Everyone’s favorite demigod is back, and he’s returned with a new set of baddies chomping at the bit to devour the universe and a new all-powerful talisman threatening to fall into the wrong hands.
Thor: The Dark World rejoins the God of Thunder as he is establishing peace on the final world under Asgardian control and as an extremely rare universal alignment of the worlds is about to take place. This alignment will enable the Dark Elves to unleash the Aether and engulf the universe in total darkness, undoing the reign of light that has illuminated the universe for millennia, a reign perpetuated by Thor and his ancestors, apparently. Earth plays a key role in the Dark Elves’ plan. (How convenient for us earth-bound movie-goers.)
If that last paragraph is a bit too odd for you to just accept and move on, Thor: The Dark World might just not be for you. On the other hand, the movie does a pretty good job of laying the foundation for the story that follows, so that even those uninitiated in the finer points of the Marvel universe, like me, can understand what’s going on and what’s at stake.
You have to accept this increasingly complex, corporate created and controlled mythology if you’re going to continue watching these Marvel superhero movies unfold and connect together. Based on the last two weekends’ box office results, it seems people are still willing to be taken along for the hammer-powered ride. I am too, for now.
Thor: The Dark World is perfectly enjoyable even if it leaves audiences with little more to think about after it’s over except for what the next Marvel movie might be like. These movies really begin in the trailers that precede the main feature with advertisements for whatever Marvel movie is next coming. Then they end after the credits begin rolling with mid- and post-credit scenes teasing for whatever’s coming down the line. The credits might as well begin with: “Next time on The Avengers…”
Regarding that “little more to think about” I mentioned earlier, Thor’s recurring moral is that one ought to choose love over power. Rightful heir of Asgard and, presumably, the most powerful demi-god of all, Thor’s journey has always been and, supposedly, will always be to sacrifice his power for the good of others. His counter-part is his adopted brother Loki, who consistently chooses the opposite – he readily sacrifices his affiliations in attempts to grasp power.
Loki is really the more interesting character in Thor’s story. Partially, this is because Tom Hiddleston is such a captivating actor. His glowers with a intensity worthy of a more substantial story. Mostly though, it’s because the characters in these Marvel movies are relatively thin. So much effort must be given to establishing the complex universe, not much time can be given to enriching the characters. Loki, because his origins are so tragic and because he is perpetually overshadowed by his more powerful brother, has more room to grow as a character. His journey is more interesting because he has further to go.
The character growth he manages in this movie is spawned by encountering self-giving love, the very thing he needs to learn. It inspires him to do something for someone other than himself. Now, the way he channels that inspiration and his ultimate goal might be suspect, but at least he has encountered something truly inspiring.
That moral – choose love over power – is one worth encountering often, more often, in fact, than Marvel and Disney are able to churn out installments in the Thor series. It’s counterintuitive to the ways the powers that be encourage us to live. Power is often depicted as a cure-all. It’ll get you what you want and let you keep it, or so we’re led to believe.
Like Thor, the Bible tells a different story. In 1 Corinthians, Paul, writing to a church full of Christians trying to prove they were more powerful in the ways of the Spirit than each other, exhorted them that they ought to choose love over power. Otherwise, they would be nothing. Love is more desirable than all else. Only love lasts.
Furthermore, though people campaign ceaselessly for power over one another, they are all under the authority of the one true God. As it says in both Psalm 75 and Romans 13, authority is established by God, and God can cast those in power down. Even democracies, where ultimate power rests in the hands of the people, are subject to the authority of God. God sits enthroned on high above all the Earth no matter how we organize our governments.
And of course, when God came to Earth in human form, he didn’t ride down on lightning. God chose a lowly place and spent most of his time with lowly people. Christ’s is the humble, ever-loving example we’re supposed to be following. The only hammer he likely ever held was the one he held as a carpenter, and the only life he probably ever saw a hammer take was his own.