CAUTION: Contains Spoilers For Thor: Love & Thunder
While the film doesn’t arrive in theaters until July 8, early Thor: Love & Thunder reviews have revealed several key details (and spoilers) ahead of the highly anticipated Taiki Waititi sequel’s official release. Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Chris Hemsworth returns as the eponymous Asgardian god Thor in his fourth MCU “solo” adventure. This time he’s flanked by a legion of friends, foes, and new obstacles including the returning Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), new Asgardian King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), his trusted friend Korg (Taika Waititi), the Guardians of the Galaxy, and even the Olympian god Zeus, portrayed for the first time in the MCU by none other than Russel Crowe.
In addition to the many plot details and character specifics that MCU fans have been itching for, early Thor: Love & Thunder reviews also provide a solid indication of what fans can expect from the movie’s overall quality. At press time, the movie currently has a 71% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 131 advance reviews. While that score is by no means awful—and there are hundreds of reviews still waiting to be published and tallied—if the number holds Thor: Love & Thunder will be the third lowest-rated movie in its series following Thor (77%) and Thor: Ragnarok (93%), narrowly beating out Thor: The Dark World (66%).
Fans will have to wait until Thor: Love & Thunder arrives in theaters for all the major details and hidden secrets to come to light, but early reviews have confirmed quite a few things including Natalie Portman’s Mighty Thor origin story, several previously unknown cameos, and whether or not Chris Hemsworth will return as the God of Thunder in future installments of the franchise. Many reviews have also tackled the movie’s complex and often manic tone, the successes and failures of various new and returning characters, and perhaps most importantly, provided first impressions of Love & Thunder‘s high-profile villain, Christian Bale’s Gorr the God Butcher. Here’s a look at every major detail deduced from early Thor: Love & Thunder reviews and what it means for the MCU Phase 4 film.
Marvel Studios is well known for taking the comic book origins of its many characters and adapting the convenient elements to fit its ever-expanding cinematic universe—while also completely ignoring what they don’t need. Natalie Portman’s Mighty Thor is no different, as Thor: Love & Thunder brings the broad strokes of the comics to the big screen. As expected, Jane Foster takes up the mantle after being diagnosed with stage four cancer and is able to transform into the Mighty Thor with the aid of Thor Odinson’s old hammer Mjolnir, which has been reforged for the film. How this happens is a little unclear. It’s not all good news for the character, as Love & Thunder also includes the comic-accurate detail that Jane’s transformation into Mighty Thor is not actually healing her cancer, but rather making it worse. In the comics, the process essentially undid any progress made by her cancer treatments every time she transformed, and that appears to be the case here as well. The MCU likely won’t dive too far into the events of Mighty Thor’s comic arcs, but the general outline of how Jane comes to be a superhero remains intact.
One criticism seemingly present in every Thor: Love & Thunder review is that the movie struggles to combine its morbidly serious plotlines with director Taika Waititi’s signature sensory overload of color and comedy. While the movie sets up some truly dire situations like Jane’s stage four cancer and the death of Gorr’s young child fueling his quest for revenge, Love & Thunder has been heavily derided for improperly balancing these elements with non-stop gags and references designed to elicit the exact opposite response from audiences. Alonso Duralde of The Wrap commented that the movie “can’t support the weight of [its] serious themes amid all the one-liners and the raised eyebrows.” Mark Kennedy of The Associated Press takes it a step further, claiming “The whipsaw from death and suffering to idiocy is staggering, with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson credited alongside Waititi for a script that seems like it was pasted together after gerbils ripped up a bag of words.”
While critics have been barred from spoiling most Thor: Love & Thunder cameos, there are enough details to piece together some of the bigger names appearing in the film. Rolling Stones’ review specifically mentions “gratuitous glorified cameos”, but appears to be referring specifically to the Guardians of the Galaxy, but other reviews have confirmed Thor 4 is set to feature several unexpected guests. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post refers to a “band of players performing a movie-within-a-play-within-a-movie” that certainly sounds like a follow-up to Thor: Ragnarok‘s often referenced play featuring Matt Damon as Loki. The AP also confirms that Chris Hemsworth’s wife Elsa Pataky and one of his sons will appear as Thor: Love & Thunder cameos, in addition to “a pretty famous comedienne playing Cate Blanchett’s role from Ragnarok.“ Damon reprising his role as Loki has already been confirmed, as has Melissa McCarthy appearing at some point in the film, potentially pointing towards her spoofing the role of Hela, the Asgardian goddess of death.
With Natalie Portman taking up the mantle as Mighty Thor in Love & Thunder, it has been understandably speculated that this could be Chris Hemsworth’s last MCU movie. While Portman does indeed join the cast as Mighty Thor, it has been inferred my multiple Thor: Love & Thunder reviews that this will not be the final MCU appearance for the long-running God of Thunder. Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly writes, “Even in Valhalla or Paradise City, though, there is still love and loss; Thor dutifully delivers both, and catharsis in a climax that inevitably doubles as a setup for the next installment.” While Rolling Stone‘s review does tease “a farewell for someone who may or may not still be back whenever convenience deems it so,” the same review also clarifies that “we’re given set-ups for future installments” and that “this franchise isn’t going away any time soon.” Hemsworth himself has said that he plans on continuing to play Thor until Marvel Studios makes him stop, so it would appear that fans are in for at least one more MCU movie featuring the OG Avenger.
Christian Bale’s return to comic book movies as Gorr the God Butcher has been praised by numerous critics, but unfortunately, it appears that Thor: Love & Thunder‘s script doesn’t always do justice to the actor’s stand-out performance. “Christian Bale delivers a genuinely skin-crawling turn as a zombified villain,” writes Justin Chang of the LA Times. USA Today also heralded the character as “a top-notch new villain”, claiming that “Bale is outstanding as Gorr, joining Thanos and Killmonger among the best of MCU’s rogues gallery.” High praise, to be certain.
Elements of Gorr’s backstory have been equally praised, as he is another MCU villain who actually makes a decent, albeit misguided point—his child dies because the god he worshipped didn’t care enough to intervene—sending him on a revenge quest to slaughter all the gods. The disconnect seems to come down to Waititi not giving Bale, a seasoned character actor, enough challenging material to really take Thor: Love & Thunder to the next level. Entertainment Weekly writes, “Bale is appropriately ghoulish and sepulchral, though the difficult-setting on this part seems low for an actor of his caliber; mostly, he just has to snarl from dark corners and not lose too much squid-ink spittle when he talks.”
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Author: Michael Killam