Director Taika Waititi can't quite re-create the alchemic chemistry of Ragnarok in this serviceable but less exciting sequel, partly because Jane and Thor's romance doesn't spark. Putting the romance between Thor and Jane at the center of the story is unfortunate, because as talented as Hemsworth and Portman are, they have a bland on-screen presence together (especially when compared to Tom Holland and Zendaya, or Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany). Both Thor and Jane have far more interesting relationships with their closest friends -- in his case, Thompson's Valkyrie, and in her case, Kat Dennings' Dr. Darcy Miller. The banter and teasing they have in these platonic friendships far outshines the platitude-filled commentary about the power of love. So it's partly the actors (since this issue also existed in the earlier Thor films) and partly the screenplay, which tells more than it shows about love. Portman has always seemed an odd casting choice in this role, and though she finally has more to do in this movie, the fit still seems off. At least Korg and Valkyrie are there to add humor to the occasionally cringey early encounters between Thor and Jane.
On the bright side, this Thor, who's vulnerable and open to love, shows more depth than the young, arrogant, and reckless one who didn't think about consequences. He's no longer a selfish god. Speaking of gods, Crowe adopts a strange, pseudo-Italian accent to play a Greek god, and it just doesn't work, which makes Zeus more caricature than actual character. Still, it's fun to watch the former gladiator play an aging and all-powerful god. The land of the gods also leans heavily into Waititi's quirky humor, like when it features Bao, the god of dumplings, or references the not-so-kid-friendly orgy the deities have planned. Just as rock 'n' roll (Led Zeppelin in particular) played a big role in Ragnarok, the music in Love and Thunder is dominated by use of Guns N' Roses' greatest hits, including "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine," "November Rain," and "Paradise City," which are played during key sequences. And kids will appreciate the role that the Asgardian children eventually play in aiding their trio of leaders. They'll also get a kick out of the screaming, flying alien goats who become a running gag. Will this sequel make audiences laugh? Yes. But does it exceed or even meet the expectations set by Ragnarok? No.