We thought “Batman and Robin” would forever prevent superhero films from aping ’60s-era camp.
Taiki Waititi didn’t get the memo.
The director’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” veers dangerously close to full-on Pow! Bam! Zoom! If you thought Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok” pushed the MCU’s comedic elements too far, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.
And it’s a terrible choice Waititi abandons mid-movie. By then, it’s too late.
We reunite with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in the middle of a God-life crisis. He’s bored, distracted and unable to rouse himself for anything save superheroics. We learn this from a cheeky backstory told by Waititi’s Korg, the craggy creature whose increased presence is a sign of Waititi’s clout.
Translation: No one on set told the director he’s pushing the silliness too far.
The story itself is feather-light and beneath the once-mighty MCU. We learn that Thor’s old flame, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, game for all the silliness), is suffering from Stage 4 cancer, a plot line played for yuks early on.
A vague promise made by her old beau transforms her into Thor (Lady Thor? Mighty Thor? Thorina?), a female Asgardian who wields Thor’s old Mjolnir. The new Thor, along with old-school Thor and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, having a blast between the goofy asides) must battle a new threat, Gorr the God Butcher.
That’s Christian Bale, giving a performance that doesn’t belong in this movie. He’s terrifying, a monstrous brute who rises above his limp back story and motivation. Tonally, he’s all wrong for “Love and Thunder.”
What were Waititi and co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson thinking?
Who thinks it’s funny that Thor speaks to his weapon as if it were a new lover jealous of Mjilnor? And the less said about Russell Crowe’s appearance here, the better.
Pow! Bam! Cringe!
Need more tonal screwups? A key plot point focuses on kidnapped children, something the screenplay often plays up for snickers.
Waititi’s wonderful “Jojo Rabbit” turned Hitler into a comic character and squeezed laughs out of Nazi terror tactics. So he knows how to balance uncomfortable material with humor.
He fails at the task here. Completely.
Since this is Marvel Phase 4 we know the woke won’t be left behind. We’re reminded that King Valkyrie is a lesbian, twice, and another character’s back story involves two Dads who procreate.
Just know these details are vital to the story and, if left out, would see the entire film collapse upon itself.
Somewhere along the way “Thor: Love and Thunder” realizes you can’t reconcile the farcical first half with Gorr’s menace. So the film all but throws the humor out, focusing on the Thor/Jane relationship and generic superhero mischief.
That’s just as jarring, and the switch doesn’t come with bravura action scenes or anything that trumps “Raganrok’s” spin on the MCU.
In fact, “Ragnarok” proved superior in so many ways, and that’s before you realize “Love and Thunder” squanders a Guardians of the Galaxy group cameo.
How is that even possible?
Maybe Waititi has Patty Jenkins Syndrome. The “Wonder Woman” director delivered a grand superhero romp in 2017, and then followed it up with one of the worst films in recent memory, “Wonder Woman 1984.”
Did her ego get too big for the set? Was she given too much authority behind the scenes? We’ll never know, but it’s fair to ask similar questions of Waititi after watching “Love and Thunder.”
Something went seriously wrong between “Ragnarok” and “Thunder,” and the mystery behind it might be more entertaining than the film itself.
HiT or Miss: “Thor: Love and Thunder” is a crushing disappointment, doubling down on “Ragnarok’s” comedic beats without the wit and style to make them soar.