thor love and thunder themes

Thor: Love and Thunder/Marvel

What is ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ actually about?

Unlike the smart political subtext of 'Thor: Ragnarok,' this movie doesn't know what it's trying to say.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 13, 2022

One of Thor: Love and Thunder’s most frustrating problems is its lack of thematic coherency. Yes, even by the often-underwhelming standards of the MCU.

Taika Waititi brought a welcome sense of individuality to Thor: Ragnarok, helming a zany SF/F romp that recontextualized Thor’s backstory, critiquing Asgard’s bloody history as a colonizing force. Balancing comedy with social commentary, Ragnarok is full of sly little moments like Korg’s role as a failed revolutionary, or a tyrant being absurdly squeamish about using the word “slaves.” (“Sorry, the prisoners with jobs have armed themselves,” corrects his second-in-command.)

The story concludes with Thor and his brethren fleeing the destruction of Asgard as refugees, stating that their home is rooted in community and identity rather than ownership of a specific place. Resettling on Earth, the Asgardians choose to move beyond the dark legacy of Odin’s rule.

From Valkyrie’s identity issues to the thematic overlap with Waititi’s Māori-focused indie dramas, Ragnarok welcomes deeper analysis. The same can’t be said of Love and Thunder, a disjointed collection of ideas (Jane’s cancer diagnosis; Thor’s midlife crisis; a MacGuffin-centric fantasy quest) that never truly come together.

Thor’s new nemesis is an alien serial killer named Gorr the God Butcher. Introduced as a religious zealot, Gorr sees his daughter die of thirst while his god Rapu stands idly by. Enraged by this injustice, Gorr kills Rapu and vows revenge against every other god. It’s a solid foundation for a classic “Maybe the villain is right!” narrative. After all, if these deities have superhuman powers, don’t they have a duty to help people?

Bafflingly, Love and Thunder does very little with this idea. You’d expect the film to grapple with Thor’s role as a Norse god, or to further explore the idea of everyday people rebelling against corrupt authorities. Instead, we take a detour to the home of the gods, Omnipotence City, in a comedy sequence that endorses Gorr’s motives without digging any deeper.

With Thor, the Eternals, and Moon Knight, the MCU has already drawn a link between gods and superheroes. Here, we see Thor ask a multicultural pantheon to help defeat Gorr—a demand that’s quickly shot down by their leader Zeus, a self-absorbed hedonist. Zeus believes the gods are safe in their city, and that Gorr is Thor’s problem. This allegory about selfish privilege contains the outline of a good idea, but it feels incomplete because Thor and his friends just steal Zeus’ magic thunderbolt weapon and leave.

This sequence is also an awkward example of Disney’s flawed attempts at inclusivity because the movie makes sure to feature a diverse array of Earth deities… all of whom follow the craven leadership of Zeus (a useless white patriarch), too cowardly to join the battle against Gorr. There’s no suggestion that they might individually want to use their powers for good, adding an oddly negative undertone to a cameo from Wakanda’s patron deity Bast.

In the end, Thor and his friends defeat Gorr and save the Asgardian kids he kidnapped, proving that civilians do need to rely on a deity to protect them—they just need to pick the right one.

Love and Thunder is hardly the first MCU movie with a shallow villain or an incoherent concept. However, these problems are more notable after Ragnarok, exemplified by the half-baked reintroduction of the Asgardians. As the new king, Valkyrie is now the frustrated administrator of a small town—an amusing turnaround from her warrior background. But this potential source of conflict is soon forgotten, placing Valkyrie in a disappointingly simple sidekick role.

thor love thunder new asgard
Marvel Entertainment/YouTube

There’s an undercurrent of bitterness to this portrayal of New Asgard, a refugee community that supports itself as a tourist attraction, commodifying their culture to build a theme park for Thor fans. Instead of resembling the vikings of earlier films, the citizens are indistinguishable from the helpless civilians in an Avengers movie.

Considering Ragnarok’s political subtext, this could be a reference to displaced cultures struggling to survive under modern capitalism. It could also be poking fun at Disney regurgitating old hits to an increasingly hollow effect. Once again though, these ideas aren’t tight enough to really work. Thor and Valkyrie’s attitude to New Asgard is underdeveloped, and the film’s final act refocuses its attention onto Jane Foster.

As I said in my review, you get the sense that Waititi never fully nailed down what this film is meant to be about. Like many recent MCU spinoffs, Love and Thunder has a first-draft vibe that signals Disney’s lack of quality control. These movies are bulletproof box office hits, so from a financial perspective, there’s no pressure to make sure the product is actually good.

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*First Published: Jul 13, 2022, 11:32 am CDT