in the post-credits scene. Back from Ragnarok are Luke Hemsworth, Matt Damon, and Sam Neill as Asgardian actors (joined here by Melissa McCarthy). Back from Avengers: Age of Ultron is Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig.

Introduced in this film are Christian Bale (previously seen in this rewatch as Batman in three films) as Gorr the God-Butcher, Russell Crowe as Zeus, Kieron L. Dyer as Heimdall’s son Axl, India Rose Hemsworth (Chris’ daughter) as Gorr’s daughter Love, and, best of all, Brett Goldstein in the mid-credits scene as Hercules. Plus Simon Russell Beale, Jonathan Brugh, Akosia Sabet, Kuni Hashimoto, and Carmen Foon play various deities, and the children of Waititi, Portman, and Bale play some of the New Asgard children.

Pratt, Bautista, Gillan, Klementieff, Gunn, Diesel, and Cooper will all next appear in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. It’s likely that Hemsworth père et fille will appear next in either another Thor film (possibly opposite Goldstein as Hercules?) or in Avengers: The Kang Dynasty. I’m also personally hoping that Dennings will be back in some capacity, maybe in The Marvels?

 

“What a classic Thor adventure!”

Thor: Love and Thunder
Written by Taika Waititi & Jennifer Kaytin Robinson
Directed by Taika Waititi
Produced by Kevin Feige, Brad Winderbaum
Original release date: July 8, 2022

Credit: Marvel Studios / Disney

In a brutal desert, a man named Gorr and his daughter are struggling to survive. The daughter dies, and then Gorr finds an oasis where the god Rapu—to whom he has been praying for water and survival—is having a party because he just killed a being who had the Necrosword, which can kill gods. Gorr tells Rapu that he’s the only one of his worshippers left, but Rapu is unmoved—he can always find more worshippers. Upon seeing what a selfish git his god is, Gorr takes up the Necrosword—which has been whispering in his mind to pick it up—and uses it to kill Rapu. He then swears to kill all the gods.

Via the method of Korg telling a story to a bunch of people, we find out what has happened in Thor’s life, starting from childhood all the way to how, after Endgame, he has worked to get back in shape. He and the Guardians of the Galaxy come to Indigarr thinking it’ll be a good place for a vacation. But the Indigarr gods have been killed and the temple is under attack. Thor and the Guardians fight off the bad guys, though the temple is destroyed. King Yakan—who is more than a little upset about the temple’s destruction—gives Thor a “gift” of two screaming goats.

The Guardians get a mess of distress calls, all from people whose gods have been killed. One is from Sif on Falligar specifically directed at Thor. The Guardians go off to deal with the other calls while Thor and Korg use Stormbreaker to go to Falligar. Their god—whom Thor describes as one of the nicest gods you’ll ever meet—is dead, and Sif has been wounded, her arm cut off. Thor uses Stormbreaker to return to New Asgard—which has become quite the tourist trap—which is being overrun by Gorr’s Shadow Creatures. Thor fights them alongside Valkyrie, and a woman dressed just like Thor, wielding Mjolnir, and kicking ass. It turns out to be Jane Foster.

Foster has cancer and it’s reached stage four. The only people she told were Darcy Lewis and Erik Selvig. She feels Mjolnir calling to her, and she travels to New Asgard, where the pieces come together for the first time since Hela destroyed it and turn her into Thor. It turns out that, back when they were dating, Thor drunkenly spoke to Mjolnir telling it to protect her if something happens to him, and that put an enchantment on the hammer.

The Asgardians are able to beat Gorr back, with Thor just barely avoiding being stabbed by the Necrosword. However, Gorr has his Shadow Creatures kidnap all the Asgardian children. One of those children is Axl, formerly Astrid (he renamed himself after the lead singer of Guns ‘n’ Roses), the son of Heimdall, who has Heimdall’s special abilities. Thor is able to communicate with the kids and he sees that they’re in the Shadow Realm. Stormbreaker has been acting strangely since Thor learned of Mjolnir’s reconstitution, but Foster suggests using the axe as an engine to power a ship that can take them to the Shadow Realm. First, though, they need an army. Rather than contact the Guardians or the Avengers (or even, y’know, mentioning them), Thor suggests they go to Omnipotence City to recruit help from other gods. They use one of the flying ships that tourists fly around on, attach the two goats to the front and use Stormbreaker to power it.

Because they weren’t specifically invited to Omnipotence City, they disguise themselves and show up in time for Zeus’ grand entrance. Valkyrie and Foster want to take Zeus’ thunderbolt. Thor tries to make a verbal appeal, but Zeus brushes him off, saying that it’s only minor gods being killed. Privately, Zeus does admit to being scared, but he’s confident that Gorr’s plan to find Eternity will fail. Thor now realizes that Gorr’s plan is to go to Eternity’s realm, where he will be granted a wish—he’ll obviously wish for the gods to all be killed in one shot.

Realizing that Zeus will be of no help—and also won’t let them leave for fear of Gorr’s learning of Omnipotence City’s location—Foster, Valkyrie, Korg, and Thor all attack. Zeus uses his thunderbolt to shatter Korg’s body, but his face survives and Valkyrie ties his face to the back of her head, giving her effective three-hundred-and-sixty-degree vision. Korg is also able to summon the goats, who make a grand entrance. Thor throws Zeus’ thunderbolt back at him, impaling him, and seemingly killing him.

Credit: Marvel Studios / Disney

Our heroes fly off, down one soldier—Korg is just a face now—and without the army they were hoping for. But they do have Zeus’ thunderbolt, which is a mighty weapon.

Foster finally confides to Thor about the cancer. They also kiss.

Once they arrive in the Shadow Realm, they’re pissed to see that the kids are no longer in the cage where Thor has “visited” them via Axl’s powers. Foster figures out that what Gorr needs is Stormbreaker—or, more generally, the bifrost, which Stormbreaker can generate—to open the door to Eternity, so she tosses Stormbreaker away. Thor, Valkyrie, and Foster fight off both Gorr and the various Shadow Demons, with Valkyrie badly wounded. Thor is forced to summon Stormbreaker back because he needs the weapon to fight the demons. He tries to engage in a tactical retreat, but Gorr manages to grab the axe at the last second. Everyone is sent back to New Asgard, but now Gorr has Stormbreaker.

Foster has dropped the hammer, and she’s reverted to her cancer-ridden normal form. She and Valkyrie are taken to the infirmary, and the doctor informs Thor that wielding Mjolnir has taken energy away from her body’s ability to fight the cancer. The only way she’s going to beat it is to not become Thor again. Thor convinces her to stay behind when he goes after Gorr, and Valkyrie is too badly wounded to go, either. So Thor uses Zeus’ thunderbolt to go to the center of the universe to confront Gorr.

The Asgardian kids are all there, and Thor recruits them to be his army. They grab whatever they can find lying around, and Thor imbues their weapons with the power of Thor temporarily. The kids fight the Shadow Demons while Thor takes on Gorr—who is using Stormbreaker to open the portal to Eternity. Back on Earth, Foster can feel that Thor is losing, and she grabs Mjolnir and flies to the center of the universe using Valkyrie’s Pegasus. Thor is heartbroken that she chose this, but also needs her help, as Gorr was kicking his ass.

Foster fights off Gorr while Thor fights to reclaim Stormbreaker—which he eventually does, but not until the door to Eternity is opened. Still, he’s able to give the axe to Axl (ahem) who gets the kids safely home to New Asgard. Between Zeus’ thunderbolt and Mjolnir, the two Thors are able to destroy the Necrosword, thus depriving Gorr of his power.

However, the gateway is still open, and Gorr stumbles through it. Thor and Foster follow. Thor convinces Gorr that it is better to choose love over revenge, and that he should use his wish to bring his daughter back, which he does. Thor promises to look after her.

Foster succumbs to the cancer and dies—but, like Odin in the last movie, her death involves disintegrating into golden sparkly bits.

Korg narrates the final bit, establishing that the kids not only got home safe, but were now being trained in self-defense by Valkyrie and Sif; that Korg’s body reconstituted, and he’s found a boyfriend, Dwayne; and that Thor is now traveling the galaxy defending the downtrodden with Gorr’s daughter Love, her wielding Stormbreaker while Thor wields Mjolnir (which Love has decorated with funky colors).

In Omnipotence City, we learn that Zeus is not dead, though he is wounded, and he’s frustrated that people have given up on gods in favor of superheroes, and he’s gonna send his son Hercules to destroy Thor to remind people to fear gods again.

Foster’s golden sparkly bits reconstitute themselves in Valhalla, where Heimdall thanks her for looking out for his son and welcomes her to the home of the dead gods.

 

“And one last thing: eat my hammer!”

Credit: Marvel Studios / Disney

Even with my lack of enthusiasm for Ragnarok, I was seriously looking forward to Love and Thunder, mainly because the movie was announced by making it clear that (a) Natalie Portman would be back as Foster and (b) Taika Waititi would be adapting the Foster-as-Thor storyline from 2014, which I loved.

So to actually sit down and watch this train-wreck of a movie was a massive disappointment.

First of all, there’s the other story the movie chose to adapt, which did not work at all. From the beginning, the MCU has established itself as being much more scientifically based than even their source comics. Thor made it abundantly clear that the occupants of Asgard were not gods, merely powerful immortal beings who were worshipped as such on Earth, but are thought of throughout the rest of the galaxy as just another set of aliens. The notion of multiple pantheons all across the galaxy comes in out of nowhere, and makes no sense to suddenly drop in after fourteen years.

Which is a pity, as Christian Bale is one of the best things about this movie, magnificently inhabiting the bitter misery of Gorr. The opening bit with his daughter dying in his arms and then discovering that Rapu has nothing but contempt for him is beautifully done, and sets the tone for a really good movie, which the bits after the Marvel Studios logo mostly fail to deliver on.

The movie put a bad taste in my mouth right from the start when Korg is providing exposition about Thor’s previous MCU appearances, specifically mentioning who has died in his life. Frigga, Odin, and Loki are referred to lovingly as his mother, father, and brother, and then the Warriors Three are fobbed off as three other people who don’t get names or listed as friends, just “that guy” and “whoever that is.” Then, neither Natasha Romanoff nor Tony Stark nor Steve Rogers are even mentioned as friends he lost for some stupid reason, and then we see that he’s back in fighting shape after Endgame in a cheap-ass training montage.

While I had some issues with aspects of how Endgame dealt with Thor’s PTSD (specifically the unnecessary fat jokes), in general it and Infinity War did a good job of showing Thor’s pain at losing Asgard and so many of his dearest friends. Here, it’s just him sitting beatifically on a planet wishing he had love, which feels reductive.

The setup of Thor teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of Endgame was ripe for comedy gold, the sort of thing that you’d think would be right in Waititi’s wheelhouse. But no, they’re written out of the movie as fast as humanly (Asgardianly?) possible, after barely being a factor in the film. (The one exception to that last phrase is Peter Quill’s heartfelt advice to Thor about love and the importance of having someone to feel shitty about, which is wonderfully called back to later.) It’s especially maddening because Thor formed a close bond with Rocket in both Infinity War and Endgame, not to mention the haft of Stormbreaker being a piece of Groot, neither of which is acknowledged or made use of.

Just in general, throughout the vast majority of this movie, Thor is portrayed as a complete moron, and it’s tiresome and not particularly funny. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the same filmmaker who thought that the story of the complete destruction of Asgard was fodder for a goofy-ass comedy, but giving us a Thor who’s a big dumb idiot is childish and just not that interesting.

It doesn’t help that Hemsworth has lost his ideal sparring partner. This is the only one of the four Thor movies (and only the second of Thor’s eight appearances) that doesn’t have Tom Hiddleston in it as Loki. One of the greatest things about the MCU version of the Norse gods is the Hemsworth-Hiddleston double act, and it’s seriously missing from this one.

On top of that, we have several elements that just make nothing like sense, starting with Thor suddenly, for the first time in eight movies, treating Mjolnir and Stormbreaker like pets. The two tools suddenly start having personalities as well, from Mjolnir acting like a devoted puppy mostly to Foster, and with Stormbreaker acting like a jealous ex. It would be fine if either of these inanimate objects had been portrayed as such before, but they haven’t, and all it does is add more sophomoric humor to a movie that’s already choked with it.

Then there’s Thor talking about finding a team to fight Gorr, and why does he need to find one when he’s got two already? He’s an Avenger and he’s now at least sorta-kinda friends with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Why isn’t he asking them for help? (This is one of the major problems with doing a shared universe in live action, whether in movies or on TV, as actor availability too often dictates, and warps, plot.)

Credit: Marvel Studios / Disney

It’s especially frustrating because when he’s not played like a doofus, Thor is a very compelling heroic character. His scenes with Foster are mostly really good (the only missteps are, yes, when he acts like an idiot), and once it comes time to fight Gorr in the Shadow Realm and at Eternity’s chamber, he’s much stronger. (Whatever its flaws, the movie has fantastic fight choreography, though Waititi inexplicably feels the need to add Guns ‘n’ Roses music to, like, every fight scene, which grows repetitive. Plus Heimdall’s kid renames himself Axl. We get it, you like GnR, but sheesh…) Indeed, the absolute best part of the movie is when Thor temporarily grants the Asgardian kids his powers, and watching the kids with now-glowing eyes attacking the Shadow Demons with their bric-a-brac weapons is epic. Especially the kid who uses her stuffed bunny as a weapon, zapping the demons with Lightning Bunny Vision!

But then that’s followed by the worst part of the movie. While Waititi and the production staff deserve credit for getting the psychedelic look of Eternity right, Waititi and fellow writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson decide for reasons passing understanding to turn Eternity into a genie who grants a wish to whoever makes it to Eternity’s realm. (We won’t even get into how “Eternity’s realm” makes no sense, since Eternity is the embodiment of all reality, but whatever.) Of course, when I first saw the movie, I thought to myself, “Self,” I thought, “this is how Foster will get saved. Thor will go to Eternity’s realm and be granted a wish and he’ll wish for Foster to be restored.” We then get there, and Gorr gets his wish—which, true to what we saw at the beginning of the film, is to bring his daughter back—and I’m waiting and waiting and waiting and nothing. Foster just dies in an abject failure of Screenwriting 101.

So here we go again. Natasha Romanoff. May Parker. Wanda Maximoff. And now Jane Foster. The MCU keeps killing off its strong female supporting characters, and it’s a really really really bad look, and one that needs to fucking stop. (And it won’t, as I’ll be making this complaint again before this rewatch segment is out.) Yes, we see Foster in Valhalla with Heimdall, which at least opens the possibility of her returning, but there was no reason to have her die here, and the means to keep her alive was right there in the script with the ability of Eternity to grant wishes.

It’s especially frustrating because the second-best part of the movie was Foster’s entire storyline, from her gleefully explaining Einstein-Rosen Bridges to her fellow chemo patient to her refusal to even admit that the cancer is that bad when talking to Darcy to her kicking ass as Thor (and also her hilarious inability to come up with a decent catchphrase, one of the humorous bits in the movie that actually landed). Natalie Portman absolutely shines in this movie, especially selling how sick Foster is when she isn’t Thor.

Tessa Thompson is also superb as the Valkyrie, providing her usual acid commentary, and I love how she and Foster bonded. It was good to see Jaimie Alexander back as Sif, finally, though why Waititi felt the need to maim her and keep her out of the film’s climax is beyond me.

The movie isn’t a total disaster. New Asgard being a major tourist town is a masterstroke, and I love seeing how the place has been commercialized. Korg is always fun to have around, as is the Asgardian acting troupe, and I love them throwing in that Kraglin keeps getting married everywhere they go.

And, for all that I hated the notion of sledgehammering multiple pantheons into an MCU that wasn’t really equipped for it, I absolutely adored Russell Crowe’s over-the-top gloriousness as a Zeus that was straight out of the sword-and-sandal epics of the 1950s, complete with outrageous accent. Plus, there’s that mid-credits scene. As much as I disliked this movie, that’s how much I’m looking forward to the next movie that pits Brett Goldstein’s Hercules against Thor. (Having Roy Kent play Hercules is the latest in a series of letter-perfect casting decisions made by the MCU folks.)

Also, the goats are awesome. Though I wish they’d actually named them Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder. But that would require Waititi to actually give a crap about Norse mythological stories, and why would he care about that when doing Thor movies?

 

We’ll be taking the next couple of weeks off for the holidays. In the new year, we’ll cover the remainder of the 2022 releases, starting on Wednesday the 4th of January with Samaritan, followed by Black Adam and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Keith R.A. DeCandido has two new works out today: issue #1 of his Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness prequel comic book The Beginning (with art by Carmelo Zagaria) hits the stands today from the fine folks at TokyoPop; and his Star Trek Adventures role-playing game module Incident at Kraav III (co-authored with Fred Love) is now available from the equally fine folks at Modiphius Games.

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