I Don’t Love the Thunder

The only good part about it.

I just came from Love and Thunder, and while parts of it made me laugh (and parts of it were comedy genius), as something of an MCU Thor-fan, I feel dirty. Also as a writer I’m simply “What was that? No, really, what was that?”

Let’s talk about the humor, first.

Obligatory Spoiler Alert

L&T turns Thor into a clown. Really. The beginning shows us Thor and the Guardians of the Galaxy engaging in near slapstick clown combat. He’s practically a cartoon caricature of Thor from movies 1 and 2. Even when he gets an emergency “call” from SIF, who hasn’t been heard of since the first Thor movie, the quips barely slow and he shows a lack of urgency in rushing to her aid that’s slightly off-putting. Finding her horribly wounded beside the body of a giant and very dead god, he quips some more. It’s like the writers/director received explicit instructions: “There shall be NO emotional gravitas in this movie.”

Which is wrong on so many levels, because L&T covers a very serious set of story lines from recent Thor comics. An alien calling himself the God-Butcher has the means and the drive to Kill All Gods, and he has New Asgard in his sights. Nevermind that in the MCU Asgardians supposedly never sought worship, but were simply taken as divine during their period of interaction with the ancient Norse tribes of Earth. In the comics, he was a deadly, deadly threat to all. But extermination of what remains of Asgard isn’t enough, in the movie the stakes are raised as high as they can go; no, he has A PLAN to perform a Thanos-like feat by, wait for it, winning his way into the presence of Eternity (an Ultimate Being in the Marvel cosmology), which for some arbitrary reason will earn him a wish. And his wish will be The Death Of All Gods.

On top of that, Dr. Jane Foster is dying. Yup. Cancer. Apparently it runs in the family and got her mother and is now gunning for her. She’s Stage 4. Somehow the fragments of Thor’s hammer Mew-Mew, which cannot be moved from the spot on which they fell when Hela destroyed them, call to her, and turn her into The Mighty Thor. Mew-Mew gives her the power of Thor, but doesn’t rid her of her cancer, in fact it interferes with her treatment. This plotline is treated dead seriously, no jokes there.

BUT, Jane’s impending demise aside, every other scene (except the tragic opening-scene backstory of the God-Butcher) contains witty banter, quippy comebacks, high levels of farce. The God-Butcher’s attack on New Asgard–and kidnapping of its children–is almost cartoon action. Pitch (Rise of The Guardians) is scarier.

So, serious plot, slapstick farce and be-clowned Thor. And of course this silly Thor is the Thor that has to sell us on the tragic love story that is he and Jane. This movie is the one Thor movie where the two of them actually have any kind of relationship talk and with the level of humor throughout it simply doesn’t work. With the lines they’re given, neither can summon any real emotional truth. Jane’s death should have been as much a tear-jerker as Iron Man’s. It didn’t jerk a single tear because the story didn’t build up any investment in Jane or Thor’s love for her.

As a writer, I find myself asking why the movie writers made this decision. Without being plugged into Hollywood at all, my best guess is that the relatively cool reception of Thor: The Dark World and the better reception of Thor: Ragnarok taught them the wrong lessons. They thought the humor was what sold Thor 3, and that they just needed more of it. Lots, lots more. They were wrong.

So on to the second thing that really bugged me; the cosmology.

Previously in the MCU we haven’t seen many gods. There’s the Asgardians, who again were godlike but not gods who sought out worship. More recently we’ve seen the Eternals, who were apparently the source of much mythology, and the Egyptian gods who seem to be the Real Deal–at least as far as having once guided their people and existing in a separate God Realm.

Now we learn that All Gods Are Real. They also all have the distinct flavor of the gods of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. The God-Butcher was motivated by his meeting with his own personal deity and his discovery that, to the gods, mortal worshipers were . . . vanity bling. Seriously. This conclusion was reemphasized later. The God-Butcher also learned that “there is no reward” for faithfulness. No heavenly hereafter. Mortals live, and then they die. That’s it. At its bottom, the universe is a materialist-atheist one. This is soul-scarring news to him considering his entire people, including his beloved daughter, are now all dead (with some implications that it was due to a holy war or something).

The amoral character of the gods is further pointed up when Thor, Lady Thor, and Valkyrie journey to Omnipotent City (yes that’s its name, really, and it’s Dunmanifestin from Terry Pratchett again), a grand Home of The Gods. I’m going to need to catch still-shots of it sometime, because I’m pretty sure you see every pantheon in human history partying there. Zeus is played like an Italian godfather. And they have no care that “lesser gods” not lucky enough to be in their country club are being slaughtered by the God-Butcher; in fact they try and keep Thor and company from leaving since the God-Butcher might be able to defeat them and get the secret location of Omnipotent City from them. And get this; you even see a couple of Celestials (you know, giant space-gods) hanging out there quietly.

So, All Gods Are Real In An Uncaring Universe.


At the climax of the movie, when the God-Butcher wins his way into the presence of Eternity, he realizes that what he really wants isn’t all the gods dead but his little girl back. He’s inspired by seeing the love of Thor and Jane as she’s dying in his arms (a scene that leaves you entirely dry-eyed, see above). So his wish is that she live again. He himself is dying, so Thor promises to raise her. Jane dies, dissolving into gold glitter and floating away on the breeze. God-Butcher dies without gold glitter. Thor becomes Papa Thor . . .

. . . and in the after-credits scene Jane de-glitters upon a bridge leading to a beautiful land with white vaguely Norse palaces, where Heimdall welcomes her to Valhalla, the land of the gods.

. . .

. . .

. . .


There’s an AFTERLIFE FOR GODS? But not for mortals? Unless the God-Butcher’s god was simply lying? But Thor himself didn’t seem to know the rules; he told Sif that only those who died in battle went to Valhalla, not those who died after the battle. Jane definitely died after the battle. Which leads to the inescapable conclusion that even the gods themselves have no idea what awaits anybody, and makes all Death Gods scam artists. Actually they’re all scam artists. And then there’s the whole Moon Knight Field of Reeds business, which doesn’t seem to touch on any of this. And as a rule Asgardians never poofed into gold glitter immediately upon expiration before, so are they not gods like the rest we see in Thor 4 are gods? But then why did Jane poof? Jane wasn’t a god when she died, she was just Jane, and now I’m clutching my hair and this is all very, very bad.

It’s not right that I walked out of the theater thinking that if there’s an afterlife (realms for “untethered consciousnesses”) in the MCU, contra everything the movie previously indicated, The God-Butcher blew his wish; his little girl was perfectly happy and waiting for him somewhere with her mum.

And that’s why I don’t like Thor 4. Taken even on its own terms, none of it made any sense.


I’ll rewrite it in my head.


10 thoughts on “I Don’t Love the Thunder

  1. Several things:
    One, it’s Taika Waititi with the leash off.

    Personally, I liked it. Jane/Mighty Thor and cancer and all is very close to the comics… I thought it worked well, given the Taika lens. Thor is still figuring out how to act. He never was super smart and went through massive trauma, highlighted by not aiming for Thanos’ head because he wanted to see the funny look on his face as he took his revenge. Yes, Zeus was a vastly self indulgent dick. Like in his myths. Celestials? They were rather small. I can see Zeus making Celestial shaped robots for funsies.

    Marvel and DC, having many issues to write Every Month, do a lot of stuff. Good, problematic, bad, wtf…

    The MCU has a lot of believer customers whom they do not wish to not piss off too badly. A Grand Unified Theory would have to include Christianity, all flavors including the heavily armed Prosperity Gospel folks, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and so on. Vague is Feige’s friend.

    Reward in the afterlife… For the Norse, a small percentage went to Valhalla or Folkvangr, everybody else, regardless of religiousity, got to freeze in Niflheim. For the Greeks, everybody ended up as sort of soul bats in the endless caverns of Hades except for demigods and heroes who got the Elysian Fields. In traditional Christianity, most of the dead get tortured forever in Hell and the Saved go to Heaven and praise God forever. Hindus are reincarnated, samsara, or achieve nirvana and become one with All. And so on. Rewards for mortals being good, outside cult specific rules of good are not a thing.|

    Feige deliberately didn’t have the ancient Egyptian gods of Moon Knight normalized to Asgardians (People Who Live 70x ish As Long as Humans and Have Superpowers). They’re spirits who have, usually, avatars. The afterlife options in this series are more complex. The normal thing for the ancient Egyptian afterlife is, according to Wikipedia, the dead get judged, the wicked cease to exist; the good get to be idealized happy peasants forever.

    So mythologically, most souls get effed over, one way or another, and anything else is arranged by the gods for their favorites according to various criteria. Different pantheons, different afterlives and rules to not be effed.

    So, say that Valhalla is a creation of the Asgardians for their spirit selves and einherjar; Jane gets in as an einherja(?) — she died fighting at the side of Thor against an enemy of Asgardians, wielding Mjollnir.

    The M Knight gods seem to be spirits who have arranged to affect the mortal world through avatars. If the 5k year life thing applied to them, they aged out.

    Say that Gor’s god didn’t make an afterlife for his worshippers.

    In Marvel comics, The One Above All has Yahwe’s basic attributes: omnipotent, omniscient, made the multiverse. He’s Eternity’s boss’ boss or something.

  2. Just imagine how a Hollywood **Movie** would ruin Wearing The Cape . . .

    On the other hand, if Prime Video or Netflix got the rights to do a **series** they just might do a half-decent adaptation.

  3. The Movie had problems, but I interpreted the implied background worldbuilding a little differently than you did.

    My best guess was that something LIKE an afterlife, some VERSION of an afterlife, an UNDEFINED afterlife…. HYPOTHETICALLY exists for all sentient mortals. hypothetically.

    And that for Gods-with-Followers, if Gods PUT IN THE WORK, the most powerful and research-oriented gods can potentially colonize a FOOTHOLD in the mortal afterlife, which they can then build up as their VERSION of A heaven, and somehow…. prioritize….. the flow of THEIR followers, to THAT entry point into the afterlife, according the GOD’S chosen rules for who qualifies and who doesn’t.

    But then the God has to make sure that the foothold afterlife he created remains managed and workable, and doesn’t devolve into psychadelic anarchy, and it probably needs local government, and constant resources, and energy… so it sounds like a lot of work.

    If a God isn’t powerful enough, or skilled enough, or patient enough to build his own ‘Brand’ of heaven and maintain it himself, he can probably cooperate with a pantheon, and share a common heaven with them, presumably one build either cooperatively, or by the Pantheon head.

    If a God STILL doesn’t want to build or borrow a heavenly “foothold”, then he has several options….

    1. Don’t have followers.
    2. Do have followers, but tell them clearly that afterlives aren’t covered.
    3. Lie to your followers.

    The introductory God-villain, maybe the entire introductory God-Pantheon, went with option 3: lie to followers. or maybe just ‘tacitly permit followers to lie to themselves’.

    But most Gods are probably SLIGHTLY more ethical than that. Thor just doesn’t have mortal followers, and Asgardians minor gods probably personally go to Valhalla because Odin or he predecessor created Valhalla forever ago, dead Asgardians have been keeping it maintained ever since.

  4. Regarding “Who counts as dying in battle” for purposes of entry to Valhalla, I’m guessing Odin went with some sort of “Last independent cause” rule: You count as dying in battle if you were clearly participating IN the battle at the exact time of your death…. OR if, at the END of the battle, you were sufficiently injured that your death would be arriving shortly as a consequence of the battle, and there were no OTHER independent causes which could be MORE FAIRLY BLAMED for your upcoming death.

    You walked away from the battle with an inoperable metal shard in your brain, and were pretty much guaranteed to die from that within the next week, as it wiggles around? that counts as dying in battle.

    You walked away from the battle with an OPERABLE metal shard in your brain, but the medical service ATTACHED to the battle was too small to get to everyone in time, so you died while waiting? Providing medical care for post-battle operations counts as PART of the battle, or is dependently ATTACHED to the battle, so dying because you fought a battle on the ‘poor terrain’ of bad medical service still counts as a death CAUSED by the battle.

    Dying because you DIDN’T KNOW the metal shard was in there, thought you were fine, and didn’t get scanned by the medical service, because you never asked? but they totally could have saved you if you had? as long as it was a reasonable, honest, and forseeable mistake, that still counts as death-from-battle-injury. That’s part of pre-battle training and planning and discipline.

    Dying because a tourniquet was RIGHT there, a buddy trained in it’s use was RIGHT THERE, you EASILY could have been saved and taken to safety during post-battle cleanup, but you kept insisting “NO! NO! I WANT TO DIE IN BATTLE!” …… that’s on you. The Battle didn’t kill you, the battle took your arm. YOU made a deliberate decision to die, largely independent of the battle itself.

    Alternately, it’s possible that she COULD have qualified for Valhalla on a technicality, but Thor wasn’t putting up with that, so he just lied about the requirements to get her to accept treatment. Or maybe Thor didn’t actually know what the EXACT requirements even were. He’s not God of Lawyers.

      1. Well, there’s a plot element that this reminds me of. (Though you do have to get far into it to know what.)

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