Natalie Portman

REVIEW: Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

Unsure of his life and what he wants from it, Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) mid-life crisis is interrupted by Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale), a galactic killer who seeks the extinction of the gods. Thor enlists the help of King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi) and his ex-girlfriend Dr Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is now the Mighty Thor and wields Mjolnir, to stop the God Butcher.

Thor: Love and Thunder is style over substance. I feel at one time I may have had that criticism for Thor: Ragnarok but at least there the tone was mostly balanced and there was still a decent plot and character work. In Love and Thunder it’s all bright colours (except in the Shadow Realm which is the one stylistic thing and sequence I found interesting) and rock music and it’s so tonally inconsistent and the jokes are juvenile and grating. There’s running gags in Love and Thunder that may have been a bit cringey but generally OK the first time but the fact that they just keep going with that joke it feels like it’s flogging a dead horse and even if it was a little funny to begin with, in the end it becomes so unfunny that it’s painful. The jokes also often come at the expense of the drama and supposedly more emotional, hard-hitting moments which is annoying. Also, if you’re like me and only really like Korg in small doses, then Love and Thunder may be grating at times as that is a “funny” character I do not find amusing.

The tonal inconsistences aren’t just the humour undercutting dramatic moments, but how in some ways Gorr feels completely out of place to the rest of the film. Christian Bale is great in the role and is creepy and gives a great performance. Gorr is so serious, and perhaps a little mad, so when he comes up against a God that’s self-indulgent and arrogant it’s kind of jarring. You could say this is on purpose – showing how the Gods don’t care about the people that worship them and how they just want to live in opulence and have all the food, wine, and sex that they could ask for – thus giving Gorr all the more reason to kill the Gods. However as elsewhere in Love and Thunder there’s humour undercutting dramatic moments and drastic tonal shifts it feels like it’s part of a wider issue.

One of my biggest problems with Thor: Love and Thunder is Thor as a character. In films of all genres, I can kind of forgive a weaker plot if the character work is good. Especially in franchise films, if I like a character, I just enjoy seeing them and how they’ve grown and adapted to whatever situation they’re in and what’s going on around them isn’t such a big deal for me. With Thor: Love and Thunder the plot isn’t great and neither is the character work. Thor seems like he has regressed as a character and is back to being the arrogant man-child he was at the start of Thor. The whole point of the first film his him learning some humility, that actions have consequences and you can’t always go charging in like a bull in a China shop. Over the past however many Thor and Avengers movies Thor has learnt the smashing things without first attempting diplomacy isn’t the answer. In Love and Thunder, he doesn’t seem to care about anyone, including the Asgardian people he’s supposed to love and protect; summoning the Bifrost in buildings, destroying sacred temples as he stops bad guys, and just generally acting like an irresponsible buffoon.

Though she’s now King, Valkyrie gets no real development, any hints at a genuine friendship between her and Jane are few and far between and she is regulated to Thor’s sidekick once again. Jane and her heavy origin story and rise as the Mighty Thor feels shafted due to it being surrounded by flat jokes doing wrong by her as a character and what she’s going through. Plus, as it’s been a while since we’ve seen the character, the Jane/Thor romance feels underdeveloped even as the film gives a copious number of flashbacks to try and make you care about it.

Thor: Love and Thunder relies on the (unfunny) banter between characters rather than any real meaningful dialogue or emotion and does a disservice to all of its character. It definitely feels like Thor: Love and Thunder didn’t work when the thing that got the biggest reaction from me was an actor’s appearance in the midcredits scene. The rest of the film didn’t particularly make me feel happy or sad and I may have smiled a couple of times or chuckled but never full on laughed at anything that happened on screen. 2/5.

Perhaps I’m being generous with a 2/5 rating but that’s what I’ve settled on. I liked Gorr and the Shadow Realm sequence but everything else, not so much. As someone who tends to have mixed to positive feelings about Thor: Ragnarok, Thor: Love and Thunder is a serious step down.

REVIEW: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

When Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) becomes possessed by an ancient and powerful entity known as the Aether, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must team up with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to protect her from the genocidal Dark Elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who wants the Aether to throw the Nine Realms into darkness.

Thor: The Dark World finds Loki in prison for his crimes against Earth and his relationship with Thor is put to the test when he is the only one who can get them off Asgard undetected. Loki continues to be one of the most interesting and complex characters in the MCU. The one thing you can guarantee Loki to be is untrustworthy but the way that presents itself is still surprising.

While the Dark Elves do look aesthetically cool and somewhat intimidating, that doesn’t make them good or compelling villains. Malekith has no motivation besides turning the universe into darkness because that’s what he and his people thrive on, not matter the effects on different people. A lack of a decent villain makes this a typical end of the world type story. Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Malekith’s second in command, is reduced to a henchman and offers little opportunity for Akinnuoye-Agbaje to show how good an actor he is.

A nice call-back to the events in The Avengers is, like Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, the fact that Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is suffering from having a God in his head. This reminds us that while the main heroes and villains of this story are Gods and monsters, there are humans here that have very human reactions to the fantastical things they face.

Thor is almost second fiddle to most of the characters in Thor: The Dark World despite being the titular character. Loki proves to be the more interesting and funny brother while Jane Foster saves the day with science. Still, Thor is suitably heroic and the final battle between him and Malekith is both funny and thrilling, thanks to the laws of physics being turned onto their head.

Thor: The Dark World is a more serious film, it even has a darker palette and it definitely likes that mouldy green colour that’s almost ever-present. It still has sprinkles of humour throughout and some good action sequences but it’s an average outing for Thor. 3/5.

REVIEW: Jane Got a Gun (2015)

When her husband Hammond (Noah Emmerich) ends up on the wrong side of John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and his men, Jane (Natalie Portman) turns to her former fiancée Dan (Joel Edgerton) to help her defend her family and her home.

I always enjoy watching newer Westerns. It’s a genre that had its heyday between the 1930’s-1960’s and its archetypal characters and stories have in many ways, become the blueprint for a lot of modern western films. Jane Got a Gun puts a woman front and centre, showing both Jane’s trauma and strength as she fights for her loved ones.

Through a series of flashbacks throughout the film you learn more about Jane and her relationships with both Hammond and Dan and see how the three of them have ended up in the situation they’re in. these flashbacks add a lot to the characters but often it feels like it’s just filling time as Jane and Dan prepare for battle. When there is the battle, it’s like a home-invasion thriller. It’s tense and exciting, though it doesn’t show off all the groundwork Jane and Dan put in to its full potential.

Portman gives a dedicated performance, fully embodying the grief, fear and determination Jane has in the face of a much larger and stronger enemy than herself. It’s a pity then that Bishop feels more akin to a pantomime villain, twirling his moustache, than a fleshed-out antagonist.

Jane Got a Gun is a decent addition to the Western genre. It doesn’t really do anything new or ground-breaking, but Portman’s performance and the relationship between Jane and Jan offers a compelling heart to this otherwise typical genre film. 3/5.

REVIEW: Thor (2011)

After Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) reckless behaviour, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him from their home in Asgard, to live amongst humans on Earth. There he must learn to be a better man and face his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

Thor combines the action and adventure of superhero films with royal family feuds. Thor is a Prince and so is his brother Loki, but Loki has forever been in Thor’s shadow and wants to be seen as his brothers equal in their father’s eyes. Loki is a fascinating character and is one of the best villains in the MCU. His jealousy over his brother is justified from what you see and when its revealed how his father has been lying to him all his life, his actions are somewhat understandable, although very misguided.

On Earth, Thor meets scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her friends and colleagues Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). They attempt to show him how things are on Earth which allows for many fish out of water scenarios for Thor which are played brilliantly by Hemsworth. Thor is a more serious film, but its humour comes from its characters in a really honest and unforced way.

Thor’s fantastical elements come from the idea that science and magic are one and the same. The scene where Thor explains how he see’s the universe to Jane helps to fully ground Thor and his people in the everyday world Jane, and us as the viewers, inhabits.

Asgard is a beautiful place. The camera work along with the tech wizards who brought Asgard to life, show off this world in all its glory. The score helps with that too. Composed by Patrick Doyle the score is as magical and epic as it should be, and is worthy for the story of a God. Thor is directed by Kenneth Branagh and he handles the grandeur of this royal family in conflict brilliantly. By focussing on the family dynamics between Thor, his brother, and their father, it makes them all seem more human and relatable while still being incredibly powerful Gods.

Thor is a sweeping drama with battles, humour and romance. It’s a solid first outing for the character, setting up his world and people near-perfectly, and gives us a star performance in Hemsworth and one of the most interesting characters in the MCU in Loki. 4/5.

REVIEW: Jackie (2016)

jackie-movie-posterFollowing the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) must fight through the grief and trauma to console her children and to define her husband’s legacy.

Jackie isn’t a particularly linear story. It starts with Mrs Kennedy talking to a journalist (Billy Crudup) about how she wants her husband to be remembered and the film jumps back and forth to the past, the future, and her current interview with a journalist. While some events seen are easy to place, others you don’t really realise when they are happening till the end of the film.

The score in Jackie is very noticeable, which for some may work while for others may not. It’s a very loud, orchestral score that doesn’t always seem to fit with the action on screen. That being said, at times the crescendo of music does seem to reflect Jackie Kennedy’s inner turmoil.

Natalie Portman’s performance really is phenomenal and she does deserve any award recognition she may get. There’s many shots just focusing in on her face or of her wandering the corridors of the White House and you can see without words the pain, anger and loss she’s feeling. Peter Sarsgaard also gives a great performance as Bobby Kennedy and he and Portman’s chemistry as two people united by grief is captivating. Make no doubt about it though, this is Portman’s film.

Jackie is definitely one of those films that feels like a well-made and traditionally “good” film and while I can appreciate it for that, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. It’s a beautifully shot film and all the costumes and make up look top-notch but at its heart is a few weeks of a woman’s life as she struggles to put her life back together. I feel Jackie certainly earns the critical acclaim it has gotten so far but it wasn’t for me. Though if you have a great interest in the Kennedy’s, then Jackie is probably the film for you. 3/5.