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Marvel, Marvel, Everywhere! 

Thor, phase four and what's in store

I get it. Everyone has superhero fatigue now, because between Marvel, Disney and DC, we get two dozen comic book movies a year with only a small handful of them being any good. Marvel is also struggling a bit critically right now because they don't really seem to be building toward anything so far with Phase Four of the MCU. One through Three were busy setting up Thanos and the Infinity Stones, so even the films that didn't seem like they had a place in the overall story eventually ended up being important.

click to enlarge Christian Bale steals "Thor: Love and Thunder" with both hands as The God Butcher. - COURTESY IMDB
  • Courtesy IMdb
  • Christian Bale steals "Thor: Love and Thunder" with both hands as The God Butcher.

Look at what we've had theatrically and on Disney+ so far in Phase Four: it started with "WandaVision," and went on to "The Falcon and The Winter Soldier," "Loki," "Black Widow," "What If...?" "Shang Chi," "Hawkeye," "Eternals," "Spider-Man: No Way Home," "Moon Knight," "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," "Ms. Marvel" and now just this weekend "Thor: Love and Thunder." That's seven shows and six movies since January 2021, which is an absolute deluge of content.

And that's not even close to everything. Theatrically, we still have "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," "Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," "The Marvels" and "Fantastic Four" coming in for the rest of Phase Four. On Disney+ we still have coming "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law," an untitled Marvel Halloween special starring Gael Garcia Bernal, "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," "Secret Invasion," "Ironheart," "Armor Wars" and a series set in Wakanda.

That's an astounding amount of stuff, and aside from characters crossing over here and there and Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch, Loki and Doctor Strange's respective dalliances with the multiverse, there's really not a whole lot tying these stories together. Back in the day, the original Thor and Captain America movies felt like completely unconnected stories, but that's because Marvel was building toward bringing them together for "The Avengers." Now it just feels like we're getting a lot of world-building without a larger plot device (like the Infinity Stones) tying them all together.

But I'm happy with the way things are going. Sure, Marvel is easy to make fun of because it's giant and popular (even though nerds like me were beat up because of their comic collections long before this stuff was cool and lucrative), but if you take the time to look at what they're doing with Phase Four, it's kinda unprecedented.

"WandaVision"deconstructed sitcoms while telling a deeply personal tale of grief, "Loki" focused on identity and self-discovery set against a massive backdrop, while "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" showed how poorly our government treats BIPOC lives. "Moon Knight" is a bonkers world-traveling adventure about Egyptian gods and mental illness and "Ms. Marvel" shows the inner life of the first mainstream Muslim superhero. The most common complaint I've seen from people about the MCU is that everything is "the same," yet Marvel anticipated this by having Phase Four feel like a little kid mashing all his toys together and inventing a new story for each one.

You'll know exactly what you're getting with "Thor: Love and Thunder" because Chris Hemsworth's Thor is one of the last standing OG MCU characters, and we've seen his adventures for the last decade plus. Writer/director Taika Waititi returns from "Thor: Ragnarok" with the same childlike glee and wonder, but with some absolutely dazzling direction and an all-time great villain performance from Christian Bale. You don't need me to tell you whether to go see it or not because everyone has ultimately already decided whether they're along for the Marvel ride or not. I loved it. Mileage will vary.

"Love and Thunder" won't convert any Marvel haters, but it shouldn't turn anyone away from the forever franchise, either. Ultimately, these movies are just simply fun and I really respect the unprecedented idea of telling dozens of interconnected stories across multiple billion dollar franchises. I think what needs to happen for people to eventually get over their cynicism for the MCU is just to watch the things they want and ignore the rest. I know someone who has never watched a single second of Marvel content before diving into "Ms. Marvel" and they absolutely fell in love with the show. The baby doesn't have to get tossed with the bathwater.

More movies means more choices and more choices are never a bad thing. Maybe I only love the MCU so much because it vindicates my lifelong love of comic books. Or maybe I just think there's something there for everyone... especially the haters.

"Thor: Love and Thunder"

Dir. Taika Waititi

Grade: B+

Now playing at Regal Old Mill, Sisters Movie House, Odem Theater Pub, Mcmenamin

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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