Review by C.J. Bunce

Just two months after its theatrical debut, Thor: Love and Thunder is streaming on Disney+.  If you missed it in the theater, you’re in for the most fun MCU movie since Disney started streaming its big movies.  Featuring the return of Taika Waititi as director and voicing Thor’s large pal Korg, plus Chris Hemsworth back as Thor and his old hammer Mjolnir passing him over for Natalie Portman′s Jane Foster to become the next Thor, it adapts the 1970s story by Donald Glut and Rick Hoberg in the pages of What If…? re-introduced by writer Jason Aaron in the monthly Thor comics.  Death and dying is a big focus of this latest MCU entry, so it says a lot that it can balance that with some of the most fun adventure of all the films.  Plus a great pair of goats.

Taking a step back, the MCU in 2022 will be known for addressing issues, similar to the way Star Trek has done it for years–tapping into morality plays–here blended with ripped-from the-headlines dramatic topics.  Moon Knight and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness featured mental illness.  She-Hulk: Attorney-at-Law features gender equality as a key theme.  Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and the last two Avenger movies deal with death.  And Thor: Love and Thunder features sickness, death, and dealing with loss, as did the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, as its key theme.  Here, that’s Portman’s character dealing with cancer, and taking extraordinary measures to fight it.

This Thor movie–the fourth Thor solo film–doesn’t rise to the level of the rollicking Thor: Ragnarok, but Hemsworth’s take on Thor remains the best character of the Avengers, a testament to director Waititi and executive producer Kevin Feige.  Most of that is due to Hemsworth’s charisma and ease at humor–his exciting, layered Thor is better than any incarnation in the comics.  The Guardians of the Galaxy get a good cameo, and it feels like we missed a movie somewhere–wasn’t there going to be some kind of Asgardians of the Galaxy story in the MCU at some point?  This movie seems to begin at the end of that, but even more of Thor and the Guardians definitely would be welcome.

Portman’s Dr. Jane Foster finishes off what might be the most complete story arc of all the MCU characters since she arrived in the first Thor movie in 2011 (only six years from starring in the Star Wars prequels, long before all the franchises would get bought by Disney and become one).  Foster gets a few great scenes where she gets to be in full Thor superheroine mode.  But a lot is happening in this film, and she doesn’t get to do as much as Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in her own movie, or Scarlett Johansson and Florence Pugh in their Black Widow movie.  Still Portman places her character next in line as badass superheroines in movies go, even if her character’s fate is disappointingly similar to that of her Star Wars role.

But equal to the task is Tessa Thompson in her third big team-up with Hemsworth following Thor: Ragnarok and Men in Black International.  No duo today on the big screen has more chemistry than Hemsworth and Thompson.  She is perfect here as King Valkyrie, and hopefully Feige & Co. have plans to keep her in the MCU for many more movies.

In the pages of the comics, super-villains are rarely written with much attention, tending to have little gravity, usually relegated to some goofy tie to something trivial.  Christian Bale in his black-and-white-toned Gorr the God Butcher shows us that he’s better as a dark villain than as a dark hero.  This character is sympathetic, on par with the Scarlet Witch, yet still a killer.  But Bale makes him one of the MCU’s best yet.

Back is the use of rock music to set the scene, this time courtesy of Guns N’ Roses.  A flying Viking ship and the two goats are high points in this journey of fun despite the darkness of reality.  Other good bits include Jaimie Alexander as Sif, Russell Crowe as an arrogant and annoying Zeus, Stellan Skarsgård as Selvig, more famous actor cameos in Thor stage plays, Bao, God of Dumplings, and a mention of Ra, the Eqyptian god expected to turn up in future Moon Knight stories.  With Thor: Love and Thunder there is nothing not to love.

But one question remains: As the sixth movie and 14th entry overall in MCU’s Phase IV, what does the future hold for the MCU?  Audiences only have Black Panther: Wakanda Forever remaining and little to nothing ties all the movies and films together in this phase.  Multiverses and old gods?  Audiences need to see what glue holds it all together soon–Feige must have learned by now not to simply make it up as he goes, right?

Thor: Love and Thunder arrived in theaters July 8, 2022, but is now streaming only two months later on Disney+.  Don’t miss it.