Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Thor: Love and Thunder” End Credits

Tessa Thompson and Natalie Portman in "Thor Love and Thunder".

“Y’know, if we let Gorr end him, we could have the movie all to ourselves…”

Unlike some actors we know who used to earn eight-figure paychecks from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and now probably have to subsist on seven-figure residuals, Chris Hemsworth isn’t going anywhere. The star and Executive Producer is back for Thor: Love and Thunder, as is Taika Waititi, costar and director of Thor: Ragnarok, the Best Thor Movie Ever and possibly the funniest MCU film to date. Perplexingly, he’s followed up with my least favorite Waititi film to date.

(Caveat: I’ve yet to see Eagle vs. Shark, which my son has attempted to describe to me multiple times, but every time, his face contorts and he can’t go on, as if there are simply no words. So I daren’t say “Worst Waititi Film Ever” off the cuff.)

In fairness, the concept of “Ragnarok, but same” was a sound sequel idea. No one complained about Thor’s sudden personality shift from muscle-brained stoic foil for his daffy sidekicks to the sort of leading funnyman he’d never, ever been in his entire Marvel existence from Journey into Mystery to the present. In Ragnarok‘s case, loosey-goosey watchability was far more fun than geek-scholarly comics-canon legalism. And everyone loves a cool encore, but usually they’re a different, rowdier song or two, maybe even a left-field surprise that rewards you for sticking around the venue for a few extra minutes. It’s less welcome when the encore is one song they just played but somehow thought it’d be a treat to drag it out till everyone’s checking their watch and wondering if it’s okay to split after all. (I’m reminded of when REO Speedwagon played our state fair years ago and were convinced everyone would really love “Roll with the Changes” extended, out of all their possible options. If the intent was exit music, then bravo.)

The addition of two players who weren’t around for Ragnarok raises hopes at first, with encouraging results. Some exec brilliantly threw enough money at Natalie Portman, along with the promise of calling her off the non-powered sidelines, that they’ve lured back old friend Jane Foster. No mere fragile love interest, Jane leads us in forgiving Thor’s first two outings and dealing with her own serious stakes. When the harsh inner onslaught of stage-four cancer threatens to overwhelm and fridge her, Jane shrewdly sciences her way out of it with a short quest for Thor’s ex-hammer Mjolnir (a Ragnarok casualty), which…well, you’ve seen the trailer, yes? She’s Thor now, like it’s an honorific! And Thor’s still Thor because it’s his name! But now they’re both Thors! That’d get really confusing if they reunited and in the throes of passion started calling out their own names, which I guess isn’t the worst side effect you can get from bed-Thors.

The FX team lends Portman’s Thor the standard MCU hero-boosts, so her moves aren’t radically different from the pack (think Captain America’s shield minus trajectory physics), but whenever she’s forced to revert to her terminally ill human side, hers is among the heaviest of weights that Love and Thunder carries, especially when she learns the hard way that, same as it ever does for mortals in such affairs, magic comes at a price. Once you’re seemingly in life’s end stages, who wouldn’t be tempted by a short-term fix that comes with super-strength and a fancy exclusive tool not available in stores? Who chooses powerlessness over power, especially if they lead to the same last page? That’s a pretty crappy Choose Your Own Adventure.

Speaking of powerlessness vs. power: I did say two players. The best new thing about L&T is Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher, once a man of deep faith who watched his daughter suffer and die while his very own god physically stood in their presence and laughed, nary a soothing word nor an implication of “destiny” or “consequences of sin” or “she’s in a much better place” or “she was about to grow up to become Space Hitler”. His quote-unquote “god” just laughs. Thanks to a misplaced unique weapon called the Necrosword (whose comics origins can never be divulged on-screen without Sony’s blessing), in seconds Gorr upgrades from grieving, helpless father to unstoppable avatar of wrath, the hate-child of Voldemort and Marilyn Manson but with enough brawn to lift a sword. As one of the most energizing and magnetically frightening MCU villains in ages, Bale’s sinewy slayer vows great vengeance and furious anger upon anyone who claims godhood at any level, and he’s contrived a far-fetched plan that’ll let him strike down multiple mythos at once, which will save on all the mileage he’d rack up wandering the universe rending them asunder one at a time. Fortunately for him, none seem omnipotent or omniscient. Deicide has gotten a lot easier than it was in Nietzsche’s day.

While you’d perhaps expect a parade of deities and demigods getting skewered all in a row, the total “god” population seems as underrepresented here as alternate Earths were in Multiverse of Madness. (Among the obvious omissions: Moon Knight’s integral pantheon is nowhere in sight. And who can forget Kevin Feige’s latest summer single “We Don’t Talk About Eternals”, which is just his top-10 smash “We Don’t Talk About Inhumans” with extra tambourine.) Waititi also sidesteps defining what “god” even means for certain in the MCU in the wake of its Mighty Avenger devaluation. Nothing in L&T clarifies whether “god” means much to Waititi, but clearly it once meant everything to Gorr.

I might’ve been content had Waititi merely given us the tragedy of Thor v. Gorr. Alas, that potential two-hour duel, so thrilling in my imagination, has to make way for everything else Waititi would prefer to see, or things he’s contractually required to put in, such as its leading man. Hemsworth is charming and wields quite the witty reflexes when he’s sincere. That comes through on occasion, as in his more tender scenes with Portman. But more often than not, his performance reminded me less of Ragnarok and more of Men in Black International, a perfunctory dud full of mirthless compromises to mitigate movie-star tug-of-war between Hemsworth’s reps and Tessa Thompson’s reps. Executive Producer Mr. Hemsworth allows a modicum of self-effacing humor here, and it makes sense that with Jane back his old lunkhead side would come out again. But with Cap and Tony Stark gone, he’s the last man standing of the Avengers’ Big Three, and that responsibility as the franchise’s elder flag-bearer carries with it certain standards of star treatment. He’s still got the zippy timing, but whatever humility he learned in Mighty Avenger has passed.

Love & Thunder‘s biggest drawbacks aren’t Hemsworth’s fault, though. From the first scene onward it’s mired in corporate synergy shenanigans, such as obligatory cameos from the Guardians of the Galaxy that serve partly as a “Previously on…” segue from Avengers: Endgame and partly as marketing reassurance that, yes, we are still required to keep up with every MCU product ever. In case we forgot about marketing, there’s literally an Old Spice commercial — played for laughs, but laughs are their sales tool, not their goal. Tessa Thompson’s fan-favorite Valkyrie blessedly returns but is kept a few feet left of the center spotlight to make more room for Thor ‘n’ Thor. (At least she gets a moment or two with Portman, an Annihilation reunion of sorts, which is nice.)

Mostly, though, L&T just isn’t as funny as Ragnarok. Waititi and his editors seem in a mad rush to get to what they think are the good parts. More than a few bits of backstory are hastily montaged away to make room for more dialogue and VFX smashy-smashy. Several gags that should be funnier — the giant screaming goats, the Asgardian acting troupe’s multiple scenes, the climax of Jane’s search for a catchphrase — are clumsily hedge-trimmed and/or shot from weird, unflattering angles, stomping all over their punchlines. I get reducing the plot to a thin clothesline for Waititi to hang his wackiness upon, but that clothesline snapped somewhere in the middle when Gorr kidnaps New Asgard’s children, spirits them away, and terrorizes them for his own amusement (in itself an awfully odd move for a ceaselessly grieving parent). Meanwhile, Our Heroes go on a silly jaunt to fetch a MacGuffin from a caricature of Mount Olympus, which goes on and on and on and on with the finesse of a low-rated ’90s sitcom, all while any audience member with a mature understanding of the grave horrors of child abduction is screaming inside, “WHAT ARE THEY DOING?” In this moment, Our Heroes are having a ball and no one is thinking of the children.

(I’m unsure how much I feel like needling the film’s overuse of Guns N’ Roses, someone’s idea of an answer to Ragnarok‘s classic-RAWK. If you know GNR at all, you can guess the first three singles played here. Rightly assuming we’d hear no deep album cuts, I guessed in advance the fourth would be either “Don’t Cry” or “November Rain”. Oh, how I howled at the fourth one’s use over a slow-motion sequence that was supposed to be “awesome” but came off as Spy Kids frippery meant to impress youngsters.)

Bale and Portman are the main reasons to keep up with the MCU throughout this tonally jagged death-romp, not to mention the hunt for Gorr that leads into a lengthy black-and-white sequence of cosmic-powered space noir. Among the worthy little touches here and there, Original Thor’s replacement hammer Stormbreaker, imbued with immense force and needy loyalty, becomes a silent, impish sidekick in the manner of Dr. Strange’s cape and Aladdin’s carpet.

Added up at the end, it’s all sporadically fun-ish if you can stop thinking about anything beyond the surface gloss, but considering how hard Marvel’s recent TV shows are striving to hit on multiple levels, it takes a lot of hubris to ask us to visit the theater and buy cinema tickets above and beyond our Disney+ subscription fees to support theatrical blockbusters that blow hundreds of millions to coast on goodwill and aim for a lower bar. To take for granted our fandom as lovingly unconditional is the straight-up self-inflated egoism of someone who thinks themselves a god.

Meanwhile in the customary MCC film breakdowns:

Hey, look, it’s that one actor!: The core of the film’s jaunt to Olympus — which doesn’t hold still long enough for us to feel any real grandeur (it’s the Phantom Menace senate chambers refurbished with thrones) — is a showcase for Academy Award Winner Russell Crowe to segue into an Orson Welles paycheck phase as Zeus, legendary king of the Greek gods and insufferably self-important blowhard…which, for Zeus, is 100% accurate. His choice to run with a My Big Fat Greek Wedding parody accent fits the irreverent occasion, and isn’t a problem if you’re a longtime comics reader who recalls Marvel’s Zeus never amounted to much.

Returning players include a bit part for Jaimie Alexander, who had free time to bring back Sif now that Blindspot is over; Waitii himself as Korg the alien stone man, who’s promoted himself to narrator (such a lucky break for him!); Stellan Skarsgård and WandaVision costar Kat Dennings in cameos; Asgardian thespians Matt Damon, Sam Neill, and Luke the Secret Hemsworth Brother, who celebrate surviving Infinity War by reenacting Ragnarok for the stage; and from the Department of Marvel Corporate Synergy Concerns, those beloved scamps the Guardians of the Galaxy — Chris Pratt sporting his Owen Grady beard, Karen Gillan, Dave Bautista, Pom Klementieff, Sean Gunn, and the voices of Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper. (Zoe Saldana said no, it seems.)

New faces include Jonathan Brugh (costar of the great, original What We Do in the Shadows) as the preening god who makes the fatal mistake of laughing in Christian Bale’s face; and, in a moment whose sheer surprise doubled my laughter, new Asgardian troupe member Melissa McCarthy. Off to one side stands her husband and favorite director, whose face I wouldn’t recognize even if he came up to me wearing a name tag, but she couldn’t very well leave him at home.

How about those end credits? To answer the burning question that MCC is always happy to verify: yes, there is indeed a scene after the end credits. For those who tuned out prematurely and really want to know, and didn’t already click elsewhere…

[…insert space for courtesy spoiler alert in case anyone needs to abandon ship…]

…after the initial wave of credits in assorted hair-metal fonts, it stands to reason we learn the reports of Zeus’ death are greatly exaggerated and Thunderbolt piercing his chest was merely a flesh wound. He vows revenge upon Our Hero and calls upon his enforcer of choice: his son Hercules, played by Brett Goldstein from Ted Lasso. In comics, Herc was a frequent rival of Thor’s before he became a Marvel hero in his own right, an Avenger, the star of the very first Marvel miniseries, and inheritor of the Hulk’s own series for a few years while Bruce Banner was dead. He was often among Marvel’s funniest heroes. I’ve been waiting for years to see him in the MCU, and…for now, I have mixed adult emotions and a comics-reading youngster’s unreasonably high hopes.

Later still, once the names and thanks have finished spooling, one last simple scene: Idris Elba (!!) returns as the late Heimdall to welcome Jane Foster to Valhalla. So Gorr and his ex-god were both wrong about how there’s nothing after death.

What do you, The Viewers at Home, think?

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