MCU Mondays (on Friday!): Thor - The Good Father
In the months leading up to the release of THOR, directed by Shakespearian-survivor Kennath Branagh, the buzz surrounding it was less than positive. Many seemed to regard this as Marvel’s first true misstep in the road to THE AVENGERS. A director more at home with soliloquys than superheroes paired with an un-proven Australian lead and an equally no-name English thespian playing the villain. Rainbow bridges? Ice giants? Magic hammers? Yeah, not even Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins would be able to save it. When the film actually rolled into theaters, though, Branagh delivered an action film infused with his Shakespearian sensibilities and it more than worked. Australian Chris Hemsworth became an in-demand leading man and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has cast a shadow that the Marvel universe still can’t get out from under.
But neither Thor nor Loki serve as the emotional core of the film. Both characters are satellites orbiting the central terrestrial body that is Anthony Hopkin’s Odin. Ultimately THOR plays like a retelling of Jesus’ prodigal son parable – after being doused in Shakespeare and injected with vast quantities of sci-fi – in which the central figure is neither the delinquent son nor his obstinate brother but the good father. As it stands today the character of Odin is the closest thing to a benevolent, all-powerful deity to exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and as such may be the closest parallel to the God of the Bible that it will ever provide.
The opening act of the film provides, via flashback, a look into the character of Odin. He is a defender of the Earth and its people, an enemy of evil, but not thirsty for the blood of his enemies.
The scene that sheds the most light on Odin’s nature, however, is the one in which Thor is cast down to Earth. After an ill-advised trip to face an enemy results in a declaration of war, Thor faces his father’s anger.
What is most telling about this scene is that the banishment is obviously not meant as final as Odin creates opportunity for reconciliation even in the midst of his judgment. His actions are not a result of a loss of love for his son, but of the greatness of that love. A love he also extends to Loki, who, by both bloodline and actions, is no son of Odin but is made one by, to paraphrase the Bible, the great love by which his father has loved him, even to the bitter end.
The world is incapable of offering up a perfect parallel to the character and nature of God, but that shouldn’t stop us from enjoying and appreciating the ones that exist, and in THOR we have a better-than-average example of what happens when powerful god meets good father.