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Thor: Love And Thunder's Best Performances, Ranked

Most of the time, when actors sign onto a movie, they do so knowing they'll be starring in a comedy, drama, romance, action movie, horror flick, or sci-fi adventure. The Marvel Cinematic Universe often asks its superheroes to embody maybe two of those genres at the same time, but Taika Waititi requires his actors to work on all of those wavelengths simultaneously as he hops and skips from tone to tone with playful abandon. That's both a challenge and an opportunity for any actor, and for the most part, the cast of "Thor: Love and Thunder" lives up to it. 

Such record-scratching filmmaking styles isn't to everyone's tastes, but the collage of 80's pop art, melodrama, and gothic horror that Waititi and company have glued together is, itself, reminiscent of what comic books and comic book characters themselves can do. Those who enjoyed "Thor: Ragnarok" will probably enjoy "Thor: Love and Thunder." It's just as irreverent and creative and even more fast-paced, with an additional dose of heart. It's also unexpectedly self-contained and family-friendly, which means the actors don't have to try so hard to bend their performances backward to fit into larger narratives and can give themselves over to the grand religious revenge quest, sweet romantic comedy, and tear-jerking found family story that's in front of them. Some characters get better material and bigger moments than others, but everyone is at least game to try the Looney Tunes-doing-Greek theater vibe that is Waititi's version of Marvel's mythology. These are the best performances in "Thor: Love and Thunder," ranked. 

10. The Guardians of the Galaxy

If you like the Guardians of the Galaxy, the good news is, they're in this movie (but you already knew that from the marketing). The bad news is, those clips from the trailers that heavily feature Drax, Mantis, Rocket, Groot, and Nebula are about all you get of them. We can't fault the actors. Dave Bautista is still a gentle soul with a dynamic physical presence. Pom Klementieff is still weirdly adorkable. Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel give us a fun enough minute and a half with the snarky raccoon and his arboreal best friend, who's currently growing out of his talk back-y teenager phase. And Karen Gillam is as cool and blue and kick-butt as ever.

As a group, this surprisingly well-adjusted bunch of misfits is a great foil to Thor early on in the movie. But they're mostly reacting to him, and no individual Guardian has enough to do to set themselves apart or make much of a statement. Neither are they given much of a chance to show off their combat skills. Even the fight scenes in which they appear are a stitched-together series of extremely quick cuts. There isn't any new business between Drax and Mantis or Rocket and Groot, and nothing gets set up for the forthcoming "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," which renders these performances as pleasant if perfunctory cameos.

9. Taika Waititi as Korg

The co-writer and director of both "Thor: Ragnarok" and "Thor: Love and Thunder" also voices and does the motion capture performance for Korg, a comics character Taika Waititi introduced in the former and reprises in the latter. The Kronan warrior's first foray into the MCU is (excuse the pun) a marvelous bit of comic writing and acting. That Waititi penned Korg's often too-familiar manner of speaking, then delivered his own words with that soft-spoken-no-matter-how-bad-things-are tone of voice lends such authenticity to the character — we feel as if we know him and adore him from the moment he remembers Doug's dead.

Waititi brings the same easy-to-be-around energy to Korg again in "Thor: Love and Thunder" in a role that's gone from quirky featured player to full sidekick. He's no worse (but also no better), in part because he's just a face for about the final third of the movie. The lovable Kronan's standout moments — that look of realization as he begins to crumble and his adoring stare with his partner as they're about to make a baby — are both silent. Waititi's sometimes faux-humble, mumbling charm is key to Korg's appeal, but the animators deserve credit, too. 

8. The New Asgard Players

It's probably fair to say that most movie and TV stars have their dream job. They audition their whole lives, hoping to land that lead role in a big-budget movie that comes with a fat paycheck. But — though their parts in "Thor: Love and Thunder" are incredibly small, it's possible that no one has ever had more fun at work than Matt Damon as Actor Loki, Luke Hemsworth as Actor Thor, and Sam Neill as Actor Odin. The Asgard Players are back, and this time, they seem to have found regular, gainful employment as one of New Asgard's tourist attractions. They've also added Melissa McCarthy to their ranks as Actor Hela.

The trio's performance of the legend of "Thor: Ragnarok" definitely ups the comedy ante with more capital-A acting and more screen time, plus intentionally sweaty costume changes and special effects. But a second scene in which Damon and Hemsworth parody theater people is their funniest bit yet. After the Asgardians think they've driven off the Black Berserkers and saved the day, they learn they've been fooled by Gorr, and the community's children have all been kidnapped. In this somber moment, Damon and Hemsworth — out of costume and misreading the room — approach King Valkyrie with a pitch for a new play about the events that have just transpired. She stands in silent disbelief at their gall. All they take away from the episode is that they "didn't hear a no."

7. Chris Pratt as Star-Lord

Star-Lord has a few more lines than the rest of his crew, and with them, Chris Pratt is able to demonstrate some genuine character development. His Peter Quill is still coping with the death of his girlfriend and fellow Guardian, Gamora, but his life post-Phase 3 isn't all grieving and sulking. Nor has he reverted to being completely carefree and occasionally obnoxious. Pratt retains just enough of Quill's dopey, sarcastic, and defensive personality, but he's let the character mature in a way that really feels like he's a few years more grown-up and a few years removed from tragedy.

It's Star-Lord who gives Thor the advice to live and love regardless of loss and pain ... advice that becomes suddenly relevant when Thor sees his ex-girlfriend on the battlefield with his ex-hammer. The once jealous half-god, who couldn't help view Thor as competition, seems less threatened by the God of Thunder and more like he's mildly annoyed waiting for his buddy to get his act together. But, since Star-Lord can only be so vulnerable and earnest, Pratt makes sure to deliver said advice with some swear words and deflective humor. He also has a bit of an ulterior motive in getting the Thor back out there again — he wants control of his crew and his ship back. This quick bite of a slightly aged and more refined Peter Quill bodes well for "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3."

6. India Rose Hemsworth as Love

When the nameless girl at the beginning of "Thor: Love and Thunder" dies, it seems like her purpose was merely to serve as the motivating force for Gorr to become the God Butcher and embark on his vengeful quest. The child actor plays the scene touchingly but with restraint as she looks into her father's eyes and almost apologizes with her expression for not having the strength to go on. But when that same girl is revived in a final act twist, she gets to play a totally different side of the character. That girl is Love, Gorr's daughter, later adopted by Thor, who goes from starving in a desert wasteland to rocking a mismatched pair of fuzzy slippers without skipping a beat. And that young actress is India Rose Hemsworth, the 10-year-old daughter of Chris Hemsworth and his wife, Elsa Pataky. 

In her few minutes of screen time, India proves herself capable of handling the type of dark drama one typically expects from a Christian Bale movie, as well as the type of off-the-wall antics that one typically expects from a Taika Waititi movie. She holds her own with Bale, but she's especially magnetic in her scene with her real-life dad as she behaves, well, like a 10-year-old who knows she's got her father wrapped around her finger would. "Thor: Love and Thunder's" little domestic coda could've been too saccharine a note to end the movie on, but India's Love has just enough attitude, magic, and realism to her. Between her confident performance and Waititi's natural inclination about how to use kids in film, it's the perfect beat on which to conclude things.  

5. Tessa Thompson as King Valkyrie

Tessa Thompson's Valkyrie makes her memorable entrance in "Thor: Ragnarok" as a surly, checked-out bounty hunter who's such a highly trained combatant, she barely has to lift a finger to win a fight. She's instantly a welcome addition to the Thor Cinematic Universe, but her character arc only goes from drunk and jaded to less drunk and all-in on defending her people again. Her arc in "Thor: Love and Thunder" is less of a straight line, in a good way. We catch up with Valkyrie, now King of New Asgard, not as someone who's near rock bottom but as someone who is struggling with relatable ennui. She has a high-powered job that isn't quite what she wants to do, and her love life has taken a back seat, but she's got friends — Miek, Mighty Thor — who she can depend on. 

Thompson's affection for her MCU character is apparent. In the hands of a lesser thespian, King Val could've been little more than a sidekick to two other sidekicks (she's most often paired with Mighty Thor and Korg) and an afterthought. But she's put so much thought into Valkyrie's moods and mannerisms that she comes off like a real god and a real person. Thompson nails the physical humor — a faux Old Spice ad and a bit about a portable speaker are both chuckle-worthy and in-character — and she plays that nagging discontent (which can be tricky to translate to the screen) really interestingly. Thompson really shines, though, in her showdown with Gorr as she wields Zeus' lightning bolt. It's the most fully charged Valkyrie has gotten to be.

4. Russell Crowe as Zeus

About halfway through "Thor: Love and Thunder," Oscar-winning serious actor and known gruff Australian Russell Crowe shows up to steal the movie in a performance that's like nothing he's ever done on screen before. Far from the quiet resilience, selfless heroism, and chiseled biceps of Maximus the Gladiator, Crowe's Zeus is showboating, arrogant, and sloppy ... and a laugh riot every second he's on screen. The swing from Crowe's usual work in films like "A Beautiful Mind"' and "The Insider" to this "Saturday Night Live" version of a Greek god is so great that he's even put himself in this position as part of the joke. 

Crowe is an inspired choice to play Zeus. As a fellow Aussie actor who's got age, experience, and stature over Chris Hemsworth, it checks out that Thor looks up to him. Unless fans guessed (based on what Taika Waititi did with Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster) that he'd be used for comic relief, the way that Crowe embodies Zeus is equally inspired. His appearance is both coifed and disheveled, with messy ringlets, ill-fitting gold armor, and a slightly too-short toga-ish skirt. He seems like he might well be under the influence of some of Dionysus' wine, and he also seems like he came straight from the bedroom with his harem of Zeusettes and pretty boys. Yes, it's more of a caricature than a nuanced portrayal, but underneath the hilarity, there's something extra-biting about his concept of a powerful leader who's become despicable and is responsible for his own comic and tragic downfall. 

3. Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher

There's a cream of the crop class of actors who, if you cast one of the very few of them in your movie, it's 100 percent guaranteed to improve in quality and gain more respect. With the possible exception of Daniel Day-Lewis, Christian Bale might be the first to come to mind. Bale last went mega-franchise in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" trilogy 10 years ago, and his Gorr will undoubtedly go down in the MCU's history as one of its best villains. But it's the more human stuff he does at the beginning and end as opposed to the full-blown bad guy stuff in the middle that impresses the most. 

One of Bale's greatest strengths is his ability to calibrate the size of his performance to the scene that he's in. He's not afraid to go big ⁠— or weird for that matter ⁠— when necessary. It was a stroke of genius on Taika Waititi's part to cast him as the monotone monster in the midst of the coloring book of a movie that's happening all around him. Bale can make anything feel like high art, even standing still and staring intensely from underneath a hood a hundred yards away. He's certainly striking as Gorr, who's lost all humanity and is interrogating and manipulating the heroes in a performance that reads at least a little like an homage to Heath Ledger's Joker. However, he creates something entirely new and all his own as the father who loses his daughter and his religion in one crushing blow. His strange and specific interpretation of that Gorr is what lays the groundwork for the spectacular villain to come. 

2. Natalie Portman as Jane Foster and Mighty Thor

Natalie Portman is A-list enough to have starred in both "Star Wars" and Marvel movies, but she's always seemed more comfortable in indie prestige fare like "Black Swan" (for which she won an Academy Award) and "Jackie." Taika Waititi convinced her to return to the MCU after she was unhappy with her experience making "Thor: The Dark World," and he did so by promising her Mjolnir. Between the chance to play a proper superhero as well as a more substantial Earth-bound version of Jane Foster, Portman finally seems at home in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and finally has electric chemistry with Chris Hemsworth's Thor). 

Portman's sort-of dual role allows her to flex every acting muscle. Her god-bod physique isn't CGI; the actor worked out and worked with a nutritionist to get into Asgardian shape. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that she's so vivacious in action sequences, as she's held our attention before in films like "V for Vendetta." Portman does well enough with the comedy ⁠— trying out catchphrases and exchanging knowing looks with Valkyrie ⁠— and better with the drama. The storyline revolving around her cancer is significantly more emotional and effective than the one that revolved around her exposure to the aether. As someone coming to terms with her mortality, she plays Jane with weight and levity. And in her scenes with Hemsworth — especially in a montage that covers their previous relationship and as things in the present timeline get more dire — we really believe she's in love. Bale gets to be showier, but the movie wouldn't work without Portman firing on all cylinders, and she does. 

1. Chris Hemsworth as Thor

There's a reason Chris Hemsworth's Thor is the first Avenger to notch four solo films. He was a perfect fit when he was cast as the title character back in 2011's "Thor." In that film and the less well-liked "Thor: the Dark World," Hemsworth handles his responsibilities as both a living Adonis and a Kenneth Branagh-style Shakespearian character with aplomb. He also proves himself adept at action and comedy, and it's that last trait that Taika Waititi turned up the volume on in "Thor: Ragnarok." Hemsworth clearly reveled in the chance to play a cut-loose version of the Norse god. He's gets to show off those underrated skills again in "Thor: Love and Thunder," though he never reaches the frenetic highs of, say, the duel with Hulk in the gladiator arena. 

But that doesn't mean the performance falls short. Hemsworth's ninth time playing Thor shows him in all his depth and breadth. He gets to play Thor as slapstick opposite his possessive battle-ax, Stormbreaker, and standing naked in front of his new nemesis, Russell Crowe's Zeus. He gets to play soap opera and bodice ripper love interest with his long locks flowing again opposite Jane. He gets to be stoic as things turn serious, and he's as much of an invincible warrior as ever. And he adds two new elements to the character: someone who's incurably in love and fun uncle Thor-slash-dad. Hemsworth is winsome with the Asgardian children and even more so when tying up Love's Viking boots. But when his quivering voice finally cracks as he tells Jane that he loves her, the audience knows exactly what Thor's feeling. Hemsworth gives the MCU's most heartfelt performance since Tony Stark said, "I love you 3000," with a Thor that's anything but two-dimensional.