By Bradley Lane
I do not want to sound harsh when I assert that Marvel films are designed as products rather than as films. Plenty of Marvel films have artistic merit and should be taken seriously as cinema, however what we are seeing from Disney now makes an artistically ambitious film from Marvel near impossible. The way Marvel films and television shows are planned now is with the next slate of movies in mind. So the objective of each project is first, to set up future projects and secondarily, to tell a compelling story. This is the natural progression of a corporation focused on maximizing returns on investments as opposed to making art. This tension between artistic intention and profit motive plays out in Thor: Love and Thunder to truly abysmal results, marking a new low point for Marvel films.
Continuing the Marvel chronology post-Avengers Endgame, Love and Thunder finds Thor in a midlife crisis of sorts, trying to find his purpose after helping to save the world. This correlates to the introduction of a new villain intent on destroying the gods of myth after being slighted by the god he worshiped, Gorr the God Butcher. Helping to fend off the threat of annihilation, Thor’s ex-partner Jane is granted the power of Thor thanks to his old hammer, leading to tense and comic situations as they rekindle their old flame and try to defeat Gorr.
Thor: Love and Thunder is a lazy film. The writing is both lazy from a scene to scene and plot level. Humor is a subjective topic of course, but if you’ve seen a Marvel film in the last 10 years, you have heard all the jokes in this film and know exactly how it will play out. This lack of clear direction from the script bleeds into the performances, which are almost uniformly phoned in. Almost no one in the film looks like they want to be there. Despite these lackluster performances from the main cast, the dramatic turn from Christian Bale as Gorr is the saving grace of the film, as he delivers one of the most compelling Marvel villain performances in some time.
Additionally this is one of the worst looking Marvel films full stop. The expedited production clearly rushed the VFX (visual effects) work out the door to make the July release date, when it clearly could have used more time to refine the harsh lighting, flat color grading and bad compositing. However, the VFX artists are not to blame here, as there has been a mass outcry of VFX artists online slamming Marvel for creating a culture of stress for artists and massively underpaying the very artists that make their films function. In fact many visual effects studios have publicly stated that they will refuse working with Marvel going forward due to the mistreatment of artists.
It is becoming clear that something needs to change at Marvel. Audiences, critics and even the people making the films have all noticed that what they are trying to do post Endgame is not sustainable. Thor: Love and Thunder exists as a complete example of the limitations of treating art like a product and serves only to cash in Marvel’s brand recognition. Marvel and Disney aren’t just making bad movies now, they are cheapening the medium of film into something less than the transcendent magical art form it is. Thor: Love and Thunder is currently only in theaters. – 1 / 5 stars