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Thor – Movie Review

admin on December 3, 2009 - 10:49 am in Faith & Culture, Movie Reviews, Movies, Mythology
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Thor – Movie Review

Review by Stacey Tuttle

There is something that seems critically different to me when you take a story about beings with super-human physical and/or mental abilities and, instead of calling them superheroes, call them gods.  I cannot help but immediately begin to compare them to God himself and see all the ways they completely fail to resemble the one true God (and, to be fair, some of the ways they resemble Him as well)—something I don’t necessarily do when I watch a superhero story, like Spiderman or even Superman.  This isn’t to say I don’t like Greek or Roman (or in this case Norse) mythological stories.  Quite the contrary, I think they are fascinating.  And, more importantly, I think they provide amazing opportunities to probe others on some of their conceptions and/or misconceptions about God. 

Using some of the scenes and concepts from Thor (some where they get it right, and some where they get it wrong) is a great way to springboard into important discussions with others about their ideas, understanding, questions and misconceptions about God.   Here are several of the things which stood out to me to get you started!

Story Recap:

The king of the gods, King Odin, has two sons, Thor and Loki.  Thor is the very likeable, but also very impetuous and arrogant heir to the throne.  On the day of his coronation, there is a security breach by an enemy nation.  Thor, against his father’s command (who, mind you, is still king, as the coronation ceremony was interrupted), goes to wage war against that enemy nation, risking not only his own life, but the lives of his closest friends as well.  King Odin steps in to save them all and restore a shaky peace between Jotunheim and his own kingdom, Asgard. 

King Odin realizes that he has made a mistake; Thor is not yet ready.  He lacks the humility and wisdom a ruler of the universe requires.  He is too eager for battle.  So, he casts his son to earth—in part as punishment and in part as a training opportunity.  It’s kind of like sending Thor off to finishing school for the gods.  How will Odin know that Thor has acquired the character necessary for a leader of Asgard and the universe?  Think Sword in the Stone.  Thor has a magical mallet/hammer thingamabob “which possesses the power of Thor” which gets placed in stone in the earth and can only be removed/wielded by “one who is worthy.”

And oh my goodness, one of the funniest scenes in the movie is the oh-so-realistic red-neck carnival that ensues when a couple guys find the mallet in the mud.  Suddenly every truck-driving red-neck within driving distance shows up to BBQ, drink beer and compete to remove the hammer using the kind of reckless and hilarious creativity one can only find in red-blooded American men raised in the country.  But I digress.

While Thor is on earth, falling in love and learning a little bit about humanity, kindness, humility, compassion, etc., his brother Loki is back in the city of the gods subtly stirring up trouble and trying to steal the throne.  Loki discovers that he is not a true son of Odin.  After the last battle between Asgard and Jotunheim, Odin found a little baby, Loki, and rescued him (or, as Loki saw it, Odin stole him).  Odin raised him as his own, but never told him the truth about his heritage.  Now, Loki is full of bitterness towards his adoptive father and jealousy towards his brother.  He attempts to have his father and brother murdered and assume the throne of Asgard. 

Thor, of course, having matured from his time on earth, is able to wield the mallet and stop his brother.  In the course of saving Asgard, however, the bridge between Asgard and Earth is destroyed.  This is  particularly problematic since Thor promised Jane (the human girl he fell in love with) that he would return for her.  The movie ends with both Thor and Jane searching for a way to be reunited, for a new link between their worlds.

The Gods Themselves:

Let’s begin with the gods—who are they?  In the movie Thor, the gods are beings from other planets that have super-human powers.  Here’s an explanation of the gods from the movie, according to King Odin.

Once mankind accepted a simple truth; that they were not alone in this universe. Some worlds man believed home to their Gods. Others they knew to fear. From around the cold and darkness came the Frost Giants. Threatening to plunge the mortal world into a new ice age. But humanity would not face this threat alone. Our armies drove the Frost Giants back into the heart of their own world. The cost was great. In the end, their king fell. And the source of their power was taken from them. With the last great war ended, we withdrew from the other worlds and returned home to the realm eternal, Asgard. And here we remain as the beacon of hope. Shining out across the stars. And though we have fallen into mans’ myths and legends, it was Asgard and its warriors that brought peace to the universe.

So the gods, in this case at least, are basically benevolent and powerful aliens which, at one point in time offered help and support to the human race. This is why there are gods, plural.  They are a superhero, alien race.

I looked up the definition of god in Webster’s dictionary.  This is what it said:

  1. capitalized : the supreme or ultimate reality: as
    1. a.      the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe
    2. b.     Christian Science : the incorporeal divine Principle ruling over all as eternal Spirit : infinite Mind
    3. a being or object believed to have more than natural attributes and powers and to require human worship; specifically : one controlling a particular aspect or part of reality
    4. a person or thing of supreme value
    5. a powerful ruler

 

Clearly, Thor is using the term god in the sense of number 4, “a powerful ruler.”  But, when Christians talk about God they are talking about a different definition altogether.  They are talking about the Being.  The meaning only one (we will get to the Trinity later), who is perfect—perfect in every way, including power, wisdom and goodness.  Not only that, but as the Being who is perfect in every way, he deserves our worship. 

The King of the Gods

King Odin, King of the gods, had grown old.  He was going to pass his crown on to his heir.  He himself probably inherited the kingdom from his father (although, I am not sure the story explained how he came about the throne.)  If King of the gods is a position to be inherited, much like being King of England, then one can assume that the King of the gods no more created his kingdom than the current King of England created England.  He rules it, he did not make it.  It’s a position of trustee, not author and creator.

Make no mistake about it, God, the one true God, is creator.  He is not an alien, not an alternative life form living on another planet, galaxy, world, whatever…  He is the creator of our world and of all worlds, galaxies, planets…etc.  He is not just the temporary ruler until the next one takes his place.  He is not the trustee, He is Lord, author and creator and perfector.  He cannot be usurped or overturned nor will he get old and pass his kingdom on to his heir.  He is GOD.  He will reign FOREVER.  He is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega.  The I AM.    

The All-Father

The King of the Gods, King Odin, is called “The All-Father”.  The Father of all.  It sounds like a good title.  It may even sound Christian.  Certainly God is the Creator of all and you could surely say the Father of all, too.  But, and maybe this was just me, when I first heard the term the “All-Father” in the movie, my ears heard “our Father” for a second.  Did anyone else have that experience? 

Our Father.  “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be your name.”  OUR Father.  Not just the Father of all, though he is, but the Father of you and me, of us.  It’s personal.  It’s such a little detail, but it’s a beautiful one and a significant one.  God, the God of the Bible, is not just the all-powerful God of the universe.  I mean, He is the all-powerful God of the universe, but he’s not just that.  He is more. How on earth can he possible be more than THE Almighty God of Everything?   He can’t be more than that in terms of magnitude, but in terms of relational significance, He can.  He can be personal to us.  He can be Our Almighty God. 

Our Father.  It’s not just personal, it’s possessive.  Not in the sense that I possess my car, to drive about and require that it take me where I want to go.  He is not our God in the sense that we have possession and therefore control of Him.  It’s that same sense of possession that a child has of his father.  It’s not his father that he can order him about or control him.  But more nearly he is possessed by his father.  The father has responsibility over his son to protect him, provide for him and love him, discipline him and guide him.    And when a son says of his father, “That is my father”, he is not only recognizing his father’s position, but he is also submitting himself to his father’s authority; “He is the father of me.”

God is the Father of All.  But for those of us who believe, who have the right to become children of God, He is more than simply the All-Father—He is OUR Father.

The Character of the Gods:

Probably the most obvious point of comparison between the mythological gods and God himself is the point of character.  Whether you are dealing with Greek or Roman or Norse mythology, (or whatever other mythology there may be) the thing which seems to be a consistent trait of the gods is their human emotions.  I’m not simply saying that they feel the same emotions that humans feel, things like joy and anger and sadness and excitement, etc.  I’m saying that they feel those things in the same ways that humans feel them.  And, to be honest, they generally seem to feel and display them more like children do than mature adults. 

This seems to be the case so much so that either humans do not respect the gods (see Clash of the Titans for an example of that) or, in the case of Thor, he is sent to earth to learn to be a little more human, aka a little more mature in his emotional scope. 

But, you say, he is a young god, surely his father, King Odin is better?  He is.  But even that line of reasoning is problematic.  First off, it implies that gods need to grow and mature just as humans do.  Second, even King Odin is not perfect.  He has some serious issues with one of his sons whom he basically lied to all his life about his true heritage (Loki).  And with his other son, Odin is quick to admit that he was “a fool” to think Thor was ready to be king.  So, the king of the gods himself, admittedly more emotionally mature and a good king, is still far from perfect. 

Let’s compare that to God of the Bible.  God has emotions, it is true.  But he has them in perfection. He IS perfection itself.  There is nothing petty about God or His emotional makeup.  So, if, for example, He gets angry, it is not impetuous, impatient or uncalled for.  It is only, ever righteous and perfect anger. 

Mankind is made in the image of God.  Therefore we get our emotional makeup from our Creator.  It is a reflection of His, a likeness even, but an imperfect one.  We do not have the capacity to have the depth of emotion that He has, nor do we have the maturity to display it perfectly—just as a portrait is not capable of having the depth of reality that its human subject has. 

God is not growing or maturing.  He IS God.  He is unchanging.  He is not, nor has he ever been a powerful child that needs to grow up before he makes a mistake with all his power.  God doesn’t need to come to earth to take a few lessons from mankind about humility and compassion.  In fact, it’s the reverse.  Mankind looks to Him to gain maturity because He is all-knowing, he has nothing to learn.  He is perfect in every way.  This means there is no way in which HE can be perfected.  Even his emotions are always perfectly felt and expressed. 

How different He is in this one area alone than the gods of mythology!

Odin, Thor and Loki, an Un-holy Trinity:

There is a very un-holy trinity of sorts in Thor.  You have the father, King Odin.  The son, Thor.  And the other son, Loki who, with his magical powers, is very much spirit-like at times, an apparent knock-off of the Holy Spirit.  These three are not three-in-one.  In fact, the entire cause of the danger unleashed in the world is their inter-personal conflicts.  Thor doesn’t honor and respect his father’s leadership/judgment.  Loki is jealous of his brother’s talents, and of his favor with their father.  Odin hasn’t been honest with his sons and, though he raised Loki as his own, he apparently thought he could use Loki to unite his kingdom with Asgard and bring peace. 

Three separate wills, three very complicated, even wounded individuals, three beings with limited mental and emotional resources—all fighting over control of the throne. 

The Holy Trinity is three perfect beings, distinct and yet one, loving and supporting each other, yielding to each other.  There is no competition, no jealousy, no rebellion.  Each being fully God can fully know the mind of the other…it comes with the territory of being God and therefore omniscient…and also that crazy mysterious thing of their being separate, but yet one.  Beyond that, I will leave the mysteries of the Trinity to more learned and well-spoken scholars than myself.  Just know that there will never be an instant of discord between them.

God Come to Earth:

Now a point of both commonality and grave distinction simultaneously is  the issue of Thor, the son of god, coming to earth.  It is true, Jesus, the son of God, came to earth as well.  And, both were willing to sacrifice their lives for others while on earth.  But their motives for coming to earth were pretty substantially different. 

Thor was cast to earth by his father to learn a few things.  It was part punishment and part training opportunity and testing. 

Jesus was not sent to earth so that he could grow up and mature (although he did come as a baby).  It wasn’t a test or punishment or training.  He came for one reason; He came to die.  He knew He came to die, and still He came.  Yes, His Father sent Him, but His Father sent Him because of his great love for mankind.  And it was because of that same love that Jesus willingly complied.

Thor came as a full-grown man and was robbed of his powers until he was worthy of them. 

Jesus came as a baby and though He had all His powers, He chose to limit Himself and live and die as a human. 

Both did offer their lives, it is true.  Thor risked his life in the heat of battle for his friends and those he loved.  Jesus chose to give his life even before he came to earth.  And he gave his life for all, even those who rejected and murdered him, because he desired that no one should perish, not even one. 

Withdrawing from the Earth:

Thor had to return to Asgard to restore the crown and save the day.  He left earth promising he would return for Jane, but the bridge to earth was broken, and, until a new way is found, Thor is unable to return.

Jesus also had to return to heaven and leave behind his disciples.  But, it’s a little different.  First off, Jesus didn’t just leave.  He sent the Holy Spirit in his place, the helper.  In fact, he told his disciples it would be better for them if he left and the Holy Spirit came.  He didn’t leave promising He himself would be right back.  He didn’t suddenly find himself unable to return.  The disciples weren’t constantly searching for his return, wondering what happened.  They were prepared for what happened and equipped, just as Jesus promised. 

Most significantly, whereas Thor broke the bridge between the gods and mankind, Jesus restored the bridge.  It was the sole purpose of his coming to earth and dying on the cross, to make a way possible for mankind to come to the Father, to God.  John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No man comes to the Father but through me.”  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Gods Role in the Universe:

Thor’s departure isn’t the first time the gods have withdrawn from earth.  As King Odin explained, “With the last great war ended, we withdrew from the other worlds and returned home to the realm eternal, Asgard.  And here we remain as the beacon of hope. Shining out across the stars. And though we have fallen into mans’ myths and legends, it was Asgard and its warriors that brought peace to the universe.”

It seems the gods occasionally step in to save the day when the situation demands it.  But, once their job is done, they go back to their holy huddle in paradise and leave mankind alone.  They are content to be beacons of hope, shining stars of inspiration to humanity, mere myth and legend. 

How different from our God.  He is not content to be a legend or an idea of hope.  Remember?  He is personal and possessive.  He is our God.  And he sent his son Jesus so that, through Him, we could be his sons and daughters.  Acts 17: 24-28 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth … He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’”  He is not just a far off beacon.  He is involved in our very breathing.  He is personal.

Asgard, Heaven and the Afterlife:

Asgard is where the gods live, but it’s not quite Heaven.  It is at one point called the realm eternal, but curiously, it’s not the eternal home of the gods.  The gods themselves don’t live forever.  They die and go to Val Hala.  I would assume then, that Val Hala must be what they consider Heaven?  And Asgard then is really nothing more than an alien planet.

So, besides the fact that the gods die (definitely NOT a very god-like quality, especially when compared to our everlasting God who is the Great I AM, without beginning or end), there is no sense of humanity being joined with the gods in the afterlife.  Remember, the only known bridge between humanity and the gods was destroyed by Thor.  The movie ends with Thor and Jane trying to find another way to reconnect.  There is no thought that when she dies she will be reunited with him because humans don’t apparently go to Asgard when they die.  And frankly, even if they did, the gods wouldn’t be there anyway.

We have the assurance that we will be with Jesus, face to face with God when we die and go to heaven.  Heaven, that place where God lives, forever, where there will be no more death, no more tears, no more fighting and sin and such, you know, that place.  That place that is, thankfully, nothing like Asgard, it is so far superior.

Questions for Discussion:

  • What about the gods in Thor was most attractive to you?  Are those qualities which you think God possesses? 
  • What about the gods in Thor was least attractive?  Are those qualities which you think God possesses?  If not, how is He different? 
  • How do you find out if your ideas about God, or any ideas about God, are right and true?
  • How would you compare the gods to superheroes?  Are they the same?  Is there any difference? 
  • How significant do you think it is whether we call Thor (or any other super-powered being, alien or human) a god or a superhero?  Is it only a matter of semantics, or is there something about semantics, names and titles which actually matters?
  • What do you think about a god who grows old and dies?
  • What are you thoughts on ALL Father vs. OUR Father?
  • Do you think King Odin should have told Loki the truth about his heritage?  What do you think about his motives in taking Loki as a baby in the first place?
  • What do you think about the conflicts among the un-holy trinity?  Does it make you think any differently about how perfect the Trinity must be to maintain their perfect relationship? 
  • Jesus restored the bridge between mankind and God.  Have you wanted to cross it?  Have you longed for a relationship with your Maker?  What is holding you back?
  • What do you know about Heaven and how does it differ from Asgard?
  • What do you think about God’s involvement with mankind vs. the gods un-involvement?  Do you wish God was only a beacon of hope, or do you want him to be involved in your life?  Would that answer change if you knew God was perfect and loved you perfectly and completely and could be fully trusted to do what was absolutely best?
  • Do you think you know God as He really is, or do you think that you tend to see God in terms of what you know?  (i.e. since God is a Father, you think he must be like your earthly father? Etc.)
  • Where do you go to find out who God really is?  Or do you think He can be known at all?

 

Remember, we are made in God’s image.  He is not made in ours.

I wanted to close with the following Psalm that I read this morning.  Note how differently God and his relationship with man is portrayed here than what is seen in Thor.  We are loved by a God most wonderful!

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

 1 You have searched me, LORD,
   and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
   you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
   you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
   and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
   too lofty for me to attain.

 7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
   Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
   if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
   if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
   your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
   and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
   the night will shine like the day,
   for darkness is as light to you.

 13 For you created my inmost being;
   you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
   your works are wonderful,
   I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
   when I was made in the secret place,
   when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
   all the days ordained for me were written in your book
   before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
   How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
   they would outnumber the grains of sand—
   when I awake, I am still with you.

 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
   Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
   your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD,
   and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
   I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
   test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
   and lead me in the way everlasting

 

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