Thor: Love and Thunder (Christian Movie Review)
About The Movie
Everybody’s favorite space Viking is back, traveling through the Bifrost and into theaters for the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The god of thunder is no longer the mighty avenger he once was, and he must undergo much soul searching to rediscover his purpose. The same is not true of Thor: Love and Thunder as a film, which has a clear identity and vision. Whether that identity is a pleasant one is up for discussion.
Viewers’ enjoyment of Thor: Love and Thunder will largely hinge on how they feel about director Taika Waititi’s storytelling sensibilities. For the most part, I liked the comical, irreverent vibe Waititi introduced in Thor: Ragnarok (2017). That quirky sense of humor has now been cranked to eleven. At times, it works. There are some legitimately hilarious moments, including one involving two giant, magical goats and an ongoing gag about Thor’s axe feeling jealous of his original hammer, Mjolnir. On the other hand, the unrelenting attempts at bizarre comedy becomes tiresome at times. Even more so than he did in Ragnarok, in this film Waititi goes for the joke every time. As a result, it often feels like a series of hit-or-miss SNL sketches rather than a unified film, with the story always in service of the gags rather than the jokes flowing organically out of the narrative.
Chris Hemsworth is as charismatic (and chiseled) as ever as Thor. But his character’s humor has now been stretched to the point of being cartoonish, which reduces the thunderous superhero to a bumbling buffoon and undercuts his more serious moments. And Hemsworth is not the only Thor taking to the skies this time. Much of the buzz surrounding the film has stemmed from the surprising return of Natalie Portman, who appears not only as Jane Foster but also as Mighty Thor. The mechanics of her return is a bit clumsy, but Portman adds an interesting dynamic and is responsible for most of the film’s heart.
The highlight of the movie is Christian Bale as the villainous Gorr the God Butcher. His character is treated with a horror tone (more chilling than anything in the recent horror-inspired Doctor Strange film), which provides a stark contrast to the movie’s otherwise bright, bubblegum aesthetic. He is used sparingly, but his motivations are among the most believable of any MCU villain (more on that below).
Like the recent Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, this latest Thor adventure offers little to elevate it beyond the lower tier of the MCU. It’s not a great movie, despite some enjoyable moments. There are flashes of creative brilliance, such as the superb cinematography and aesthetic of the Shadow Realm. But the vibe that felt fresh in 2017, with offbeat humor and action synced up with nostalgic rock music, is starting to become tired and overdone. The noisy barrage of gags left me worn out rather than energized.
Engage The Film
Problem of Pain
Despite being a relatively fluffy and lightweight film, the story presents several interesting concepts with which Christians can engage. At the core of the story is an exploration of the classic problem of pain (“If God is all loving and all powerful, then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world?”). Gorr is introduced as deeply religious. He prays to his god to save his daughter’s life, but she dies anyway. He becomes a broken man who has lost his faith in the benevolence of the divine, and he channels all his anger toward the gods.
Throughout the film, Gorr is frequently contrasted with Jane Foster. Both characters are grieving and struggling to accept the pain in their lives. While the pain drives Gorr away from the gods, Jane—a woman of science—is driven toward it. The film offers two vastly different perspectives on reality. One character sees pain as a curse from petty and vengeful gods, whereas the other finds love and meaning amid her pain. The problem of pain is obviously far too complex and nuanced for a superhero movie to explore in much depth, and Love and Thunder doesn’t give answers in a clear Christian sense. But the overall message is that pain and suffering are a part of being human. The same potential for love to hurt is also what makes it so satisfying and desirable. Christians can reflect on how their circumstances can shape their relationship to God, for better or worse.
Thor is a god from Norse mythology, so there has always been a religious dimension to his films, but religion has never played as central of a part as it does in Love and Thunder. There are various ways to approach these religious elements, and Christian viewers will likely have varying attitudes toward it. At no point does the religion in the movie reflect a Christian worldview (nor should anyone expect it to). Instead, the film presents all the gods from classical Roman and Greek mythology, as well as some newly invented ones, as real. Overall, the gods are depicted with a tone of mockery. They are selfish and petty egomaniacs. In this sense, Love and Thunder might be perceived as anti-religion.
At the same time, the unfavorable characterization of these gods is true to classical mythology. Zeus and the lesser gods were malicious and petty. In fact, the gathering of deities are essentially just superpowered individuals, rather than gods in a divine sense. Throughout the film, there remains a sense that a more mysterious divinity exists out there in the universe that is different from the other “gods.” Rather than anti-religion, the film may be interpreted as deriding false religion. The movie takes fictional characters from mythology and treats them as fictional characters without applying the same treatment to the biblical God (ex. Jesus does not appear in the meeting of these deities, although there is a reference a “God of Carpentry” which certainly leaves the door open as a possible reference to Him). Christians can reflect on the loving character of the one true God by contrasting him with the self-serving nature of the false gods.