As the old saying goes, you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become a content machine. As of late, the latter fate has befallen the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), which has steadily crept toward true mediocrity since the end of Avengers: Endgame. Its latest step is Thor: Love and Thunder, a messy and undercooked sequel that only continued the MCU’s descent into inadequacy.
Released everywhere in the U.S. today (July 8), the film straddles rom-com and action as Thor (Chris Hemsworth) sorts through an existential crisis while generally being the same destructive badass he’s always been. Simultaneously, a man named Gorr (Christian Bale) is embarking on a quest to kill all the gods in the universe, and it’s up to Thor and his comrades to save the day.
Stylistically speaking, Thor: Love and Thunder shares a lot of its DNA with its predecessor, Thor: Ragnarok. And yet, it’s thus far proven to have been one of the most poorly received MCU movies in recent memory. Of course, the Taika Waititi-directed film will likely still earn close to a billion dollars at the box office, but for the MCU, that’s more or less a given. The reality is, the latest entry into the MCU simply doesn’t work. Now, we look at five reasons why.
1. Nearly Everything — Even Death — Is a Big Joke
From the first Iron Man on, the MCU ran the risk of not taking itself seriously enough. You could argue they crossed that threshold several films ago, but Love and Thunder sprinted through it before spinning the block to set it aflame. Seriously, this one plays out like a pretty good SNL skit that lasted a little too long. Everything here is a joke, to the point where actual plot points feel like segues into the next quippy one-liner. At one point, they make a joke out of a situation where a soldier is literally about to die. The film opens up with a comical recap of Thor’s personal tragedies, and while it’s kind of funny, it also trivializes the toll those losses took on him in previous films.
2. Jane Foster’s Story Doesn’t Really Make Sense
Love and Thunder sees Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), get access to Thor’s powers for reasons that could, at best, be described as generous. We won’t get into specifics, but we will say that there’s no real MCU precedent for what goes down in the new movie, even if it is based on a comic book. All together, Jane’s arc feels like it’s one they were simply making it up as they got alone, and given the way things play out, it feels as if she were only reintroduced into this universe so the MCU could get off a new episode of What If…? It just feels like her character – and Portman, who served up another fierce, but deeply human portrayal – deserved better.
3. Thor’s Sentimental Bro Act
Thor’s sentimental bro vibes were entertaining before – and they’re still good for some laughs in Love and Thunder – but what started as a hilarious contrast has been replaced with a flat-out parody of the character. Indeed, as Peter Quill tells Thor in the film, it’s honestly hard to tell who the space viking is anymore, as his comical soul-searching has overtaken just about all traces of ostensible superheroism, besides him actually taking on the bad guy and swinging his hammer. It ultimately doesn’t seem like he’s evolved all that much from the confused son who sought reassurance from his mother a few movies ago. Growth doesn’t always sell movies, but still.
4. It’s Got Arguably the Worst MCU Villain
Christian Bale remains one of the best actors in Hollywood, but his character, Gorr The God Butcher, is perhaps the most colorless villain the MCU has ever seen – and that’s saying something. It’s not that he doesn’t have motivation – a lost loved one is always valid. It’s not that he’s not menacing; Bale is sufficiently terrifying in the role. It’s more that he’s barely onscreen and when he does speak, it’s usually only to say, “Hey, the god’s really aren’t as good as you think.” Not only does Gorr lack the charismatic one-liners of Hela (played by a fearsome Cate Blanchett), but you’d be hard-pressed to remember anything he said the whole movie. All of this is made worse by his generally non-descript abilities; he might as well be listed as Vengeful Monster Man With a Magical Sword. Without a distinct personality to counterbalance the humor of the movie, Gorr feels like a device designed to remind you that there is, in fact, an overall point to the film.
5. It Leaves the MCU Without Much Direction
Now that the original Captain America, Iron Man and much of the other MCU heroes are gone, it’s really up to Thor and Spider-Man to hold things down. Spidey held up his end of the bargain with No Way Home, but Love and Thunder wasn’t quite as successful. We’ve outlined the general reasons, but there’s also just a general lack of narrative momentum that powered previous projects. MCU films. Despite the post-credits scene, you don’t get the sense that what happened in the latest Thor flick has any impact on what happens next. Between a lackluster villain and a character that doesn’t seem to change at all, we’re left with one of the MCU’s top earners in a place of uncertainty, which isn’t great when heading into the next phase of their intrepid films. It seems like Thor’s lost his thunder, and as a result, Marvel could lose theirs, too.
Peter is a writer and editor who covers music, movies, and all things dope.
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