Has ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ Finally Saved Thor?

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back in “Thor: Love and Thunder.” In this highly-anticipated installment, Thor is up against Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale). Thor’s fight against a god killer was interesting in its philosophic value but remained light and hilarious. In typical Marvel fashion, you can dwell deeply on the themes or sit back and enjoy the action. The character of Thor has suffered a bit from so many different iterations and director’s plans that I was not sure what to expect. Taika Waititi was able to tie all of these loose ends together and then continue to grow the character. “Love and Thunder” centers around Thor’s journey with grief and learning to love again. It draws together Thor’s appearances to show his grief as an arch and demonstrates how he will grow with it.

The “Thor” movies have varied significantly in quality and style. “Thor: The Dark World” is often considered a bottom-tier Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) project by fans for being boring. Despite what looked to be a failure of the “Thor” franchise, “Thor: Ragnarok” was able to turn the character around and infuse the mighty character with humor, setting it apart from its predecessors. “Ragnarok” was the movie that sucked me into the MCU, so I was excited about this release. I hoped, along with most fans, that director Taika Waititi would be able to recapture lightning in a bottle again. 

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

I believe that he has. There have been mixed reviews from fans who think Waititi has lost his charm, but I think this stems from high expectations. The fans’ expectations could not be exceeded because they were extraordinarily high. “Ragnarok” shocked everyone’s low expectations, so it appeared to perform better. “Love and Thunder” suffers from both “superhero burnout” in the abundance of MCU content and from soaring expectations sprouting from the increase in quality of Marvel leading up to “Endgame.” Because numerous Marvel movies and television series have been released recently, audiences have started to grow tired. It is impossible to expect most viewers to retain constant excitement. Additionally, because there have been plenty of excellent films in the MCU, one movie’s success is less impressive. “Love and Thunder” may not reinvent the wheel like “Ragnarok” did but succeeds in pulling all of the parts of Thor together while giving the character a new spark. 

After the opening sequence with Gorr the God Butcher, I thought there would be more discussion about why he thought the universe would be better off without gods. This theme remains throughout Thor’s quest to defeat Gorr and his visit to Zeus. However, the questions are not forced down the audiences’ throats. If they want to consider those questions more deeply, they can. It is also possible to enjoy the action instead of thinking about the deeper meanings. I think depicting Thor’s grief took precedence over any other theme, which was the correct choice for this movie, in my opinion. It was able to connect the different iterations of Thor and provide substance to go alongside the film’s humor.

Because of the multitude of directors handling the characterization of Thor, he experienced swings much like his movies’ quality. After being revamped by Waititi in “Ragnarok,” he was retconned and regressed by the Russo Brothers in “Endgame.” Many fans were disappointed by how he was treated in “Endgame,” but “Love and Thunder” did an excellent job explaining why Thor has passed through so many transformations. The introduction reminds audiences of all of the trauma Thor experienced in recent years. When you see the death of his parents, the three deaths of his brother, the destruction of his home and the relocation of his people, you start to realize why he might have let himself go. Added on is his quest to save life itself with the Avengers, which failed many times before finally resolving with the deaths of his close friends. It becomes clear that Thor has deserved more sympathy than audiences have given him.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios.

 “Love and Thunder” is not afraid to recognize how deep Thor’s grief extends. I liked how they demonstrated Thor’s grief. Even when he got back in shape and returned to his usual physique, he was still not fulfilled. This is especially important to show with a character like Thor and an actor like Hemsworth, who viewers often reduce to their appearance. Even though he was good-looking, strong and successful in his quests to aid the galaxy, he still carried loss heavily. This continues the recurring theme of grief in recent MCU films and shows. Each has demonstrated different means of handling (or not) grief, but Thor’s healing is the most satisfying yet. Thor has to learn how to love others again and not just dull himself to pain by avoiding attachment to others.

To do this, he has to confront his former love interest, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), in her new appearance as the Mighty Thor with his former weapon, Mjölnir. He has to open up to Jane even though he has already lost her once. He also learns that he will likely lose her again to cancer but loves her anyway. They both have to confront the short lives of mortals and find the purpose of love and friendship, no matter how brief. Through this, Thor can heal physically and mentally to move forward and surpass his former strength. 

“Thor: Love and Thunder” is now playing in theaters.

By Ella Hachee

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