Thor: Love and Thunder is A Big Smash With A Touch of Sensitivity

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Thor: Love and Thunder is A Big Smash With A Touch of Sensitivity

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Taika Waititi sure knows how to please a crowd. He treats every viewer like a ‘sweet child of his’, strewing his big blockbuster films with at least as many big blockbuster moments as the viewer would want and/or expect, if not more. While Thor: Ragnarok benefitted from having one of the all-time great Marvel villains in Cate Blanchett’s Hela, this time round the baddie Gorr – though menacing to look at – is admittedly a bit of a bore. Still, Waititi seems to be one of those directors who knows how to wring the maximum out of the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief. The result is a film that delivers what it promises – plenty of love and a fair share of thunder.

We are introduced, first, to Christian Bale’s Gorr and how he became the God Butcher – he was simply let down by the god he believed in, losing his daughter to his wilful apathy. Gorr gains an all-powerful weapon called the Necrosword in the process, and thus makes it his cursed life’s mission to eliminate every god in existence. Make no mistake, Bale plays the part with gusto. There’s something oddly horrifying in the image of Bale as an antagonist who abducts and terrorizes children. It feels like a twisted mirror image of adolescent Bale’s own outstanding turn as the child protagonist facing human war horrors in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun (1987). Gorr as villain is underwhelming only because his god-killing mission doesn’t stoke much sympathy for the gods or raise the stakes enough. More so because the gods in question are the kind that debauch and make merry at a place called Omnipotence City. There’s a marvellous turn from Russell Crowe as Zeu who is all about grandstanding and orgies (apparently). Crowe is having a blast here.

There’s a reason why ‘love’ comes before ‘thunder’ in the movie tagline; it’s because this one is mostly about love, in all its delightful and grotesque forms.

What Gorr’s arc lacks is made up for by those that would oppose him. Thor’s Kronan bestie Korg (Waititi himself) gives us a quick TLDR of Odinson’s journey in the MCU so far, before the latter is drawn into the fight against Gorr. After all, as the God of Thunder, Thor is one of Gorr’s divine targets. It brings him back to a thriving ‘New Asgard’ on Earth. Valkyrie continues her reign as king, and there are already street plays about the battle against Hela, featuring Matt Damon as Loki. It’s all comfortable Taika-Thor territory. Here he is unexpectedly reunited, after nearly a decade, with Natalie Portman’s Dr Jane Foster (Thor remembers the exact time gap, to the last day.) Of course, Jane is in a new avatar now, with a resurrected Mjolnir to boot. There’s a neat little explanation for how she goes from pioneering astrophysicist (who name-drops Interstellar while explaining wormholes) to becoming the Mighty Thor; and it thankfully has nothing to do with multiverses.

At the heart of it, Thor and Jane’s unrequited love in the MCU is a rather sad one. It gets sadder with this film. There’s a reason why ‘love’ comes before ‘thunder’ in the movie tagline; it’s because this one is mostly about love, in all its delightful and grotesque forms. Gorr’s love for his daughter, Thor’s love for Jane and a bunch of others. He is a father-figure to Heimdall’s young son Astrid – a Guns N’ Roses fan who prefers to go by ‘Axl’. Thor also sports tattoos on his back that are dedicated to his oft-dying dead brother Loki. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) yearns for the sisterhood she once lost. Even a pair of giant screechy goats get a whole lot of love from Odinson and his folk (and inevitably, the viewer).

It brings him back to a thriving ‘New Asgard’ on Earth. Valkyrie continues her reign as king, and there are already street plays about the battle against Hela, featuring Matt Damon as Loki.

The film flourishes most when delving into a truly adorable love triangle – one between Thor, Stormbreaker and Mjolnir. The mighty axe can’t handle the fact that Thor is reconnecting with his ex, the hammer. Zeus’s flashy lightning bolt is a new entrant, adding spice to the mix. Stormbreaker even acts up once in a while, before Thor shares a beer with it to set things right. The divine weapon bromance is relentlessly cute, bubbling all along under Thor and Jane’s more serious relationship. This, while they are all attempting to bring down Gorr and save those damned gods.

As in most Marvel plots, Gorr here has a sort of cheat code to kill all gods in one fell swoop. It is called the Eternity. What it specifically is does not matter, the point is to have Thor and his team stop him from attaining something. They also need to free the afore-mentioned abducted children from Gorr’s clutches. Needless to say, the kids are just bait for Thor, who must rush to the help of those in need. He got this trait from Jane, he says. And that’s what made him worthy of being a god in the first place. If Cate Blanchett stole scenes in Ragnarok, Natalie Portman does that here. There’s an uncomfortable secret about her that Thor learns of rather late. The fun and games make sure you’re laughing. Otherwise, you’d be crying. It’s a pity that the Guardians of the Galaxy depart the film early on. Rocket’s take on the intense but awkward romance reigniting between exes would have been worth the late departure.

The divine weapon bromance is relentlessly cute, bubbling all along under Thor and Jane’s more serious relationship.

Waititi’s two Thor films have a distinct characteristic about them. They seem to be Seinfeld-esque nothing-sitcoms with cheeky humour for the most, until you realise that the plot has been catching up with you all along. Chris Hemsworth, on whose comic timing much of these films hinge on, smashes it. Mythology is built quickly, conflicts rise and fall fast, the smirks and laughs along the way are non-negotiable. An honest tagline of the film would have been ‘Love and Loss’. The laughs and thunder are mere distractions, but thoroughly entertaining ones at that.

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