“What a classic Thor adventure! Hurrah!”
Story: When we last left Thor, he had joined up with the Guardians of the Galaxy. And there he is, part of the team…but separate. Seems he’s still coming to terms with what’s happened in the last few MCU phases, and needs to find himself. Meanwhile, his ex, Jane Foster, is having a similar kind of moment. Can these two crazy kids work out their issues before a God-killer mows through the universe? Because there’s a God-killer. And he’s mowing through the universe y’all.
Genre I’d put it in: Taika Waititi Shenanigans Part Deux
Release Date: 2022
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Based on the Marvel comics characters. Part of the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse. Sequel to Thor: Ragnarok.
Gotta say: Thunder plays out like The Wizard of Oz, The Phantom Tollbooth, and D’Aulaires Norse Myths were stuck into a blender by Nora Ephron and Peter Max. And it’s glorious mayhem, with a soft, sweet center. While its fluff does dissipate quickly from the ol’ brainpan after you leave the multiplex, it’s a film that not only fits in well as a sequel to Ragnarok, it continues the “long strange trip” vibe of Marvel’s Phase 4. Not too shabby for a candy-colored action-film/love-story combo that turns everything to 11 then rips the knob off.
Now. The moment y’all have been waiting for. GOATSIES. Toothgnasher and Teethgrinder (aka Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr in Norse mythology) are loud, proud, and absolutely steal the show every time they’re onscreen. I love them so much, not only because goats, but because they hark back to the original comics, and the original-original Norse mythos. To be fair, the CGI is a bit wobbly in parts, mostly because these two are so incredibly frenetic, it’s impossible to get a still shot of ’em. And the bleating? Oh y’all the bleating – they SCREAM. And it’s never not funny. Waititi uses T&T to their best advantage, as comedic relief, yet doesn’t let these scene-stealers overstay their welcome. They’re a welcome bit of fun intermixed with the bittersweet.
Okay okay; back to the film itself. Yeah I said bittersweet; Thunder has moments where you’ll definitely want a Kleenex. Unless, y’know, you’re dead inside. Thor and Jane’s romance gets a review in montage that made me root for the kids, and understand the abrupt end of their relationship in earlier films. New Asgard has its’ own things that I’d get into, but spoilers y’all. Even Gorr the Godbutcher gets a Killmonger-esque Understandable Villain backstory, played out with heartbreaking effect in the opening of the film. So don’t go walking into Thunder expecting nothing but silly crap. Because one, it’s a finely balanced emotional rollercoaster, ala David Jenkins’ (and Waititi’s starring turn in) Our Flag Means Death. And two, it’s definitely not crap, as writers Taika Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson balance story beats well, even among the chaos that is the “plot”.
Which brings me to the one thing that I might call an issue in this film; the chaos. Thunder feels a bit like episodic scenes strung together, rather than a cohesive, coherent whole. For me, that’s fine; I’m used to the way comic book stories bop from issue to issue, with characters bopping from plot to plot like pinballs. In fact Waititi’s Korg serves as the overarching narrator to this chaotic film, tying things together, bringing focus back to Plot A from Plot B, and generally keeping us entertained with Story Time With Korg. He even gets the last line*, and it’s both sweet and sappy, which is perfect for that character.
As for the performances, they’re as wonderful as you’d come to expect from this ensemble. Hemsworth continues to prove that he’s a helluva comedic actor, Both Portman and Thompson get to sink their teeth into real-world problems their characters face (and have a sweet onscreen BFF chemistry), and Christian Bale does batshit crazy and heartbroken creature – sometimes both at the same time – most excellently. I’d talk about the fantastic cameos in the film, but besides having Feige breathing down my neck? I actually want you to experience them with zero notice beforehand.
With it’s glorious use of art direction, cinematography, and FX, Thunder is truly a family film. No, not because it’s geared towards kiddos. It’s because there’s something in here for everyone to like. Adult Marvel fans will dig the story, drama/romance fans will enjoy the Thor+Jane shenanigans, kids will like that there’s a subplot tailor-made for them (yet is still an important part of the overall plot), film studies geeks will find lots to ooh and ahh about, and goat aficionados will love the goats. What more could you want?
#Protip: I love goatsies. I love Toothgnasher and Teethgrinder even more now that I know they were a prank between directors…
*The last line in the actual film. There’s a mid-credits scene and a “y’all waited this long?” scene after the credits. So yeah. FYI, yada yada. But do stay for both, you’ll be glad you did.