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The Critical Response To Thor: Love And Thunder Might Surprise You

Despite the fact that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has been a beloved part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for over a decade now, his solo ventures have been a mixed bag where critics are concerned. 2011's "Thor," which introduced the character to the MCU, received mostly positive reviews but was not without its detractors. Roger Ebert, for instance, criticized the film as having a weak story, rote dialogue, and underwhelming villains. 2013's "Thor: The Dark World" proved to be even more divisive, and with its 66% critics' score, it was the lowest-rated MCU film on Rotten Tomatoes up until the release of "Eternals."

That all changed with 2017's "Thor: Ragnarok," which saw director Taika Waititi injecting new life into the series. "Ragnarok" presented a Thor story with a much lighter tone than previous installments, and allowed its titular character to have plenty of fun on his action-packed journey across the universe. The film received near-universal acclaim, and it was clear to many that Waititi's unique approach to the character and world marked a high point for the series. 

As such, it was entirely unsurprising that Marvel brought Waititi back to direct the next installment in the franchise, "Thor: Love and Thunder." However, if the initial reviews for the film are any indication, it appears that many critics aren't as enamored with Waititi's direction as they were in the previous film.

Thor: Love and Thunder is dividing critics

At the time of this writing, "Thor: Love and Thunder" currently holds a 70% critics' score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 111 unique reviews. While no great failure, that is already lower than the original "Thor," and almost as low as "Thor: The Dark World." Although this number will no doubt change as time goes on, the score indicates just how divisive this film has been amongst critics, as there are plenty who believe that the film's failures far outweigh its achievements.

"Despite some strong performances and a few heartfelt moments, 'Thor: Love and Thunder' ultimately buckles under a slew of tiresome humor and paper-thin character arcs," wrote Sheraz Farooql of CinemaDebate, who also said that the film represents a notable backsliding in quality compared to "Thor: Ragnarok." David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter shared a similar sentiment, saying, "the movie feels weightless, flippant, instantly forgettable, sparking neither love nor thunder."

Other critics, including Looper's own Larry Carroll, were more positive in their reviews of "Love and Thunder." Those who enjoyed the movie seemed willing to overlook many of the film's flaws thanks to its heartfelt and fun-loving core. They include Nick Allen, who wrote for RogerEbert.com, "While it has too many familiar flourishes and jokes, this entertaining sequel is still a force for good, with enough visual ambition and heart in front of and behind the camera to stand on its own."

Some critics don't think Taika Waititi found the right balance with Thor: Love and Thunder

Surprisingly, a number of critics took issue with Taika Waititi's direction and writing (he co-wrote the script with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson) in their reviews for "Thor: Love and Thunder," with some arguing that his distinctive blend of comedy and drama is part of the reason that the film falls flat. "The impressive mix of tones and styles that director Taika Waititi pulled off in 'Thor: Ragnarok' largely fizzles in 'Thor: Love and Thunder,'" wrote Brian Lowry of CNN, "which isn't as funny as it wants to be, as stirring as it needs to be or romantic as it ought to be."

Charles Pulliam-Moore of The Verge wrote, "While reframing Thor as the MCU's himbo god of jocularity was a solid way of renewing interest in the character, an overabundance of jokes is one of the big reasons why Waititi's Thor: Love and Thunder feels like an awkward step back." Indeed, initial reviews indicate that Waititi's distinctive style might be wearing itself thin within the MCU, as the unique tonal shifts within his work don't seem to have landed as well in "Love and Thunder" as they have in the past.

"The dramatic and comedic elements simply do not mix well," asserts Grant Watson of Fiction Machine. "None of the more serious elements feel earned, and none of the humorous bits can be taken seriously. The film curdles."

Reviewers agree that the performances are fun and engaging

For all the criticism that has been levied thus far at "Thor: Love and Thunder," one bright spot within these initial reviews is the overwhelming praise being given to the film's cast, specifically in regards to Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman (the latter of whom plays Jane Foster, aka the Mighty Thor). "An absolute rockstar performance from leading man Chris Hemsworth!" wrote Rohan Patel of ComicBookMovie.com. Meanwhile, Alan Cerny of Vital Thrills said, "Natalie Portman never treats this character as silly or weightless, and while many people may come to see Chris Hemsworth have fun as Thor, it's Portman's performance that I am most impressed with."

For all the criticism that Taika Waititi's lighthearted tone has received within these early reviews, one thing that many critics have agreed on is that he continues to provide the MCU with fun, exciting characters with performances to match. "For much of the time, the Love and Thunder audience will extract as much fun as the cast seems to be having (if that is possible)," wrote Donald Clarke of The Irish Times.

These divisive reviews are all the more reason to check out the film for yourself to see where you stand, as it's clear there is plenty to love and plenty to loathe within "Thor: Love and Thunder."