By Roshan Chandy
The Mighty Thor is a superhero classic.
When Thor first began, I was not a fan. I’ve always found Thor my least favourite of the original Avengers. To me, he was always just a big, blonde space god – bit silly really. I still think the first two Thor movies were far too serious for their own good given the silliness of the premise. Then came Taika Waititi with Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Finally, a filmmaker who understood and embraced the craziness of the concept…
Ragnarok was every bit as silly and stupendous as a movie about a superhero space Viking should be. That was the same way Mike Hodges’ 1980 Flash Gordon, for all its flaws, was every bit as silly and stupendous as a movie about an intergalactic American footballer should be…
Given Ragnarok cleared up the Box Office in the billions, it’s no wonder Marvel handed Taika the keys for a sequel. Thor: Love and Thunder (2022) means Thor is the only Marvel superhero to get a “fourquel” which is quite a record-breaker for a franchise. Well, Thor: Love and Thunder is not only the most silently empowering superhero movie in the MCU, but also maybe, just maybe of all time.
I won’t bother spieling out the scientific helix of the plot. Basically, there’s a big villain in Asgard who is one of Marvel’s scariest. He’s a ‘Sweet Dreams’-playing Fangori monster called Gorr the God Butcher who is played by the ultimate method actor Christian Bale. He’s threatening to wipe out the Gods unless Thor can stop him.
Thor is not the titan he once was. He’s now a fat, greasy, pot-bellied drunk with a dad bod. This movie involves the mighty Odinson getting back into shape and going from “dad bod to god bod” in the space of seeming seconds. But he’s got competition on his hands from his beautiful ex-girlfriend Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who he’s most surprised to see wielding his hammer as his quite literal female counterpart on the battlefield – the Mighty Thor.
Chris Hemsworth has really grown and beefed and bulked out into the role of Thor Odinson. I initially found him a bit Brad Pitt – pretty, but bland. I certainly think this is the kind of role Hemsworth’s lookalike Brad would have done in the 90s. But Hemsworth has really made the role his own. His pecks which look like an elephant’s tusks and his arms which look as big as an elephant’s legs mould themselves with striking muscularity into his thunder Thor costume.
The star of the show, though, who acts Hemsworth off the screen is Natalie Portman. I’ve been pretty rude about Ms. Portman in the past, largely thanks to her painfully wooden acting as Padmé Amidallain the Star Wars prequels. Black Swan (2011), which she won an Oscar for, was to change all that. Blimey that woman can act! And she completely transformed herself into the part of Jackie Kennedy in Pablo Larrain’s Jackie (2017) which was another stunning performance. She’s had the best career of any Star Wars actor…
Add to the Portman cannon another iconic performance. Jane Foster is not just the most complex and well-rounded female superhero in the MCU, but possibly of all time. Just think about it. She’s better than Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman because she’s not overly sexualised. She’s better than Black Widow because Portman is a much better actress than Scarlett Johansson. She’s better than Rey in the Star Wars sequel trilogy because she’s flawed.
Not only is Portman beautiful, but she has a story arc worthy of an appropriately Greek tragedy. You see, Jane has cancer and is dying of it so. She’s everything you want from a superhero. She’s brave, she’s heroic and she’s courageous – a perfect bechdel-beating heroine worthy of Arya Stark or Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. A woman who doesn’t need a man or sex to complete her. She’s not even wearing hotpants!
There are other really great performances in this one of if not possibly the MCU’s greatest. I loved Christian Bale in a role I was wildly apprehensive about. The last few MCU movies have been particularly unkind to Thor. They’ve killed off his mum, his dad, his brother and Heimdall. Given the villain of this movie is called Gorr the God Butcher, I was wondering who was left to butcher?
But Christian Bale’s performance is a Hammer horror masterpiece if there ever was one. With his red eyes and Fangori fangs, I often felt he was channelling the creepiest elements of Marilyn Manson who is certainly a gothic presence…
Maybe Love and Thunder isn’t as borderline bonkers as Ragnarok, but there are so many fabulous moments. There’s a scene at Zeus’ palace that has Russell Crowe having the most fun I’ve seen him have with a role in ages which is pure Flash Gordon. There’s a scene where all the colours are drained that is pure Marilyn Manson – very much feels like one of the rock star’s most nightmarish music videos. Way scarier than anything in Dr. Strange 2. I’ve often compared Taika Waititi to Peter Jackson who has his roots in horror. This movie proves Taika can do horror worthy of early Jackson.
There’s even an ode to Godzilla involving a huge pyrotechnic Kaiju monster…
Then there’s the diversity. And, boy, does this film prove Marvel can write diversity. I’ve never been a fan of Flash Gordon because there are so many elements of that movie that are terribly outdated. By contrast, this movie is brilliantly inclusive. There are male superheroes. There’s female superheroes. There’s child superheroes. There’s gay superheroes. It’s like a more PC Flash Gordon. Everyone gets something to do, but not in a way that is aggressively pandering, in-your-face or down-right irritating as has become the case in some films and TV. The recent Dr. Who, I’m looking at you!
After watching Thor: Love and Thunder, I’d genuinely be happy to see an all-female New Avengers. Especially if we get more Jane Foster or should I say the Mighty Thor who is a true superhero classic and an Oscar-worthy performance. Marvel can really write women better than any other franchise. One of the few things I liked about Multiverse of Madness recently was that there were more women in it than any previous superhero movie. Believe me, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster is a million female superheroes in one. I think her character is just about as empowering and well-written as the greats of feminist filmmaking. Up there with Lynda Carter, Arya Stark and Ellen Ripley.
This is the most emotional movie in the MCU. It’s more emotional than Top Gun: Maverick which had Tom Cruise growing old and looking back at love’s labour’s lost. I genuinely wept my eyes out as Jane succumbed to her cancer. It’s the greatest modern tragedy of a blockbuster…
Thor: Love and Thunder is my MCU favourite. It’s the most empowering blockbuster of all time and one of the most emotional. This movie takes Marvel to emotive galaxies rarely if ever flown through at least not since the original comics.
I started out a Thor sceptic, but now proudly rate it my unabashed guilty pleasure. I’ve also realised what a soft spot I’ve grown fond for the MCU. No one does big-budget popcorn entertainment quite like them. Taika Waititi is the best thing that’s ever happened to them. TWO THUMBS UP!