The Gospel according to Thor
As a kid I was a comic book junkie. I started out with Superman and Batman, and couldn’t get enough. When my mother held me to three comics per week, that’s what I brought home each Sunday – plus a couple more hidden under my shirt. As I progressed through my teens, I did taper off, but there were two heroes who were very hard to say goodbye to: Thor and Green Lantern.
I was a little excited earlier this year when I heard that movies of both my old heroes, Thor and Green Lantern, were coming out this year. I generally don’t go to the theater, and I finally got around to renting the Thor DVD this weekend. So this review might be old hat to you. And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, be aware this will contain some serious spoilers.
One thing is preeminently clear from watching this movie: its creative principals are well-conversant with the Bible story. The parallels between Thor and Christ are pervasive, and other characters also line up closely with biblical persons.
It’s ironic that even as special effects have gotten more and more spectacular, they are losing their novelty and ability to hold the viewer’s interest. Gone are the days when effects could carry a film. A story will sink or swim based only on the old sure foundation of plot and character development. And so, though the effects in Thor are pretty good, they fade into the background. The real story is the spiritual development of the hero.
Thor is a brash young man destined for the throne. His father, king Odin, is old and wise and good. In his swagger, Thor retaliates for a wrong done to his kingdom, and unleashes a deadly war upon his people. For violating his fealty to the king, Thor is stripped not only of his power, which is embodied in his hammer, but of his position as heir to the throne as well. And he is cast out of his own realm and banished to earth, to live his life as a mortal.
The hammer follows him to Earth, however, and embeds itself in a rock. Thor immediately plots how to get to it and reclaim it. The moment finally comes when it is in his grasp. He smiles as he reaches out for it, tasting the power that will soon be his again. But Thor’s father had pronounced an oath over the hammer, whereby it could only be wielded by one who is worthy of its power. In what Thor thought would be his moment of triumph, he cannot free the hammer, try as he may. He cries what sounds like the death roar of a mighty lion, and falls to his knees, defeated.
If that weren’t bad enough, now taken captive, Thor is visited by his younger brother, Loki. Loki informs him that his father is dead. Thor’s foolishness and banishment has caused it, and their mother has decreed that Thor may never return. All of these are lies. Loki represents the satan figure in the story, who enviously rebels in order to rule, but his motives seem more confused than those of his biblical counterpart, in that he somehow thinks he is trying to please his father.
Once a mighty wild stallion, Thor now is broken. In tears, he expresses touching remorse for his actions and the woe they have brought on his loved ones. It was here that we began to see one aspect of the Christ story in action. I thought of the pain of the Cross, where everything went wrong for the Lord Jesus; where He suffered for sins He did not commit, and it seemed that even His Father had rejected Him. Thor’s loss at this point is complete.
Thor is now a changed man. He begins to adapt to his new mortal life by serving others in small ways, such as waiting tables, and he does so with servanthood joy. Finally, when Loki sends a robot to Earth to kill Thor and everyone else, Thor walks up to the machine and offers himself without resistance, as long as everyone else will be left to live. The robot takes him up on the offer – and kills him.
This is deep Gospel territory. What came to mind at this point were Michael Card’s “El Shaddai” lyrics, Your most awesome work was done, through the frailty of Your Son. Jesus laid aside the power and immortality of divinity in order to become a man and suffer like us, for us. He wrested the kingdom back from satan not by means of indomitable power, but by reestablishing the legal right through the humble obedience of self-sacrificial love. Thor’s death was a moving moment. (The film, directed by the Shakespearian, Richard Brannagh, had a noble feel almost throughout.)
But as Thor’s mother says at one point, there is a reason for everything the king does. Odin sent Thor into banishment to break his pride, and as soon as Thor dies, the father’s oath over the hammer is invoked. The hammer breaks loose from the rock it is embedded in, and flies into Thor’s hand. Thor is raised from death, and is restored to his former position and power. This, of course, is a picture of the resurrection. Thor goes on to stop the war he had triggered between kingdoms, and he does so sacrificially again, at the cost of destroying the way back to Earth, cutting him off from the woman he has come to love.
At the movie’s end, Thor and his father are reconciled. Thor is humble and aware of his need for wisdom, and he recognizes its rich endowment in his father.
I found the plot details and the dialog a bit hard to follow the first time through, but one advantage of the DVD is the ability to watch the film again on the cheap. The second time was much richer for being able to connect more of the dots. This movie is a winner at several levels, particularly the spiritual. That compliment comes from one who generally no longer bothers with most movies because of their low redeeming value.
If you enjoy seeing the Gospel story played out in different ways, and are looking for ways to relate it to those in our culture who are not conversant with the Bible, the movie Thor might well be something you would be interested in.