Thor IV, or, to use its proper name MCU Phase 4 episode 6: Marvel's Thor 4 (the 4 is silent): Love and Thunder, is the direct sequel to the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. It directly includes elements of Guardians of the Galaxy, Immortals*, and of course the previous Thors.
Other than that, it's pretty stand-alone!
I talk shit about it, but honestly, at this point whoever is going to watch this would have already watched at least some of the marvel stuff - it's a weird place to be, but them's the breaks, right? The movie itself does a good job of giving you a very short (and pretty funny) catch up of what went on outside the main Thor series- it sort of, kind of handwaves it away, which is exactly the right take. Coming in having watched only the previous Thor movies wouldn't be the best viewing experience, but... well, the Marvel business model isn't going away any time soon. It leans the most on the first Thor movie, and otherwise does its own thing, which is great. It's got an arc and a semblance of themes, and it all revolves around Thor. Which is a long-winded way to say that it's not a repeat of this year's Dr Strange.
|I never do get to mention these two, which is a horrible injustice. Awesome, and mythologically correct.|
So after the events of the awful, terrible, shitty, not very good 'Thanos does dumb shit' crapfests, Thor's recovered from his haha, depression is funny fatsuit episode, but feels a bit adrift. He's hanging out with the Guardians of the Galaxy (don't worry, they're only guesting for the prologue) serving as a sort of tactical nuke they can point at stuff they want to die. Basically, he's trying to think of himself as more of a weapon than anything else. Then he gets a warning from an old acquaintance that there's a dude going around the universe killing gods (said dude is played by Christian Bale, and his backstory is the first thing we see in the movie).
Thor bids farewell to the Guardians (in a particularly unfunny scene that was featured prominently in the trailers) and goes his own way. Soon he's reunited with co-protagonist and old flame Jane Foster.
If I have to be honest I find that Jane (played by the great Natalie Portman) is the only memorable, engaging female character in the MCU (sorry Gamora and blue sister): socially awkward, enthusiastic and very funny. In the time since she and Thor went their own ways, she contracted cancer and found it could be held back by wielding Thor's old hammer, Mjolnir, in the process gaining his lightning powers. Together with Valkyrie and Korg (from Thor 3) they set out to stop the god killer's plan to break the universe. The usual.
I like the Thor movies because out of all the MCU they're the ones that are the most allowed to exist as pure comedies. They're goofy larks- the first one was a fish out of water comedy, and the third is filled to the brim with silly sight gags and jokes, to the point where nothing was taken seriously. Oh, and they tried to make the second one more serious and it was kind of crap... but still had some great jokes.
This one is a direct descendant from Ragnarok, and it's much more willing to be ridiculous. It's a shame, then, that it's not quite as funny - I really didn't find a lot of the jokes as hilarious as the film clearly did.
The plot is ok. It's a very basic story made complicated by MCU cruft and a lot of digressions, and a lot of its heft comes from a soap-opera-ish interweaving characters that have been established throughout the series. Very comic book. In this specific case it works because the principals are ridiculously likeable and most of the events reflect on or relate to Thor's existential crisis. Also, the jokes actually slow down in the last act, letting the story breathe a little.
The visuals vary a lot. The first few battles are your standard CGI fest, and is vey much in the typical uninteresting MCU house style. But there's a couple of visual flourishes on later scenes that are pretty cool, and by the end they've fabricated an excuse to go (mostly) black and white for some real excellence in the biff! blam! pow! scenes. It's like there's at least one FX team that Marvel farms out its action scenes to that fail to get the memo to make the action as forgettable as possible.
All the fights against the God Killer are good, as well - he's just a cool visual villain, all rags and shadows. Not actually a good villain, unfortunately, he's too simple and gets too little screen time for that. They waste his big monologue in a pretty bad scene, but he at least gets a cool sendoff.
Finally, given how many feces I've thrown at the Russo brothers, it'd be remiss of me not to mention that it's got a world-changing wish plot point that's just as dumb as the whole Thanos thing. If anyone had said 'wait, maybe we can workshop it a little?' before making it... well, the movie would be ruined, but it's really glaring that no one involved acts as any half-intelligent person would. At least in this case those involved are dimwits or in a pretty bad place psychologically, all acting against a (perceived) time limit. Unlike with The Eternity Stones, this is not a years/centuries-in-the-making plan and it's got extenuating circumstances. I'll allow it.
Is the movie any good? At this point, I honestly kind of don't know anymore. It's a mess, made harder to judge because how damn weird these things have become compared to more traditional movies. I enjoyed it, but it's probably safe to say it's only really good for an MCU film, and just OK- fun, but uneven, clunky and kind of overlong film in and of itself. It's cute as all hell, it's got a lot of warmth for its characters, and a bit more thought behind its themes than you'd expect from this sort of thing - in other words, director Taika Waititi's sensibilities have filtered through, which is not always a given. And it's got some stunning visuals, which at this point was also not something I was expecting going in.
I'm just not fully in its target audience of people who buy into the broader Marvel thing and are onboard with their comic-book plot structures and conventions, and less so in this case because this one is even more aimed at kids than usual. Which is a weird thing to say about a movie that starts with a little girl dying of dehydration in her father's arms, and has more (many more) than one mention of orgies.
* I was kidding that you need to watch Immortals for this. No one does. Some of the big guys from that get a cameo, nothing else; but you know Disney's going to shoehorn them somewhere at some point.