There are 29 movies in the Marvel universe – and until recently, I hadn’t seen any.
As soon as there are That many movies, so many heroes, villains, conspiracies, deaths, worlds lost, worlds regained, monsters destroyed – it’s too late to start. But out of nowhere came an email from Marvel Studios. It was an invitation to enter the universe – albeit at this late, decadent stage of the empire. Would I attend the Australian premiere of Thor: Love and Thunder?
The Daily Mail described this premiere as symbolic of Sydney’s sad decline from an exciting nightlife capital to a drab city full of fake celebrities. “The Thor screening bizarrely saw bonafide celebrities like Chris Hemsworth sharing the red carpet with obscure reality TVs,” the Mail groaned. “Only a handful of true A-listers were spotted among the sea of low-tier ‘celebrities’ during Monday’s premiere.”
I was one of the “unknown losers” on the red carpet called out by the Mail – as was my brother Justin, an elementary school teacher from Geelong who knows and loves all Marvel movies.
After collecting our lanyards, we were let loose on the red carpet. The crowd lining the barriers was three deep with Marvel fans, who had waited in the rain for a glimpse of the director, Taika Waititi or Hemsworth. And there we were, emerging a little dazed into a carpeted area the size of a small cattle ranch.
The silence was deafening. The crowd, who once strained in anticipation of the barriers, now looked to their phones, or along the line for the real celebrities.
This experience was upsetting for my brother and me – part of a traumatic sibling bond that we will never forget and never talk about again. We left as soon as possible and entered a foyer that peeled off to… two more red carpets! No!
One was for famous people (Jessica Rowe was just ahead of us), with paparazzi and TV crews waiting. The other red carpet was full of non-famous people taking selfies. These were our people!
There were Thor G&Ts, Thor brand water bottles, Thor popcorn, Thor baseball caps. But who? used to be Thor? What was so great about that man that a G&T was named after him? I tried to find out as much as I could about my brother before it started:
Where is it set? New Asgard.
Why was it filmed in Australia? For tax breaks and because Chris Hemsworth likes to film here.
What song Thor movie is this? Four.
Why don’t they call it Thor 4. (Withering look.)
Or Celebrate Thor? (Silence.)
Before the film started, Waititi and Hemsworth joined the audience for a chat, which made it clear how little I knew about the franchise.
“We wanted to get Thor through more human problems and what better way to do that than to put him through a midlife crisis?” Waititi said, but I wondered if a midlife crisis would make sense without knowing what preceded it. “What’s the one thing that would really annoy Thor fans?” asked Waititi. “Love! My mission with Thor is to give fans something they didn’t know they wanted, but actually needed.” Love – I could find out. Love – I could understand.
But the opening scenes of the film were not very promising. It looked totally bleak. There was a ghost with a tattooed face. He looked parched, like a coconut – was there no water on his planet? Was this about climate change? Who was this grim man? “It’s Christian Bale!” exclaimed my brother.
Suddenly the atmosphere changed. Thor appeared! He had great hair and his voice had the tone of Richard Burton when put in a blender with Russell Crowe. There were psychedelic colors, there were weird monsters with New Zealand accents. Was that Enya? And was that Guns and Roses? It was like a long TikTok, like a lava lamp, like a pinball machine. It was unexpected, almost from the start, deeply hilarious.
I had avoided the Marvel Cinematic Universe because I thought it would be heavy and boring, full of self-righteous rescuers and leaden plots. But this was light, funny and relatively easy to follow. It wasn’t really satire – it took its world seriously – but the characters were really nice (except Christian Bale).
Perhaps the funniest performance is Russell Crowe as Zeus, delivering an incredible Greek accent that, to my ears, has Con the Fruiterer intonations. In a scene where Crowe’s accent had to compete with Hemsworth’s naked body, the accent won out because of a whisker.
As a Marvel newbie, there was a lot I didn’t understand. Why is Natalie Portman’s character called Jane, but also Thor? And what about the almost anthropomorphic relationship between characters and their weapons? “It must be hard for you to see your ex-girlfriend and your ex-hammer getting along so well,” Korg tells Thor. How so?
But I loved this movie, and I’m going back now to watch the other Thors (backwards). In life, just like in a superhero universe, it’s never too late to get started.