Marvel Studios and Walt Disney used the NBA playoffs as a launching pad for what really should have been the first teaser for this summer’s other big MCU movie. The first teaser for Thor: Love & Thunder, released in mid-April, was apparently a capitulation to online fans demanding a “right now” trailer. Frankly, it was a half-hearted affair. That’s no discredit to the people who put it together, but it was one of those cases, like the first teaser for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where no one wanted to release a trailer and needed to cobble together 110 sec. of footage while saving most of the good stuff for the next reveal.
No harm, no foul, because this is the real deal. And, as was frankly prophesied three years ago, it’s essentially “Marvel stomps on Sony’s or Netflix’s attempts to make a He-Man movie.” I discussed this in August 2019, but a side effect, intentional or not, of Marvel’s genre-grabbing as a means to diversify its theatrical features was the notion that MCU movies essentially canceled out rival franchises from rival studios.
Who needs G.I. Joe movies when you have Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Who cares about new Star Trek movies when you have Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 on the way? Including DC as well, but who needs new King Arthur movies when you have Aquaman? I still contend that one reason James Cameron was oddly grumpy about Wonder Woman was that he realized Alita: Battle Angel was essentially the same movie. Who cares if Sony and/or Netflix ever make a He-Man movie when you have Thor: Ragnarök and now Thor: Love & Thunder?
The poster and trailer, including specific images, are reminiscent of the He-Man property. The first Thor was a loose remake of Dolph Lundgren and Frank Langella’s Masters of the Universe, which turns 35 in August. Cliff Notes: a fantasy hero spent the first 20 minutes in his respective (and expensive) fantasy world only to spend most of the movie on Earth before returning home for the action climax.
In this case, Chris Hemsworth is He-Man, Natalie Portman is now She-Ra and Christian Bale is Skeletor. Hell, a different franchise from the same nostalgic era, but Tessa Thompson’s Pegasus-riding heroine is Rainbow Brite. If you’re wondering where Evil-Lyn is, I refer you to Cate Blanchett in Thor: Ragnarök. We even have a major sequence where our strapping male hero is naked/near-naked while bound to the ground in chains and forced to face a potential antagonist (Russell Crowe’s Zeus).
I’m sure you’ll find plenty of “inspiration” in 80’s fantasy films like Sword and the Sorcerer and Conan the Destroyer. These similarities, coincidental or not, are not a scandal, especially when you note that, yes, the Thor franchise predates He-Man by about twenty years. However, it does highlight a key advantage that Marvel (and DC) has accrued over the past 13 years. They can approach other genres and even other franchises with unlimited financial resources and a built-in fan base that will A) show up and B) automatically hold MCU products in higher regard.
There’s also a generation that has grown up with much of their media diet filled with 20-year-old blockbuster fantasy franchises (Pirates of the Caribbean, Transformers, The Avengers, The Dark Knight, The Fast Saga, etc.) that are less likely to be familiar with the films and genres they reference or pay homage to. If you barely see old-school character studies or pre-internet serial killer movies, then DC and WB’s Joker or The Batman are downright revolutionary.
It’s a bit of a bummer that Thor still pines for Jane Foster (and apparently, she for him) 11 years after their first meeting, as you’d expect both respective A+ dating specimens to have moved on. However, the imagery surrounding Bale’s “god-killer” seems to play with color and contrast, while the interaction between Jane and Valkryie is sure to generate on-screen entertainment and online obsession.
Jane becoming “the mighty Thor” seems like an example of subtext turned text from people online claiming to want a black James Bond or a female Indiana Jones while not introducing new franchises with new “not a white male” protagonists, but we’ll see if the film is sharp enough to comment on that. Love & Thunder’s biggest commercial advantage is the mere fact that audiences who aren’t yet obsessed with the MCU as a brand will still show up because they liked Thor: Ragnarök. How old-fashioned…