“Thor: Love and Thunder” marks the first time a Marvel Cinematic Universe legacy character gets a film beyond the usual trilogy. Directed once again by Taika Waititi, the exciting fourth installment in the title character’s film franchise has explored his various forms of identity crises. And with Waititi at the helm, there’s even more color and energy to this wildly imaginative Thor classic adventure set against the sounds of a rocking hair metal band.
In “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Thor (Chris Hemsworth) searches for a new purpose in life after he and his fellow Avengers successfully defeated the Mad Titan Thanos. But his search for a new identity is interrupted when Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) seeks revenge on all of the Gods that failed to listen to their followers. So he enlists the help of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Taika Waititi), and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman)—who has become the Mighty Thor—to stop Gorr the God Butcher from eliminating all gods.
ThatsItLA had a chance to talk to director Taika Waititi and producer Kevin Feige about making the fourth installment of the Thor film franchise, the hair metal tunes that make up the rocking soundtrack, and more.
When it comes to why people continue to like Thor a decade after his debut, Feige believes it has to do with Chris Hemsworth. “I think they respond to everything that he can do. And Taika [Waititi] certainly brought another dimension that was always there,” he said.
Even during the EPK interviews on the set of the first Thor in New Mexico, Feige saw that Hemsworth wasn’t just funny. He was hilarious. “We said, ‘he’s a Norse god. How do we make him relatable,’” Feige added. “I think making sure that the audience connected with him, that they are so with him now, so that yes, we could go to a Part 4.”
And when Waititi entered the MCU, he brought a refreshing kind of storytelling that changed the way fans would see Thor. Not only that, the director brought in some heavy metal sounds that genuinely reflected the tone of the characteristics of the fantastical space Viking. “We just want to spend as much money as we possibly could on some songs,” Waititi said about obtaining the rights to Guns N’ Roses music. “It’s been a dream of mine. Now, the whole aesthetic around the film was always we wanted it to be this bombastic, loud, colorful palette, which reflected like spray-painted panel vans in the 80s and rock album covers and even the title treatment for the film.”
These 80s and bombastic rock visual aesthetics represented in the film were something that Waititi would draw on his notebook as a kid during school. But, of course, no one could have seen that it would influence the look and feel of “Thor: Love and Thunder.” So, you can say, not paying attention pays off for future filmmakers. “Another thing I would have drawn on my school book in class when I wasn’t listening, and yeah, that sort of thing,” he said. “I remember spending months and months perfecting the Metallica logo at school. And so yeah, to tap into all that stuff, and Guns and Roses was my all-time favorite band, and to reflect the sort of crazy adventure we’re presenting visually was another one of my dreams that came true.”
Unlike “Thor” and “Thor: The Dark World,” Waititi brought struck a balance between comedy and drama in a way that fits the fantastical side of the MCU. “A lot of that is found in post, like on set; we’ve tried to do as much as possible,” Waititi said. “It’s just harvesting moments and then taking it back to the kitchen and trying to figure out what the actual dish is. A plan of making a certain dish and then they could be very different by the time we finished cooking it.”
Cooking metaphors aside, Waititi adds that finding that balance between comedy and drama isn’t easy. “A lot of times testing the film and seeing what audiences respond to, and sometimes you got to get rid of jokes, get rid of moments, and elevate other moments,” he said. “It’s just a balancing act, then that’s why it takes a year to finish these films.”
Speaking of the time it takes to make these films, Waititi shared what he’d like audiences to take away from “Thor: Love and Thunder.” “It’s been a long journey, and like we’ve worked really, really hard on these films to make something that audiences will love,” he said. “After a couple of years of being stuck at home or, you know, having to go through a lot of hardships, I think it’s really nice to be able to celebrate things like ‘Love and Thunder,’ whatever that means in your life. Just being able to go back to the movies and be able to, you know, to laugh and feel like a kid again.”
And the final product is fun but also very heartfelt. Something that Waititi has perfected throughout his career. Even the cast sees how exciting it can be working with a director like Taika. “Chaotic, beautiful, mad chaos. It’s a journey of self-discovery and exploration and fun and wackiness,” Hemsworth said, describing the energy of Waititi’s sets. “There’s music playing, and he’s standing behind the camera kind of giggling and ruining most of the takes. That sounds horrible. It’s the best. It’s a free form, a lot of improvisation, but just a passion that’s unrivaled.”
“It was an enthusiasm that is infectious among everybody. And he loves it. He loves the stories. He loves these characters,” Hemsworth added about Taika’s directing style. “He’s sitting there as a fan would telling you what he’d want to see no matter how ridiculous it is. And everyone’s on board for it. And this is why you get this spontaneity and unpredictable nature in any of Taika’s films.”
And Christian Bale, who plays the tragic villain Gorr the God Butcher, agreed. “I’ve worked with a lot of directors who enjoy improvisation and whatnot. You know you do the script first. And then you just see what else you can do beyond that,” Bale said. “But what I liked a lot is emotion comes through the ears, right? And he plays music non-stop on the set. And that was fantastic.” Some songs Bale recalled Waititi playing were Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. There were even some of his favorites, like Kate Bush. And a few discoveries like Bruce Haack.
As for Thor’s future in the MCU beyond “Thor: Love and Thunder,” Feige says that Marvel will continue to tell Thor’s story as long as there are comic books that could be adapted into a film. “Well, there are these things called comic books that have a lot of stories in them, and that’s where all of our stories come from,” Feige said. “And the question is: have you told all the great Thor stories from the comics and movies? The answer is no. There, there are lots of them.”
“I’ve always said our interest in making additional stories is somewhat about continuing the character. It’s almost entirely about continuing the experience with the actor. So I think of all of our cast, not as their individual characters, but as the Marvel players who within that character can grow and evolve and change,” Feige added. “And if we look at the comics as our guide, there plenty of other incarnations of Thor that we have yet to see.”
Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” opens in theaters on July 8, 2022.