At the time of its release, Thor: Ragnarok (2017) was unlike any other Marvel Studios release to date. It embraced the visual style of writer/artist Jack Kirby, it dared to remove the seriousness of the prior two outings, and it utilized comedy to take the piss right out of itself. Not only that, it moved Thor’s story forward into previously unexplored territory, making a great deal that was old feel new again. In the follow-up, Love and Thunder (2022), director/co-writer Taika Waititi returns with assistance from co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Unpregnant) to take the Norse God into a place he’s yet to go: an exploration of his place in the world and the legacy he leaves behind. Thor: Love and Thunder is available to either stream on Disney+ or to own on digital (beginning September 8th) with a physical release coming on September 27th.
If you’re looking for a spoiler-free way to way to learn about Thor: Love and Thunder, I recommend heading over to the initial theatrical review. Moving forward, no spoiler-prevention will be in place.
At the end of Endgame, Thor joined the Guardians of the Galaxy as they journeyed the stars and sought to protect the meek from the brutish. Unfortunately, after enduring so much pain — the death of his parents, the repeated deaths of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the break-up with Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), as well as the failure to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin) the first time — Thor’s found himself closed off. But when an S.O.S. from Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander) arrives, Thor parts ways from the Guardians, once more setting out on his own (this time with Korg (Waititi) at his side), to find his friend. It’s a decision that not only puts him on to the murderous Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), but also finds him reunited with King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and introduced to a new hero, the Mighty Thor, who is really Jane imbued with his powers via his thought-destroyed hammer Mjölnir. Trying to save the day with a broken heart is hard enough, but to do it with your ex who’s also using your ex-weapon, well…things get complicated fast.
Though I have things to explore that I couldn’t in the theatrical, because this is a home release, let’s address what’s included first before moving on to the aspects within the film that I’ve been itching to discuss.
First, there’s a feature-length commentary track from Waititi. These tracks are a rarity for MCU releases (though several Phase 4 films have included them) and allow for a chance to actual hear from the actor/writer/director about making the film. Keep in mind that Waititi’s irreverent side doesn’t always jive with everyone. Additionally, there’s the typical gag reel that’s just the cast being silly on set or just messing up during production. Fairly typically, but a good time if you just like to watch people embracing the ridiculous that is their job.
In terms of featurettes, there’re three, totaling around 20 minutes, that explore Thor and Mighty Thor, Gorr, and the production itself. Everyone involved dances around why Portman didn’t return after The Dark World (2013), but clearly delight in having her return. They even acknowledge that it was the shift in tone and approach with Ragnarok that piqued her interest. Portman herself mentions how much fun it was to take on the Mighty Thor as it afforded her the opportunity to engage with the fight choreography, which she typically doesn’t get to do as her characters generally aren’t involved in the frays despite them being in several action-centric films. For his featurette, perhaps the most amusing revelation about Bale and Gorr is that (a) his family would’ve disowned him had he turned down the role and (b) he expected to be wearing dots on his face for later digital makeup and not in actual makeup and prosthetics (oh, his disappointment). Bale does add how the time in the chair (3.5 hours) did allow him to better get in the headspace for the character and that the team involved in his makeup were incredible. Personally, I think the work speaks for itself as the man was terrifying. The final featurette focuses solely on Waititi, showing him at work in front of and behind the camera, allowing audiences a sense of how he runs a set. Granted, all bonus features are marketing tools to show that everyone generally seems to be having a good time and the fact that so many actors return to work with Waitii, even in small roles (ex. Sam Neil, Luke Hemsworth, Matt Damon), speaks volumes. If all that isn’t enough, the home release also includes four deleted scenes, totaling over seven minutes. You can easily tell why they were removed, but at least they’re amusing for what they are.
Be advised that, currently, only the purchased editions include bonus features and only the Disney+ edition includes the IMAX Enhanced version. For the physical media collectors, if you’d like to own a triple-format version that includes the DVD, you’ll have to join the Disney Movie Club to acquire it. Additionally, the steelbook edition appears to only be available via Best Buy.
As for the film itself, I found it extraordinarily beautiful. Sure, the pacing at the start is a little rough as it jumps between the three characters, only smoothing out when Thor reaches New Asgard and the narrative paths converge. Yes, the home release version does have slightly improved visual effects, the appearance of spirit Axel (Kieron L. Dyer) being the most apparent change, signaling that Marvel really does need to treat its VFX partners better. Absolutely, there’re a few too many jokes so that the heart of the film is harder for the audience to find. But the heart is there and it’s beating from the start. On one path, we have Bale’s Gorr, a character who still has hope after losing his entire people and then his daughter only to have it all dashed through the laughter of a cruel god. It’s here that a question is raised about what the purpose of a god is and what responsibility it has to its people. Gorr is corrupted by the necrosword, sure, but his anger is righteous and justified. What do you think those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, to cancer, to accidents, to an inability to grow within the womb, might say or how would they react to their god if they came face to face with them? How do you think you might feel if, when asked with piety and respect for help, if the entity you put all your faith and love into merely laughed at your pain?
Then there’s Thor, a character who is over a thousand years old and, when we first met him in Thor (2011) was basically still an adolescent. Since then, the character has endured one hardship after another, putting the God of Thunder into a depression that took a toll on both body and spirit. With no parents, no family, no friends, and a terrible wrong now righted, Thor is adrift and seeking connection at the start of Love and Thunder. He’s a god without purpose whose journey dovetails beautifully with Gorr’s, especially when Thor comes to realize that Gorr is right about the gods: they are petty, they are selfish, and they look down upon their supposed parishioners. What separates them is that Thor continues to believe in doing the right thing, a lesson he learned the hard way from both his parents, whereas Gorr has turned acrid and selfish with hate. It’s hard to lead with love when everything’s been stripped from you. It’s even harder for Gorr as he’s not a god like Thor, but this is where Love and Thunder digs in: what do you do with the power you’re granted? Do you use it to destroy or to protect?
One thing I couldn’t explore as deeply in my prior review that I can now is a moment toward the end of the film: Thor granting powers to the abducted kids. It’s a creative use of the power we’ve seen Odin use, a blessing upon an object which not only forces Thor to become worthy of his gifts but creates the opportunity for Jane to become the Mighty Thor. So, when Thor does this again in an effort to even the odds as he tries to stop Gorr from opening the pathway to Eternity, it’s an act that continues what we’ve seen before while also carrying forward one of the themes: using one’s godhood to empower others, albeit briefly. But what struck me is the imagery invoked after Thor’s blessing when the power of Thor passes through Zeus’s lightning bolt — it takes the form of a tree. As mentioned in my theatrical review, in Norse mythology, the World Tree, or Yggdrasil, is the center of the cosmos, a holy vessel from which all the realms are born and upon which they exist in some part of roots, trunk, branches, or canopy. Using the imagery as part of a tactic to stop Gorr from destroying everything brings to mind the feeling of using creation to prevent destruction. But, as someone from the Jewish faith (something I share with Waititi), I also can’t help but think of the Tree of Life, an object in Judaism that draws a direct line between humanity and Adonai (the Jewish name for God). The Tree represents nature and, by extension, the Adonai; therefore, we respect nature as a creation of Adonai. As people, we are symbolic parts of the tree with each new generation being the roots. With this idea in mind, in the manner in which Thor uses such an act, I began to cry with a strange joy as Thor fought to stave off that which the destruction of Asgard nearly caused: the end of all Asgardians. The attack is meant to prevent Gorr from reaching his goal, but it’s done by Thor entirely as a defense or, as one might argue, responding with affection over affliction. Of course, Love and Thunder doesn’t operate with a message of “reject the gods” as much as it does “lead with your heart.” Using that as the basis of one’s actions, all violence is truly preventable.
If there’s any kind of proper frustration, it’s that the losses made and confirmed by this film also create an opportunity (via Valhalla) for characters to return later. Tempting as it might be, if one is to understand that the time we have together is precious, that we should protect and uplift those we love or should love, then creating a door for those we’ve lost to return diminishes their sacrifices. If not for Hiddleston’s performance as Loki, we’d probably be feeling that way about the impish Frost Giant already. Despite its flaws, despite the fact that it takes a “more is more” approach as a sequel, Love and Thunder is a film that I rewatched with excitement and hope to continue to do so. Not only is it a fun background noise film, but it’s got enough going on narratively that it’s worth investing my full attention in.
Thor: Love and Thunder Special Features*:
- Gag Reel – Take a look at some of the fun outtakes on set with the cast and crew of Thor: Love and Thunder. (2:46)
- Audio Commentary – Watch the film with audio commentary by director/writer Taika Waititi. (1:58:44)
- Hammer-worthy: Thor and The Mighty Thor – Trace Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman’s journeys to becoming Thor and The Mighty Thor, respectively. Watch as the costars speak about the preparation behind embodying their legendary roles and describe how they combine their unstoppable forces. (5:37)
- Shaping a Villain – This featurette introduces Love and Thunder’s primary antagonist, Gorr the God Butcher. Shining a light on the man who brings the character to life, this piece highlights his recruitment and process. Then fellow cast and crew reveal personal anecdotes. (6:11)
- Another Classic Taika Adventure – This piece looks back on Taika Waititi’s journey taking over the Thor franchise and reinventing the God of Thunder. Revisit the moment Taika was announced as the new custodian of Thor and follow Taika through the production of Thor: Love and Thunder. (7:54)
- Deleted Scenes (7:46)
- Looking for Zeus – Thor, Valkyrie and Korg run into a few characters while seeking an audience with Zeus.
- Wasting Time – Star-Lord and Mantis convince Thor to help their cause.
- A Safe Vacation – A nonchalant Thor chats with a panicked Star-Lord and Mantis in the middle of chaos. An explosion thrusts Korg into the scene.
- Fighting For You – Zeus gifts Thor a special tool after overhearing a heartfelt conversation.
*Bonus features vary by product and retailer
Available on digital and Disney+ September 8th, 2022.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD September 27th, 2022.
For more information, head to the Marvel Studios Thor: Love and Thunder webpage.