As I’ve said before, for millions of people, movies provide an escape from their everyday routines, their problems, and scary news headlines. And usually when someone goes into a theater, they have an idea of what type of movie it is they want to see: comedy, drama, thriller, horror, action, superhero … the list continues.

About “superhero” movies, the genre’s hardcore fans sometimes have strict criteria for what makes a “good” one, and they often don’t allow for a lot of flexibility. That’s fine. Everyone’s allowed to have their opinion, but all of this is to say that if you didn’t like New Zealand director Taiki Waititi’s psychedelic-goofy-what-is-happening contribution to the MCU in the form of 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok because it was not the typical superhero movie, you’re unlikely to be happy about Thor: Love and Thunder. Waititi is back not only to direct, but also co-write the script (with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) and reprise his Ragnarok character, Korg, and inject his quirky brand of humor that much more.

Thankfully, I count myself among the people who love Waititi’s Kiwi wit and are completely unbothered by a bunch of tonal shifts within the same movie. (Because rest assured that does happen in L&T—a lot.) And really, since March 2020, who hasn’t gone from sobbing to laughing to anger to apathy to frustration to joy to hopelessness within the span of any given hour on any given day?

In L&T, we find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finally back in God Bod mode after a Big Lebowski pit stop in Avengers: Endgame. He lives to help his superhero friends win battles (an early sequence with the Guardians of the Galaxy is a highlight), and is happy to let King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson, not given nearly enough to do) run New Asgard. We’re treated to scenes of life in the young settlement, which looks like a combination of tourist trap, amusement park and normal city … except for the various superpowered people living there—like (Heimdall’s (Idris Elba) son, a fun surprise).

But Thor is called to fight once again when Gorr the God Butcher (a fantastic Christian Bale) enters the scene. After losing his daughter and being laughed at by the god he worshipped, Gorr gets possession of the Necrosword and is determined to slay each and every god across the universe.

Luckily, in addition to Valkyrie, Thor now has the Mighty Thor (not even gonna try to explain that; Google it) by his side in the form of his ex-flame Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Jane, dying of cancer back on Earth, has been able to draw strength from wielding Mjølnir (Thor’s old, destroyed-by-his-sister hammer). While I wish we got to see more of how Jane initially transformed into the Mighty Thor, I was excited she’s back, and thought Waititi did a great job depicting the awkwardness of the reunited couple, as well as recapping the highs and lows of their previous relationship to excellent com-dram effect.

Though the Mighty Thor, Valkyrie and Gorr weren’t used as extensively as I’d hoped, I know more screen time for them would’ve resulted in a longer movie, or cutting something I enjoyed. The truth is, I was ready for an MCU installment that didn’t exceed 2 hours. Plus, I’m hoping Valkyrie will soon get her own full movie. This one is supposed to revolve around Thor, after all. Hemsworth is so comfortable in the role now, and is such a talented comedic actor, that about 80% of his scenes weren’t serious (fighting bad guys, saving people, having romantic drama). From a movie-spanning gag showing Thor still pining for Mjølnir, to the very last scene that reveals the meaning behind the film’s title, Hemsworth is just so freaking funny. A handful of memorable cameos, as well as a visually stunning black-and-white sequence, were like icing on the cake.

I hope Waititi comes back for another MCU installment (preferably Thor again), because he continues to bring the weirdness (screaming goats!) and unexpected direction (jealous weapons?!?) I find refreshing and compelling.

Finally and as always, make sure you stay to watch the end credits. Love and Thunder has two, and the first inspired me to cheer out loud.

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