Thor: God of Standup
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) is proving to be a fun superhero movie. New Zealand director, Taika Waititi, casts himself as Korg, complete with Kiwi accented slang. Can I get a “bro”?
And Aussie Chris Hemsworth (Thor) chuckles his way through the movie—whilst nonchalantly battling an array of scary villains.
But does Thor spell the end of the road for superhero movies?
Because our superheroes have now become super comedians. Making jokes while staring diabolical evil in the face. Resorting to witty repartees as well as super powers. Think Iron Man. And now Thor.
But how is this different from Roger Moore taking the mickey out of James Bond movies? Or Arnold Schwarzenegger and his Teutonic one-liners? How is this not pure parody?
I think the thing preventing the superhero genre from now descending into farce is that the drama has to be real. The villain must be believable. Evil must still be a thing.
But at the same time, the happy ending must still be guaranteed, otherwise the humour is inappropriate. That’s why we don’t make comedies about the Rwandan massacre or the Boxing Day tsunami. Or it becomes grim gallows humour, like Life is Beautiful (1997).
Interestingly, the Christian worldview has the same double tension.
On the one hand, the drama is real. We cannot minimise the conflict between good and evil, light and dark, the spirit and the flesh. That’s why Paul describes the Christian journey as a struggle.
But on the other hand, the happy ending is assured. God is sovereign. Christ is risen. There is redemption for those who believe. That’s why Paul also describes the Christian journey as taking hold of that which God has already taken hold for us.
So how does the Bible maintain this tension?
One way is this. God mocks the inanimate idols. Elijah taunts the priests of Baal. Jesus is nonchalant in the face of Pilate. That’s why, in the end, Paul laughs at death—“where is your sting?”
So … maybe … just maybe … the Christian can also learn from Thor.
If Jesus already plays the part of superhero, maybe we can play the part of jester.
Lighten up a little. Stop taking ourselves so seriously. There is room for self-deprecation. Nonchalance. Wit. Repartee.
The drama is real. But so also is the assured happy ending.