Marvel Films

Thor: Love and Thunder

14/07/22

Cineworld, Edinburgh

The MCU is a variable place. Sometimes its offerings can be po-faced and terribly earnest and, then again, they can occasionally be played for laughs. I tend to prefer the latter, which makes Thor: Ragnarok – in my humble opinion – one of Marvel’s better efforts. Writer/director Taika Waititi did a great job with the Thor franchise, amping up the laughs and throwing in fistfuls of surreal nonsense, just because they let him. So I go along to Thor: Love and Thunder with high expectations. For the film’s first half, I’m happy enough, though it’s probably true to say that, despite Chris Hemsworth’s best efforts, many of the jokes here don’t land quite as well as they did in the first film.

And then, in the second half, there’s an attempt to swing the mood towards more serious subject matter and I find myself less enamoured.

The events of the story are related by the rock-warrior, Korg (voiced by Waititi), who explains that – after much time spent voyaging with the Guardians of the Galaxy (who appear briefly but don’t get much of a look-in) – Thor parts company with them and answers a call for help from the citizens of a little village back on earth. It’s under attack by the sinister Gorr, the God butcher (Christian Bale, quite the most memorable character here), a man who has acquired a powerful sword and who has the intention of killing off every god in existence. Who shouted ‘hooray?’

Thor arrives at the same time as his old flame, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is now calling herself ‘The Mighty Thor.’ She’s dressing like her former beau and, annoyingly, has control of Mjolnir, Thor’s mighty hammer. This is one really weird love-triangle.

A mighty punch-up dutifully ensues – though, due to the inevitable 12A rating, it’s a curiously bloodless affair. Gorr eventually makes his escape, taking all the local children captive – and now Thor, Jane, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Korg must launch a rescue mission… but first they need to enlist the help of the mightiest god of all, Zeus (Russell Crowe), who might just lend them his thunderbolt and who, for reasons best know to Waititi, talks like an Italian waiter…

If the plot sounds like drivel, well, it pretty much is, but Hemsworth plays the central role with such knowing charm and swagger that he almost manages to make me overlook it. There’s lots of Guns ‘n’ Roses-style guitar noodling on the soundtrack and some neat tricks are played with the film’s colour palette (Gorr has a habit of draining everything to monochrome whenever he appears), but – for me – this lacks the sheer brio of Ragnarok and various attempts to twang at the viewers’ heartstrings feel a tad too cynical for comfort.

For those who like these things, there are, of course, a couple of post credit sequences. Whether they’re worth hanging on for is a matter of debate, but they don’t add much to what is, ultimately, a somewhat disappointing exercise.

3.4 stars

Philip Caveney

Guardians of the Galaxy

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09/08/14

The creators of Guardians of the Galaxy would probably like to think that their film is a cut above your average space opera – and indeed, there is much about it that I absolutely loved. But I would also have to admit that there are several elements that seem horribly cliched. The plus points: an unusual cast that includes a talking racoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) and a monosyllabic talking tree (Vin Deisel). Hero Chris Pratt’s nicely sardonic patter neatly undercuts the film’s more pompous passages, and for once here’s a kick-ass heroine (Zoe Saldana) who has a bit more depth than your average green-skinned alien. And then there’s that sublime soundtrack of 80’s classics…

But there are several not so good points. A needlessly complicated plot. Everyone seems to be chasing a metal orb with the power to destroy the galaxy, but at times, it’s hard to fathom anyone’s motivation. The inevitable evil villain (Lee Pace as Ronan) who talks as though he’s just swallowed a bottle of rohypnol and spends most of his time smiting his enemies. The occasional walk-on megastar – Glenn Close and Beniccio Del Toro, dressed up to the nines but given very little to do. And one of those huge special effect climactic battles where the ‘Guardians’ seem to destroy half of a city in their attempts to save it. (See Team America: World Police.)

Of course, the runaway success of this first instalment means that the series will have a sequel and it will probably be even bigger, louder and just as prone to cliche. For me, this is a film in opposition with itself and the score reflects that imbalance.

3.8 stars

Philip Caveney