Title: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’

Director: Taika Waititi (‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ ‘Jojo Rabbit,’ ‘What We Do in the Shadows’)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Taika Waititi and Russell Crowe

Learning to contend with and embrace the mistakes of their past can ultimately help people better protect the people they love across the galaxy. That’s certainly the case for even one of the universe’s strongest superheros, Thor, who’s taking ownership of the change in his personality, which are a result of the decisions he’s made, in the new action-adventure superhero sequel, ‘Thor: Love and Thunder.’

Chris Hemsworth has returned to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to reprise his celebrate role of the titular character, who once again reinvented himself in the fourth installment of the ‘Thor’ series. The current third follow-up is distinctly unique from its predecessors because it allows the actor to continue evolving his character, particularly in terms of how he treats the people he loves, since the events of ‘Avengers: Endgame,‘ and is a love story at is core.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is releasing ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ in U.S. theaters today. The new feature was directed by returning MCU filmmaker, Taika Waititi, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, after he helmed the project’s immediate predecessor, 2017’s ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’

In ‘Thor: Love and Thunder,’ the titular God of Thunder embarks on a journey unlike anything he’s ever faced before — one of self-discovery. But his efforts are interrupted by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), who seeks the extinction of the gods.

To combat the threat, Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (voiced by Waititi) and his ex-girlfriend, world-renowned astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who — to Thor’s surprise — inexplicably wields his magical hammer, Mjolnir, as the Mighty Thor. Together they venture out on a harrowing cosmic adventure to uncover the mystery of the God Butcher’s vengeance and stop him before it’s too late.

Like on his work on ‘Thor: Ragnarok,’ throughout ‘Thor: Love and Thunder,’ Waititi showcased his ability to embrace various genres within a single movie. The scribe-director mixes humor and layered jokes that highlight the characters’ personalities with intricate but equally spectacular action-adventure sequences that showcase their strengths and determination.

But what truly sets the latest entry in the ‘Thor’ series is that, at its heart, it’s a love story. Since working together on the series’ second sequel, Hemsworth and Waititi effortlessly grew Thor’s personality so that he’s now able to takes responsibility for his actions, including the way he treated Jane during their romantic relationship.

Love is a resounding theme that drives the eponymous superhero’s overall motivations throughout ‘Thor: Love and Thunder.’ Thor not only wishes to reconcile his differences with Jane that led to the ending of their romantic relationship, but also protect the residents of New Asgard he cares so much about from Gorr the God Butcher’s menacing plan.

Thor’s drive to protect the people he cares about is heightened when he meets his latest enemy, who has experienced a devastating event that propels him to embark on a mission that’s fueled by his desperate need for revenge. Bale naturally showcases that his character is the complete opposite of Thor, as the tragedy he endured led him to turn to evil in order to garner the justice he feels he’s owed.

Gorr feels so been betrayed by gods like Thor that he sets out to rid the universe of the ones who don’t take care of their humans. In his effort to stop his new dangerous adversary, Thor learns how to rely on the people he loves again, and regains confidence in himself, in order to protect the greater good of the universe.

Besides the story featuring Waititi’s signature blend of diverse genres and Thor continuing his journey of self-reflection, the film also thrives through its new groundbreaking VFX effects. ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ is the first MCU movie to employ a new technology, The Volume.

The technology surrounded Hemswroth and his co-stars in a 360-degree digital environment, rather than positioning them against a blue or green screen. Digital landscapes were imposed onto the digital environment, and then fine-tuned with live-action elements. The Volume allowed the filmmaker and his crew, including cinematographer Baz Idoine, to create settings that fully immersed Hemsworth and his co-stars into the diverse, but equally sweeping, environments where their characters were not only fighting back against Gorr, but also learning how to reconcile their pasts and embrace their futures.

‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ highlights Waititi’s ability to embrace various genres within a single film. The writer-helmer mixed humor that highlight the titular superhero’s determination to protect the people he loves at any cost with equally spectacular action-adventure sequences and innovative VFX effects that showcase his strengths. The fourth installment in the ‘Thor’ series proves Hemsworth and the filmmakers’ effortless ability to continue emotionally evolving one of the MCU’s physically strongest superheros.

Technical: A-

Acting: B+

Story: A-

Overall: A-

(L-R): Natalie Portman as Mighty Thor and Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Marvel Studios’ ‘Thor: LOve and Thunder.’ Photo by Jasin Boland. © Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
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By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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