Guest Author– Comic Relief
If you are a movie fan you know Thor opens on Friday May 6th 2011. What is Thor; funny you should ask? Thor like so many comic book legends is a twisted combination of social, literary, religious and historical events that depending on your sensibility or taste may be a very interesting “brew” (yes, get ready for a lot of Hollywood old English vocabulary in the movie) of fantasy entertainment. Yet adults, to make this interesting we might have to delve into those issues we are not supposed to talk about in polite society: politics, race, and religion. Once we skim over that territory, we can immerse ourselves in the fully bodacious elements of this character’s story that might actually make this film a lot of fun to go see.
Hold on, this widely worshiped god has to be explained. Who is Thor in history? Thor Odinson is the Norse god of Thunder. So what does that have to do with Marvel comics? Back in the 1960’s, Stan Lee (writer, publisher), Jack Kirby (artist and plotter) and other creators in the “house of Marvel” were plotting to topple then powerhouse DC comics the home of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. We have to imagine that this fledgling company who had already provoked a lot of interest with heroes like the Captain America, Fantastic Four and Spiderman was obsessed with continuing to build their portfolio of unique characters. Some of these characters were very unlike DC’s stable of upstanding heroes. Some were anti-heroes (like Spiderman), some began as villains (like the Sub-Mariner) and some were all together odd (the Incredible Hulk) yet contemporary. But there’s time to talk about that later… in another article.
Politics–Predominantly a Jewish directed shop in the early years someone thought by raiding popular mythology for a potential hero was a good idea. Some how Thor ended up on the table and once he was fitted with the narrative accessories of a super hero (like a secret identity, a mission to accomplish, and a love interest) “voila” a super hero was born. If you haven’t noticed by the wide spread movie craze featuring Marvel’s super heroes, the company had a knack for innovation. Sometimes considered a-bumpy run, the character has sustained a fifty-year plus history in comics. Though essential at the beginning of his career, the secret identity (Donald Blake) would all but diminish, as the character got older and super hero fashion would render this aspect of the character unnecessary; yet the love interest (Jane Foster) would remain an essential aspect of the origin story. That should, for the meantime address the comic book politics aspect of the character’s creation.
Race-In terms of race, one might wonder why a group of Jewish comic book creators were interested in Norse mythology. For lack of a better explanation, it was fun. Thor the spoiled and petulant son of the Odin patriarch of the Gods in the mystical world of Asgard finally pushes dad over the edge. Because Thor broke a truce with Asgardian enemies, the Frost Giants, Odin sent Thor to Earth to teach him a lesson in humility. Much of this “time-out” story will likely be featured in the film so we won’t ruin it for you, but you should know many comic book geeks have already seen the film and expressed their giddy orgasmic approval. So that explains the Jewish interest in this story, but doesn’t fully describe much of the racial animosity regarding the film presentation. Though this would be better discussed in another article, which addresses some of the real history of Marvel comics, by mentioning that comics have always been a teen refuge for outcasts. Superman, a creation of two mid-western Jewish kids who longed to overcome the barriers defined for them in society toward the end of the pulp fiction literary fad. In the 1930’s, they inadvertently created a new genre for those interested in graphic story telling. So in keeping with this event we can acknowledge that Jews frequently played a role as social instigators long before being acknowledged as civil reformers in the Civil Rights movement. In fact many believe that the Marvel character Black Panther influenced the name of the radical Black Panther political party of that same period. All right, we won’t stray too far let’s get back to Thor. Anyway in keeping with this history of Jewish social engineering, the English Director Kenneth Branagh cast actor Idris Elba to play Heimdall.
Who is Heimdall; sometimes spelled Heimdallr. According to Pantheon.org:
“Heimdall is the god of light, the son of nine mothers (variously given as the daughters of Geirrendour the Giant or of Aegir). He was born at the end of the world and raised by the force of the earth, seawater and the blood of a boar. Because of his shining, golden teeth he is also called Gullintani (“gold tooth”)… Heimdall carries the horn Gjallar.”
Branagh knowing of Heimdall’s reputation as “the whitest of the Gods” and knowing a contemporary world assumption was likely, chose to subvert the potential white supremacist undertones and potential ethnic misinterpretation by casting widely sought after Idris Elba, an actor of African decent. Progressive Color blind casting usually means if a race isn’t specified there is no reason not to cast a person of color. After finding out about Elba’s casting ahead of time some racists naturally protested this socially prescriptive move. For them, psychotically misguided, thought Thor was an affirmation of their hateful values. So if they don’t see the film in protest maybe you should go instead in advocacy of contemporary responsible non-racist film-making.
Religion– Pertaining to your commitment to your religious faiths, you probably will not find in this film anything more aggressive than what you will find in Lord of the Rings. Never a supporter of most faiths, Hollywood has tended to relegate everything neo-Pagan to fables. Not sure if this site or this reviewer has any opinion about this practice, yet if this offends you our apologies. This practice can be seen in recent films like the “Clash of the Titans” remake and “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.” If you are a believer of one of the most popular Abrahamic faiths like Christianity, Islam, or Judaism you will not likely see your faith undermined by this film. As you may know the Abrahamic god is a jealous God. In Marvelese “god” usually means powerful over-being (of minimal spiritual significance). If you still believe your religion will be undermined you may not be mature (in that faith) to go see this movie.
Actually for those who have seen the last Star Trek reboot, you know Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, who briefly played Captain Kirk’s father, is a capable actor despite a relatively short career. Sir Anthony Hopkins plays Odin. Renee Russo plays Frigga, and Natalie Portman plays Jane Foster. So get ready for a lot of broad fun in what many fanboys are calling the widest (in terms of fantasy) interpretation of a comic book character ever produced by Marvel. Does that make it a great film? No! But it does reveal that people who love the source material, so far love the film.