The best things about Thor: Love and Thunder

The whole Polygon team had issues with the new MCU movie Thor: Love and Thunder, from its flippant character undercutting to its really weird running gag about Thor’s magic ax Stormbreaker acting more like an ex — a creepy, jealous one. A lot of the movie’s bigger themes crash-land more than they soar, but we found a lot to like in the margins. Here’s a rundown of some of the smaller things about the film that we most appreciated.

[Ed. note: Scattered spoilers ahead for Thor: Love and Thunder.]

Tasha Robinson, film/streaming editor: Y’all, this movie let me down in so many ways, but the upside to a movie that can’t take anything seriously for more than 20 seconds at a time without veering toward a visual or verbal gag is that there is an absolute ton of fire-and-forget visual and verbal gags, and some of them are bound to land. One of my favorites is the split-second shot of Thor’s RIP LOKI memorial tattoos when Weirdly Accented Zeus (Russell Crowe) rips Thor’s clothes off in Omnipotence City. In a movie so heavily focused on the corniest, cheesiest aspects of metal culture, the idea of Thor having a really over-the-top metal “mourn ya ’til I join ya” style tattoo to commemorate a loss is a pretty good one, particularly for a split-second joke that the camera doesn’t linger on.

And speaking of Loki, I found Korg’s recap of Thor’s adventures at the top of the movie kinda pointless and self-insertive, but I really appreciated the straight-faced acknowledgement that Loki has died three times already now. That cues us to not take his death too seriously (or anyone’s, really), while poking fun at how often the MCU has gone to that well in Thor stories, and what a sweet sucker Thor is for continually falling for it and taking Loki’s death personally every single time.

Thor with Stormbreaker in hand, about to join a fight in New Asgard

Photo: Jasin Boland/Marvel Studios

Petrana Radulovic, entertainment reporter: Overall, I’m not sure how I feel about the dozens of little children running into battle in the movie’s climactic fight. That said, the little girl who decides not to use a traditional weapon and instead use her stuffed bunny as a conduit for Thor’s lightning abilities absolutely ruled. Given that I absolutely thought my stuffed animals had magical powers when I was a little girl, that moment really spoke to me.

Also, I know we’re all really into how Jane Foster looks as the Mighty Thor, especially her sculpted arms, but I just need to emphasize how great she looks. Whenever I do bicep curls these days, I mutter under my breath, “This one’s for you, Natalie Portman.

Joshua Rivera, entertainment writer: I know Tasha strongly disagrees with me here, but I love the goats. Goats screaming like humans gets me every time, and while Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher are CGI creations, the fact that this is pulled from real goat behavior makes them work for me. Just hearing them scream as they crash into a scene killed me every time, and probably still will on a rewatch.

I also loved Christian Bale’s Gorr, and wish he was a bigger part of the movie — the guy just really relishes being a boogeyman, and I think there would be the beginnings of something really good there if Love and Thunder didn’t have other plans.

Tasha: Yup, I sure did hate those goats! But I’m with you on Christian Bale, who’s done interesting and diverse work as an actor ever since childhood, and still manages to find notes here that I don’t think he’s ever hit before. I have no idea what the hell is meant to be going on in the scene where he tells his caged kid captives a scary story and rips the head off a random CG critter for no reason — that sequence completely undermines what’s maybe supposed to be a scary villain by turning him into the Cryptkeeper, all giggles and gags. But Bale is so clearly having gleeful fun with it that I really enjoyed that sequence, even while thinking it belongs in a completely different movie.

Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder

Image: Marvel Studios

Susana Polo, entertainment editor: I’m with Tasha, in that there are lots of little bright spots in the movie — like those biker-bird aliens in the opening sequence, with their big Jim Henson’s Creature Shop energy. And I’m in on enjoying Bale’s delight at spooking adorable children with severed heads. It’s nothing like comic book Gorr, but comic book Gorr defies adaptation to begin with, so I didn’t have my heart set on seeing that version of the character on screen.

For all the jokes Thor: Love and Thunder makes about Asgardian tourism, I think the way Asgard’s refugees have had to flatten and commercialize their own culture in order to survive is one of the realer parts of the film. There’s an edge to those goofs that speaks to Waititi’s own New Zealander background, and the sense of ickiness underpinning New Asgard’s tourist traps comes through strongly, even as the characters grin and bear it.

Tasha: Speaking of Asgardian tourism, shoutout for the return of Matt Damon and Luke Hemsworth as the Asgardian Players, now with Melissa McCarthy as Hela. The idea of Asgard/New Asgard/Future Asgard having its own overly invested Waiting For Guffman-style community-theater dopes maybe gets taken a hair too far here, but the cheesy tourist re-creation of some of Thor: Ragnarok’s grimmest moments is a hoot.

Austen Goslin, assignments editor, entertainment: Just like Tasha, I couldn’t help but be pretty disappointed that in a movie of nothing but jokes, so few landed for me. That said, the fact that Korg’s Kronan god sits on a throne made of all the scissors he has crushed is pretty good. It’s a nice callback to Korg’s introduction in Thor: Ragnarok, where he tells Thor, “I’m made of rocks, as you can see, but don’t let that intimidate you. You don’t need to be afraid, unless you’re made of scissors.” Korg then explains that that’s just a bit of rock-paper-scissors humor, which I now see as a reference to his god. It’s basically the Kronan version of “Have a blessed day.”

Petrana: It was pretty fun seeing all the eclectic gods in Omnipotence City — but an extra-special shoutout to Bao, the god of dumplings, who was just so darn cute. I also thought the fact that Zeus’s fangirls are called “Zeusettes” in the credits was pretty funny.

Zeus was meh for me overall, but I did appreciate the Zeusette who fainted at the sight of Thor’s ripped, naked body. Same, girl, same.

Tasha: I enjoyed Valkyrie and Jane bonding throughout the film. Val doesn’t get much to do here, but she and Jane calmly agreeing to just eat grapes and appreciate involuntarily naked Thor was a nice moment of sisterhood.

And finally — I still just really enjoy Chris Hemsworth as Thor. I have a lot of thoughts on whether he’s a character who can really sustain an arc, given that his whole gimmick is being essentially irrepressible and capable of rebounding after any disaster. But the character would not work on screen at all without Hemsworth’s rakish grin and sense of bluff, amiable swagger. An awful lot of the Thor movies’ material rests on his astonishingly wide shoulders, and his ability to make really silly material believable by pretending to take it seriously, and to make really inconsistent material charming by responding to it consistently. He’s such an asset to the MCU as a whole.

Joshua: As we keep saying, Thor: Love and Thunder has all the things we were excited about before we saw it: funny jokes, a wonderful cast, colorful locales, a sweet soundtrack. But none of it coheres into a film that’s as good as all of those parts. It’s baffling, really, to see all this good stuff hiding between couch cushions and under floorboards, like the movie needs renovation as we’re watching it. But maybe if you find enough of those things, you can have a good time at the movie.

Also? “November Rain” is a sick freakin’ song.

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