Here’s the heart of the issue with Thor: Love and Thunder—the movie never takes anything seriously. Thor’s existential crisis. Jane Foster’s cancer and death. Asgard’s kidnapped children. Gorr’s god butchering. These are richly charged situations filled with emotional and thematic elements a great movie would dive into and swim in like Scrooge McDuck in his money vault. Except Love and Thunder is never interested in any of those things. They’re more like beats that he was forced to include rather than the main point of the movie. The point seems to mostly be indulging Taika’s sense of humor. Which is good for a lot of laughs. But is it good?
Thor’s existential crisis
Thor’s existential crisis? Played up for laughs. Thor had been a semi-serious, self-interested himbo in Thor, Dark World, Avengers, and Age of Ultron. He had a sense of humor but it was part of a complete personality. That started to change in Ragnarok and not necessarily for the worst. Under Taika’s comedic guidance, Chris Hemsworth unlocked more of Thor’s charm. There’s that great moment when Thor’s in the Sakaar colosseum to face their super champion and Hulk comes out. Thor’s stupid joy is hilarious. And the way that joy quickly turns to disbelief then competition as the two fall into serious combat. It’s awesome.
The thing about Ragnarok is that even though Thor was funnier, it wasn’t forced into every scene and his defining personality trait. Thor could be smart, brave, courageous, vulnerable, powerful. We saw essentially the full range of the character. A range that really set up the journey in Infinity War and Endgame as Thor grappled with frustration and depression. Hemsworth put in a nuanced, thoughtful performance seeing the character drop to rock bottom and begin to seek redemption.
But in Love and Thunder, Thor’s just batty. Whatever catharsis Endgame provided him is nonexistent. There’s something to be said about him not knowing who he is and not handling it well. We already saw in Endgame how poorly he coped with the events of Infinity War. But the conclusion of Endgame set up his being in a better place. We expect him to get back to a healthier physique and back to some of his old ways. Instead, while physically improved, he’s broken in an entirely different way. And they try to address that through the logic of “He doesn’t want to feel anything at all because he was hurt in the past.” Okay.
My issue isn’t with the concept. It’s the execution. How do they decide to emphasize his numbness? By turning him into an emotionally stunted teenager. He’s a caricature of Thor rather than the character Thor. He’s oblivious to his own arrogance and disrespectfulness. He’s wildly chill about kidnapped Asgardian kids. It’s a consistent level of goofiness that some may find hilarious but I found infuriating. In the 139 minute runtime, there’s maybe five minutes of non-stunted Thor. That’s not enough. You could get away with it in Endgame because there are other characters to provide the necessary emotional range. In Love and Thunder, both Thor and Jane are acting childish. And Valkyrie never takes anything seriously. So you just have what feels more like a Saturday Night Live skit of a MCU movie than an actual MCU movie.
Jane Foster’s cancer, death, and Asgard’s kidnapped kids
Jane Foster having cancer is a plot straight from the character’s The Mighty Thor comic book run. Same concept: the power of Thor granted to her by Mjolnir prevents the chemotherapy from fighting the cancer. Eventually, she’s told if she transforms one more time, she’ll die. But there’s a threat only Thor can defeat. Instead of Gorr, it’s Mangog, a being created and fueled by the hatred of an entire alien race. Just like the movie, she goes against the doctor’s orders and picks up the hammer and wins the fight only to succumb to the cancer. In Love and Thunder, it’s by shattering Gorr’s Necrosword. In the comics she binds Mjolnir and Mangog with this mythical chain (Gleipnir) and throws the whole contraption into the sun.
Okay, so what’s wrong with what the movie did?
It’s how Jane reacts to her cancer. Before she has Mjolnir, she’s at least getting chemo and trying to find solutions on her own. Once she has the power, she forgoes any treatment. She only wants to be The Mighty Thor and is almost in denial about what’s happening to her. When she has the hammer, its magic fills her with vitality. She feels good. She looks good. Her hair is long, healthy, and blown out. She’s ready to crack jokes and act heroic and have fun. At times, she’s almost as childish as Thor. And when they’re trying to talk about their feelings, she’s very high school about it.
This attitude has a few moments of contrast. Jane will drop the hammer and her clothes change to sweats. Her hair goes thin and greasy. She’s physically sunken. That’s the cancer. That’s the reality. That’s the drama. But in those moments she’s frantic to pick the hammer back up and return to the adventure and fun of being Thor. THAT’S THE MOVIE. That’s exactly what this damn movie keeps doing. Whenever it’s time to drop the hammer and get into the serious character work, Taika gets through it as fast and superficially as possible. He wants the hammer back.
This superficiality plagues even Jane’s death. There’s little aftermath. A shot of a statue and Thor being happy with Love. Then the mid-credit scene where Jane arrives at Valhalla. Like…it hasn’t even been five minutes of the audience mourning before they’re reassured: see, Jane’s fine. Because you know if a character is physically in a place like Valhalla there’s an opportunity to come back. So like…okay. The one emotional stake the movie actually tried to develop ends up not mattering.
Same thing with the kidnapped kids. Do we ever see the impact Gorr’s kidnapping has on New Asgard? No. The parents don’t really get to say or do anything. Valkyrie is concerned but not that concerned. It’s almost entirely without consequences or stakes. We don’t even really know enough about Gorr to fear for the kids. Will he hurt them? Does he associate them with his daughter? Has the Necrosword corrupted him with its will? How much is Gorr still making the decisions? What’s that mean to Gorr? Does he fully embrace that? Does he regret his decision? What would happen to the Asgardians if Gorr did the worst thing he could in that situation? The movie overly relies on us accepting the fact the parents are worried and Gorr is scary without ever actually earning those feelings from us.
Why doesn’t Love and Thunder get into that? Because it would take away from the adventure. It would take away from the jokes. Which is something Taika did throughout Ragnarok. He had no issues changing gears. Things were funny when there was room to be funny. They were serious when they should be serious. It was very well handled. But here, it’s almost like Taika got the story prompt and said, “You know what? I just want to have some fun. Do you want to have fun? It’s been a long few years. People deserve to have some fun. Let’s let them have it.” And so he picked up the hammer and never let go.
Part of me thinks Taika went into the script wanting to have a scene where a bunch of super powered kids got to fight monsters. And so Gorr became the set-up for a punchline more so than a character Taika wanted to explore the way Ryan Coogler did in Black Panther with Killmonger.
Gorr’s God butchering and Jane’s passing
This is what frustrates me the most. You have a character called Gorr the God Butcher. And yet we only see him take out a single god. We see the aftermath of his work. But never really focus on him going about his divine smiting. Which is just…such a wasted opportunity. It’s Christian Bale. With a sword. Facing expendable MCU gods. There’s at the very least a montage of him landing the final blows and each time we see the sword’s corruption warp his appearance. So he becomes sicker and sicker until he’s reached his Darth Maul like final form. But we don’t get anything cool like that.
Gorr’s message also lacks impact. The idea is awesome: that the universe would be better off without the gods because the gods are actually petty, awful people. This gets at the core of Thor’s character. Is he as bad as other gods or better than them? It’s a question that should haunt him. And, in the comics, which have much better writing, it does. The Gorr encounter is the beginning of an arc that sees Thor win the battle but question everything he has known about himself. This doubt leads to him no longer being worthy of Mjolnir. Which leads to Jane Foster’s wielding of Mjolnir. Thor goes off on a long sequence of not being Thor, while Jane becomes a human with the power of a god and does amazing things with it. Thematically, Gorr shapes the entire Mighty Thor arc.
But in Love and Thunder, Thor’s already in the midst of an existential crisis. And it doesn’t have to do with his godhood but because he misses Jane and Mjolnir. His woe is one of the heart. Meaning that Gorr’s criticism of the gods doesn’t actually have much impact on MCU Thor. “But Chris, what about Omnipotence City?” Yeah, yeah.
So they go to Omnipotence City and Zeus, the god of gods, is awful. A circus ring leader putting on a show but with the indulgent riches of an emperor. He embodies everything that Gorr says is wrong with the gods. And Thor sees it. He acknowledges it. But it doesn’t necessarily make him give more weight to anything Gorr’s doing and why he’s doing it. If anything, it’s Thor simply understanding he doesn’t want to be like Zeus. He wants to be better. And tries to be. Proving that not all gods are bad. But…that also means you could remove Gorr from the movie and replace him with a generic villain and Thor has pretty much the same arc: I’m going through a crisis and am lonely; I can’t tell Jane how I feel; Zeus kind of sucks and I don’t want to be like him; I’ll tell Jane how I feel; my crisis is over.
Gorr’s hatred of gods isn’t the source of any of Thor’s pain. It doesn’t kick off anything. It doesn’t deepen anything. It doesn’t resolve anything. Zeus being a jerk would have disappointed Thor no matter who the villain was. And Thor doesn’t even, by the end of the movie, come to appreciate gods or have anything against gods. He’s happier because has an adopted daughter, Love. So the villain literally has no thematic impact on the main character. It’s such a wasted opportunity. Especially when you know the way in which the comics handled it.
Looking ahead to Thor 5 and Hercules
“But Chris. What if this is just a set up and the next movie will get into it just like the comics eventually did?” I get where you’re coming from. The post-credit scene did introduce Brett Goldstein as Hercules, with Zeus instructing the hero of Greek mythology to track Thor down. So clearly Thor’s going to have increased confrontation with the gods. So yes, plot wise, this isn’t over.
But I’m talking about depth in this movie. I’m talking about theme. And Love and Thunder fumbled the impact of Gorr. By removing Gorr as the central cause of Thor’s existential crisis, you undermine the entire point of Gorr’s character. Especially when Love and Thunder ends with Thor as a happy girl dad. It’s frustrating to introduce a new crisis in this movie and resolve it, just to introduce another new crisis in the next movie to solve again. Specifically because MCU Thor had an identity crisis in Thor, in Dark World, in Ragnarok, and in Endgame. At least if you’re going to introduce another crisis here, don’t resolve an aspect of it just to do it all over again. Instead, deepen it the way Infinity War did. It started with Thor failing to defeat Thanos, it ended with Thor failing to defeat Thanos. And then we saw the aftermath. It’s better to just follow that formula than what happened in Love and Thunder.
What I would have done
I would start the movie establishing that Thor and the Guardians have saved the day a lot of times. Culminating with saving a people who worship Zeus but aren’t Earthlings. This garners the team an invite to Omnipotence City. They receive honors and Zeus comes off well in his official duties. Afterwards, he talks with Thor privately and says that Odin was supposed to join the council but would never step away from the Asgardians. That Zeus would be honored if Thor would fill the seat in Omnipotence City. It’s essentially Thor’s retirement from adventuring and settling into the role of a politician. There’s nothing left for him on Earth. He’s had a bunch of adventures with the Guardians. And it’s a way to honor his father and find a new father figure in Zeus. So he agrees. Bids farewell to the Guardians. And begins to settle into Omnipotence City.
That’s like the first 20 minutes. Zeus does a big introduction ceremony for Thor and it devolves into the gods being kind of outrageous. Zeus sets the tone but many gods just kind of party. And it goes on for days. Weeks. A month. And eventually Thor grows weary of it. What are they doing? Isn’t there work to be done? Zeus eventually reveals the Gods are afraid because more and more have disappeared. Including a god Thor met earlier in the movie. Someone is in possession of the Necrosword and calls themself the God Butcher. Zeus manipulates Thor into promising to defeat the Butcher.
Have Thor go world to world, seeing the aftermath of the Butcher’s work. But also learning how the gods of those worlds had been treating their people. That the people are, in most cases, happier now because the gods were actually cruel. But it’s not all joy. As some of the gods had loved ones and family members and the like who were also killed. So the Butcher isn’t entirely some liberating hero. But also isn’t a one-dimensional monster.
Finally, Thor catches up to the Butcher. And finds him in the midst of a slaughter. It’s a god who is good to their people and the people are doing their best to defend their god. The Butcher lives up to his name and slices and dices. It’s cruel. Cold. And Thor doesn’t react as quickly as you’d imagine he would or should. Instead, he’s so mystified by this figure that he watches. That’s when Hercules shows up. Younger than Thor. Powerful. He’s super heroic. At first. But as he battles the Butcher we see how reckless Hercules is. He doesn’t value the lives of the people. Only the gods. He uses people as distractions, as bait, as, even, a shield. And he drives the Butcher away.
There’s conflict as Hercules chastises Thor and Thor questions the methods of Hercules. The people, so loyal to their god, defend Hercules. It frustrates Thor. But he still extends an offer to Hercules to work together. But Hercules rejects it, saying Asgardians aren’t true gods. Thor defends himself, citing his power. His wielding of Mjolnir. The ax. His power over thunder and lighting. But Hercules spits at him and departs.
Thor decides to retreat to New Asgard and sort through his feelings. There, the people are abuzz about a new Thor. There’s a statue and merchandise. Apparently the new Thor has been incredibly successful. Valkyrie praises her. Thor feels an even larger sense of doubt. That night, the Butcher shows up. Introduces himself as Gorr. Tells Thor his backstory. Show the backstory, including the montage of him slaying other gods and changing in appearance. Says he knows of Thor and that even though Thor considers himself a god, Thor’s not. He’s not like the others. And if he wants to stop monsters, they should join together. Thor says he’s not a butcher. At which point the Butcher laughs and recounts Thor’s history. And even points out, aren’t you the one who struck the head off Thanos?
Gorr eventually says he’ll prove to Thor that Thor is different from the gods because he truly cares about people. That he’ll protect rather than be protected. That Thor still has something left to fight for. And he reveals his shadow beasts have kidnapped the kids of Asgard. That Thor will come for them. That Thor will find him. And that Thor will defeat him and prove he’s not a god. This pays off on how we’ve established the other Gods don’t care about their people. The people are expendable. Even the good god defended by his people was hiding and letting them fight. Gorr shadow teleports and makes a big spectacle that rouses the Asgardians who realize what’s happening and freak out and ask Thor to do something. Thor, once again, hesitates.
That’s when lighting fills the sky. And down comes The Mighty Thor. She wades through Gorr’s monsters and is completely dominant. Gorr teleports away from her, appears behind Thor and whispers to him “You know I’m right.” Then vanishes with the kids.
Thor comes face to face with The Mighty Thor. Reveals herself to be Jane. Jane explains she was visiting, talking to Valkyrie, when those shadow monsters first appeared. Cut to a flashback where the monsters are going after some kids and Jane puts herself between the beasts and the kid. Then the sky darkened and lightning struck her and Mjolnir appeared whole, in her hand. And she’s been battling these creatures every few weeks, protecting New Asgard (Thor realizing Butcher must have been checking back, waiting for him to eventually appear). As well as helping out around the world. She’s happy he’s back and tries to give him the hammer. That he’ll need it to save the kids.
At that moment, Thor sees it. Jane’s more worthy than he is. And he refuses the hammer, knowing that he couldn’t hold it even if he wanted to. Instead, he tells her something has affected his power and he’s not himself. Which Janes says she understands, still not revealing her cancer. Thor says he’s taken up a position in Omnipotence City and must go there to request help. And asks that she be the one to save the kids.
From there, you have this be Jane’s first big adventure. She finds Gorr and has to go through a series of battles to reach him and he’s surprised that it’s not Thor Odinson but this other Thor. But he can tell she’s not a god. That she is a human. And he willingly gives her the children. But he can see the shadow that’s within her. And tells her that her time with the hammer isn’t long. But that’s what makes her special. Hercules and other gods show up. They attack Gorr before the kids are safe. And Jane’s trying to help the kids. But the other gods are menaces. Just as reckless as Hercules. And Jane ends up fighting them too. Several of the Asgardian youth are fatally injured by the gods. They knock Jane out and leave with her and Gorr. Both the hammer and the kids remain.
Thor confronts Zeus and Zeus is pissed at Thor. He wanted Thor to fight Gorr instead of Hercules. He wanted to protect his son and hoped Thor would win or at least wound Gorr enough. That Thor doesn’t live up to his reputation and that Hercules was right about Asgardians. Hercules shows back up with Gorr and Jane. Jane’s cancer is revealed. Thor’s still impotent and can’t fight. Jane’s too weak to summon the hammer. The gods kill Gorr. But they don’t realize it triggers the Godbomb. A giant monster that’s the embodiment of the Necrosword’s All-Black that’s filled Gorr with power. It will annihilate Omnipotence City and all within it. Zeus tasks the other gods with defeating the monster then uses his power to escape with Hercules. The other gods just run away.
Jane and Thor are together. He tells her everything he’s been feeling and how much he loves her and how much he regrets what happened. That he knows she’s more worthy to be Thor than he is. She keeps trying to summon Mjolnir but can’t. Thor reaches out and thinks about the love he has for Jane. The memories together. The past, the present, and even a future where they have a child. A child they name Love. In that moment, both Mjolnir and Stombreaker react. The former flies from the last battle with Gorr, and the latter from Earth. Both speed across space and converge just before Thor’s hand. There’s a burst of light and power. When Thor opens his eyes, Jane’s holding Mjolnir. And Thor has Stormbreaker. She takes off to fight All-Black. He bifrosts to the Asgard children.
Big battle scene between Jane and All-Black. Ends with her going super thunder and obliterating the sword at the heart of the massive creature. None of the gods tried to help. Instead, they seemed almost resigned to their fate. Unhappy that Jane interfered. They don’t thank her. They don’t acknowledge her. And you see this difference between the human “god” doing good versus the apathy of the actual gods. Thor saves the kids and bifrosts back to New Asgard. Everyone there is happy. But Valkyrie asks about the kid who arrived early. Thor doesn’t know what she means. Valkyrie shows him a young girl who looks exactly like the one from his vision of the future with Jane. It’s Love.
Thor bifrosts back to Omnipotence City and finds Jane collapsed. The gods stand around her and do nothing. He requests their help and they do nothing. She can’t hold onto the hammer anymore and he holds her. He tells her they have more to do. She tells him she loves him. And then space dusts away. Thor looks at Mjolnir resting there in the ruined great hall of the gods. And instead of picking it up, leaves it, bifrosting back to Asgard. He finds Love and she takes his hand.
Mid-credit scene: Thor and Love go to fight monsters, with Love wielding Stormbreaker.
Post-credit scene: Zeus, Hercules, and Herc’s god friends stand around Mjolnir. They talk about the mockery that Thor could wield the weapon and none of them can. That a mere human could and none of them can. The mockery of being saved by a human. And they decide to destroy Thor, the Asgardians, and the humans for humiliating them.
And then that would set up Thor 5. Which is locked and loaded to have some awesome climactic scene where Zeus brings Thor back to Omnipotence City to put him on trial. They find him guilty and are going to execute him. Love appears in the hall, in front of all the gods, and tries to pick up Mjolnir but can’t. Let’s say Thor defeated Hercules on Earth and they mortally wounded each other. That’s how Thor got captured and brought back to Omnipotence City. He had hid Love so the gods couldn’t hurt her. But now she’s showed up. And Zeus wants to make Thor suffer. “I love a child. So will you.” And he throws his lightning bolt. Thor, who earlier in the movie couldn’t call Mjolnir, opens his hand again and the hammer flies to him. He’s worthy one last time. He saves Love by bringing the hammer down on the lightning bolt and shattering it. Then he fights Zeus and Hercules’s friend gods. Defeating all of them in this final blaze of glory. But he’s still wounded and, just like Jane did at the end of the previous movie, succumbs. Maybe Zeus isn’t quite defeated and rises up. And Love picks up Mjolnir for the first time and flies and golf swing hammers Zeus like she’s Tiger Woods and he flies ten thousand miles into space. Says final goodbyes to Thor who closes his eyes. There’s darkness then the flickering outline of something. Then we cut to Love being back in New Asgard and this long haired guy introduces himself as Uncle Loki. Mid-Credit scene is Loki and Love doing something funny. Post-credit scene is Thor opening his eyes and seeing Valhalla and hearing Jane’s voice.