*. 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!
His arms really bothered me too. Too large, even for a Hemsworth.
Just too much beef on those arms this time out. He would of looked better a little more toned.
Classic ’80s trailer. I remember those VHS stripes.
Agree with the arms thing. Going to have to be pedantic here, Hulk calls Loki a ‘puny god’, not ‘some god’. The Thor movies have mostly been disappointing to me, apart from the first one which I really liked.
Ah, I’ll have to fix that quote. I was going off memory. I also have fond memories of the first Thor movie, even if it was pretty conventional. These Waititi movies feel like they’re stuck replaying the same joke over and over now.
In regards to your theological question:
I believe it is ALL about pride. Satan’s downfall was pride. The idea that there is nobody greater than us. That we are the center of it all. No one is justified in telling us what to do, or how to live.
Because once you acknowledge there is Something Greater than yourself, greater in every single way, not just stronger, then you have to acknowledge that maybe you don’t get to do what you want, when you, how you want. That you are not an autonomous being unfettered by responsibilities.
As for the movie, yeah, never going to watch it.
So superhero movies allow us to indulge a vicarious sense of pride at nothing being more powerful/important than ourselves? God is dead because we can’t imagine anything greater than ourselves in our superhuman alter egos?
If you’re feeling burned out on MCU offerings this isn’t going to change your mind. Pretty much just more of the same, except the love interest dies (but it’s OK because she’s not really dead and there’s a kid).
I’d go with that. Not that we can’t imagine, but that we don’t WANT.
Yeah, for the MCU I do plan on watching Antman 3 and Guardians of hte Galaxy 3. I really liked both movies in each franchise so I hope they will be good standalones. But I won’t be buying them, that is for sure. After that, I think I’ll be done with superhero movies until Henry Cavill comes back as Superman. If he doesn’t, then yep, I’m done for real 🙂
I’d see the next Ant-Man. I thought the last Guardians movie was so bad that I may have tapped out.
Eh, I liked the second GG. It was just fun 😀
So we’ll see what happens with 3. I am not hopeful, but I still have a little hope that I’ll enjoy them.
I think I got brain rot from this. It was the film equivalent of those cubes trash compactors smash all your garbage into. And I think Marvel is incapable of self awareness. Their 4th wall break attempts – Deadpool and She Hulk – might be good at pointing out cliches, but often do so in such a way that admits everything they have been doing throughout the film has been cliche trash, or thereafter indulge in a cliche the joke implies they shouldn’t indulge in.
And the thing is, you can be self-aware and poke fun at yourself a bit, but after you make a habit of it then it’s not long before there’s nothing left to make fun of because you’ve torn it all down yourself. It’s one reason I felt it was so weird watching Jane dying of cancer here. I was wondering how seriously we were supposed to take any of that. But then with the final sequence of her entering Vahalla we’re comforted by the fact that we don’t have to take her death seriously at all.
I absolutely loved Ragnarok, but knew in my heart it had to be a one-off, and it’s uniqueness relative to other Marvel films (i.e. off-the-rails humor throughout) was never going to be duplicated anyway, let alone topped. And then they hired Taika to do this next one. And…it’s a mess. No one came out of this looking good as far as I was concerned. Marvel can do better. Here’s hoping this next Phase is a winning one.
I felt like they really botched the script with this one too, as the ending just collapsed. That’s something that shouldn’t happen in a big studio production that cost this much money. Just for starters, what was Eternity supposed to be? I couldn’t figure out what was going on, and the tone was all over the place. Why should I feel sad about anyone dying if they get to go to Valhalla?
I think Marvel’s in trouble because they’re running out of ideas *and* they still have to keep up their insane production schedule. The brand is getting watered down to the point where it’s feeling really thin.
I totally agree with your thoughts on Marvel. Putting those series behind a paywall like Disney + and then basically having them serve as six hour origin stories rather than make Phase 4 connections between the next prospective set of Avengers really missed the mark. Casual fans of Marvel have walked away, likely for good.