Saturday, July 9, 2022

Who Will Protect Our Children? An Interesting element of Thor: Love and Thunder

 SPOILER ALERT - this analysis of Thor: Love and Thunder reveals some important plot points.  

Much has been written about the cheekiness of the new Thor movie, Thor: Love and Thunder.  As in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok, director Taika Waititi brings a great sense of humor to the Marvel universe.  There's a lot of crude humor, but mostly it's just silly, poking fun of Thor's continuing difficulty coping as a god in a mortal's world.  Chris Hemsworth has become a reliable, loveable, hunky goofball.  Some of the jokes are a little flat but overall the tone of the film holds up, and it's a fairly light hearted good vs. evil tale with a romantic sub-plot.  Nothing too demanding.

The big issue in this film is Thor's inability to find love, setting up a possible reconciliation with his one true love, Dr. Jane Foster, with Natalie Portman reprising her role from 2013's Thor: Dark World.  In this film, she is dying from cancer, and is only kept alive - and given the powers of Thor - through Thor's broken hammer, Mjolnir.  (Which, like Doctor Strange's cape, seems to have a personality - an artificial intelligence -   that also allows for some odd humor, as Thor longs for his old hammer and fears his new axe might be jealous.)  The problem is, whenever Jane uses Mjolnir, her body weakens in its fight against the cancer.  But she's already at Stage 4 when the film begins, so when given the opportunity to maybe save the world (or at least New Asgard's children - I'll get to that in a moment) she can't help but selflessly join the battle at the risk of her own life.  She and Thor also rekindle their romance when she is in her buffed up Mighty Thor state, but Thor and she clearly see their days together are likely numbered.

But what I want to talk about here isn't the comedy, or the doomed romance.  The main hero plot involves a character played by Gorr, (Christian Bale) who is wandering a desert wasteland with a young girl (we find out its his daughter).  Why they are in a desert alone is unclear, but the little girl dies of exposure and thirst.  Gorr wanders into a small oasis - in it resides Gorr's god!  At first Gorr is overjoyed - it turns out he's an acolyte.  But he doesn't understand why his god has seemingly forsaken him and his people.  But Gorr is comforted knowing that now he might go to the afterlife and see his daughter again.

But his god betrays him.  There is no afterlife for mortals.  They only exist to worship their gods. And this god is celebrating the death of a "god killer" who wielded a magic sword.  Well, the sword speaks to Gorr, who, in a rage, kills his own god.  Gorr then vows to kill ALL the gods.  And that includes Thor.  

I'm going to skip ahead a bit.  Gorr eventually finds his way to New Asgard on Earth.  Unable to defeat Thor, Jane Foster, Korg (Taika Waititi's comedic sidekick) and King Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), he kidnaps all the town's children, taking them to some shadow kingdom.  Our heroes eventually track them down, but King Valkyrie and Jane Foster are left behind dealing with their wounds, and Thor must go alone.  He frees the children, but he is alone to fight Gorr, who is able to call up a shadow army.  The only way to fight Gorr is to arm the children.  He anoints one of them a General (he's the son of an old Asgardian ally); has them all find weapons - whatever they can pick up - and then sends his Thunder power to each of them. 

Their battle against the shadow army is mostly played for laughs, while Thor fights Gorr.  I actually found this scene very disturbing.  The children, left to defend themselves against an unspeakable evil.  We have already seen that for many of them, their gods have deserted them.  (There's also a scene where Zeus refuses to help Thor.)  They are alone in this world, without their parents.  The only people helping are Thor - who seems to be an outlier among the gods, in that he cares about people; Jane Foster, a childless, unmarried scientist; Korg, who we later see "birthing" a baby with a male partner, and King Valkyrie, a lesbian warrior!  

I couldn't help but find parallels, I'm sure not completely unintended, with how we treat our children in our violent, modern America.  Their institutions cannot protect them.  Their PARENTS can't even protect them.  They are literally on their own against the forces of evil.  Only the unconditionally, unselfishly kind (Thor and Jane and Valkyrie) can possibly help them - but even then, they must teach the children how to fight.  

It shouldn't be that way, in fantasy or the real world.  I'm an atheist - we have no gods to protect us.  But we should have institutions that do that.  Police, our elected representatives, our communities.  And as parents we should never feel as helpless as the parents in New Asgard feel when their children are first stolen.  (They are so torn they fight each other for a bit before Thor promises their safe return - a bold promise.)   

When Gorr is given an opportunity to destroy all the gods, Jane, dying, asks him if that will help his own pain.  Gorr is also dying, as the sword took his own life.  In a last moment of redemption, he decides to bring back his dead daughter.  But who will protect her, if he is dead?  Jane implies she and Thor.  So, Gorr is able to fulfill the wish of every parent who has lost a loved one at the whim of an uncaring god - he brings back his dead child.  Jane dies. Thor adopts the little girl, giving HIS life some meaning.  

That scene would be heart wrenching to anyone who has lost a child to violence.   But it helps summarize what I think the film is saying - someone must step up to protect the children.  Otherwise they are on their own.