In order to save the stolen children and stop Gorr, Jane, Thor, King Valkyrie, and Korg visit the god of lightning Zeus and the other Gods, who laze about in a golden forum and talk about the next orgy, unafraid of what Gorr is looking to do to them. Like a golden and white version of the Galactic Senate in “Star Wars,” with a grab-bag of goofy creatures (one has furry feet and a face, that it; another is a Korg relative) it makes for one of the more eye-popping set pieces. But it’s also a moment in which the movie is building toward other “Thor” stories at the detriment of this one, including a shrugging cameo seen in the post-credits. It’s also a moment among many in which it’s clear that Tessa Thompson’s character of King Valkyrie, though important with the goings-on of New Asgard, has oddly been pushed to the side despite her established importance and swagger in “Thor: Ragnarok.”
“Thor: Love and Thunder” flirts with when a call-back story beat or joke is just playing the hits, the same way that there are a millions Guns ’n Roses nods and needle drops in this movie just because, and you’re expected to head-bang each time. All of its pop culture ad libs, or punched-up superhero stuff about coming up with catchphrases—when those jokes feel safe instead of left-field, they fall particularly flat. “Thor: Love and Thunder” is a blockbuster comedy sequel at its core, and its weaker material reminds you of that even when it’s still good for a sporadic laugh or two.
Lacking the overall freshness that defined the previous movie, “Thor: Love and Thunder” is better with its bolder, dramatic sequences that are like mini movies expressed with action figures about how love comes with the price of loss. Gorr is introduced in a harrowing piece of bubble gum Ingmar Bergman, cradling his dead child and renouncing his god before killing him, all before the Marvel Studios credit card kicks in with electric guitars. Later on, Waititi presents us the Jane and Thor romance—its coziness and later its isolation—as like a spin-off of his own quirky indie “Eagle vs. Shark.” It’s very funny in some moments, but with a brutal honesty always in frame, especially as the two then see if love is salvageable in the current dwindling timeline. Along with Jane’s striking cancer storyline, its these heartfelt moments too that reveal the true motivators behind “Thor: Love and Thunder,” even if everything is later treated in too quaint, or too eagerly crowd-pleasing a fashion to hit as hard as they’re clearly meant to.