[Screen It]


(2022) (Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale) (PG-13)

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Superhero Action/Comedy: A superhero god, his ex, and a few others try to stop a man who's determined to kill all gods as revenge for his daughter's death.

When his god mocks him for being so devout, even after his young daughter's death, an otherwise ordinary man named Gorr (CHRISTIAN BALE) ends up armed with the Necrosword and becomes known as the "God Butcher." This ends up getting the attention of the god of lightning and thunder, Thor (CHRIS HEMSWORTH), who otherwise enjoys dispatching enemies with his rock-based pal, Korg (voice of TAIKA WAITITI).

But he still misses his ex from years ago, astrophysicist Jane Foster (NATALIE PORTMAN), who -- due to running out of options regarding her stage four cancer -- ends up causing Thor's formerly shattered hammer to reform and give her superhero powers.

When Gorr's shadow monsters attack New Asgard, Jane goes into battle alongside Thor and King Valkyrie (TESSA THOMPSON), but Gorr manages to escape while also abducting all the village's children. Seeking the help of Zeus (RUSSELL CROWE), Thor and his small team then set out to find Gorr, stop his god-killing quest, and rescue the children.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

For the religiously devout, there are certainly times in one's life that test one's faith. Unanswered life and death prayers, unspeakable tragedies, and such can make one seriously question whether they should continue to put their faith in whichever god they worship.

In the face of such events, some continue with their devotion, and others stop. But what would happen if you could actually ask your god in person why they didn't stop a bad thing from happening? And what if said god mocked you for being so devout and then physically threatened you for questioning him?

That's the jumping-off point for "Thor: Love and Thunder," the fourth installment of the Marvel-created, Norse god of thunder and lightning franchise, and the second featuring director Taika Waititi at the helm. Like the previous installment, "Thor Ragnarok," this one has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, an approach that provides a decent array of laughs but also creates a tonal imbalance with the genesis and then modus operandi of its antagonist.

An unrecognizable Christian Bale (I didn't realize it was him until the end credits) plays Gorr, a simple man trying to keep his ailing daughter alive on their arid and barren wasteland of a planet. The girl ends up dying and Gorr aimlessly wanders through the desert until he comes across an oasis that just so happens to harbor his particular god.

Gorr questions why that divine figure did nothing and the god laughs, throws fruit at him, and then becomes outraged with the man to the point that he lifts him off the ground by the neck. Luckily for Gorr, and bad news for the god, the magical weapon known as the Necrosword makes its way into Gorr's hand and then the god's neck, followed by a swift beheading. And thus begins the saga of "Gorr the god butcher."

Yeah, that's a pretty stark contrast to our reintroduction to Thor (Chris Hemsworth, reprising the role once again) and his casual, easy-going, and devil-may-care attitude about near effortlessly dispatching some bad guys that even the mighty Guardians of the Galaxy (appearing early in cameo form) can't handle, all scored to the first of several Guns N' Roses needle drops that permeate the soundtrack. Not surprisingly, and following the introduction of two reindeer-style gloats that comedically scream all of the time (and eventually wear out their welcome), Thor learns of Gorr and realizes he's likely a target himself.

At the same time, Thor's ex, astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, returning to the series), has run out of non-medical solutions for her stage four cancer (another tonal shift back the other direction), and thus travels to the tourist trap town of New Asgard where some famous Hollywood faces drop in for some amusing cameos (I see a pattern here).

There, her presence somehow manages to pull Thor's previously shattered hammer back together (resulting in some comedic jealousy from his new battle-ax weapon), thus giving her superhero powers that help her help her former flame battle the baddie, but -- natch -- only hasten her dire medical condition.

After Gorr's shadow monsters attack the coastal village and steal all the kids, Thor, the Mighty Thor (Portman's new alter-ego), King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), and Thor's rock buddy Korg (voiced by Waititi) travel to the orgy-friendly god center presided over by none other than Zeus (Russell Crowe, hamming it up and then some). That provides for more humor, some action, and the sight of Hemsworth's bare tuchus for those who "Marvel" at such sights. And then on to the big third act showdown, along with some rom-com style material between Thor and Jane.

There are enough moments here that work just enough to warrant a slight recommendation, but the script -- by Waititi & Jennifer Kaytin Robinson -- is anything but tight as it zigs and zags all over the place, while the aforementioned tonal shifts are quite jarring at times and leave the overall offering feeling like it's not sure what it's trying to be.

It's something to be both entertained but also bored, and moved at times when otherwise not engaged one iota. Viewer mileage will likely wildly vary, but for me, "Thor: Love and Thunder" only manages a 5 out of 10 score.

Posted July 8, 2022

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