Thor: Love and Thunder 97.1: Things That Happened to Thor

And hardly anybody even noticed, was the really annoying thing for all the people who made the Swamp Thing movie. They worked as hard as they could, in the middle of a swamp, and some of them were good at their jobs and some of them decidedly were not, and eventually it turned into a movie that hardly anybody watched. It made so little that Box Office Mojo has a blank space where the domestic and international gross is supposed to be.

Meanwhile, all the way over here at the other end of history, the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe effort — Thor: Love and Thunder — made 143 million dollars this weekend, and people are talking about how disappointed they are.

I mean, not everybody; there are definitely people talking about how great it was, but they sound defensive because I guess Twitter just wears everyone down these days. But Love and Thunder got 68% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is the fourth lowest score of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. According to the critics, the only films it beats are The Incredible Hulk, Thor: The Dark World and Eternals, and I didn’t realize people were even counting The Incredible Hulk as an MCU movie.

The problem is that Love and Thunder has too much comedy, apparently, which is not a thing that occurs in nature. What people actually mean when they say “too much comedy” is that they didn’t think the comedy was funny enough, so why they don’t say “not enough comedy” is a mystery to me.

Thor: Love and Thunder is the story of a bunch of unbelievably pretty people spending all of their time pretending that being pretty isn’t a big deal. It’s actually a lot like Eternals, because it’s about super-hot rich white people with godlike powers who have big urgent fights over the fate of the universe. The difference is that in Eternals, everybody treated the fancy people like they were actually important, which was nauseating, while in Thor: Love and Thunder, everyone treats Thor like he’s the underdog, which is a lot easier to take.

The story of Thor: Love and Thunder is about as straightforward as it’s possible for a superhero movie to be: there are four good guys, one bad guy and a box full of endangered children. The bad guy makes his intentions clear early on, and doesn’t waver. The good guys all agree that they should team up and chase the bad guy. They try to get support from some powerful people, and the powerful people say no, so the good guys go after the bad guy on their own, and they beat him up, and that’s basically the movie.

I mean, if you want the absolute lowest common denominator goal for a superhero movie, then it has to be saving a bunch of adorable young children locked in a scary cage. I can imagine the script meetings where Taiki Watiti wrote down “a bunch of cute children in a box” as a placeholder for what Thor needed to fight for, and after a while they realized that they couldn’t come up with anything else, so screw it, let’s just have the bad guy kidnap a bunch of cute children. Now it’s a movie.

But the real energy of the movie comes from the relationship between Thor and Jane Foster, and your experience of the film is going to depend largely on whether you find that a compelling relationship or not.

Personally, watching Jane’s magical transformation from chemo recipient to kick-ass thunder god was an especially appealing story for me. Someone that I love very much died of cancer not that long ago, and Jane’s struggle offers a kind of wish-fulfillment for cancer patients. Surviving with cancer requires an incredible amount of courage and inner strength, and it was nice seeing Jane take that energy, and turn it into superpowers that ultimately save the universe.

So if we’re doing wish-fulfillment, then we might as well also give the cancer patient a love-struck ex-boyfriend with magic powers who’s played by one of the most attractive actors that we’ve got these days. Happily, Thor doesn’t resent Jane suddenly gaining powers and taking his name and his hammer. He’s jealous of her, and he wishes that he still had Mjølnir, but he doesn’t question her abilities or her right to the name. He just stands there and loves her, and being near her makes him more focused and less of an idiot. If that’s a story that you want to see, then Love and Thunder works.

One of the big themes of the movie is underdeveloped: the question of whether the gods are actually useful to people. The opening sequence shows a man whose life has become a torment asking his god to spare him, his family and his civilization, and the god is a spoiled aristo who’s hardly noticed that his followers have been wiped off the planet. This comes up again when Thor and his friends go to Omnipotence City to ask Zeus for help, and find out that the most powerful gods only care about themselves and their own pleasures.

This is a question that needs to be explored in this universe, especially after Eternals, which suggested that the entire history of human civilization was just a backdrop for the rich colonists, who get the credit for all the good ideas and inventions while ignoring all of the world’s injustice and suffering. Compared to the Eternals and the residents of Omnipotence City, Thor and Jane see themselves as service providers, whose real function in the universe is to help ordinary people.

Still, it’s a story about drop-dead gorgeous rich people, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. Ordinary people don’t get much of a role — I’m not even sure that anybody in the box full of kids is a human. In the end, the people that we care about are all gods, one way or another, and the message is that the best thing that could happen to a person is to become an Asgardian.

But I think the real reason why people appear to be disappointed with the movie is that it’s entirely standalone, with very little connection to any of the other MCU stories.

The Guardians of the Galaxy appear at the beginning of the movie, but their major storyline isn’t mentioned at all. It’s noticeable that Gamora isn’t part of the team, and there’s a reason for that — she died in Avengers: Endgame, and was replaced by a 2014-era Gamora who flew away somewhere. But nobody mentions that, and the Guardians are dismissed after the opening sequence in a way that makes you wonder why Endgame bothered to have them all leave together at the end of the film.

Besides that, there aren’t any other connections to other current storylines. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a TV series called The Avengers, this would have been a funny side episode about a secondary character. It’s basically a collection of Things That Happened to Thor while the other characters do important things somewhere else.

People say that the MCU’s reliance on complicated continuity makes the series less interesting, but those people are obviously incorrect. The biggest success of Phase 4 has been Spider-Man: No Way Home, which relied on the audience’s familiarity with multiple movies that weren’t even part of this series. Audiences clearly love the interconnected storylines, and the pleasure of being a fan who understands all of the crossovers and self-references.

But in Phase 4, we’ve got a mounting number of end-credits teases with no clear plan for when they’re supposed to show up. There’s Kang from Loki, Contessa Valentina from Black Widow, Adam Warlock from Guardians vol. 2, the Black Knight from Eternals and Nick Fury in space from the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, and naturally the teaser at the end of Love and Thunder adds another new character to the group, without paying off any of the previous promises.

It’s not really a good sign for a franchise when the main pleasure for the audience is counting cameos and callbacks, but I think that’s where we’re heading. This insane project of creating an enormous, interconnected set of movies and Disney+ shows has become its own main subject, and the audience may be losing patience for side stories, gods help us all.

Next:
3.26: The Chatterbox

Chapters

— Danny Horn

11 thoughts on “Thor: Love and Thunder 97.1: Things That Happened to Thor

  1. Increasingly I get the feeling that buying a ticket to these Marvel movies is like going to church, where you’re not really getting much out of the experience but you feel an obligation to go anyway because you want to remain a part of the group.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I enjoyed the movie, but living up to Ragnarok was a nearly impossible task. That’s my favorite Marvel movie so far – the first two Thors are so leaden and adequate, and that one’s just a light, breezy bunch of nonsense, and I love it so much.

    So this one had to basically be Ragnarok again, and it’s pretty good at it. Like you say, the Jane storyline gives it a little more heft than that one, but like you also say, the comedy isn’t as funny. You can feel Waititi straining to do what came effortlessly last time.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Comedy is a fantastic pony but not a good warhorse: the entire point of comedy is to distract you, cheer you up, do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight…but when it’s the only thing out there, the audience starts to go yeah, but wasn’t Zeus just on? He seemed like kind of dick, was he important?

    Too much distraction makes the view wonder what you’re hiding, like the class clown who gets up and starts his routine to conceal the fact that his book report is one page with the title Where The Red Fern Grows and then blank space.

    One thing I loved about the original Thor film (besides Branagh’s realization that Chris Hemsworth is a brilliant comedian and that should be front and center) was taking the time to establish Jane as a person with a career that she struggled with–physics, if you want to make actual discoveries, takes a truly stupid amount of money and equipment to do, and there’s a very limited amount of each out there. When they find the passageway to Asgard and she pops in and out her first concern is that her team set up parameters and record the damn data before rivals show up and steal their discovery.

    Even after the other movies let her down, like the Loki one where’s she’s unconscious for the entire climax, they remembered she’s smart and had things she cared about. That Thor loved her made total sense, especially after the empty structures, vanities and lies that his home dimension turned out to be. There is a there there.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I liked it, but I wish some elements had been developed a bit more. Not sure if that means a longer movie would have been better or two parts, but I feel like they could have spent a bit more time with Gor, Mighty Thor, Valkyrie, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m having problems Liking posts since Danny returned. I get a momentary pop-up when I hit the star, but it disappears immediately without registering a Like. I’ve enabled pop-ups in my browser, but that’s not working either. I’m logged in. Any ideas?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had the same problem switching from DSED to this. I ended up just starting over with a different account. I can still post as Mary but I can’t like comments. It only works when using Maryfromdsed. Are you using the same email address that you signed up with?

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Finally, what we’ve all been waiting for. A superhero movie that asks, But what about the children? Who’s thinking of the children?

    I haven’t seen any of the Thor films. Sounds like Alice Cable would be a great addition to Jane’s science team.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “But I think the real reason why people appear to be disappointed with the movie is that it’s entirely standalone, with very little connection to any of the other MCU stories.”
    But other than mentioning the multiverse, what even is the connection? Dr. Strange didn’t deal with the Multiverse of Madness because of Spider-Man or what happened with Loki. There’s no real connecting thread yet beyond the umbrella term of the Multiverse. The only reason for the Strange movie to come after No Way Home was so that Strange wouldn’t seem like a total idiot for attempting that spell after already getting a taste of what the Multiverse is about.
    I really was disappointed with Dr. Strange but I watched it immediately after seeing No Way Home and that’s a tough act to follow. I am not a big fan of Thor though I will admit the hotness factor for this movie should be through the roof. And yet, No Way Home made a gazillion dollars and with a very low hotness factor if you’re over 20. (I hope. Because the young leads look like babies to me.) Maybe “likability” matters more than hotness?

    “This is a question that needs to be explored in this universe, especially after Eternals, which suggested that the entire history of human civilization was just a backdrop for the rich colonists, who get the credit for all the good ideas and inventions while ignoring all of the world’s injustice and suffering.”
    Somehow that does not sound to me like a subject Marvel’s Disney overlords would be interested in developing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I liked the move to more comedy with Thor in Ragnarok, but it mostly fell flat for me here. It was too much (or too little, as Danny says).

    I also wish there had been more exploration about whether the gods deserve to survive. Based on all the non-Asgardians we saw in the film, I was with Gorr all the way.

    I did of course enjoy the gratuitous Hemsworth butt and chest. I also laughed at the two characters that were part of Zeus’ entourage that were labeled in the credits as “Zeus pretty boy.” Imagine putting that on your acting resume!

    And I hadn’t realized until Danny listed them just how many characters we’ve had introduced that are waiting to be used. Add Clea, Starfox, and Pip the Troll from recent films as well. Oh, and Jake Lockley.

    I didn’t mind the lack of connection to most of the MCU. I was here for Thor and Jane’s relationship and the latter’s development. I wish more had been done with Valkyrie. And once again we get only blink-and-you-miss-them moments of non-heterosexuality with her kissing a nameless Greek goddess’ hand and with Korg’s story of his two dads and then his own partner.

    Overall, I’d give the film an enjoyable meh, with bonus points for Hemsworth flesh. Oh, and Melissa McCarthy’s surprise role! That was one of the funniest moments of the film for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I don’t have a problem with standalone movies because I watch each because of a character/actor. I’ve seen about a third of the movies on Danny’s list but only 2 of Marvel’s Phase 4 movies. I was a casual viewer of Marvel movies before the first Avengers movie hooked me. I went back and watched the Capt. America and Iron Man movies after that. So far Marvel has not hooked me on Phase 4 even though I seem inundated by product. I’m not Marvel’s key demographic, being old and impatient but I would imagine that I’m not the only casual fan losing interest in watching a bunch of new characters or even old characters in movies that are just spinning their wheels. They may be trying a slow burn but it hasn’t sparked interest in me yet.

    Like

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