‘Thor: Love And Thunder’ Proves 2022’s Greatest Movie Villain Is Nihilism
This article contains SPOILERS for Thor: Love and Thunder and Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Amidst the screechy goats and even more screechy Axl Rose tracks, one can be forgiven for accepting Thor: Love and Thunder as purely a goofy comedic action movie, which it assuredly is – but at times, the fourth Thor movie flirts with a far deeper subject matter. And in retrospect, it thematically connects with one of the most acclaimed and wildly successful movies of the year so far: Everything Everywhere All at Once. How? Well, for one thing, both stories are ultimately about accepting the meaninglessness of the universe.
Love and Thunder balances (some would argue awkwardly) farcical comedic beats with a genuinely tragic story of Jane Foster dying of cancer; and the more dramatic elements of the story are additionally complicated by Marvel’s controversial history of killing off its female heroes in the service of furthering the emotional growth of their male counterparts.
But it’s hard not to see something universally poignant at the heart of Love and Thunder, a story in which a couple is torn apart by a terminal illness while battling a villain who is literally murdering gods because of anger stemming from personal grief.
Like Everything Everywhere All at Once, Thor: Love and Thunder finds its characters wrestling with the injustice and absurd futility of life – but since it exists in a world chock full of literal gods, this point is stressed by illustrating that said gods are horny, drunken louts who refuse to answer your pleas for help.
And both films’ “villains” (Gorr the God Butcher and Jobu Tupaki, respectively) aren’t even really villains, just regular folks who have been led astray by their own nihilism, reacting poorly to the revelation that life is utterly bereft of any grander purpose or meaning.
Both movies end with the “villain” at the edge of a cosmic abyss, climatically making a choice for how they are going to react to the purposelessness of existence. In both cases, the heroes convince the antagonist to choose love, and specifically family, not in spite of the chaos, but because of it. Jobu/Joy doesn’t cast herself into the “everything bagel” void of nothingness and instead reaches for her mother’s hand –
While Gorr makes it to “Eternity” and triumphantly decides to Pet Sematary his daughter back to life instead of slaughtering every last living god (which is still kind of creepy, to be honest). In essence, both characters embrace humanism over nihilism. Neither story tries to sell the idea that there is some sort of majestic cosmic design behind the universe (with the possible exception of the post-credit scene in Thor: Love and Thunder) but rather, they stress that how we deal with that absence in the face of loss and disappointment is a noble and even epic struggle.
Whether or not Thor accomplishes this daunting thematic task while filming these touching scenes in actual Best Buy parking lots is up to individual viewers – but perhaps it says something about where we are right now as a society that, two years into a pandemic that has killed millions, two of the most successful movies of 2022 are about grappling for meaning in a world that is otherwise pointlessly soul-crushing.
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