The last time we saw Thor in the MCU he was jetting off with the Guardians of the Galaxy at the end of Avengers: Endgame across space in their search for Gamora. As one of the last of the original Avengers line-up still standing, Thor is certainly a senior member of the roster and with Taika Waititi helming his latest outing, Thor: Love and Thunder, could it be time for the strongest Avenger(?) to be given a new lease of life?

Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) retirement is interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods. To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and ex-girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who - to Thor's surprise - inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together, they embark upon a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher's vengeance and stop him before it's too late.
Ever since Thor: Ragnarok, there's been a fair amount of goofiness applied to the titular character. It was a very welcome change that allowed the character, and Chris Hemsworth, to show a different side to themselves. Underneath it all there's still the vulnerability of a character who has lost just about everyone close to him in an arc spanning eight films however, in the hands of Taika Waititi this time around, the silliness threatens to overshadow the serious moments that will shape Thor's future.

Waititi returns to direct but this is the first time he's written a Thor film (sharing duties with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson), and it's something that actually threatens to derail the film early on. There's plenty of absurdity throughout (screaming goats anyone?) and it does take a little while to settle into but they do manage to ensure this isn't just a joke machine of a film, levelling it out with some deeply emotional moments that prove there's more to Waititi as a filmmaker than being a goofball.

The film moves along at such a blistering pace that it does end up suffering a little as a result. This is where the serious matters in the film are dealt a blow, none more so than the return of Jane Foster. It's a fascinating arc for the character that just doesn't feel as important as it should due to the film ultimately feeling incredibly rushed. For instance, she just appears as The Mighty Thor in a scene seen in all the trailers while we never get to see that first transformation which just seems like a scene that would add much more impact to proceedings. If anything, the Guardians of the Galaxy should have been scrapped from the film, as they literally add nothing, to make way for more focus on Jane's story.
Love and Thunder has a stellar cast at its disposal and they certainly play their part in making this such an entertaining ride. Chris Hemsworth has really grown as a performer over the years in the role of Thor, proving once again just how good a comedic actor he can be alongside all the commitment to having the physical appearance of a god the role demands. Having been around for a while, it'd be weird to have the MCU without Hemsworth as Thor. Natalie Portman makes a triumphant return as Jane Foster a.k.a. The Mighty Thor, the depth to her performance luckily not lost amongst all the crazy shenanigans. It's great to see her paired again with Hemsworth as they share such great chemistry but to see her wield Mjolnir with such power is something else entirely. Favourites such as Tessa Thompson's King Valkyrie and Waititi himself as Korg make welcome returns and get properly involved as opposed to just taking a back seat.

It's a well known fact that the MCU has only produced a handful of good villains since its inception and Christian Bale's Gorr the God Butcher can definitely be included amongst them, even if he feels underused a little. The film's opening sequence clearly outlines the reasons for Gorr's plan and Bale plays it all with a true sense of eeriness and true distain for the gods that have it all. Russell Crowe's Zeus is a fun addition, even with his straying accent, whose arrogance and choice of lifestyle gives Gorr all the reasons he needs to carry out his mission. One of the best bits of the cast was Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth and Sam Neill returning as the actors putting on a play for the events of Ragnarok, effortlessly funny every single time they appeared. 

Thor: Love and Thunder is like a rock concert where the band don't quite find their sound. While it has its funny moments and delivers plenty of dazzling spectacle, the film just feels as if it needs a bit more time to breathe and not have so many absurd moments thrown at it and seeing what sticks.

Verdict: ½


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