Friday, 3 June 2011

Thor & debts to one another in a kingdom

Personally I found X-men: First Class a slightly more polished and enjoyable film, and an absolute blast, with good new characters and 1960s spy-film influenced plot, and action beating X2 – but I think Thor was more ambitious, and despite being a tad too silly and “summer blockbuster” in the bits set on Earth, it had more interesting themes. May his return in the Avengers film next year continue the fun!

So here's my take on some of the themes of Thor:

Often in action films you get a kind of brother-in-arms camaraderie, but in Thor comics there is a sense that the gods of Asgard are connected. Each has their role and without one of them fulfilling it they are lacking. Thor has a responsibility to lead his people well – and they have a responsibility to be the noble people they are meant to be in service of their brother-in-arms, the mighty Odin-son Thor.

Which is why a recent Thor story got my attention.* It reminds us of how people can be trapped by their own desires and pulled away from what is really good for them. In it Loki skilfully manipulates Thor, managing to shame him so he is not worthy to be seen and followed as leader. Unlike in the film, Odin is no longer about, and the throne is taken by Balder, who, with Loki at his ear, makes the decision to find a new home for the Asgardians. He believes the restlessness of the fearless Asgardians is due to them being trapped in their re-born realm which is floating in the sky above earth, and that they should move to the wild land of mountains and forests that belongs to Marvel arch-villain, Doctor Doom.

It’s a classic case of trying to solve a correctly identified problem with an answer that isn’t going to fit. This race of people live larger than life and have a real longing for the open air and the pursuit of games and hunting. They want to live life! But living under a wise and good King is the key to their security and hope and anything less is a compromise. Yes, their king Thor should have heeded their restlessness and provided for them – that would have been wise. But to have been corrupted by Loki and end up being led into a land ruled with an iron fist by Doom is the worst kind of deception and is likely to lead to needless difficulties or war. It certainly divides them against their King. And it’s a knee-jerk response to the deeper problem of wanting Asgard and life back in its fuller glory. It’s going after a temporary solution that isn’t really one at all.

I love how the corruption is depicted as working – very subtly. Loki, manages to frame truth in a way that accuses Thor stopping him in his tracks and making others lose confidence in him. (Doesn’t evil tend to do this? Evil takes our worst actions and hits us with it – and then it isolates us if it can.) Loki’s apparent honesty in exposing Thor leads to a loss of discernment as people begin to trust the perverted power-mad Loki. Yes, Thor has failed them, but the worst result of this is them sitting under the wrong king. They have lost their purpose and think it is to be found solely in the exciting new realm Balder offers them. May we not lose sight of how we owe each other to act rightly to build each other up in our purposes in life. It’s how we were created – to live life to the full**, in freedom, and “to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8).

A couple more points on the film before I sign off. I generally liked the way Thor interacted with humanity and the idea of him aspiring to be something more, and inspiring others, was pretty neat - and, in a way, so was the linking of ideas about there being amazing truth out there to be discovered with the "gods". The spin on Loki and his relationship to the wise King Odin was very interesting, and challenges us – what would you do if suddenly lots of power was thrust upon you in your darkest hour? Would you be responsible and shoulder the responsibility well or try to cut others out or try to impress others? How do you react to how people judge you – are you paranoid, getting hurt easily when people fail you, taking the love you can get and hiding away, or do you listen to others and love others generously, from a place of gratefulness at all you have?

*Thor 601 “Defining Moments” written by J. Michael Straczynski
**See, for example, John chapter 7 v37-8, chapter 8 v12, 31-2, and chapter 15 v11.

Check back for more on comics and books later in the month.

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