November 15, 2013

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Movie Reviews

In November, Church of the Redeemer is exploring the theme of looking at culturally relevant things from a “Biblical view.” In this spirit, we will be taking the time to review four potentially blockbuster movies that will be releasing during the month of November. We do this because we believe that in today’s world, movies are modern day pulpits. The medium of film is reaching more and more people than ever before and the cinema has a direct line of influence into our culture, our homes, and our beliefs. Our goal is to shed a light on these narratives and to encourage audiences to recognize that entertainment is not mindless.

thor1By Mikey Fissel

Thor: The Dark World

Directed By Alan Taylor

Rated PG-13

Step two in Phase 2 of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe brings us Thor 2, or Thor: The Dark World. While Thor was recognized as probably the weakest installment in Phase 1, this installment gives the keys to a director, Alan Taylor, who, from his resume, doesn’t bring a lot of full-length film experience to the director’s chair. However, this follow up film does a lot of things cinematically better than it’s predecessor, such as character development and general storytelling. We care a lot more; not only about Thor, but also about the people he surrounds himself with— Loki, Jane Foster, his mother Frigga, and even his compatriots in arms. And while I loved the themes of the first Thor film, Thor: The Dark World proves to be, all around, more fun, and more engaging.

Thor: The Dark World introduces a few concepts from the very start that slide right past viewers without much dissection, and yet, are supposed to be the backbone of the conflict in the movie. Ultimately, we allow it to slip past because we distract ourselves with the interpersonal relationships—and Tom Hiddleston’s delightful portrayal of Loki (understandably). But, back to the opening…

thor2Odin: Some believe that before the universe, there was nothing. They’re wrong. There was darkness… and it has survived.

Dark Elves, Aether, eternal darkness, and a generally bleak outlook are what we are saddled with from Odin’s narration. So, though it isn’t the strongest of antagonists, it is the strongest of implications about how the universe was formed and how it still exists today. Odin paints the picture of an existence that began without hope and then hope, or light, sprang up almost as an accident and now it fights for it’s own survival. While we do not subscribe to the view that darkness, or nothing, existed before the Creator (Genesis 1:1), we can agree that a darkness has still survived.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. –1 John 1:5-7 (NIV)

It is not only relatable, but intentional that the contrast of light and dark are being used in relation to good v evil. It is a metaphor so strong that it is actually not really explained well throughout the film. Seriously, if you have seen the film, can you honestly explain what the Aether does or how it can suddenly plunge the nine realms into darkness? All you need to know is that this thing turns light into darkness and then people are sad, end of story. Which brings us to the point. The battle between light and darkness is often painted with a brush that says this is a close fight—but in reality, the fight is already over as the Book of John tells us, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Because God is light, we are Children of Light (1 Thessalonians 5:5), and that fellowship keeps us from being consumed by the darkness. Though, to be fair, it is pretty entertaining to watch Thor bash darkness with a hammer.

Not treading too far into spoiler territory, but be warned that the following borders on spoilers…

thor3Thor: “I would rather be a good man than a great king.”

The first Thor film gave us a hero who was selfish, impatient, impertinent, and not fit to lead anyone else—especially the nine realms. Through what could be criticized as an “all too easy” three day conversion, Thor becomes the man that his father, Odin, hopes he would eventually become. Ironically, it is Odin who has somehow regressed into a stubborn, impertinent, war-monger by the time the second installment arrives. We find Thor, again and again, hearing the decrees of his father and choosing to do what he sees is right—even if what he thinks is right goes against his father’s wishes. His decisions are not only wiser than the All-Father’s, but they end up saving lives and the nine realms. It leads to the scene at the end of the film where Odin basically offers Thor the throne and Thor declines with the quote from above.

I think it’s supposed to resonate with us that Thor is offered all the power that he sought when we first met him in the first film and now he is specifically turning it down to continue to have the freedom to affect change in his own way. All too often, we are faced with situations where we have the opportunity to make a difference but we feel that our actions are not useful or enough because we aren’t this person of power or influence—and if only we were, we could really do some good. While I have to admit, that in some cases, having a larger sphere of influence can give legs to many good intentions, it is also folly to think that where we are right now, or the gifts and talents we have, cannot be used as well.

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

So, I would end by encouraging you to take Thor’s notion to heart. You do not have to be a great king to “do for the least of these.” It is often hard to see how our everyday actions affect others, but we also believe that we live out of a reality that doesn’t place the same value on the things and recognitions that the rest of the world does.

Dr. Erik Selvig: There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that the world is crazier than you are.