Quick Synopsis: Gorr The God Butcher wants to butcher gods (hence this name). Thor is not happy about this. Also, Jane Foster has cancer and a hammer.
There’s been quite a few mixed reviews about this. On one hand I get it, but on the other I don’t. I feel part of that might be due to expectations. People expect certain things from Marvel films now, they expect cameos, they expect surprises, they expect every film to be the best one ever. This is not among the best films ever, but it is a lot of fun. As the film goes on you’ll have an idea of where it’s going, but you won’t know exactly. It’s got surprises, but not really any you can spoil. There’s no singular jaw dropping moment that the film anchors around. But in a way that saves it, what would No Way Home be without the appearance of Maguire and Garfield (Tobey and Andrew, not Harry and The Cat)? Because this doesn’t have a moment like that, it will hold up better in repeat viewings. It can’t really be spoiled in a sentence like some of the others can be.
It’s just generally a better story than they’ve done in a while. Not as many twists and turns, just a straight forward story with understandable character motivations and actions. Gorr The God Butcher is an understandable villain, but not completely sympathetic. It does try to make him one though, even trying to redeem him at the end, which is a weird step to take. It only works because he hasn’t really been shown as a villain. We see him kill the god at the start, but that guy was kind of a dick to begin with. We then get told “he’s killed this one, and this one”, it would be a lot better if we actually saw him kill an innocent god. As it is, his on-screen death count is one so he doesn’t seem to be that much of a threat. He definitely should have killed someone the audience knows. The fact that only one character we know dies in this film really hurts it. It had a chance to do something brave and game-changing but refuses.
That’s been a problem with a lot of MCU films lately though, we’re still waiting for something to happen, for that cataclysmic event that will change everything. The post-credits scene hints at something, which if it happens could define the next few films. But that’s all dependent on whether it’s followed up with, and quickly. Or whether it will be like the Adam Warlock reveal at end of Guardians 2 which has been five years in real-time and even longer in-universe due to the blip. Could be at least 10 years in that universe where that story has not developed at all.
One thing this does much better than any MCU film in years: it works as a stand-alone film. It does reference the others, but it does a good enough job of explaining other things that I think you could possibly go into this as your first Marvel film and not feel too lost.
There’s been some criticism of the humour in this. I don’t mind it. The characters make jokes, but they don’t do them in battle, they do them in casual conversation so the tonal whiplash isn’t too great. There are some very funny moments in this, and some sad ones. Overall I’d say it’s more funny than sad, but when it does have emotional moments, it hits hard.
In terms of performances, there are some strange choices made by some of the gods, the first one in particular is too reminiscent of Jim Howick for it not to be distracting. India Hemsworth has a lot of potential, showcasing her obvious talent in the small amount of screen time she’s given. Not quite at McKenna Grace levels of quality, but definitely has potential if utilised correctly. This is definitely the best Natalie Portman has been in the MCU. Although I’m not sure if part of that is because of performance, or due to the writing. I think it is the writing, this does a better job of displaying the Thor/Jane dynamic in a quick montage than the first two films did in their entirety. Christian Bale is good, but there are a few moments where he’s a bit too cartooney. Mostly works, but sometimes it does take away the fear factor which you should have of someone who is committing deicide.
In summary; if you’re a fan of Marvel films, you’ll enjoy this, probably. But this isn’t going to change your mind about the franchise as a whole. Much like……almost every Marvel film of the last few years to be honest.