Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok was credited for the freshness and thrill that it brought to the Thor series embedded within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Its sharp wit, vibrant splashes of color, and class rock-inspired soundtrack added a genuine sense of fun to an in-world saga that would struggle without a new narrative angle. The sidestepping of the multiversal madness that has all but consumed Marvel Studios was a decision that would go on to play in the Thor fourquel's favor as Waititi made his highly-anticipated return to the comic book tentpole.
Thor: Love and Thunder promises that Waititi's signature tone is to find its way back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while that raucous sense of humor may sit atop more intense themes, it may overstay its welcome. The writer-director leans to heavily into recreating the same originality that was found in his Marvel Studios debut, and at points, a reversion to paralleling scenes from Thor: Ragnarok nearly feel as if they're recreations of his past comic book work. An uncanny overlap blurs the distinctions between the two. Thor: Love and Thunders threaten to fold under the weight of comedic expectations as it overstuffs its dialogue with punchlines that don't always deliver the same bite as their predecessors were once praised for. The incessant need to not take itself completely seriously is the Thor-quel's point of self-inflicted struggles. Mixed with inconsistent CGI quality, some over-long jokes question whether there was a necessity for the God of Thunder to secure a fourth film of his own. There's a strain on Waititi's charm that shouldn't feel tiresomely labored.
The graphic novel-inspired addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe succeeds when it settles into its more serious themes. Christian Bale's Marvel Studios debut as Gorr the God Butcher captures the deeply unsettling, sympathetic nature of the central villain. Bale's performance solidifies itself as one of the most haunting and emotionally grounded aspects of the film as anguish and animosity consume him. Grief, loss, faith, and love sit at the heart of Thor: Love and Thunder. When such concepts are explored, they find a place of gravity for the film to rest upon. Jane Foster's (Natalie Portman) reprise honors the accuracy of the comics in a way that depicts both her moral and physical conflicts through honest, delicate transparency. Thor: Love and Thunder's most dramatic beats provide it with the emotional sophistication that it is in dire need of. Waititi goes beyond the use of the spoken word alone; the use of color to convey emotion is given greater significance during one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most chromatically creative battles.
Thor: Love and Thunder takes pride in it its strange nature abreast of typical Waititi storytelling. Comfortable in its bizarre and erratic appeal, Thor: Love and Thunder cozies up to its campiness. An air peculiarity is no stranger to the Thor series newcomer without dashing a history established by Marvel Studios. It enacts itself as a grand display of Thor Odinson's (Chris Hemsworth) strength while explaining the rift divided between Foster and Odinson. Most exposition is dedicated to ensuring that there's humor in abundance, which directly affects the depth of the plot at play. Not all mighty expectations are met, though Thor: Love and Thunder internalize its mission to pack in as much high-energy excitement that it can. Thor: Love and Thunder is boisterous and entertaining enough to distract away from the glaring missed opportunities left behind. There may be thunder, but lightning does not strike twice. 5/10.
*There are two end-credit scenes*