For the God of Thunder, it’s been a dark and stormy time.
Over the last several years, Thor has grieved over the death of his father, his mother and his brother (three times). His sister broke his favorite hammer. Thanos proved to be a serious downer. He lost an eye. He lost his planet. He lost his abs.
And then there’s Jane Foster—sweet Jane Foster, the astrophysicist around whom Thor’s heart orbits. Thor lost her, too.
But finally, after a few years and presumably several trillion sit-ups, Thor’s feeling more like himself. He’s fit (as a thunder god should be). His hair has never looked better. And with his new pals, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor occasionally fights bad guys, too—rescuing helpless planets from the villainous armies that might plague them.
And if he sometimes destroys half the planet he’s trying to save? Well, let’s not cry over spilt infrastructure.
So when Thor learns that his old friend, Sif, is chasing down a mysterious evildoer who’s apparently killing gods, Thor’s in position—physically and mentally—to do a bit of chasing himself.
But this god-killer is a formidable foe. When Thor finds Sif, she’s nearly dead, having lost her arm a fight with him. Sif tells Thor that the villain wants to kill all gods—and he’s on his way to New Asgard, the Earth-bound town where the remnants of Asgard’s former population now live (and entertain tourists).
Thor’s already lost one Asgard: He’s not interested in losing another. He quickly zaps to Earth to defend the place, but he discovers that Asgard already has a Thor on watch: a hammer-wielding do-gooder who looks an awful lot like—
Yes, it’s a small universe. Through a complicated chain of events that we won’t get into now, Jane Foster is now Thor. Sort of.
But a reunion between Thor (the original) and the slightly shorter, prettier and more human facsimile will have to wait. The villain—Gorr the God Butcher—is in town, too. And as Thor and Thor battle tentacled and toothy shadow monsters, Gorr snatches Asgard’s children. He takes them far, far away, and he wants Thor (the original) to try and get them back.
It’s a trap, of course. But still, Thor must rescue the children. And in his quest to bring Asgard’s youngest back home, he’ll need help. Help from Valkyrie, the fearsome warrior now serving as New Asgard’s queen. Help from Korg, a stone gladiator who befriended Thor a few movies back; help from Jane Foster, who wields his old, magically repaired hammer, Mjolnir.
Oh, and a couple of giant, screaming goats. Can’t forget the goats.
Thor: Love and Thunder is aptly named. Let’s concentrate on some of the love here. Despite his protestations, Thor still loves Jane Foster—and his love goes well beyond mere romantic affectations. He wants what’s best for her. His desire to love and protect her, in fact, was instrumental in their reunion and Mjolnir’s reappearance. (We learn that he magicked the hammer to protect Jane, no matter where or when; when Jane comes to New Asgard, Mjolnir does as it was bidden—transforming Jane in the process.) And when Thor learns that Jane’s dealing with an adversary even deadlier than Gorr—cancer—he tries to help her in any way he can. She likewise helps Thor when she can—even when she knows that it might spell her end. And, of course, they and others are trying to save the kids, too. Believe it or not, Gorr is not beyond a measure of redemption himself. He sets himself on his dark path because of love, after all—the love of his precious daughter. Nothing can be quite as horrific and vindictive as love gone wrong, but a kernel of real love remains in Gorr’s soul.
So. In a superficial sense, Love and Thunder just might be the most spiritual superhero film ever. Its hero is a “god,” the villain is called the god butcher, and we see, literally, hundreds of lowercase deities. Most of them hang out in Omnipotence City—a nice little metropolis where the gods do very little but meet and party. Zeus (the Greek god of lightning, amongst other things) heads this divine-heavy metropolis (Thor admits the guy is something of a hero to him), and he shows off on his magically suspended dais in a god-infested assembly room. Earth-based gods are disproportionately represented: We see some representatives from Aztec and Mayan mythology, for instance. (Thor and his friends sneak in after swiping some robes from some emotion-based gods; the robes ae supposed to change color depending on the mood of the wearer.) While the film suggests that the gods are supposed to protect and safeguard their various worlds, most seem way more preoccupied with their own happiness and well-being to spend time thinking about their worshipers. (Which, when you read the myths of many of the gods represented, seems surprisingly accurate.) And while one of them grumbles about how little devotion and fear they’re striking in mortals these days, these gods certainly have no interest in dealing with Gorr. You can see why. In Gorr’s onscreen origin story, we see him on a barren, dusty world, praying desperately to his chosen deity as his daughter slowly dies of thirst. His prayers go unanswered. After he buries his daughter, Gorr suddenly discovers a lush oasis, where a golden-armored god chats with a trio of sentient flower-creatures. They’re celebrating the death of the holder of something called the Necrosword—a weapon that we’re told can kill any god. Gorr tells the golden god that all his devotees are dead now. The god says he’s not worried: More will come, and he mocks Gorr’s devotion. “Nothing awaits you after death, but death!” he says. The Necrosword makes its way into Gorr’s hands after this brutal disillusionment, and Gorr uses it to kill his god. We see the gigantic corpse of another god that Gorr felled (“one of the nicest gods you’d ever meet,” someone says), and we hear that he’s dispatched others. Gorr mocks believers for offering up prayers that he believes will go unanswered. “The gods will use you,” he says, “but they will not help you.” The children of Asgard, though, insist that Thor will save them—believing in the face of Gorr’s mockery. And it does seem as though Thor’ the only god here who can be bothered by the supplications of his followers. A couple of notes: Thor does say that Omnipotence City is a gathering place for “the most powerful created gods in the universe”—suggesting that these gods have their own creator. And Gorr, in an effort to speed up his god butchery, petitions an even greater power than the gods themselves—one who can grant, apparently, any wish. We hear several references to Valhalla (the Norse version of heaven), and [Spoiler Warning] even see the place in one post-credits scene. Various weapons seem to have at least a bit of sentience, and one curses its bearer.
While in Omnipotence City, Thor’s stripped down to his birthday suit as he petitions Zeus. The movie audience sees Thor’s exposed backside, but the gods themselves get an eyeful of the front (which is, of course, strategically covered for us). The female contingent gathered ‘round Zeus (called the Zeusettes in the credits) collectively swoon at the sight, and other women and female gods ogle. Zeus also speaks repeatedly of a planned orgy in Omnipotence City. We see flashbacks to Jane and Thor’s relationship (where, it seems, they lived together). They kiss and snuggle and have a lot of relatively innocent fun together, but we don’t see anything remotely erotic or raunchy. They profess their love for each other, as well. (We also see how their relationship turned sour, as well, and they at least partially blame each other for its implosion.) We see quick flashbacks to some other women that Thor has wooed (featuring him kissing most of them). It was long rumored that Valkyrie (who’s bisexual in the comics) would be coming out for the first time onscreen in Love and Thunder, and indeed she does. She kisses a woman’s hand and briefly recalls the many women with whom she’s had relationships with. But that’s not the end of Love and Thunder’s LGBT forays. Korg wistfully remembers how his two dads made him (clasping their hands over a pool of molten lava), and at the end of the movie, he apparently does the same with a “bloke named Duane.” (One thing to note, though: Korg’s race of rock aliens may not actually have any women to mate with.) As is common in superhero movies, we see both men and women in formfitting clothing. A Guardian of the Galaxy crew member announces that he’s gotten married while they’ve been visiting a planet. “You can’t get married on every single planet we land on!” Guardian leader Peter Quill tells him. Thor directs Jane’s attention to a pod of space dolphins. “They mate for life in packs of six,” he tells her.
This review is already surprisingly long, so I won’t belabor the action and violence we see here. You already know this is a superhero film, which means you can expect to see scads of battles (both individual skirmishes and war-like melees) featuring fists, weapons, lighting bolts and the like. But a few special things to make note of. Thor and others fight with several golden guards in Omnipotent City, slaughtering most with extreme prejudice. The blood they spill looks like liquid gold. But had it been red, this scene alone would’ve garnered Love and Thunder a hard-R rating. The shadow monsters under Gorr’s control might be quite scary for younger viewers. They, too, are gutted and torn asunder grotesquely. Gorr stabs someone in the jaw with a sword and rips the head of a creature. Someone is skewered through the chest with a lightning bolt, leading many to believe he’s dead. (He’s not.) We see a dead child. Thor talks about feasting once the children are rescued. “But not on the children,” he adds. “We don’t do that anymore. Those were dark times.” There’s apparently some sort of recognition in Omnipotence City for the deity that scores the highest number of human sacrifices. We see lots of property damage.
Nearly a dozen s-words join several other profanities, including “a–,” “d–n,” “h—,” “crap,” “p-ss” and two misuses of God’s name.
Valkryie and Korg hang out in a bar, sipping drinks. Zeus invites Thor to stay in Omnipotence City and just drink his cares away. “Anything goes in Omnipotence City,” he says.
None, unless you count Thor’s boundless, clueless confidence.
The last superhero film that director Taika Waititi helmed was, of course, Thor: Ragnarok, a genre-busting fever dream that turned Jeff Goldblum into a supervillain, Chris Hemsworth into a first-class comedic actor and Matt Damon into Loki. Thor: Love and Thunder makes Ragnarok look like a PBS period drama. When Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) asked director Taika Waititi how the script was shaping up several months before filming, he told her that it “feels like we asked a bunch of 10-year-olds what should be in a movie and just said yes to everything.” So, yes. Translated, Love and Thunder is silly, often funny and, in truth, quite entertaining. But let’s also stress that if you said yes to everything a 10-year-old wanted to do in, say, your house, you’d be lucky to have a house left. And 10-year-olds are not known for their entertainment discernment, either. Movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—at least in a post Avengers: Endgame world—seem to be getting progressively more problematic, both spiritually and sexually. Love and Thunder may be a better movie than Eternals and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness … but content-wise, it’s a step or two worse. The film’s collection of bargain-bin gods offers opportunity for discussion—but I think for many Christian families, their presence makes this a tough sell from the get-go. Add in bare backsides, LGBT content, some really creepy monsters and a surprising level of profanity, and you’ve got yet more to wade through. Some parents will ignore these notes of caution. They’ve seen all the MCU movies, they reason. What’s one more? And, of course, that’s fine. You know better than Plugged In does about what’s right for your family. But it’s possible that, upon seeing it, it might not be just the film’s goats that feel like screaming.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.