After two well-loved movies (and a pretty poor one), Thor: Love and Thunder marked the character’s fourth solo outing in the MCU. 2011’s Thor marked his introduction, and after the disappointing Thor: The Dark World his third film, Thor: Ragnarok is often considered one of the franchise’s finest. Thor: Love and Thunder reunites Hemsworth with director Taika Waititi, whose brand of largely inoffensive comedy and innovative storytelling has reinvented the character in the MCU.

The return of Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and the introduction of both Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher and Russell Crowe as Zeus also added to the considerable hype around the film. Additionally, Thor’s MCU ties paved the way for appearances from Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and the Guardians of the Galaxy, making Thor: Love and Thunder a particularly exciting prospect. The continued collaboration between Waititi and Hemsworth is one that proved to higher expectations even further.

After a brief scene introducing Gorr’s backstory (involving a dying child and an indifferent god), Thor: Love and Thunder jumps straight into its story proper. Framed by the narration of Korg (Waititi), the film is painted as a journey of self-discovery in which Thor discovers his purpose, although it hurtles headlong into a fairly straightforward superhero story, complete with multiple mystery MacGuffins. Portman’s introduction as Mighty Thor is somewhat emotional, but it’s made very clear that she’s no more than a supporting character, with the focus still decidedly on Hemsworth.

Thor: Love and Thunder‘s visuals are brilliant. Clearly designed to evoke the splendor (and decadence, in some cases) of the gods, it does subtly separate the powerful beings from the rest, and in doing so, lends a subtextual layer to its story. The costume design is truly excellent, lending the film an appropriately epic feel, even though Waititi’s comedic voice remains heard throughout.

The performances from Thor: Love and Thunder‘s central cast (Hemsworth, Portman, Thompson, and Bale) are generally good. However, Bale’s character in particular is written to be somewhat cartoonish, leading to moments where his villainy seems better suited to a pantomime than a superhero movie. The issue lies as much with the writing as with Bale, but there’s very little depth to the character of Gorr, and that makes him fall flat against the dynamic of Portman, Hemsworth, and Thompson.

Much like with the character of Gorr, Thor: Love and Thunder‘s story is weak in places. There are moments so unbelievably cheesy and predictable that it begins to feel by-the-numbers, even as it delivers one or two genuinely emotional notes. This contributes to a generally inconsistent tone, with moments of tragedy and comedy and action and romance all thrown together in a way that feels somewhat inorganic.

With this in mind, however, Waititi’s approach to Thor yet again saves the day. Through Love and Thunder‘s weaker moments, his vision for the character is clear, and its both entirely unproblematic and genuinely refreshing. The version of Thor that Waititi and Hemsworth have created continues to eschew all semblance of toxic masculinity, and that’s something that’s been weaved perfectly through Love and Thunder‘s story. It makes the character’s nature feel consistent, adding to the depth of the hero in a way that cements Love and Thunder as but the latest chapter in a larger saga, delivering genuine growth and discovery by the film’s end, even if it is delivered in a somewhat abrupt fashion.

One of the more consistent elements of the film is its embrace of Thor’s Norse roots, particularly with regards to the idea of Valhalla. This is something that enhances its emotional beats, as it feels like a concrete element of the characters’ world, and it fits within the idea of the MCU’s pantheon of gods. The use of visual nods to Norse culture and mythology serve to make this a thorough and well-used aspect of Love and Thunder, even if it is largely irrelevant to the story itself.

Thor: Love and Thunder doesn’t entirely achieve its potential, and that’s okay. It’s a fun movie that prompts a handful of genuine laughs, and it also manages to sporadically evoke a handful of other emotions, too. It’s not groundbreaking, but it’s an entertaining standalone movie within a much wider franchise, and it delivers all of the appropriate teases and Easter eggs now expected from an MCU movie. Waititi’s writing and direction may not be completely infallible, but it’s solid enough to make Thor: Love and Thunder a worthwhile continuation of the character’s arc.

Rating: 60%

Summary: Thor: Love and Thunder is consistent with regards to Thor’s MCU story and characterization, and it seems certain of its place within the franchise. However, a somewhat generic plot and tonal inconsistency hurts the film, undermining its comedy and its emotional beats in turn.

Highlights: Love and Thunder uses its cameos well, with Russell Crowe’s Zeus in particular a fun addition that adds a disproportionate and surprising amount of comedy to the film.