Gods! Guitar solos! Guns N’ Roses! Taika Waititi’s new comic book blockbuster is a throwback to the ’80s, when the hair was big – and the movies even bigger. Everything about Thor: Love and Thunder is done to excess, from the opening fight scene in which Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes down an army of steampunk owl-men to the many A-list cameos (our favourite being Russell Crowe’s gut-wobbling, uber-Greek Zeus). This is bang-for-your-buck moviemaking – and it works wonderfully.
Back for his first solo outing since 2017’s Ragnarok, Thor is in perhaps his biggest pickle yet. A snakelike villain played by Christian Bale, Gorr the God Butcher, has managed to acquire the only weapon in the universe that can kill deities – and he’s pointing it squarely at this Scandi-superhero’s chest. Luckily, Thor’s joined on his adventure by Ragnarok alumni Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Waititi himself) and ex-girlfriend Dr Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), so the situation shouldn’t be too tricky to sort out.
We caught up with director Waititi to find out more (including how he managed to stuff so many massive metal tunes into a film about a man in lycra – must have been difficult…)
Hey Taika, is Thor: Love and Thunder the most metal Marvel movie yet?
“Err yeah, I tried! I wanted it to feel equal parts Iron Maiden album artwork, mixed with movie posters like Conan and Beastmaster – and all the Frank Frazetta fantasy art from the ’70s and ’80s. The whole thing was supposed to feel like a spray-painted fantasy scene on a panel van in Venice Beach.”
How’d you manage to fit four Guns N’ Roses songs in?
“We actually wanted five [songs] but that might have been overkill. It was a real triumph, having one of my favourite bands from when I was a kid, the band that really informed the soundtrack to my life. Still at 46, usually at about 3am when I’m in bed, I’ll watch GNR music videos. I don’t go on one of those porn sites, I go and watch Axl Rose in the ‘Paradise City’ music video!”
Did you have to phone Axl Rose up and ask for permission?
“It was put to me – and it was one of the moments in my life where I was like ‘I’m not gonna do that.’ I’ve met a lot of my heroes and then realised they weren’t my heroes. Axl Rose was definitely someone I thought, ‘I’m gonna fuck this up, I’m not gonna talk to him.’”
Could Love and Thunder do for GNR what Stranger Things did for Kate Bush?
“You mean how they ruined Kate Bush? I love that show, but as someone who feels a real ownership of Kate Bush music… I’m really annoyed! I’ve become one of those old arseholes who’s like: ‘These kids never listened to Kate Bush, they’ve heard one song on a TV show! They don’t know Kate Bush! I know Kate Bush!’”
Christian Bale said you were supposed to have a Kate Bush dance scene in Love and Thunder?
“Before Stranger Things! Yeah, there were a bunch of Kate Bush songs I wanted to have in there. We were gonna have ‘This Woman’s Work’, which was gonna be great for [a scene with] Natalie Portman’s character. There was actually gonna be a lot of ABBA in the film as well…”
You got one ABBA song in there, ‘Our Last Summer’…
“Yeah I got one in there, but I wanted more of an ABBA theme throughout. I thought it’d be funny if Thor’s favourite music was what he perceived to be a ‘Viking band’. He’d be like, ‘They’re a real tough Viking band called ABBA!’”
And what about this Aphex Twin video Christian Bale was using as inspiration for Gorr, the villain?
“Oh yeah, I did a dance thing with Chris [Hemsworth]. He had his solo dance scene which didn’t make it in the film and that was to ‘Waterloo’ by ABBA. I wanted to have a mirrored version with Gorr when he feels like he’s about to win [the fight with Thor] and that was gonna feel a bit more like the tempo of ‘Windowlicker’ [by Aphex Twin] and the ‘Come To Daddy’ music video where he’s got the big jaw. It was scary stuff that Christian was coming up with for the character, and a lot of it was inspired by Aphex Twin.”
Did you have to give him the Marvel 101?
“I don’t even know that shit! So I wouldn’t be able to do that. I don’t know what’s going on in the MCU, I just watch stuff that comes out and think ‘damn what’s this, this is cool?’ So if anyone asks me to explain everything that’s going on, I’m pretty lost. I know everything that’s going on within the Thor universe, but I only just learned all the names of the Guardians of the Galaxy…”
Did you know there’s already a petition asking Disney to #ReleaseTheWaititiCut?
“I’ve been thinking about director’s cuts. I watch director’s cuts of a lot of other directors. They suck. Director’s cuts are not good. Directors need to be controlled sometimes and if I was to say, ‘ah you wanna watch my director’s cut? It’s four and a half hours long!’ It’s not good, at four and a half hours. There’s a lot of cup-of-tea breaks in there, you don’t even have to pause it.”
What would your Love and Thunder cut look like?
“I’d say my cut would probably have a few more jokes in there. There might be a couple of deleted scenes but as I always say, a scene is deleted because it’s not good enough to be in the film. I think the deleted scenes section on the DVD, not that they use them anymore, should just be a list of the scenes and no links so you can’t click on them!”
‘Thor: Love and Thunder’ is in UK cinemas from July 8
This interview had been edited for brevity and clarity