The latest brain-fade from the Marvel Cinematic Universe is flippant fun, as brain-fades tend to be. Bits of Thor: Love and Thunder are fittingly set in an amusement park, which is what Asgard has become after it was destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and its residents were forced to relocate to Earth.
Pleasure seekers – or are they MCU fans? – flock to New Asgard to gaze at Thor’s magical hammer Mjolnir and watch plays extolling Thor’s feats. Among the visitors is Thor’s former flame Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who has been diagnosed with cancer and has come to New Asgard in search of Mjolnir’s healing properties.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) too is threatening to become a showpiece, a parody of himself who’s a bit too fond of declamatory speeches and world-saving antics. A real adversary turns up in the form of Gorr (Christian Bale), a chalk-white spirit with ghastly dental work and the tattered robes of the renunciate. Gorr has turned into a non-believer after a personal tragedy and has vowed to slaughter every single celestial being.
God-destroying is high on director Taika Waititi’s mind. The fourth standalone Thor movie shares its cheeky irreverence for the superhero mythos with Waititi’s Ragnarok. Waititi, who has written the screenplay with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, has a gift for comic timing and smooth pacing. Waititi hustles Thor: Love and Thunder past its threadbare plot and aims the 119-minute film at a younger-than-usual, less demanding demographic.
It’s more Pirates of the Caribbean than a Marvel spinoff. There are visually splendorous set pieces – Gorr’s monochrome world, the god Zeus’s lair, fatuously called Omnipotent City, which is straight out of the Gilded Age – and numerous send-ups of the Mighty Thor and his bond with Mjolnir. Although children are kidnapped and death is round the corner, the stakes are low. The sole ambition is to move from one chuckle to the next.
The cast, led by a twinkly-eyed Chris Hemsworth, delivers the goods despite having far less to work with this time round. The cameos include Russell Crowe, as a buffoonish skirt-wearing Zeus.
Guns N’ Roses hits accompany Thor, Jane (who has acquired superpowers herself), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg (voiced by Taika Waititi) in their battle against Gorr. There are enough GNR tunes to expect a cameo from the hard rock band’s frontman Axl Rose. But we have to be satisfied with a character named after him and a pair of screeching goats who transport the warriors from this realm to the next.