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Thor: Love and Thunder
As much as I loved (almost) every second of Thor: Love and Thunder with the giddiness of a geeky teenager soaked in 1980s pop culture, I can also fully understand why it might have rubbed some MCU fans the wrong way.
The so-called self-aware "MCU humor" that has been bugging a lot of fans lately is in full effect in Taika Waititi's latest Thor epic. After two entries that tried to treat this cheesy character as Shakespearean mythology, Waititi swept in with the terrific Thor: Ragnarok and finally tapped into the goofy 1980s machismo parody potential of the titular Norse god.
Ragnarok almost killed Thor's badass charisma and Love and Thunder rages in with a glorious kaleidoscope of 1980s kitsch to finish the job. This is as close to a rip-roaring ZAZ or Mel Brooks parody of the MCU that just happens to be a part of the real deal.
There have been attempts at delivering franchise entries that poked fun at the material while being canonical parts of the series themselves. Producers once thought a National Lampoon parody sequel for Jaws was the way to go. There was even a point where the Friday the 13th producers came up with an Abbot and Costello meets "the monster" type comedy that involved Jason.
None of those projects came to pass, but Waititi, perhaps with more creative control after his success with Ragnarok, completely takes the piss out of any semblance of self-seriousness within the MCU like a mischievous little kid who was given the keys to the kingdom.
Every gloriously gaudy pastel aesthetic of Ragnarok is boosted to the point of becoming a live-action Saturday morning cartoon with a self-aware slant. The all-Guns-and-Rose-all-the-time-except-a-Dio-song-during-the-end-credits soundtrack melds perfectly with Waititi's visual hubris.
Some might complain about some of the tonal inconsistencies with some character sub-plots that are melodramatic in nature. The film's villain, Gorr the God Killer's (Christian Bale's apparent refusal to accept he's in a comedy works wonders to establish his inherent difference with the heroes) has an origin story that's bathed in real tragedy.
Meanwhile, Thor's ex and new female Thor Jane Foster's (Natalie Portman) cancer subplot gives the film just the right amount of emotional engagement it needs. These tonal switches work because Waititi goes equally over the top with the emotions behind them, so the intensity fits the comedy, even if the tone doesn't.
With a self-aware Stormbreaker who's jealous of Thor's feelings for his ex-weapon Mjolnir, a running joke about giant screaming goats that go from not being funny to hilarious simply because of the insistence of repetition, and a game Russel Crowe whose Greek accent as Zeus sounds like Borat on painkillers, Thor: Love and Thunder is a wacky fun time drenched in 80s excess. It's not for everyone, especially when it comes to MCU fans looking for canonical and tonal consistency from the franchise, but this 80s kid had a blast.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com