Love and Thunder Can Make Up for Ragnarok’s Bad Humor

Thor: Ragnarok was an invigorating burst of energy to one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s least popular film series, imbuing the character and setting with more energy and humor than it ever had before. But that humor could be as much a weakness as it was a strength to the film, constantly undercutting the drama and dating its enjoyment so that the film’s quality seems to decline with subsequent viewings. But Thor: Love and Thunder could make up for its predecessor’s past mistakes. In fact, by balancing its drama and comedy more carefully, the next Thor film could easily be the best one yet.

Though the hero’s first two movies were largely dour and deliberately Shakespearean in their tone and approach to the material, director Taika Waititi brought charisma and hilarity to the third installment, which immediately proved popular with audiences. Many touted the film as the best Thor entry yet, and not without good reason. Characters like Skurge and Korg came as constant comic relief, and Thor himself did an about-face from his characterization as a humbled prince into a carousing jock seldom serious in his interactions with others.

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But as refreshing as the shift in direction was, Ragnarok overcorrected in its course. Loki’s deception in the guise of Odin, Thor’s confinement to Sakaar while his people were under threat and the entire destruction of Asgard were dramatically potent plot points repeatedly undercut by the film’s humor. With its constant onslaught of jokes, the film only loses its luster on rewatches where punchlines can’t land as hard. And some jokes like Skurge’s Shake Weight gag that was already dated when it came out in 2017 only get even worse with time.

Yet, the trailer for Thor: Love and Thunder seems to offer hope that the follow-up film will not fall into the pitfalls of its predecessor. While still promising its own share of gags and japes, the overall tone of the trailer seems to offer a sense of sincerity that Ragnarok was sorely lacking. Perhaps what stands out most of all is that even a few months out from the film’s release, the marketing still holds back on giving even a glimpse of its villain, who’s sure to be one of the darkest and most serious yet seen in the MCU.

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In the comics, Gorr lives up to his name as a deity-slaying force of destruction hell-bent on inflicting his revenge on the entirety of the universe. And while he will appear in the film, the MCU has been uncharacteristically quiet on marketing featuring the character. With such a brutal and effective character intertwined with its plot, it could be that the dramatic gut-punch the Thor franchise needs will come at Gorr’s hand, made all the more effective by the studio’s reservation in utilizing him thus far.

Waititi’s skills in infusing his works with drama even while keeping an overall lighthearted tone is abundantly clear in his creative projects since Ragnarok. Jojo Rabbit shines out as a perfect example that managed a miraculous balance between comedy and drama even in a film set within Nazi Germany, and while the film certainly has its laughs, they never come at the expense of selling the emotionality or impact of the story.

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If Thor: Love and Thunder receives the same care, fans of the film franchise would be lucky. Past Thor films failed to connect with audiences because they did not sufficiently appeal to their lighter nature, and Ragnarok swung too far in the other direction, leaving viewers clamoring for deeper emotional grounding. Thankfully, Love and Thunder could very well get the balance just right.

To see if the film pulls off the delicate balancing act, Thor: Love and Thunder hits theaters July 8.

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