Marvel Movies and Worldview Yearnings
June 15, 2021 · C.E. Carter
I recently rewatched Thor Ragnarok with some friends of mine. I remember the first time I watched it was with a good friend of mine who is an avid both of Marvel and of seeing films in the theatre. Ragnarok is entertaining and silly, of course, but the imagery of gods, prophecies, cosmic adventures and battled with sacred objects, and other mystical and mythical themes left me and many others in the audience awestruck. Marvel is going the way of everything else in Hollywood, Hell-bent on being as woke and feministic as possible, but their movies consistently have the effect of drawing the mind upward beyond the plane of Earth.
What appeals to us about Marvel movies, I believe, is that they are distinctly premodern. The Marvel Universe is not the dull, flat, material existence that modern science insists that our world is. It is endowed and enchanted with great mysteries, strange and wonderous beings, gods, devils, powers, technologies, legends, and far-off lands. It is the kind of world that, once you have conceived of it in your imagination, that you wish yourself to be a part of. I remember as a child wishing that I could have followed Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy through the wardrobe. Narnia was a wonderous and dramatic place of high fantasy, filled with strange creatures and glorious battles, saturated from top to bottom with meaning and significance. We might pine away for these other worlds were it not for the realization that our own world is similarly dramatic, mysterious, and enchanted. The Modernists are wrong when they say our world is a flat plane, with no up, no down, no origin, no end, no purpose, and no ultimate significance, only the chance interactions of matter and energy in a vacuum. Our world is a many-layered cosmos, and our life is a participation in a great war for it, as mystical and legendary as Narnia, or the Marvel Universe. This is the way it is, and it is also the way that we long for it to be.
This is one aspect of the success of Marvel. The other aspect, it seems, is that the characters are human. They are superheroes, but they are not like Superman, who possesses nearly limitless power. Even the character Thor, though he is a god, is limited in many human ways. He is finite, at times uncertain and insecure, painfully mortal, and even his impressive desire to do good is still stained with original sin. His limitations are not overshadowed by his power, and at times, his power is hindered by his shortcomings. He is a god in a distinctly human way, profoundly flawed, and yet the fate of the cosmos is placed, in part, into his hands time and again. So it is with us. We poor, wretched, limited creatures participate in unfolding the providence of God in our day-to-day life. Every man longs for his life to count for something, and every man must, by faith, believe that all of his stumbling and bumbling in making war on powers and principalities is divinely ordained to result in victory. It will, and thank God, because Christ reigns.