A god killer (Christian Bale) steals the children of New Asgard in Thor: Beyond Love and Thunderdome.
As would happen to anyone stuck for three years on a spaceship with Chris Pratt, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has become listless and jaded as he heads into a film that doesn’t know what to do with him either. In a gasp of desperation it reintroduces his ex-girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman) who is now dying from cancer and wielding his ex-hammer Mjolnir for reasons never really explained. In any case it seems questionable to go to the trouble of bringing Jane back after 10 years only to give her cancer, all so our hero has something to do – not least because of the clunky tonal lurches between serious hospital scenes and wacky Asgardian comedy.
Rather than make the threat something to do with Jane, the God Butcher is a villain of the week who battles the heroes on a series of different planets, Rise of Skywalker style. These stylised fight sequences (all set to Guns N’ Roses) alternate with dull dialogue scenes in a disjointed attempt to pad out the paper-thin plot, whose only beats involve fighting, cancer or fighting cancer. The rest is recycled from Ragnarok (including the welcome return of Matt Damon’s Asgardian am-dram society), with Taika Waititi doubling down on the New Asgard-as-New Zealand parallels by making the sleepy fishing village into a popular tourist destination.
Like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the once refreshing comedy now feels forced; a self-parody of a self-parody that fails to balance its kitschy humour with serious storylines and character development. The Guardians themselves are underused, while Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is reduced to dispensing exposition even though she’s meant to be the king; a role she complains is all admin, and she isn’t kidding. There are some fun moments courtesy of Korg (Waititi) and a pair of giant goats, but Thor 4 lacks the weirdness of Ragnarok (despite the best efforts of Russell Crowe) and nobody particularly seems to be enjoying themselves this time around.
The throwaway and circuitous Love and Thunder struggles to advance the MCU beyond introducing a couple of new characters right at the end. Whether you want to see more from them depends on your appetite for protraction.