- The Washington Times - Friday, September 30, 2022

One of the founding members of Marvel Comics’ Avengers returned to theaters with blockbuster might and now visits the 4K disc realm with “Thor: Love and Thunder — Cinematic Universe Edition” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG-13, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 118 minutes, $39.99).

As a follow-up to his hit “Thor: Ragnarok,” director Taika Waititi takes a cynical view of the gods and life for that matter, highlighting the work of Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale at his most diabolical), a guy bereft from the death of his daughter who wields the Necrosword and slays deities across the galaxy at will.

Meanwhile, our hero Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) with his new favorite weapon, Stormbreaker, was taking time to find his inner peace, but that’s never going to happen with a maniac running around.

He assembles a team of heroes to find and defeat Gorr including Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Mr. Waititi) and a new and improved version of his former love, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).

Specifically, Miss Foster, now dying of cancer, has found kinship with Thor’s broken Mjolnir hammer now reassembled from its former shattered state and granting her the same powers as the God of Thunder.

The story reaches epic proportions once Thor enters the Shadow Realm, a place devoid of color, and he attempts to save Asgardian children kidnapped by Gorr and stop the villain from destroying the cosmic entity, Eternity.

Mr. Waititi embraces Thor’s comic book roots, often pulling from Jason Aaron’s seven-year run covering the God of Thunder that introduced Gorr and explored Jane as the Mighty Thor.

He even goes very deep in the canon, adding the space goats Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher, also part of sequential art, first appearing in Thor Annual No. 5 in 1976.

Marvel Cinematic Universe fans will be equally pleased with the appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gillan, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper reprising their roles) as they work with Thor early in the film to stop a civil war.

The movie has plenty to love, but the director adds a sometimes unsettling and gratuitous amount of humor in a story that is more wrought with tragedy.

For example, Thor gets gifted those pet space goats that have a tendency to scream. It’s funny the first few times, but not so much over and over again in every scene they pop up in.

The laughs exhaust an audience member’s ability to appreciate the drama.

One moment that should have caused inconsolable anguish for Odinson at the end of the movie (no spoilers) seems light on emotion and a missed opportunity for the actors.

Despite an endearing cast, “Thor: Love and Thunder” never lives up to the director’s previous effort due to a bit too much wiseacre shenanigans and not enough focus on a truly compelling story.

4K in action: With an ultra-high definition presentation culled from a likely 4K digital intermediate, the clarity takes center stage, and stark contrasts of color and monochrome scenes equally stand out thanks to the high dynamic range tweaks.

Look no further than the first scene for a payoff when viewing a nearly white parched pale, flat terrain containing a parched and pale Gorr standing out with his crackled face and intricate tattoos.

Moments that shine include a god bleeding gold; the collapse of a multistory crystal temple on Indigarr; the gold-plated and encrusted architecture of a massive temple; space dolphins flying in the translucent blue-and-purplish celestial clouds; and a battle in black and white on the Shadow Realm highlighted by the blue lightning of both the Thors and their child army.

Best extras: All of the digital goodies are found on the included Blu-ray version of the film and start with the welcomed optional commentary track featuring a solo effort by the always zany Mr. Waititi.

The narrative, imbued with his occasional wicked sense of humor, has the director first remind us that he is alone, everyone else too lazy to help, except for his younger daughters who are running amok in Abbey Road studios in London. They even join him later in the track.

Unfortunately, this time out, Mr. Waititi sounds a bit bored with it all, offering a lesson in playing water-filled glasses and touching on the comic origins of the story and his fascination with Guns N’ Roses. He‘s a wiseguy throughout, and short on insight but packed with silliness mostly based on reacting to stuff on the screen.

Next, a trio of standard and fairly shallow featurettes (roughly 19 minutes in total) cover the production; the villain Gorr; and spotlight the dedication of the director, Mr. Hemsworth and Ms. Portman.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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