“Thor” is a fun movie. It doesn’t make any pretense of being “believable.” So then it gets to breeze blithely past all the plot contradictions. Like how in the world do you drop people off from Valhalla to earth and not have the worldwide media at your door? Can you imagine the network frenzy? Ah, well, here we’re hearkening to a simpler era---more like what happened in “E.T.,” when not even the neighbors noticed anything unusual, but a mysterious government agency shows up to try to take over everything. But, of course, some interplanetary stuff is beyond their ken. Ours, too.
Odin (Anthony Hopkins), the chief of the Norse gods, though still extraordinarily powerful, is getting old, and truth be told, a bit burned out. It can be exhausting being the chief god, mainly because the palace intrigue never ends. He has two grown sons, Thor (Chris Hemsworth, and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who actually is secretly adopted, from that time Odin knocked some heads in a rival pantheon and wound up with an orphan baby.
Thor is supposed to be the heir apparent, but something happens on his coronation day: a raid from that same rival pantheon. Odin doesn’t want another all-out war, but Thor can’t help but go over there with a few of his warrior buddies and try to retaliate. He, too, wreaks some havoc, but Odin is so upset over the breach of the carefully-orchestrated peace treaty that he bans Thor from Valhalla , and sends him plummeting to earth, robbed of his supernatural powers, and separated from his precious hammer, an unstoppable weapon.
We’ve actually switched from thinking about Father God-sends-son-to-earth-from-heaven analogies to something more like the Prodigal Son. Odin is so stricken with grief over his loyal but impatient Prodigal that he just takes to his bed in a coma-like stupor. Thor is left to his own devices to work out his hot-headedness, and meanwhile Loki, acting conciliatory but secretly the jealous sibling, is fully prepared to make a play for the throne himself, and send down a super-powered avenger to dispatch his brother and end the royal rivalry once for all.
Thor, meanwhile, has to adjust to living like a mortal, and in a modern culture he doesn’t understand. (We’ll just vault over the language problems by making him speak American English, though with a lilt, like he’s really Australian, which he is.) Fortunately, he encounters some really nice people, a scientific research team headed up by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who happens to notice that he’s handsome, strong, confident, and brave. OK, he’s also delusional, but we can work on that part.
Loki traverses the time/space warp long enough to appear before Thor and lie to him, by telling him that dear ol’ Dad has already died, and there’s no use disobeying his dying wishes and coming back now. But Loki doesn’t count on Thor’s warrior friends going to warn him that Loki plans to usurp the throne, by betraying their comatose father to his enemies. And, of course, that angle about a virile god being interested in a sweet young mortal is as old as...Hercules (also see the mysterious Genesis 6:4).
Naturally, we want things to be right both on heaven and on earth. Well, at least in the hallowed halls of Valhalla and in a certain small town in New Mexico . Just don’t think about the inconsistencies or the theology, put on your 3-D glasses, pass the popcorn, and enjoy this imaginative yarn. What’s next, cowboys and aliens?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas