When Thor (Chris Hemsworth), that big-hearted hunk of a god, accidentally runs into Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) – his big-brained, astrophysicist, Earthling ex-girlfriend – the encounter is wild even by superhero standards. In the midst of a battle against the latest force of evil, Thor spots Jane, now carrying his very own famously powerful hammer. She is wearing armour and a red cape and has flowing blonde hair. “That’s my hammer you’ve got,” he says, as they stare into each other’s eyes. “And that’s my look.” Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder is a Tale of Two Thors, a romcom interspersed with Universe-saving battles. It might make you wonder: What if Bogart and Bacall had superpowers?
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The first thing to know is that this film is enormous fun. As he did in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Waititi brings his distinct voice to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s cookie-cutter franchise. His formula balances a tongue-in-cheek tone with adventure, prizing wit over action; a relief from Marvel’s more sombre instalments. (Doctor Strange has his qualities but he’s not a witty sort.) In Love and Thunder, Waititi injects more emotion than in Ragnarok and goes for weightier themes, about nihilism and belief, love and death. The themes may be half-baked, but they exist.
The next important thing to know is that this is not really Jane’s story. Disney’s marketing talks a good game about how Jane is wielding the God of Thunder’s hammer, Mjolnir, and has become a superhero called Mighty Thor. True enough, but this is still original Thor’s film. Fortunately, Hemsworth is better than ever at making the character the most human, lifelike and appealing of gods, a regular guy except when he’s saving the world.
Early on, his sidekick, Korg – a giant, sweet-tempered pile of rocks with Waititi’s voice – tells children the story of the Thor-Jane romance, filling in any background a new viewer might want. It’s a goofy account that reveals details about their break-up which also manages to name-check Jane Fonda.
Voldemort with a nose
Soon the familiar characters are threatened by a new villain, Gorr (chillingly played by Christian Bale), who has become disillusioned with gods in general. Instead of becoming an atheist or agnostic like a normal person in his situation, he goes for revenge, and becomes known as the God Butcher. Grey-toned from head to toe, he is basically Voldemort with a nose.