For the first time in Marvel Cinematic Universe history, the franchise will deliver a fourth solo movie for one of its heroes with the release of Thor: Love and Thunder. Debuting in theaters on July 8, Thor 4 will bring back Chris Hemsworth’s titular God of Thunder for his eighth MCU appearance since 2011, which is set to bring more action and emotion than almost any previous solo Thor film to date.
Teaming up with Hemsworth is a stellar cast of characters coming back from Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, including director Taika Waititi’s Korg and Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie. Additionally Natalie Portman makes her long-awaited return as Jane Foster, although this movie will see her power up as The Mighty Thor, another hero ripped directly from Marvel Comics.
This movie was the last one officially announced by Marvel Studios at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, having shocked fans with each new announcement that’s come over the last three years. From the introduction of the Marvel gods to confirmed roles for the Guardians of the Galaxy, somehow, Thor’s fourth solo movie has a shot at being the biggest of the quartet.
Bringing a fourth movie that could well be the best of its franchise is incredibly difficult (think Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol), but Waititi and crew made a case with Thor: Love and Thunder this time around. The combination of character development, action, music, story, and plot surprises all came together beautifully, particularly considering this was the shortest MCU film since 2019 at only 1 hour and 59 minutes.
So, as fans prepare to dive into Marvel Studios’ 29th theatrical outing, what exactly is in store for Hemsworth, Waititi, and the rest of the cast and crew?
A-List Performances from A-List Actors
Almost every new Marvel Studios outing features an amalgamation of the top names in Hollywood, even outside of the massive team-up movies from the Avengers series. Not only is Love and Thunder no different, but the movie features some of the most memorable performances in recent memory from one of the most star-studded casts in any MCU project post-Infinity Saga.
At the top of the list is leading star Chris Hemsworth, who brings more to his role as the God of Thunder than he has in any performance to date.
Having played the role for more than a decade, Hemsworth gets the chance to explore different sides of his hero's personality that haven't gotten to shine in past films. The promise of him being funnier than ever came through well, and he absolutely delivered when the story called for a more serious and emotionally nuanced effort from its leading character.
Matching him on the other side of the equation is Christian Bale, who moves from his years of excellence as Batman to a terrifying and haunting rendition of Gorr the God Butcher.
Just like with Thor, Bale's leading antagonist gets to work with a story that will make fans understand why he's on a warpath against the gods, allowing the Hollywood veteran to show an astounding amount of range with his work. Alongside that depth, Bale brings the kind of energy seen in his past work in films like American Psycho and delivers an understated yet truly scary character that threatens everything in his path throughout the story.
But on top of the hero and villain excelling, it may well be Natalie Portman who steals the show with her take on the MCU's Mighty Thor.
Getting substantially more to work with than in her previous two Thor franchise appearances, Portman shines as a Jane Foster that doesn't necessarily have her life under control. From dealing with the lows of cancer treatment to the highs of literally being a superhero, Portman embodies it all as she dives into Jane's comic history and brings the story to the big screen about as well as she possibly could.
Although these three are the highlights, they're supported well by actors like Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) and Russell Crowe (Zeus), who help expand on the mythology of the gods and the legacy of Asgard. The Guardians of the Galaxy also have their moment to shine, fitting seamlessly into Taika Waititi's style of humor as they back Thor up in battle.
While there isn't enough time to gush about every single star who shines in this film, fans will not be disappointed on the acting front.
Ragnarok 2.0 - Hilarious and Emotional
When Taika Waititi first signed on to direct Thor: Ragnarok, many weren't sure how his unique style of filmmaking would fit into the MCU, although it turned into an overwhelming success. Now, after being recruited for Ragnarok, Love and Thunder comes as the film that Waititi himself wanted to make, and it delivers in bunches.
Marvel Studios has become known for its comedy, and the fourth Thor film certainly brings that in spades throughout its nearly two-hour runtime. The humor works quite well with the action-packed story that it supports, and, even more so than Ragnarok, it makes fans laugh without feeling too forced or taking away from the plot.
What this movie does even better than Ragnarok, though, is the moments that aren't meant to make fans roll over laughing in their seats.
Waititi brings a level of heart and emotion beyond what the story allows for naturally, letting his actors explore new highs and lows as Team Thor takes on their latest life-threatening adventure. The dialogue and the action work almost seamlessly with the narrative that Waititi came up with after breaking the mold with Ragnarok, and it expands naturally on everything that came in that third movie.
For those who enjoyed Ragnarok, there will be an easy and fun transition into what this new outing brings to the table.
Thor’s Story Comes Full Circle
It's easy enough to say that, because this is Thor's fourth solo MCU movie, it should feel like a sequel to everything that came before it. But even considering the MCU's long-standing interconnectivity and story progression over the past 14 years, Thor: Love and Thunder ties everything together more than many fans might expect.
First and foremost, Love and Thunder comes as a direct follow-up to the events of both Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, providing updates on all the leading characters in the few years since those adventures. Feeling the effects of The Blip and the destruction of Asgard throughout the film's opening, that story meshes smoothly with Thor's latest challenge in Gorr the God Butcher.
But unexpectedly, there are a few moments that bring back memories of what came to be in 2011's Thor and 2013's Thor: The Dark World, aided by Natalie Portman's comeback.
The film makes it unmistakably clear that this is the same Jane Foster that helped Thor defeat both Loki and Malekith before seeing the effects of Thanos' actions in Infinity War and Endgame. Her cancer storyline fits seamlessly in with her history as a world-renowned astrophysicist, and with her playing such a big role in this movie, it only helps connect the entire quadrilogy that much further.
For fans that have followed the God of Thunder since his debut way back in Phase 1, Love and Thunder will only layers to his growing legacy.
The Comic Book Pages’ Colors Come to Life
In the past, many have chided Marvel movies for not bringing the kind of color and visual spectacle that is seen regularly in the pages of Marvel Comics. Even though Marvel has worked to change that in Phase 4, many times to great success, Thor: Love and Thunder takes that endeavor to new levels on every front.
In the simplest terms, Love and Thunder looks like a comic book come to life, particularly those written by the late Stan Lee and Steve Ditko alongside Jason Aaron's comic run on Thor, which inspired this movie.
New Asgard is reinvigorated after its people came back to life, with its tourist attractions bringing a new round of colors and excitement thanks to the cruise ships and local shopping venues. This only goes further with Omnipotent City, the home of Russell Crowe's Zeus and his pantheon of gods, bringing some beautiful sights to see as Thor and his team explore an unexplored part of the universe.
And even when there are no colors except for black and white, the film uses that simple palette to perfection.
This was shown largely in the second trailer as Thor goes up against Gorr the God Butcher, and without giving anything away, this battle works stupendously in terms of the colors and how it is tied back to the story at hand. Waititi fuses these varying palettes to add to the plot instead of taking attention away from it, as do the special effects used throughout the movie. The sum of these parts makes for an experience where there aren't many dull moments to look at from beginning to end.
For those looking for a top-shelf Marvel project on the visual front, Love and Thunder more than delivers.
Does Love and Thunder Reach the Marvel Standard?
While the Thor franchise has sometimes struggled to keep up with its companions in the MCU, its fourth installment should largely be seen as a memorable one, especially for a hero that's been around for so many years already.
It succeeds on multiple fronts by acknowledging the past while setting up an exciting future, setting into stone that Thor is as important to the MCU's success as any hero in the game. Taika Waititi's second Marvel project stands well both on its own and as part of the larger expanding universe, and it already has fans looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for Marvel Studios.
This movie simply stands as a fantastic Thor story regardless of its place in MCU history, taking everything that came in Thor: Ragnarok and amping it up to new levels.
It provides all the range that fans want to see in both an MCU movie and a summer blockbuster as Marvel's latest movie takes its place as one of the best films in the franchise to date. Even considering how other beloved movies like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Spider-Man: No Way Home had their shine, Hemsworth and crew should enjoy that same kind of spotlight this time.