I have long been burnt out on Marvel movies, save for a few. It isn’t because they’re bad (they’re not, typically), nor is it because it’s not a genre I enjoy (I very much enjoy superheroes), but that Marvel has continually killed off characters seemingly “just because,” with little to no thought of how this would affect audiences, or if the deaths were actually justified as part of the character’s arc. This is an issue for me, as I become very attached to specific characters that resonate strongly with me. I have been triggered in at least one Marvel movie and have had to be careful about which ones I see. Fortunately, I have seen enough Taika Waititi projects in film and television that I can trust that his stories will have character arcs and that what happens will hinge on each individual’s journey.
Thor: Love and Thunder did not disappoint. There were character arcs for each beloved individual. I laughed, then cried, and then laughed again, and the chaotic but loving energy of Taika Waititi was felt throughout. I watched the film with a partner and several friends, and all of us enjoyed it tremendously for a variety of reasons. What I loved most was that each and every character wrestled with what ‘family’ means and how far they would go to protect and avenge their family.
While there were several silly moments, they brought lightness, levity, and an absolute joy to the story. The goats, in particular, were a continual source of merriment. Thor and Jane’s reunion is as awkward and cringy as a real encounter with an ex tends to be, and Korg’s genuine expressions helped keep a difficult story from becoming too dark.
The story of Love & Thunder is about what happens when people meet their heroes or find out the god or gods they worship are not, in fact, benevolent. This is a gigantic discussion I need more of with fans because it seems as if this film has a finger on the pulse of a younger generation. Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z are all struggling to keep hope alive right now. Our rights are being stripped away, our families are becoming more openly hateful, and the economy we were told would provide for us has destroyed almost every chance at a comfortable life for many of us. We are angry. And we are seeking out those who are responsible in order to hold them accountable for their actions.
The God Butcher, the antagonist of Love & Thunder, has decided that in order to correct the balance and avenge the loss of his closest family member, the gods have to die. He makes it his mission to take out the gods, one by one, until none are left. Only this will satisfy his thirst for revenge against the god who laughed at his pain and demanded a sacrifice instead of reaching down to assist a faithful believer.
Meanwhile, Thor, Mighty Thor/Dr. Jane Foster, Valkyrie, and Korg are attempting to prevent the elimination of multiple pantheons and a group of children abducted by The God Butcher while at the same time dealing with love, loss, and picking up the pieces in order to move forward. There’s a conversation early on wherein Thor is told that he needs to find himself, not just be the superhero everyone expects and that it is better to be open and vulnerable to heartbreak rather than keeping everyone at arm’s distance. This is a turn toward a more emotional, inner character arc and a return to Thor’s original issue, who his father wanted him to be instead of the person his mother and brother knew he could be.
The Mighty Thor, aka Dr. Jane Foster, goes on her own journey of discovery as she makes peace with reality and reaches out to those who matter most to her. She is no longer in control of what happens, but she learns to take things in stride with magnificent grace and peace. She is an epic hero, worthy of being included in the realm of the gods.
Valkyrie, much like Thor, is dealing with guilt and grief and keeping everyone at a distance. Throughout the film, she becomes both softer and more determined to keep her beloved ones safe, no matter if they’re made of rock or sinew and bone. What happened in the past cannot be changed, but it can change her, though that can be healthy or unhealthy depending on what one chooses.
Thor: Love and Thunder is an incredible addition to the Marvel Universe, with more emotional depth and philosophy than I have seen in many films, Marvel or otherwise. If you enjoy absurdity, chosen families, and love, I would highly recommend that you go see this film immediately. Waititi has created a brilliant, moving portrait of what it means to be a sentient being and how the connections we have with each other change us.
You can see Marvel’s latest film, Thor: Love & Thunder, in theaters now.