After two slow attempts at bringing Thor to the big screen, Thor: Ragnarok reinvented the God of Thunder with an injection of Taika Waititi’s comedy chops, but its follow-up, Thor: Love & Thunder, proved that comedy Thor doesn’t always work. Thor: Ragnarok was a critical success for Marvel Studios, taking the character in a new direction after two dark and gritty adventures with Thor and Thor: The Dark World. Many praised Waititi’s use of comedy, Chris Hemsworth’s fantastic personality, and the new vibrancy that Ragnarok brought to the Nine Realms with the 1980s feel to the film, but this didn’t have the same effect in Phase 4’s Love & Thunder.
In a recent interview with Happy Sad Confused Podcast, Hemsworth spoke about his potential return as Thor, stating that future projects would need to be “a drastically different version in tone,” all but confirming viewers’ concerns that the overt comedy of Love & Thunder simply didn’t work. Love & Thunder quickly became one of the most divisive projects of Phase 4, not least because it ignored the journey that Thor had been on during the Infinity Saga’s Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Thor is likely to return in future MCU projects, but there needs to be a huge shift in tone if the character is to become popular again.
Why Ragnarok’s Comedy Thor Was So Popular
Released in 2017 as part of Phase 3, Thor: Ragnarok was a complete surprise to many who’d spent several previous MCU films getting used to a surly and serious Thor. As it turned out, Taika Waititi’s humorous reinvention of the character was just what the Thor franchise needed, since his comedic textures brought personality, light-heartedness, and approachability to the character that had previously been seen as untouchable. The silly fun of Ragnarok brought a whole new side to the character, and helped to give the serious moments more gravitas, such as during scenes featuring Heimdall’s (Idris Elba) rescue of the Asgardian people, and Thor and Hela’s (Cate Blanchett) final battle.
Ragnarok felt like a breath of fresh air in the MCU, as many had regarded Thor’s previous solo project, Thor: The Dark World, as one of Marvel Studios’ weakest. Thor was starting to become inconsequential in the MCU, with Avengers: Age of Ultron practically pushing the character to the sidelines, so it was brilliant to see Thor take the spotlight. Ragnarok also fleshed out the personality of Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk, perfectly setting up his character arc for future projects such as Endgame and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. Ragnarok’s comedy helped to inform his decisions in subsequent projects, but it seems like it was only a one-time deal.
Why Love & Thunder’s Comedy Thor Was So Divisive
After the success of Thor: Ragnarok, it seemed as though Taika Waititi had found the perfect formula that could work for future Thor films. However, Thor: Love & Thunder didn’t have the same impact as its predecessor and quickly became one of Marvel Studios’ most divisive projects. Ragnarok’s comedy worked so well as it helped to give more of an impact to the serious moments, but Love & Thunder never seemed to let up, providing only relentless gags that added no weight to the actual story being told. Thor’s arc through Infinity War and Endgame had been incredibly moving, but all of that emotion was lost in Love & Thunder.
Many felt that, despite giving strong performances, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, a.k.a. the Mighty Thor, and Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher, were completely swallowed by the comedic script where they should’ve had a lot more punch. All the heart was taken out of Thor’s newest story to save space for the comedy, which only seemed to hit the same beats as Thor: Ragnarok, not really covering any new ground, and even ignoring key story points from Waititi’s own previous MCU project, Ragnarok. This made what should have been a strong addition to the Thor series, and to the MCU as a whole, simply feel stale and weightless.
Thor’s MCU Arc Hurt Comedy Thor
Thor has had one of the most tumultuous character arcs out of anybody else in the MCU. After two false starts with Thor and Thor: The Dark World, and three adventures as a member of the Avengers, Thor finally got his time to shine with Ragnarok, which gifted the character a whole new personality that allowed him to stand up to the likes of Tony Stark’s wit and Scott Lang’s humor. Ragnarok’s comedy worked so well because it brought a new life to the character, something which the Russo Brothers continued to investigate in Infinity War and Endgame, though their interpretation of the character combined the comedy with meaningful themes.
Since Infinity War and Endgame investigated heavier themes for Thor while also having an infusion of comedy, many thought that this would carry on into Thor: Love & Thunder. However, the fourth solo Thor film completely ignored his Infinity Saga storyline and doubled down on the comedy, which felt far too jarring after seeing a vulnerable and emotional Thor. Love & Thunder, as a part of the MCU’s Phase 4, should have dealt with Thor’s emotions in the aftermath of his failure to kill Thanos in Infinity War and his depression throughout Endgame, but instead tried to side-step this rich and emotional character arc and move him on much too quickly.
Ragnarok Created Some Of Comedy Thor’s Problems
Even though Thor: Ragnarok was a welcome change for the character and the darker storylines that had been told in previous Thor films, it was also where most of Thor: Love & Thunder’s problems started. Despite the emotional moments being enhanced by the comedy, Waititi underlined every impactful scene in Thor: Ragnarok with a gag of some sort, never really taking any line too seriously, even when it came to powerful moments such as Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) death, or Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor finally learning to trust one another. More space was needed between moments of humor to add more substance to the action that would unfold in between.
Love & Thunder took this to the extreme, where it seemed that not a second went by without a comedic moment, with Waititi doubling-down hard on the humor. This unfortunately didn’t work for the betterment of the film, but actually distracted from the story being told. For instance, Gorr the God Butcher should have been a formidable and terrifying villain, but Love & Thunder’s comedy made him seem like a lesser threat. This worked in Ragnarok, as the primary antagonist, Hela, was also bringing the humor, but this is obviously an effect that doesn’t work twice, and more care should’ve been taken to ensure that Love & Thunder was different.
What Could Thor’s MCU Future Be If Not Full Comedy?
Chris Hemsworth hasn’t yet confirmed his involvement in future MCU projects, however, Thor is likely to return in another solo film and probably in the upcoming Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars films to round off Phase 6 and the Multiverse Saga. If Hemsworth does return, viewers can hope that Marvel Studios paid attention to their concerns in the wake of Love & Thunder, hopefully making changes to the way Thor’s stories are told in the future. The comedy was a great change for Thor in the MCU, but there needs to be a balance struck in the future, just as there was during Infinity War and Endgame.
On the other hand, there’s a possibility that Hemsworth could say he doesn’t want to return to the MCU after Thor: Love & Thunder, especially since his character did receive a happy ending and somewhat satisfying conclusion, though many fans would be desperate to see him return and redeem himself. Even so, Tessa Thompson or Natalie Portman could step up and take point in any future Thor films as Valkyrie and the Mighty Thor, respectively. Thor: Ragnarok might have introduced the world to a new, revitalized version of Thor, but viewers will simply have to hope that Thor: Love & Thunder didn’t end the God of Thunder’s career for good.