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'Thor: Love and Thunder' is more likable than good

Natalie Portman returns as Jane Foster and as Lady Thor with Chris Hemsworth as Thor in "Thor: Love and Thunder."

Marvel’s Thor returns to the big screen with "Thor: Love and Thunder" while "Ms. Marvel" scores big on the small screen.

Marvel on the big screen and small: Thor and Ms. Marvel

As the God of Thunder, Marvel’s Thor had a certain built-in appeal. But his first two solo movies could have benefited from divine intervention to save audiences from the pedestrian attempts to bring the superhero to the screen. "Thor" (2011) and "Thor: The Dark World" (2013) were plodding and just downright bland. Chris Hemsworth's Thor fared better when the Avengers assembled for team adventures.

But Marvel saw the light in 2017 and brought in Kiwi director Taika Waititi to inject much needed fun and energy into the third film, "Thor: Ragnarok," which remains the God of Thunder's best solo film.

Now, Waititi is back with "Thor: Love and Thunder," in which Thor meets up with his ex (Natalie Portman), who’s sporting a new look, that of Lady Thor.

Waititi has a gift for humor, getting appealing performances from his cast and injecting a relatable humanity into even gods and superheroes. With "Love and Thunder," he also adds some dark layers, with an effectively creepy turn from Christian Bale as the God Butcher. The darkness in this film is better rendered than in Sam Raimi's "Dr. Strange: Into the Multiverse," which is unexpected as Raimi seems a natural for adding horror elements.

But "Love and Thunder" flies off in multiple plot directions, never quite making any one of them feel complete. The end result is enjoyable to watch because the characters are such good company, but the story’s a mess.

Ms marvel.jpg
Iman Vellani stars as Kamala Khan in the Marvel streaming series "Ms. Marvel."

And, while we are on the subject of Marvel, I want to give a shout out to the absolutely delightful "Ms. Marvel" currently streaming on Disney+.

The show dovetails perfectly off the new "Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing" exhibit at the Comic-Con Museum, as curator Ben Saunders pointed out.

"You may be watching the new 'Ms. Marvel' TV show right now, for example, and I would argue that that show captures the energy of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s 'Spider-Man' for the contemporary 21st-century audience," Saunders said. "It's what Kamala Khan is, even right down to the alliterative initials. That's the concept: the teenager who stumbles into their powers and then has to figure out what they're going to do with them. The template is the Spider-Man template."

"Ms. Marvel" is genuinely fun and captures the youthful exuberance and sometimes chaotic energy of its main character. If you haven’t checked out the show, then I urge you to give it a try.