Offerings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have ranged from a very serious dramatic approach – such as in the case of the muscle-flexing “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” – to productions filled with a heavy dose of humor. The best examples along those lines are the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films.

Taika Waititi, the director and co-writer of “Thor: Love and Thunder,” definitely slants his film toward the comical side. He started leaning that way with “Thor: Ragnarok” but embraces it fully with this film. There is so much light-hearted humor – especially from a moony Thor (Chris Hemsworth) – Waititi’s tale of the God of Thunder ends up being one of the better rom-coms of the past few years.

That’s not a complaint. It is just a warning sign to those who prefer more faces to fists than hands to heart.

The film picks up with Thor trying to find some inner peace because his true love – Jane Foster – played by Natalie Portman – is not in his life. Members of the Guardians of the Galaxy are happy the pining Thor has opted to leave them when danger strikes New Asgard.

Thor and Jane are brought back together by a galactic killer known as Gorr the God Butcher played with skin-crawling creepiness by Christian Bale. Gorr goes on a mission to wipe out all the gods when his faith is destroyed.

The big shocker for Thor is that while he was away traveling across the galaxy, Jane has been turned into a female version of Thor. She is even using Thor’s magical hammer to save the day.

Details on how she got the powers would be a huge spoiler. It can be said this is not a dream or some ripple from the multiverse.

The two Thors and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) set out to round up the gods to help them defeat the new foe. This takes them to a meeting of the gods where Zeus (Russell Crowe) is showing off his lightning abilities like a pompous member of a royal family who has been on the throne way too long.

A conflict between two of the biggest names in Norse and Greek mythology should have been explosive. But, Waititi waters down the meeting with waves of silliness. This includes a very revealing sequence for Thor that plays like a lewd melodrama.

Waititi eagerly embraces the comedy as that makes it easier to play up the romance elements. The problem is that the evolution of Thor has taken him further away from the heroic figure that graced the pages of Marvel Comics.

When Thor was introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe he was naïve to the ways of Earth. With each film, Thor has become less of a superhero and more of the comic relief. There is a line between a character being innocent to the ways of the world and just a dolt. That line gets severely pushed in “Love and Thunder.”

Fortunately, Hemsworth can handle light comedy. He seems just as comfortable in a battle to the death as he does talking about the awkward details of being in love. This does make the rom com part of the film work.

The introduction of the female Thor has been a long time coming. It is nice to see another strong female superhero but the trajectory of Jane’s character is not completely satisfying. This is another tricky area that could create great spoilers. The most that can be said is that there just needed to be more.

Co-writers Waititi and Jennifer Kaytin Robinson have filled “Thor: Love and Thunder” with big writing holes. The whole argument about Thor not thinking he has no the agony of lost love is shot down each time he mopes around showing his feelings for Jane.

And, there is a major question that has to do with an eternity wish when it comes to how no one could think of a way to stop Thanos. It is a rare case of the Marvel Cinematic Universe not being full in line.

How much you like or dislike “Thor: Love and Thunder” depends on whether you prefer a pure tale of good vs. evil or can handle a cosmic battle that pauses for some romantic comedy moments. In this case, the rom-com parts work but it is getting dangerously close to going too far.

Editor’s note: Please remember to hang around for extra scenes during the credits.

Movie review

Thor: Love and Thunder

3 stars

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Russell Crowe.

Director: Taika Waititi

Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, suggestive material, brief nudity

Running time: 125 minutes.