Have the critics finally turned on Marvel? Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder (at the time of writing) has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 66%, the fourth-lowest of any film in the much-vaunted superhero cinematic universe. This apparently makes it worse than 2008’s The Incredible Hulk (67%), which is saying something. It is not quite so bad as Chloé Zhao’s deeply middling Eternals, from last year, which boasted a rating of just 47% “fresh”.
Does any of this stuff matter? If you enjoy the movie you enjoy the movie. And Love and Thunder, once it actually gets going, has just as much rip-roaring cosmic nuttiness as one might expect from a movie bringing together Thor, Waititi (who almost singlehandedly reinvented Chris Hemsworth’s Norse god as a comedy giant in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok ) and the Guardians of the Galaxy. But did they try to squeeze just a little bit too much into the movie’s two-hour run time, was Natalie Portman’s return to the role of Jane Foster (now the Mighty Thor) really worth it? And where does Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher stand in the pantheon of Marvel supervillains? Was the movie, as Waititi had suggested, really “super-gay”? Let’s dip our fingers in the intergalactic popcorn to find out.
The objectification of Thor and rise of Mighty Thor
There were some very upset Men’s Rights types when the first official trailer dropped for Love and Thunder in May, and revealed Hemsworth’s god of Thunder being stripped naked by Russell Crowe’s Zeus for entertainment. The liberals would be all kinds of upset if they did that to a woman, was the main argument. And those of such persuasions are unlikely to have been cheered up much after having watched the full movie, which sees Thor lose his hammer Mjolnir to Portman’s Jane Foster (now the Mighty Thor) and forced into a supporting role while she takes on most of the heavy battle-scene lifting.
Gender politics among the stars
A different way to look at it would be that there is nothing cooler than a bloke with the humility to let the woman he loves take center stage, and frankly Thor is so busy being pleased that Foster is back in his life that he has little time to feel emasculated or replaced. There’s also the fact that we find out early on that Foster, just as in the comics, has terminal cancer and is being slowly weakened every time she transforms into the Mighty Thor. Her final sacrifice of her, joining Thor in battle in order to turn the tide, just when he looks ready to succumb to Gorr’s greater guile and brutality, seems to represent true heroism. And just as Waititi promised, there is never a suggestion that she will be taking over from Thor for good. Did you ultimately feel this tumultuous, excruciatingly sad arc justified Portman’s return to the role?
Gorr the God Butcher and Russell Crowe’s accent
The Kiwi film-maker had suggested Bale’s Gorr could be the greatest Marvel villain of all time, and the superhero movie veteran certainly threw everything into the role. The only issue here is that Gorr’s mission to destroy the gods didn’t seem all that unreasonable after we met Russell Crowe’s pompous and petulant Zeus. And rescuing a bunch of Asgardian nippers didn’t quite hit the sort of epic, multiverse-shifting scale that Marvel has become known for recently. Would you agree that Love and Thunder had the vibe of a filler episode, rather than a puzzle piece set to radically shift the future of the saga? And what did you think of Crowe’s preposterous accent? Was it Greek, Turkish, or perhaps Russian?
The clunky opening, Korg as narrator and gay superheroes
Waititi’s cheeky insouciance since he emerged as a Marvel film-maker has been a breath of fresh air, but it felt at times while watching Love and Thunder that the whole thing might have become a little too throwaway and disposable. Korg’s narration was clunkier than we would have expected, suggesting it might have been chucked in as a framing device late in the game. On the other hand, Marvel won further points for diversity after the perky rock monster officially came out as gay, with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie adding to the LGBT-positive picture. Christian websites in the US are already getting upset, but Korg’s joy at conceiving a Kronan bubba while holding hands with his partner Dwayne over molten hot lava was equaled only by the positive reaction in the audience at the screening I attended. What did you think?
The credit scenes, resurrection and a new pantheon of gods
Love and Thunder’s mid-credit scene revealed that Zeus did not die when Thor impaled him with his own lighting bolt, and is bent on exacting revenge. The vessel: the deity’s son, Hercules, who looks hairy and muscular enough to take on anyone in the Norse pantheon. Will we see him and other Greek gods in future episodes?
Jane Foster’s terminal cancer storyline was something of a downer. But it turned out in the end-credits scene that she had indeed made it to Valhalla, having died on the battlefield. Greeted by the much-missed Heimdall (Idris Elba), Foster appeared to enter the afterlife free of pain and disease. And let’s not forget that Gorr was able to bring his daughter back to life after finally making it to Eternity – it seems that death in the Marvel universe is not necessarily the end. Could this mean we will see long-lost superheroes returning in future episodes? Or is it only the gods who get a second chance at life?