Love and Thunder is pretty much all that again, poured into a centrifuge. If the MCU at this point has become a mood ring for its various directors — Chloe Zhao's spacious, slow-churn Eternals

Sam Raimi's squishy, trippy Doctor Strange — New Zealand native Waititi is the impish Kiwi outsider, his psychedelic visuals and offbeat humor so infused with chaos and camp

it often feels as if the film has passed through a fine mist of ayahuasca. In the best moments, that yields inspired scenes like Russell Crowe as a portly, imperious Zeus addressing a summit of the Gods. 

(Have you really lived until you've heard Crowe roll the word "Babycake" across his tongue like butterscotch?) A-list drop-ins (Matt Damon, Melissa McCarthy) come and go so quickly, 

they may not have earned a full day rate, and several stalwarts of the series, including Idris Elba and Stellan Skarsgard, seem to appear simply to be marked off a contractual checklist.

Hemsworth remains almost absurdly well-suited to the title role, a golden-god himbo with crack comic timing and a seemingly bottomless well of Aussie goodwill. 

Bale is appropriately ghoulish and sepulchral, though the difficulty-setting on this part seems low for an actor of his caliber; mostly, he just has to snarl from dark corners and not lose too much squid-ink spittle when he talks.

The movie suffers from none of the self-seriousness or draggy exposition of other Marvel outings, even when its patchwork plot feels stuck together with rainbows and chewing gum. 

Even in Valhalla or Paradise City, though, there is still love and loss; Thor dutifully delivers both, and catharsis in a climax that inevitably doubles as a setup for the next installment.