Waititi-powered Thor thunders back

Fun and fanciful director follows up previous Thor offering with solid return.

Thor: Love and Thunder
Where: In theatres
What: Movie, 119 mins.
When: Fri., July 8
Genre: MCU
Why you should watch: Gifted — and  playful — director Taika Waititi returns to direct (and perform as Guardians of the Galaxy’s Korg) in this latest MCU offering with just the right amount self-aware, self-deprecating humour to go along with the bash-laden battles and fantastical settings. Natalie Portman returns as Jane Foster to both help and torment him. Good, flashy fun with inside jokes and outsized, satisfying story.

New Zealand’s multi-talented movie miracle Taika Waititi continues to prove that he is the perfect creative force to fuel the Thor planet” in the Marvel Comic Universe with his second satisfying and sensational take on the Norse god’s world, Thor: Love and Thunder.

The original Marvel comics always took themselves less seriously than the more stiff-lipped DC fare of Superman et. al. and Waititi’s playfully anarchistic approach works perfectly with Love and Thunder —much as it did with his previous Thor film, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok.

Another Marvel trademark is very “human” superheroes with many of the flaws and self-doubts we all face. Early in Love and Thunder, we see a dispirited Thor listlessly looking for meaning, even sliding into a “Dad bod” as he lets himself go, indulging his aimlessness. All this proves fertile ground for Waititi’s wit and Thor lead Chris Hemsworth’s comfort with self-deprecating humour, able to be the butt of the joke while clinging to his godlike dignity. Hemsworth manages to drolly deliver great laugh-line setups while convincingly fulfilling his hero duties, both in the narrative and for an audience that still wants him be to the muscle-ripped, flowing-locked god of thunder, damnit!

The art direction is magnificent, with gorgeously glittering Utopian worlds contrasted with bleak and forbidding hellscapes. Love and Thunder sometimes evokes the monochromatic Flash Gordon movie serials of the 1930s in scenes where the colour is drained from the screen, and the film is both playful and exciting in a manner reminiscent of long-ago Saturday afternoon movie reels.

Despite the humour, Love and Thunder has plenty of thrills with the battle scenes feeling a little fresher and less repetitive than some in the skyscraper-smashing MCU, where endless, seemingly pointless battles can bury the narrative.

Thor is dragged from his ignominious idle by the usual, gotta-save-the-world-from-a-madman kind of stuff — this time, an embittered lapsed true believer, played slimily by Christian Bale, decides to slaughter all of the gods he can find. Lots of amusing “the gods are just like us” kind of humour as Thor tries to rally the celestial troops to save themselves.

Adding a comic foil and superhero support in fighting bad guys as well as generally complicating Thor’s world is Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, who can suddenly swing the mighty hammer with the best of them. Portman is equally effective delivering punchlines as well as convincingly punching bad guys as the ambivalent ex-girlfriend of the god.

Waititi is a source of reliable laughs as Guardian of the Galaxy’s Korg and the entire Guardian team has an amusing extended cameo.

Thor: Love and Thunder is a satisfying superhero flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously but still manages to deliver bash-and-crash thrills and stunning CGI that popcorn-pounding audiences will eat up. This movie deserves to be seen on the big screen.