After his world is destroyed and is met with indifference by his god, Gorr (Christian Bale) embarks on a path of vengeance against all gods in the universe, and targets Thor (Chris Hemsworth) for destruction. When New Asgard comes under attack, Thor reteams with Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who has assumed control of the hammer Mjolnir and the mantle of the Mighty Thor...
Giving comedic director Taika Waititi a crack at 'Thor: Ragnarok' was a rare bold decision by the powers that be in Marvel, but it's one that's paid off handsomely. For one, it mined Chris Hemsworth's untapped comedic potential and really set the course of his career. His best work nowadays is comedic, leaving behind the awkward space he was occupying on casting lists. More specific, it gave Thor a better footing with audiences. He's the earnest comedic relief in contrast with Paul Rudd's knowing, sarcastic Ant-Man. Hemsworth knows how to play a well-meaning himbo so well that you'd be forgiven for thinking it's not that much of a stretch for him.
In 'Thor: Love and Thunder', this is magnified. We first encounter Thor as he's dropping the weight and getting into the best shape of his life, tying his hair up in a bun, and generally looking like he's fallen down a wellness rabbit hole. Of course, like all wellness gurus, it's just a front for a troubled soul and broken heart. Enter Natalie Portman's Jane Foster, a character so completely underutilised and underwritten that it's truly astounding she even decided to come back for this. Of course, this time around, she's actually got something to do. Portman's physical transformation aside, Waititi's script brings the character to life by zeroing in on aspects previously ignored - namely, she's kind of a dork and way too earnest for her own good.
Christian Bale's villain is big and bad enough to counter all this, blithely kidnapping children and terrifying them with ease and poise while he correctly points out the hypocrisy in worshipping all-powerful beings. Speaking of all-powerful beings, Russell Crowe's turn as Zeus is more than just an extended cameo and hams it up with a Peter Sellers-adjacent accent. As to the rest of the cameos, half the fun in a Marvel movie these days is waiting for them to be revealed.
While 'Thor: Ragnarok' had a spontaneity about itself and you could tell that the cast were rolling with the freedom of it, 'Thor: Love and Thunder' feels like it's a bit more studied and considered in its approach. Like any second album after a hit, it's trying to overcome its urge to repeat the same tricks while doing something different enough to warrant its existence. The results here don't necessarily spark off as well as they have previously. For one, it feels padded out in a way that 'Thor: Ragnarok' didn't. You also get the sense that certain aspects - namely, Christian Bale being terrifying - were either reduced or flat-out removed in favour of more comedic beats.
Of course, 'Thor: Love and Thunder' has to balance itself out for broad appeal, which it does with ease. It might not be quite as sharp as 'Thor: Ragnarok', but the addition of Natalie Portman's gun show, the flying goats (it'll make sense when you see it), and the hard rock soundtrack gives it enough of an edge to make it enjoyable.