All myths point to Jesus. Whether correct in their understanding or not, myths have been derived from humanity’s attempt at understanding the Divine.
This past weekend, Marvel’s latest blockbuster, Thor, opened worldwide. Despite its subpar performance in theaters (compared to other superhero flicks), the film was certainly one of the best Marvel has produced leading up to the highly anticipated release of The Avengers next summer.
One of the movie’s greatest strengths was not just the special effects or exceptional acting, but the compelling storyline. Thor may just be the most unique superhero ever “created” — in reality, he was merely adapted from Norse mythology. Rather than receiving his powers from a spider bite, gamma radiation, or monetary resources, Thor has always possessed his powers because he is divine.
In the first half of Thor, the audience discovers that the hero was banished to Earth without his supernatural powers because of his arrogance and disobedience. In essence, his father Odin’s purpose was to force Thor to learn humility and obedience before being found worthy of royal reign. After Thor fulfilled this duty, he even saved his worst enemies at the expense of never seeing his true love.
Scripture tells us that Jesus willingly forsook his place as God to become weak and human (Phil. 2:6-10). The author of Hebrews also wrote that Jesus “learned obedience,” an obedience that qualified him as Savior of the world (Heb. 5:8). Furthermore, Jesus offered his life for his enemies in order to make them his own (Rom. 5:8).
The original storyline in the comics portrayed Thor’s earthly existence in the form of disabled medical student Donald Blake. In the movie, however, Thor still retains an element of superhuman strength, but does not receive his full supernatural powers until he sacrifices his life for his friends.
In a similar fashion, Jesus emptied himself of divine status. Jesus, however, did this willingly, and shows a greater love by sacrificing himself for those who hate him (Thor later sacrifices something of great worth on behalf of his enemies).
Redeeming Film & Mythology
Thor wields a mighty hammer. Jesus was the object of a hammer. Although sharing some qualities in the roles of son and savior, Thor falls drastically short of the perfect life and reign of Jesus.
According to the movie’s review on Plugged In, the film felt “at times almost Christian,” but drawing “too many parallels between Christ and Thor would be pointless.”
In order to embark on a redemption of film and its use of mythology, both of these statements should be disqualified. If Thor in any sense felt “Christian,” then the person’s understanding of Jesus and Christianity is shallow to say the least. The fact that the reviewer labeled the task of drawing parallels between Thor and Jesus as “pointless” or “a tad sacrilegious” shows that he certainly does not understand the ultimate purpose of mythology. Besides, the only reason the reviewer sensed a “Christian” element in the film was because of these parallels.
While mythology offers no redemptive work, the history of stories about mysterious deities testifies to the driving impulse of humans to understand God. Paul referenced Psalm 19 in his treatise concerning unbelief in Romans 1:18-25, arguing that all humans are given some knowledge of God despite corrupting it in their sin.
The reason parallels between Thor and Jesus come so naturally is because Thor was a futile Norse attempt at understanding the need for a mediator between God and man. Drawing these parallels is not “sacrilegious,” but a heartfelt attempt to bridge the gap between Norse understanding and the person of Jesus Christ (maybe even the same way Paul bridged the gap between the unknown god of Athens and the true God of the universe).
By offering these statements concerning Thor’s resemblance to the Christian message, Plugged In reveals its complacency as an active voice against the film industry rather than an active participant for redeeming the film industry.
If you’ve yet to see Thor, definitely make time in the near future to see it in theaters or home entertainment. As a superhero flick, Thor carries a unique tone that focuses on something beyond natural reality.
Rather than complaining from a distance about the fallen nature of the film industry, Christians should be active in understanding the power of the film industry to communicate these messages about divine realities.
Even big summer blockbusters can hammer heavy messages.