After breaking records for the shortest time before the movie's release, Thor: Love and Thunder's teaser trailer has arrived, and fans are already on the edge of their seats. The great news for those fans is that, since the movie is two months away, interviews and press tours are already beginning to ramp up. After a third-movie rebuild of the Thor franchise, it is clear that the MCU and fans alike just haven't gotten enough Taika Waititi.
However, Waititi might have the biggest tonal challenge of his career ahead of him in the fourth Thor solo flick. Chris Hemsworth's character has seen an evolution within his trilogy and the stories told in The Avenger's four-part story. But now, the upcoming Marvel movie is reincorporating a genre that the Thor films haven't touched since its second installment: romance.
Therefore, Waititi now has a new challenge: to take a story and concept that leans more toward romance and relationships and present it in a way that still gives MCU fans a rollicking, popcorn-filled adventure. With this romantic element thrown back into the mix, the Thor director wants to make sure the film avoids one thing: being too cringeworthy.
Making Thor Cool Again
In a recent interview with Empire, Thor: Love and Thunder writer-director Taika Waititi stated that the sequel is "a fantastic film" two months ahead of its worldwide release. Waititi emphasized that he is proud of the tone of the final cut:
“It’s a fantastic film... I don’t try to control my films, or how they turn out... I sort of let them appear to me. And with this film, I’m like, ‘Hey, you’re kind of cooler than the thing I was originally hoping to make.’ Tonally it’s where I’ve always wanted it.”
Waititi talks about the challenge of taking a story that "on paper... feels kind of cringey" and delivering it in a way that takes that sting out of it. This is a challenge Waititi is excited to take on and cites his resources of "cool characters" as a resource that makes it possible:
“I wanted to embrace this thing that I was always a bit dismissive of, and explore this idea of love, and show characters who do believe in love... On paper, it feels kinds of cringey to me, but there’s a way of doing it with cool characters making a cool movie, and also having a thing that no fan ever wants in a superhero movie, which is people talking about love, and characters kissing.”
He explains that people might be in for a surprise if they believe this is a simple love story between Thors:
“I think most people will assume that the love story is between Chris and Natalie... I can’t promise that what people think is going to happen in this film will happen.”
Filmmakers of the Fantastic
It is no secret that the decision to bring Taika Waititi into the Thor franchise was to bring a newfound life and energy to the character. After Thor and Thor: The Dark World, fans began to tag the Asgardian corner of the MCU as the cardinal sin of blockbuster cinema: boring. Hemsworth was beloved as Thor, and there are moments in each movie that fans acclaim as underrated to this day. But comparing the dark and Shakespearean tones of Thor: The Dark World to the colorful energy of Thor: Ragnarok is to compare a piece of coal to a diamond.
The coal had all the elements that make the diamond sparkle. But unfortunately, the IP's cosmic worlds and magical execution lacked the script's polished nature to make it shine. Nevertheless, Waititi was able to find the most cosmic elements of the franchise and turn them up to 11.
That covers the aesthetic level of the glow-up for Thor, but it is more than that. Through Ragnarok and continuing into Infinity War and Endgame, the emotional journey of the former King of Asgard has been a highlight of the rebuild. And while the tone and vibe of Ragnarok make it feel like a different franchise, it expertly capitalized on the plot points laid out ahead of its time. The relationship between Thor and Loki, the trials of hubris for Thor, and the expansion of the cosmic side of the MCU were all present in the first three films.
Waititi is looking to bring even more MCU Thor themes back around for Love and Thunder. People forget that 2011's Thor is the closest Marvel Studios has gotten to a true romantic comedy at the end of the day. Very few movies in this universe have such a heavy focus on the romantic relationship in the film as Thor has. So the idea that Waititi is bringing back the rom-com side of the character with more depth than just a reunion for Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman is a big swing approach for a prominent swing director.
This is hardly the first time Marvel Studios is taking a big swing of that nature in Phase 4. WandaVision was an attempt to parody the history of television. Loki is a time-crime adventure series throughout the Multiverse. And Spider-Man: No Way Home is an attempt to bring satisfaction to 20 years of movie fans. And they all seem to be widely beloved.
Waititi's comments about this movie being "cringey on paper" would bring worry for fans if a lesser studio was handling this. But Marvel Studios has proven that they are willing to give their directors room to dance and create something special. That sort of trust led to the wacky and revolutionary success of Thor: Ragnarok in the first place.
So the challenge lies on Waititi's shoulders to take a "cringey" concept and present it in a way that puts fans on their feet. Few directors in the industry would warrant that type of trust, and Taika Waititi is one.
Thor: Love and Thunder releases in theaters on July 8 and will seemingly put equal weight on both sides of the subtitle.