*. I sometimes wonder how people of sincere faith view the products of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (of which Thor: Love and Thunder is the 29th entry). In many ways, these movies take their lead from Hollywood horror franchises dealing with demons and devil-worshippers. As I’ve said before, such movies accept the notion that there are forces of evil walking the earth but on the flipside show priests and angels and even God as either missing in action or totally outgunned.
*. In the MCU something only a bit different is happening. Again we’re supposed to believe in supernatural forces everywhere around us, but anything like we find in traditional monotheistic religions has been erased. Instead, the MCU is wholly pagan. We may have the pantheons of Greek and Norse gods, Lovecraftian Ancient Ones, and alien overlords (or, as with the Eternals, some combination of all of the above), but there’s no Yahweh or God the Father. There may be spears and magic helmets, but no crucifixes; a Necronomicon but no Bible.
*. I bring this point up here because the plot of Thor: Love and Thunder really places deicide in the foreground. We begin with a sad sack named Gorr (Christian Bale) finding out the hard way that his local deity is a callous and not at all impressive hippy. Gorr is then possessed by a typical MCU artefact known as the Necrosword and becomes the God Butcher. So look out, Thor!
*. The thing is, Gorr has a strong case that he gets to make when he captures our heroes and goes into the obligatory supervillain monologue. What use are the gods? Don’t they just use us for their sport, the Valkyrie as toy soldiers? Is prayer going to save Jane Foster/Lady Thor (Natalie Portman) from cancer? Hardly. And just look at the Star Wars-bar gang of oddballs that make up the conclave of immortals in Omnipotence City, headed by the ridiculous figure of Zeus (a hammy and plump Russell Crowe). If Gorr took all of them out, what difference would it make?
*. Isn’t there, as with the horror films I mentioned, a message being slipped in here, and that not too subtly, about religion and faith in general? One thinks of the famous scene in The Avengers when Loki gets smashed by the Hulk, who dismisses his claims to divinity by saying “puny god!” Isn’t that the point being made in all these films? That the whole idea of divinity is to be scorned, and that in its absence might makes right?
*. I don’t think this is a totally obscure theological point, but is illustrative of a broader cultural shift of some significance. But pushing all that aside, let’s look at the rest of the movie and see what we’ve got.
*. In my opinion, not much. Taika Waititi is back helming the project after the (commercial) success of Thor: Ragnarok. This time he’s swapped out Led Zeppelin for Guns N’ Roses, but otherwise it’s all the same CGI and posing. The shot where the hero and villain leap in slow motion at each other to smash together in the centre of the screen, for example, has become such a cliché they might as well start making fun of it. I think it’s repeated two or three times in this movie alone.
*. But then, there may be a limit to how much fun you can poke at what have become superhero clichés before the whole thing ends up being beyond parody. As Zeus complains at the end of this film (technically in one of those mid-credit sequences), “When did we become the joke?” (a line that also ties into the traducing of divinity I started off talking about). Seeing as his son Hercules is Brett Goldstein that may be a sticking point we’re not going to be getting past anytime soon.
*. Gorr has a compelling story, and Bale gives it his all under heavy make-up. Chris Hemsworth is beyond buff, to a point where the size of his arms was really bothering me. Apparently he maxed out at over 230 pounds for the role this time, which looks too heavy. Tessa Thompson remains one of the few bright lights. The rocky Korg (voiced by Waititi) is a bore, and outing him as gay just felt pointless. Portman felt out of place, and her Jane never could come up with any good lines despite all her best efforts. Plus having her wasting away from cancer throughout the film was a real drag.
*. The big problem I had with Love and Thunder though was the ending. It’s terrible. I honestly wasn’t sure what was going on. Gorr has his Necrosword broken, then it starts coming together again, then it’s broken again, then he passes toward the light (to Eternity?) along with Thor and Jane and he meets his daughter and his daughter (Love, played by Hemsworth’s daughter India Rose Hemsworth) comes back to life but Jane doesn’t and so Thor adopts the daughter while Jane goes to Valhalla, which looks like a rather nice resort village in Norway.
*. More adventures are promised. Presumably Thor and Love (Love and Thunder, get it?) will be taking on Hercules. With music by Black Sabbath perhaps. And more gods that can’t be killed but only trashed. Which is a pretty good way of characterizing what’s going on with the MCU now too. Some gods! Some movies!