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THOR: LOVE, THUNDER AND SHTICK

I have no patience for superhero movies without a sense of humor. If executed properly (see the original Avengers) the comedy should arise naturally from the situations in the script and the characters’ reactions to them. That’s why I was so pleased when the irrepressibly funny Taika Waititi joined forces with Marvel for Thor: Ragnarok in 2017.

But there can be too much of a good thing, as anyone who’s overindulged in chocolate or ice cream can verify. The new Thor: Love and Thunder is a scattered affair that, at a certain point, is played as out-and-out comedy. Can this really be Chris Hemsworth spouting gag lines? Is his relationship to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) a springboard for sitcom-style jokes? Even the rock-like creature Korg, played by Waititi, wears out his welcome before this meandering story concludes.

Just as suddenly, the final portion of the film forsakes any hint of humor and becomes deadly serious. Or is it just deadly?

It has become almost fashionable to disparage Marvel movies, despite their incredible range of ambition and execution. But Thor: Love and Thunder is the weakest of the lot and unworthy of the kajillions it must have cost to create.

Hemsworth is well established by now as the Norse God, while Portman’s all-too-human character (which leavened the original 2011 film with some down-to-earth humor) is in transition here. If the initial MCU enterprise seemed heavy-handed, in a Shakespearean manner, this hodgepodge is its polar opposite. With Christian Bale in a doleful state as Korr, Tessa Thompson as a postmodern King Valkyrie, and Russell Crowe—yes, Russell Crowe—portraying Zeus as a prancing buffoon, no one can accuse Waititi and his co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson of making obvious or clichéd choices.

Everyone is entitled to a misfire now and then, and that includes the gifted Kiwi performer and filmmaker most responsible for Thor: Love and Thunder. I look forward to seeing what he has in store for us next. No fooling.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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