In 'Thor: Love and Thunder,' Waititi's familiar strains feel familiar and strained

In 'Thor: Love and Thunder,' Waititi's familiar strains feel familiar and strained

In considering Thor: Love and Thunder, the fourth film in the franchise centered on the Marvel Cinematic Universe's pompous, pumped-up thunder god

it's useful to cast your mind back to 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, its immediate predecessor

That film broke a mold that ached to be broken — the two previous Thor movies, namely

both of which came so weighted down with unearned faux-gravitas they had people reconsidering their takes on Iron Man 2

 (To be clear: Thor was better than Iron Man 2, but its sequel, Thor: The Dark World, stalwartly remains the MCU's lowest point.)

But with Ragnarok, the dark (and fusty) world of the Thor franchise burst with new light and color and humor

Credit director Taika Waititi, who enlivened the proceedings with a looseness that allowed rock-operatic set-pieces in which the banging 

of heads was accompanied by head-banging anthems to coexist with muttered, underplayed, often improvised comic dialogue.

It was an odd, idiosyncratic fuel mixture — cinema as airbrushed van art — but it worked.

The good news, in re: Love and Thunder: Waititi is back, and he's determined not to reinvent the wheel.

The bad news: The wheel's tire-treads are looking worn

Thor: Love and Thunder plays like a Ragnarok remix, for good and ill

For a villain, swap out Cate Blanchett's goth drag queen Hela for Christian Bale's creepy Gorr the God Butcher

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