Review: ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ entertaining but uneven Marvel adventure

Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Love and Thunder (Marvel Studios)

Marvel’s latest big-screen confection “Thor: Love and Thunder” is an uneven but still enjoyable light-weight super-hero fairy tale that sneaks up and bites you in the end.

It likely won’t turn out to be many fans’ favorite Marvel film or even their favorite Thor movie, but the quick-paced journey through the pantheons of the Marvel Cinematic Universe offers plenty of laughs and a good bit of pathos if you are willing to go along for the ride.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his crew throws down with the wicked Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) not only to save themselves but also the children, whom Gorr kidnaps from New Asgard.

Gorr and Thor both begin the film disillusioned over lost love, but while their journeys pit them against one another, the two take a very different tacts in attempts to retake control of their lives.

Gorr does it by hunting down and slaughtering “gods” across the Marvel Universe, while Thor seeks to soothe his soul with camaraderie of his battle buddies Korg (Taika Waititi), Valkyrie (Tesssa Thompson) and Jane “The Mighty Thor” Watson (Natalie Portman), who returns to the film series after sitting out “Thor: Ragnarok.”

The movie also features the characters from the Guardians of the Galaxy early in the film as well as several other powerful beings who will be familiar to those steeped in Marvel Comics’ cosmology. There are two scenes that run during the credits that set the stage for the next Thor film that are worth hanging around for.

Like “Thor: Ragnarok” the movie leans into the cosmic nature of the characters and has a lot of fun with the more outlandish aspects of Thor’s universe under Waititi’s deft lens and outlandish script, which he co-wrote with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson.

Whether the jokes land or not will depend upon your personal taste. I got a kick out of most of them, including the bellowing goats gifted to Thor early in the film, but the movie’s shift in tone in the third act wasn’t handled quite as smoothly by Waititi as it was in “Ragnarok.”

That said the third act was particularly strong and somewhat surprising. So often super-hero films start of strong but fail to stick the landing. I found the opposite to be true with this movie that delivers the pathos quite effectively in its conclusion.

While the skit-like nature of the early portion of the movie left a bit to be desired, Barry Idoine delivered a gorgeously shot movie with its bombastic colors early and just as gorgeous black-and-white sequences during the main battle with Gorr and his hellish creatures.

Like most Marvel films, the less you know going into the movie, the more enjoyment the movie offers. There are a number of surprises particularly for those not familiar with the comics the film is based on and even some for those who are.

Hemsworth continues to be a delight in the role of Thor. I particularly enjoyed his engagement with the Asgardian children. Also, his chemistry with Portman is much better this time around under Waititi’s direction than in “Thor: The Dark World.”

Thompson is solid as Valkyrie, but her character wasn’t given enough to do. Russell Crowe is hilarious and dangerous as the Greek god Zeus, and the melodramatic Bale is terrifically terrifying and at times touching as the scene-chewing Gorr.

The movie is outlandish and even more madcap and over the top than “Thor: Ragnarok.” That aspect of the movie might not play well for those wanting a more dramatic take on the characters.

The film plays very much like a fairy tale. To some, that will give it charm. To others, it will just be deflating. I sort of found myself straddling that fence. Had Waititi handled the third-act tonal shift more smoothly, the film might not have felt as bumpy?

Perhaps the devil came in the editing?

It’s been reported that Waititi’s first cut came in at a whopping four hours, but that Disney demanded him deliver a cut in the two-hour range to maximize the number of times the film can be played in a day.

Maybe a longer cut would have offered smoother transitions?

As the film is, it is very entertaining even if uneven. I had a good time watching it, and those who enjoyed “Thor: Ragnarok” likely will, too.

(PG-13) 2 hrs.
Grade: B-

New in Local Theaters

Thor: Love and Thunder (PG-13) 2 hrs. (trailer)
AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Town, Skylight, 112 Drive In

Classic Corner: James Caan leaves legacy of great performances

James Caan in Rollerball (Algonquin)

The news that James Caan, 82, passed away Thursday stung more than a little bit.

While I never really considered myself a great fan of his, I have enjoyed his work all of my movie-going life. I honestly can think of a movie in which his performance didn’t enhance the film in some form or fashion.

Here’s a few of my favorite films starring Caan, who always excelled at playing tough guys and often ones with a good bit of heart.

El Dorado

This 1966 Howard Hawks’ Western starring John Wayne and Robert Mitchum is the first movie I recall seeing Caan in. He played a memorable third lead to Wayne and Mitchum in this rousing film that features the three men holding off group of outlaws in a sheriff’s office. It played as a kiddie matinee in my hometown sometime in the mid-1970s.

Brian’s Song

This 1971 made-for-TV movie is excellent. Cann plays cancer-stricken Chicago Bears fullback Brian Piccolo in this inspirational film that co-starred Billy D. Williams as his teammate, the great Gale Sayers. If you can make it through this film without tearing up at least a little bit, you haven’t got a heart.

The Godfather

What can I say about this masterpiece that hasn’t already been said? Caan plays Don Corleone’s (Marlon Brando) eldest son Sonny in the film that catapulted him to Hollywood’s A-list for a time in the mid-1970s. His role is impactful though not necessarily large in the grand scheme of the film, which stands the test of time. The film is sumptuous, and if you like it, then you would probably get a kick out of the Paramount + streaming series “The Producer” that details the ins and outs of the production of the movie. The series is based on the truth, but evidently takes liberties here and there. It’s still my favorite streaming series or TV show of the past few years.


Cann stars in this cautionary, sci-fi movie from 1975 about how corporations manipulate the masses with sporting events. It’s basically a space-age bread-and-circuses idea from late University of Arkansas English professor William Harrison, who adapted his own short story for the movie’s the screenplay that’s just as apt today as it was 47 years ago. The crowd noise during the competitions in the movie was actually taped at Razorback basketball games played in Barnhill Arena during the 1974-75 season.


“Elf” is a movie that’s grown on me since its 2003 debut. I was hard on it in my original review from two decades ago for it being too derivative of classic Christmas specials and for ripping off the ending of the play “Peter Pan.” Maybe I’ve mellowed in my middle-age, but I now find the movie a delight. Part of that is Caan’s grouchy character developing into somewhat of a sweetheart by the end of the movie thanks to the attitude adjustment inspired by his son Buddy (Will Ferrell), who was raised by Christmas elves at the North Pole. July might not be the perfect time for this film, but is there ever a bad time to watch a good movie?

“Transformers” celebrates 15th anniversary on the big screen

(Dreamworks Pictures)

Michael Bay’s big-screen adaptation of the cartoon series and toy line “Transformers” is 15 years old, and in celebration, Malco Razorback Cinema and Fathom Events teamed to bring the spectacle back to the big screen for special showings at 3 p.m Sunday and 7 p.m. Thursday.

The CGI-laden blockbuster battle between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons is captured impeccably well in this film that brings one of the most popular toy lines in history to life.

Transformers – Local Showings

What: “Transformers”
Where: Malco Razorback Cinema, Fayetteville
When: 3 p.m Sunday, July 10 and 7 p.m. Thursday, July 14

When their epic struggle comes to Earth, all that stands between the Decepticons and ultimate power is a clue held by a young man named Sam (Shia LaBeouf). Teaming up Bumblebee, an Autobot disguised as Sam’s car, the tension-filled race is on, against an evil enemy out to devastate the Autobots at all cost.

The movie not only introduced LaBeouf to the world at large but also Megan Fox as classmate Mikaela, who happens to have been a juvenile car thief taught the ropes by her father.

Also featured in the cast are Josh Duhamel, John Tururro, and Jon Voigt as well as Anthony Anderson and Tyrese Gibson.

However the stars of the movie are the Autobots and the Decepticons, brought to convincing life by the wondrous effects work of Bay’s crew.

Is the movie truly a classic?

Not in my book, but it is fun, and where Bay’s storytelling chops are lacking, he and his crew make up for it with their creativity and technological skill. For my money, 2018’s “Bumblebee” is the best of the franchise, but this first film would rank second.

For big fans of the property and kids who have never seen the movie on the big screen, this is a great opportunity for a night of mindless fun at the theater.