Thor: The Dark World – Movie Discussion
These movie discussions are intended to help you connect your Christian faith to the modern world by:
1. Helping you learn to see echoes of redemptive truth all around you.
2. Challenging you to help other Christians see that their relationship with Jesus cannot be confined to church but must invade our every activity…even our movie-watching.
3. Equipping you to speak Christ into culture by pointing out entry points for significant discussions with non-believers. Many non-believers won’t accept an invitation to come to church, but they will talk about a movie they’ve seen recently…so we want to help you turn that conversation into an eternally significant discussion.
Movies that deal with god-like figures present an easy opportunity to discuss our perceptions of God versus the reality presented in the Bible. So, whether it’s a movie based on Greek mythology like Percy Jackson (Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters)or Clash of the Titans, or on superheroes, like Man of Steel, or Rise of the Guardians—any time there is a figure with extreme and/or supernatural power (real or perceived, as in Oz, the Great and Powerful), it provides us an opportunity to examine how that figure handled his power and how he related to those “beneath” him. That examination, in turn, gives us opportunity to think about our own, often complicated, relationships with authority, especially our relationship with God. In what ways we do think that God is like the god in this movie? In what ways is He different? What does the Bible say about who God is, and how does that concur or differ from the god of this movie? How do I feel about the god in this movie, and/or about God Himself? You get the idea.
It’s important to notice these things when we see them in the movie and in our culture. Not only is it important to evaluate your own perceptions and misperceptions about God (and evaluating your response to god-like characters in movies can help you do that), but it’s also important to see and understand the world’s perceptions and misperceptions about God. It’s not to say that you have to see movies to do so, but that if you are prone to see them anyway, it would be a shame to the miss the opportunity to look into that window and see what the world sees (or at least to see how many people in the world view things).
In my review of Thor (the first installment in 2011), I looked at some of the theology in Thor. This is important. It shows you who the gods are, what kind of gods they are and how they differ from the God of the Bible. (For example, Odin was dying and needed a replacement, but God is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, the I AM.) It also takes a brief look at the idea of relationship between Odin (the All Father) and mankind, at the dysfunctional trinity of Odin, Thor and Loki, compared to the Holy Trinity of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. It examines the character of the gods, the idea of incarnation, heaven (Asgard) and afterlife, and the role of God in human life according to Thor and according to the Bible. Whether or not you saw the movie, the discussion is important – the movie is just our catalyst for the discussion.
In Thor: The Dark World, we have an opportunity to take the discussion to the next step. It’s kind of like dating. In Thor, we got to know the basics about the people as they got to know each other. Now the second Thor movie focuses more on that relationship and takes it to the next level. These movie discussions will follow suit. The first one looked at the basics of who God is, now we are going to look at how he relates to us in greater depth.
Seeing that relationship between the gods and humans in Thor is a bit complicated, because of that dysfunctional, unholy Trinity we mentioned. Odin, Loki and Thor, while they bear some resemblance to the Holy Trinity, that resemblance completely breaks down in the area of unity—there is perfect unity among the members of the Holy Trinity, and absolute war between Thor, Loki and Odin. Thor, Loki and Odin each present a different relationship to mankind, one that you will find mirrors someone’s perspective of God’s relationship with them.
Loki is the worst god-figure of the three, by far. (Interestingly enough, he is the one viewers love the most. I hear they are asking for a movie focusing on Loki, rather than his better brother, Thor. I have to wonder what that really says about us?! Or maybe it’s simply saying something about the depth and complexity that the characters of Thor and Loki are written and played with? It’s an interesting question.) Loki doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Not only does he not care about humans, but he doesn’t care about his own family, with the very confusing possibility of his mother (the family dynamic is complicated by issue of his adoption, granted).
Loki is manipulative, a liar, a powerful magician and brilliant strategist who cannot be trusted. It is clear that he cares nothing for mankind, nor his responsibility to them. Man’s only response to Loki is to fear him. In fact, I would be far more inclined to compare him to Satan than to God.
The problem is, there are people who think of God just as they would think of Loki. They don’t trust in God’s love for mankind or his goodness. They understand his power, but not his nature. Maybe they had some experiences with powerful people on earth who were dark and twisted, people who hurt them? Or maybe they have seen suffering in the world and make some assumptions about the nature of God. You know the question/argument: Why would an all-powerful God allow suffering in the world? They see truth A (God is powerful) and truth B (horrible things happen) and assume they know how the two are connected, and that connection leaves them certain that God is just like Loki, an all-powerful, manipulative, self-serving, hateful, brutal being who hurts people without a care. When you add truth C (God is love) to the equation, however, you begin to see that the way the data connects isn’t quite so simple…you begin to see that there may be more truths, more data points needed to properly connect the dots and finish the equation.
The sad reality is that there are people who think Loki relates to man the way God relates to man, when the actual truth is that he more nearly parallels Satan. When you talk with someone and find that they are angry with God, thinking that He has either abused His power, or failed to use it when He should have, it may be useful to think about the equation above. What are the “dots” they are connecting? What “dots” or truths may they be missing? You may not need to solve the equation for them if only you can help them understand that their solution is incorrect. Give them a few more data points and challenge them to rethink the problem.
Odin is Father and King. He’s a good King, and that’s important because it’s a direct contrast to Loki. No one questions Odin’s ability to rule well, but he’s also distant (for more on this, read the Thor movie discussion). He wants to do the right thing for all the realms, including the human realm, but, as he cautions Thor, “There are 9 realms. Good kings of Asgard must focus on more than one.” In other words, he may be King and have super powers, but he isn’t all powerful. There are limitations to what he (and Thor) can do. If Thor focuses on one (one realm or one person), the others will suffer; he has to keep some distance if he is to rule well and keep the right perspective.
Not only is Odin distant because he needs some distance to rule well, but he’s distant because he is superior. He’s a politician; he wouldn’t say to his earthly subjects that he feels that way, but it comes out more than once. So, while he rules them with the appearance of compassion and sympathy, we see the real Odin when he talks with his son, whom he considers his equal. He warns Thor against his love for the human, Jane, and tries to steer him toward an equal, a fellow Asgardian. ”Human lives are fleeting. They’re nothing. You’d be better served by what lies in front of you.” Why waste your love on “nothing” and on something “fleeting”, right?
In case you think his caution for his son is just practical advice, and not a sign of his sense of superiority over humans, note that he compared her to a goat. Thor brought her to Asgard and Odin was furious. “She does not belong here any more than a goat belongs at a banquet table.” She does not belong with the superior race. Odin sees it as his duty to protect the lesser mortals, but make no mistake that he sees them as lesser mortals and condescends to help them, not because of love, but because it’s his duty as king.
I had intended to write about God at the end, but I cannot stand to let this sit without debunking it here and now. To see God so misrepresented gets my blood boiling and I cannot let it pass. THIS is NOT God.
Loki doesn’t bother me so much, because it’s pretty easy to understand that he’s not god, in any sense of the word. He’s bad. Everyone knows it. If there is a god, by very nature of our understanding of what a god should be (notably that he should be good, that god and good are synonymous), we know he can’t be like Loki. Why? Because Loki isn’t good; he’s bad. That disqualifies him for the role of god. This is the same reason we don’t ever consider Satan a god in any way—because Satan is bad. So Satan gets to be Satan, and God, who is good, gets to be God.
Odin is more problematic because he’s not as obvious. He’s not simply bad. In fact, he’s mostly good. He’s just not ALL good, and the areas where he falls short are BIG ones. God is love. It’s who He is; it’s His nature. His ability to rule well is a direct result of his love. His perfect love informs and directs all He does (in perfect balance with all his other qualities, like justice and mercy and righteousness, etc.). Odin’s chief failure is love, one of the very things that makes God GOD. It’s a big failure.
The Bible talks about the importance of love.
If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
In other words, no matter how great Odin ruled, how gifted he was in power and knowledge and strategy and policy, no matter how many battles he won or how good the economy under his rule, without love, including and especially a love for those under his rule (even the “lesser” mortals), God himself would consider Odin nothing.
Odin is nothing like God because he loved nothing like God. God loves fully, the masses and the individual; he never has to choose one or the other. God doesn’t keep himself distant, nor does He encourage His Son to. In fact, He sent His Son to earth, in order to restore a better relationship with man. He longs for intimacy with man. Jesus wants us to be His bride, and God the Father is in full support, because He LOVES us.
As for the line about Jane not belonging in Asgard anymore than a goat belongs at a banquet, know that Jesus said that he was going to Heaven to prepare a place for us, that where He was, we could be also (John 14:3)—and God the Father won’t object. He sent Jesus to earth to make a way for us to be with Him in Heaven. It was always his idea for us to be with Him in Heaven. And when we get there, we are to join Him at the banqueting table. He will never make us feel that we don’t belong because, though wholly superior to us, His love elevates us. We dine with him as a bride, as sons and daughters, heirs to throne.
Thor’s actions and his relationship with mankind, as we might expect from the hero of the movie, are more truly God-like. There’s a difference though, Thor isn’t love. His love for mankind isn’t born from the fact that he is the embodiment of love. In fact, he didn’t love man at all until he was exiled to earth and forced to get to know them, personally (in the first movie). He grew to love them. God always loved us.
Origins of love aside, Thor presents a far better understanding of how God relates to us. Thor is personally and intimately concerned with the fate of man, both as a species and as individuals. He gets involved. It’s personal for him. His loves compels him to make sacrifices for mankind, just as Jesus sacrificed his own life. Thor came to earth, then he brought Jane to Asgard, a place she could never reach on her own. In the mismatch of the century, we know that Thor wants Jane to dine with him, to live with him, to rule with him. A mismatch that is completely eclipsed by the far greater one of Jesus and you and me. All the better when you realize that Jesus’ Father nods His head in full approval.
Of the three, Odin, Loki and Thor, Thor is by far the most helpful one for understanding the way God relates to us. Thor, the son, relates to us much the way Jesus, the Son does. (Odin and Loki are more useful from the perspective us of helping us understand our misperceptions of God, than helping us find a likness.) Probably the most significant ways in which Thor differs from Jesus are in the limitations of his power. Although very powerful, Thor is not all-powerful; nor is he all-knowing. He is neither perfect, nor complete. His understanding is limited, therefore his actions are based on good intentions and best guesses. Jesus is so much better. His ways are complete perfection, based on perfect understanding and a perfect will.
Questions for Discussion:
- Odin, Loki and Thor each present a different idea about who God is. Who do you think more closely relates to the truth about who God is? Why?
- How do you think God is like and/or unlike Odin, Loki and Thor?
- What conclusions have you made about God based on the data around you? (i.e. There’s suffering in the world, and God is all-powerful, therefore God must not be loving, or maybe he’s not powerful after all.)
- Do you think some of your conclusions / assumptions about God could be based on insufficient data? If you were given some more pieces to the equation, could it change the way you calculate the results?
- Have you ever changed your opinion about who God is? Why? What changed your mind?
- Based on the three, Odin, Loki and Thor, who would you rather have as your god and king? Why? If your answer was Thor, how does it make you feel that he is the one who most closely represents the truth about God? If your answer wasn’t Thor, why wasn’t it?
- Odin may have been a great ruler, but how did his lack of love for humanity make you feel? Thor may have a little to learn about being a King, but are you more inclined to trust him and follow him because of the fact that he loves?
- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 says that love is more important than any skill, any gift, any talent. Do you think that’s true? How have you seen that principle to be true in your own life?
Click here to read a collection of quotes from Thor: The Dark World.
Click here to read the precursor to this discussion, the discussion on Thor, the first movie.
By Stacey Tuttle