Comic book hero origin story. This movie was much better than I had expected. Probably because the director, Kenneth Branagh brought to it a nuanced Shakespearean quality that was appropriate for this story about the Norse god of thunder. Well, actually, it is a demythology of the Norse mythology. That is, it is one of those stories that explains religion as an ignorant misinterpretation of alien science. In this case, Thor is a warrior from the distant realm of Asgard, who is banished to earth without his power because of his impetuous and arrogance aspiring to the throne of his father, Odin. But in this film we learn that the Norse mythology was wrong. Thor and his breed are not gods, but are simply aliens from another part of the galaxy misunderstood as gods by primitive Vikings. This is a common theme in movies today and I intend to write more in depth on it for BioLogos.org soon.
Anyway, it was an interesting contrast of modern egalitarian culture with a more patriarchal culture in Thor. As he falls in love with the female scientist played by Natalie Portman, we see him treating her with the chivalry of the past and boy, she likes it! This is no feminist fantasy, but a return to a chivalry that feminists would call chauvinism. The big brawny earthy man protecting the female and treating her with gentility and noble language as the weaker vessel. It was quite a clever culture clash.
And the theme of the story is rather traditional as well. Thor’s mighty hammer is on earth, but because of Odin’s whispered spell over it, only a “worthy” man can pick it up and use it. And Thor cannot do so because of his own pride and arrogance and fighting temper. It is not until he chooses to sacrifice himself to be killed by a big marauding monster robot in order to protect the innocent that he is able to regain his powers and vanquish the enemy. And this, after his “resurrection” from the dead. All very religious in it’s theme.
Which brings me to another point. I am further confirmed that the hunger for comic book superheroes and the like is definitely a “God-substitute.” Even though our secular society has rejected the idea of supernatural deity (as evidenced in the demythology of this very story), it craves deity nonetheless and these superhero stories serve as a modernized religious impulse that replaces that “god-shaped vacuum” in all of us. Their ubiquity in our culture matches the prevalence of the polytheism of ancient culture, whether the Greek or Roman pantheon or those of Sumer and Babylon. But their presence shows us that humankind needs deity and will create its own if it has to.