TUCSON, Ariz. — "Thor: Love and Thunder" is a big, fun, loud action movie that tosses aside the somber, grim tone of the earlier "Thor" films for something akin to the freewheeling "Ragnarok" vibe.
Director Taika Waititi, fresh off the success of "Jojo Rabbit," brings his visually creative and emotionally resonant flair to the table. The plot is messy, but Waititi manages to cram odds and ends into a semblance of cohesion.
Adapting the controversial 2014 Marvel Comics storyline in which Thor's ex-girlfriend Jane Foster took up the hammer and cape, "Love and Thunder" is a fast-paced, easygoing tale of rekindled romance, misdirected loyalty, and the struggle to find purpose and a sense of belonging.
Natalie Portman makes an excellent Mighty Thor, adding panache and enthusiasm for her newfound powers. Smitten with her dynamism is Chris Hemsworth, who plays the traditional hero, and asks her to team up with him to confront a god-slaying brute Gorr (Christian Bale).
Also along for the ride is Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who adds a sassy, devil-may-care dimension to the mix.
At stake, as usual, is the fate of the universe. While Waititi leans hard on some well-worn cliches and plot dynamics, he at least strives for some hard-won twists at the end that underline themes of sacrifice and selflessness.
But really, "Love and Thunder" succeeds mostly in its humor and charisma.
Hemsworth's persona rivals that of Dwayne Johnson, and his character's vulnerability in devotion to Jane is heart-melting. An extended cameo by the Guardians of the Galaxy adds to the humor and emotional resonance.
"Thor: Love and Thunder" work as a summer action movie because of its rambunctiousness. It may not make much sense, but don't be surprised if you're smiling too much to notice.
RATING: 3 stars out of 4.
I watched it Thursday night at Harkins Tucson Spectrum.