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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

REVIEW: Thor: Love & Thunder Exceeds Mighty Expectations

Becoming the first original Avenger with a fourth solo movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is already a mighty task. Also taking that opportunity to introduce one of the best villains from Thor's comics and give viewers the welcomed return of Natalie Portman's Jane Foster as the Mighty Thor ensured that Taika Waititi's Thor: Love and Thunder was certainly up against high hopes. Thankfully, Thor's fourth film more than meets these expectations as moviegoers are taken on a cosmic Viking adventure that has tons of heart and humor.

Last time viewers saw Chris Hemsworth's Thor, he appointed Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie as King of Asgard as he set off on a soul-searching journey alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. When gods across the universe are being murdered in brutal fashion, he parts ways with this crew, teaming up with Korg, Valkyrie, and Jane Foster, who is now wielding Mjolnir and transformed into The Mighty Thor. Together, they go against Christian Bale's Gorr the God Butcher, an alien who promises that all gods will die.

Bale delivers one of the best villains the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer. Along with a captivating physicality, thanks in large part to the makeup and FX crews behind his design and application, Bale reminds audiences that a villain is often a hero in their own eyes. While his actions are horrific, Bale brings an empathy to Gorr, and audiences can feel his heartbreak. However, this tragic character also commands the room with bloody action, a vengeful mission, and brilliant moments of sinister humor.

Waititi has a talent when it comes to developing heart-wrenching stories that are masked as comedies. Thor: Love and Thunder falls in a similar vein, delivering a radical, fun ride that is pure rock 'n' roll but also a story about love, loss, and how to deal with heartbreak. Viewers have seen in past films inklings of how much Thor has lost over the centuries, and Love and Thunder brings this full circle, with Hemsworth finding an enjoyable and empathetic balance between action, comedy, and tragedy.

This applies to everyone in the core cast, too. Jane's personal journey is not just about beating the bad guy. She's fighting for others, but also herself, and the joy Portman has in this role captures what any mortal with a worthy heart would feel if they got a chance to fight alongside their favorite superheroes. Major credit to the writing of this film for giving Jane the story she deserves and making her a hero so many can relate to and look up to.

Meanwhile, Thompson's turn as Valkyrie tops what was on display in Thor: Ragnarok. Along with a solid storyline building off what was established there, Thor: Love and Thunder further delves into her past, highlighting what she's lost, how she's moved on, and what she holds on to. The way Thompson carries herself alone conveys that immense weight on her shoulders. Valkyrie continues to be one of the most badass heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, relishing in the fun of Love and Thunder and feeling like she should be the protagonist of her own swashbuckling, intergalactic pulp novel.

Thor: Love and Thunder is one of the most visually stunning movies in the MCU, and it is a great reminder to moviegoers of how wild and fun the source material can get. The use of color, in particular, is jaw-dropping, especially during one of the climactic battles, which embraces the use of black and white, using little bits of color to enhance certain elements on screen. Meanwhile, other moments feel pulled straight from the side of a spray-painted van in the best possible way.

Along with that, the action itself is captivating. This is a fun movie through and through, and that's on full display with the fights. Valkyrie taking such joy in her combat and the clever use of blood in those instances is glorious. Meanwhile, how Jane and Gorr use their respective weapons shows off some innovative uses of FX to deliver unique fighting styles. Even Thor and Zeus (Russell Crowe) have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Accompanying these beautiful visuals is a soundtrack that audiences will rock out to on the way home from the theater. Battles accompanied by Guns N' Roses is exactly what the God of Thunder deserves, and with all of this combined, viewers see Hemsworth's Thor at his best, as he leads the charge in several epic moments. Waititi's vision for Thor is not just what the God of Thunder needs -- it's what the MCU needs, as he brings so much fun and heart to the big screen with Thor: Love and Thunder.

For those who were not fans of Thor's more comedic treatment in Ragnarok, Love and Thunder may feel disappointingly familiar. There are also moments that are primarily there for a recap, but even then, it's done in a tongue-in-cheek way that's entertaining. Meanwhile, those who love seeing this side of the self-proclaimed strongest Avenger will not be disappointed. Thor: Love and Thunder lives up to its name and sets the stage for an exciting future for this corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Catch Thor: Love and Thunder in theaters July 8.

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