TONS OF SPOILERS FOR THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER.
Like a lot of them.
So let me get this part right out of the way. We are not worthy of Christian Bale and we never will be. Speaking of not worthy, I want to get this out of the way too. I think the long awaited Thor 4: Love and Thunder, is fine. At best. It really seems like an undercooked pizza that couldn't quite agree on its toppings. I'll do a quick section on the main pieces of the pie, and what worked and what didn't.
The Tone: An easy complaint to get out of the way. As funny as Thor Ragnarök was, it subtly shifted between serious issues and humor. Thor and Loki's strained relationship, Odin's death, Hela's conquest, it was an epic tone set of loss and self discovery. That's why the humor worked. Random gags like "Strongest Avenger" really hit the audience in the face, and in a great way, not a Will Smith way. Thor: Love and Thunder doubles down on this (as far as the Thor story line is concerned). Gorr's story of loss and vengeance is all well and good, but it is a minor part of the story. Most of it is repeated jokes/gags and a tone that doesn't really take the content seriously. What is an excellent story about Gods and how we see them essentially becomes a "Love always triumphs" story. My response to that whole storyline is said better by a metallic great.
As cool as love can be (if it were real), the movie would have been better served by sticking to the "Are Gods worthy of our devotion" storyline. It would have really made Thor and company question their place in the cosmos, and maybe take a little more proactive role in helping mortals. We really only get one line about the whole concept in Omnipotent City, with Thor challenging the incredibly fit and robust Russel Crowe as Zeus. So this movie and Thor himself had something in common, they weren't sure what they wanted to be. It would have benefitted from a slightly darker tone, with a two hour hunt across the universe looking for Gorr. Which brings me to my next point.
The Plot: A lot of the "big" moments in Thor:LAT aren't earned. The plot is just a classic "Emperor Pilaf's Make a Wish Foundation" for bad guys. A boring plot device that introduced a boring entity. Eternity. Which would have been better suited for the Eternals, since watching that movie feels like it takes one whole Eternity. Not that Marvel give's a Rattigan's butt about my opinion, but going AWAY from the Mighty Thor stuff and leaning into the Gorr stuff should have been the play from the beginning, ESPECIALLY when you have Christian Bale playing Gorr. Jane getting the hammer felt unearned, and when she first returns it to her hand to grandiose music the crowd went.....silent. For my two showing of it at least. This is a character who hasn't been relevant since Thor: The Dark World, and now we are supposed to rush her ascent into heroism? AND death? I mean she deserved more of a shot than the movie gave her. They crammed two plots into one movie, and smothered both to death. If I had a Time Stone I'd go back and beg them to make this a movie where it's just Thor and Sif on the hunt for the God Butcher. Then they team up with OH I DONT KNOW MAYBE KHONSHU. For real the simplicity of it kills me. A God Butcher right after a show that introduced Gods and we dont get a Moon Knight cameo? Wasted opportunity. But in my opinion an across the Galaxy adventure teaming up with various Gods (Like Hercules Kent) hunting a God hunter would have been a more entertaining (and fulfilling) story than a half baked love story with a LOT of Ex-Hammer jokes. It is also hard to feel fear for any character's safety when they come back from literally every single "Deathblow" the villains manage to land. Cancer killed as many Gods as we saw Gorr the God Butcher kill.
The Acting: I've said it once and I'll say it a million times more, Sarah Finn is the true hero of the MCU. She nails EVERY casting decision and always has. With that being said, this movie doesn't really cast anyone new. Taika Waititi is at his best when he is creating new versions of characters for us to love (Korg, Meek, Skurge, Hela, Valkyrie, The Grandmaster). Instead of creating, we got old characters repurposed. We could have had an incredible adventure with various actors and actresses playing support gods to Thor. Instead we only get Bale and Crowe as our new additions to the MCU cast. But they both nail their parts. Bale is efficiently creepy, playful, and sinister all at once. You can see the pain of loss in every word he speaks, but can also feel the rage beneath the words. We are truly lucky to see that man in ANY film. Go watch Ford vs. Ferrari and stop reading this. Russel Crowe was an inspired choice to play Zeus, and really did the role justice. He was arrogant, fun, and had a moment of "wisdom" when he had his 1 on 1 talk with Thor. Chris Hemsworth has another heck of a time on the set, truly enjoying every bit of this movie. His banter with SILENT HAMMERS AND AXES is so believable it ends up being one of the funniest gags the MCU has seen. Natalie Portman is (finally) used as a talented actress, really bringing the grief and emotional weight to her role. So while the MASSIVE weight and expectations of the MCU might have made this movie seem a bit lackluster, the talented ensemble cast really did their best to lift this film up, and it's worth seeing for their efforts.
Summary: For those of you who skipped right to this part, touché. Thor: Love and Thunder is a fine addition to the MCU, but a middle of the pack one. The plots bump into each other and don't really allow one story to be told fully. The tone of the film is overly silly, which I blame on Marvel for thinking everyone loved Thor Ragnarök because of the humor, not the story. The tone takes away from what could have been one of the greatest MCU villain performances of all time. No one even tries to talk to Gorr about his loss until he is about to beat them, which leads to most of Bale's scene's being reduced to spooky teleporting and summoning poorly done CGI shadow monsters who conveniently were always in the shadows and hard to see. But as usual, the star studded cast holds the film up, and does their best with what seems like a movie that is being crushed under the weight of the MCU. There is plenty to like about the movie, as it has Waititi's usual humor and style, and there are plenty of Thor easter eggs and good musical choices along the way. The dueling storylines makes the plot a bit messy, but still an adequate addition to the MCU, and definitely worth watching.
6 goats out of 10 (Bonus points awarded for not being The Eternals or mentioning them)