Actually, the thunder god has always been a disguised heavy metal star – at the latest when he traded the hammer Mjölnir, which his sister Hela, played by Cate Blanchett, destroys in “Thor: Day of Decision” for a battle axe. Leather cowl plus axe, that brings back memories of the legendary album covers of the fantasy metallers Manowar. Unfortunately, Thor, the god of thunder, turns out to be just a hairmetal promenade mix in “Love and Thunder” (a flawless heavy metal title!) – even if he occasionally wears a neat James Hetfield hairstyle.
In Guns n’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle,” he rescues an alien race on a distant planet alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy; a destroyed temple city is mischievously smiled away after the battle as collateral damage.
Director Taika Waititi (“JoJo Rabbit”) freed himself from the gravitational field of the Marvel Cinematic Universe five years ago with his superhero debut – and so successfully that Thor is now the only Avenger to get a fourth solo film. The fact that showrunner Kevin Feige gave the New Zealander carte blanche can be seen from the fact that the second Thor film directed by Waititi is not looking for a connection to the multiverse – although the series spin-off about Loki, the brother of the thunder god, has a lot to offer has done preliminary work.
The Asgardians, who founded a colony on a Norwegian fjord after the destruction of their home planet (and became an earthly tourist attraction there), still travel through the universe in a classically linear manner in “Thor: Love and Thunder” – which Waititi means: over a rainbow in a Viking ship pulled by two giant goats.
The fact that Thor, of all people, made it from the original Avengers into the second Marvel cycle has to do with Chris Hemsworth, who, like Channing “Magic Mike” Tatum, knows how to use his mimic repertoire effectively. Waititi and Hemsworth are humorously on the same wavelength.
Also, Tessa Thompson, whose Valkyrie ascended the Asgard throne (as Mayor of Fjord Colony, she walks around half the movie in a Phantom of the Opera shirt), in Sorry to Bother You and Men in Black : International” has already proven her comedic talent. The chemistry between the actors carries “Thor: Love and Thunder” a long way, Waititi had repeatedly emphasized in interviews that he was more concerned with the story than with the design. (The computer effects then actually seem like a homage to 80’s fantasy.) At times, however, you feel like you’re in an acted joke where the audience is stupidly left out.
The ensemble is obviously in a good mood, but the fun parade often passes by listlessly with their self-referential jokes. That doesn’t change with the return of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, Thor’s ex, who lead the healing powers of the Mjölnir fragments to Asgard. And who also claims the gods’ hammer for herself – or: who is chosen by Mjölnir as the new owner.
Thor, Portman’s Mighty Thor, Valkyrie and the stone alien Korg, again spoken by the director, also need divine help. Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) draws a trail of destruction through the universe on his vendetta against the gods, Mjölnir alone cannot do anything against his powerful Necrosword. Bale is a worthy antagonist for the comedy troupe, an infernal shadowy creature with a tragic past, but whose grim atheism feels slightly out of place between rainbow bridges and thunderbolts.
Perhaps iconoclast Waititi should have created Thor: Love and Thunder right away as a ménage-à-trois between Hemsworth, Portman and Thompson. (Valkyrie also has her eye on Jane.) The Abba romantic comedy sequence certainly has what it takes to blast the superhero genre once and for all. But the Marvel universe is still too timid for openly queer characters, the Asgard warrior Valkyrie is only allowed to furtively throw meaningful glances at the hammer-wielding Jane Foster. But in the final song Waititi finally packs out the right heavy metal club – more hetero is hardly possible. “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio lights the way back to Midgard.