Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth star in "Thor: Love and Thunder." Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios
LOS ANGELES, July 5 (UPI) -- Thor: Love and Thunder, opening in theaters Friday, is temporarily entertaining, though ultimately unsatisfying. While never boring, it fails to meet its own potential.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been traveling with the Guardians of the Galaxy since Avengers: Endgame. He returns to New Asgard, established on Earth in Endgame, when Gorr (Christian Bale) kidnaps the children.
Gorr spent his life worshiping a sun god until all of his people, including his daughter, died. The sun god just laughed, so the god-killing Necrosword chose Gorr to wield it.
The sun god absolutely deserved it, but #notallGods, man. We also learn that the Necrosword corrupts its owner, so that explains why Gorr continues his god-killing rampage after the sun god.
Back on Earth, Jane Foster -- played by Natalie Portman, who was last seen in 2013's Thor: The Dark World -- is now a published author. But, she's also sick and thinks Thor's old hammer, Mjolnir, broken in Thor: Ragnarok, can help her.
When Jane visits the remains of Mjolnir in New Asgard, it reassembles itself and turns Jane into a Thor, too. So Jane joins with ex-boyfriend Thor and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) to rescue the children from Gorr, as well as work out their unresolved relationship.
Jane is as awesome as The Mighty Thor herself. Jane and Valkyrie have a lovely supportive sisterhood that's even more rewarding than Jane's reconnection with Thor.
Without getting into specific spoilers, Thor: Love and Thunder still can't give Jane power without punishing her for it. So the film still manages to undermine Jane, as well as literally sidelining Valkyrie for the third act, although it does empower the Asgardian children.
The comedic streak director Taika Waititi's brought to Thor: Ragnarok was welcome after two self-serious solo Thor movies. The success of Ragnarok seems to have empowered Love and Thunder to ramble aimlessly in its comedy bits.
A sequence in Omnipotence City overstays its welcome by a good 10 minutes. Actors in the scene keep vamping before getting back to the story.
Love and Thunder continues running gags from Ragnarok and raises them to another level. The film also introduces fun new running gags, like a pair of space goats that bleat to mark every arrival to a new location.
What still works is that Waititi and Hemsworth realized in the last film that Thor is more fun as a bumbling buffoon than as a stoic hero. They're still right.
It is unfortunate that every action scene looks like a gaggle of actors standing in front of a green screen. This isn't a COVID-19 production limitation -- it's how all the Marvel movies, and most studio blockbusters, now film.
Waititi never tried to give green screen and CGI the gravitas of serious action. He uses the standard format of Marvel set pieces to irreverently take superheroes down a peg.
The heroes do some fun flips and moves, including Thor's Jean-Claude Van Damme homage. However, it feels less real than looking at an artist's drawing in a comic book.
Saying this movie is better than the first two solo Thor movies is faint praise. While not Thorrible, Thor: Love and Thunder has few real triumphs, and its disappointments are glaring.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.