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  • Writer's picturezandaleeindigo

The Significance of Giving a Man a Child (Thor Love and Thunder's Biggest Blunder)

A little over a month ago, after avoiding it for as long as I could, me and couple friends watched Thor: Love and Thunder. I did not like it. For a lot of reasons, many of which have been talked about at length in respective areas of film Twitter months ago, but the biggest offense committed by the weak script writing was the ending. The villain of the film had been killing gods across the galaxy to avenge the death of his daughter, and in the end of the movie he is won over by the kindness of our heroes and decides to resurrect his daughter instead of causing more death. His final act before he succumbs to his sickness is to entrust Thor to take care of his child, a request Thor honors. The final scene of the film shows us a snapshot of what life is like between Thor and his adoptive daughter and then we cut to credits.

The offenders in question

And something about that ending just made me so...upset. I was severely dissatisfied and couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then I realized, it was because they have now set up the fact that for the coming movies Thor will have a child to look after, and gave it zero plot significance whatsoever. It all happens in the last 10ish minutes of the movie, I didn't even have time to process what was happening before the movie ended but being saddled with another human being to take care of is a big deal. I concede that this affected me more because I'm learning I seem to be partial to this particular arc, but in order for me to fully form my thoughts I am going to revisit my favorite instances of "man stuck with child" stories. (All of these specific examples do happen to be from video games but there are films and television shows that get it right too!)

1. The Last of Us

Joel and Ellie :)

This was predictable, but I've been thinking about the game recently because of the ramp up to the release of the HBOMax show. I've already got a post up about how much I love The Last of Us though so, I will keep it brief. In the beginning of the game Joel is cynical and emotionally unavailable after losing his daughter, Sarah. When Ellie is rumored to be the cure to the zombie outbreak, Joel is forced to escort her across the country and the two form a bond that is unbelievably strong. His relationship to Ellie allows him to open up to loving people again, and the fact that he's immediately become a paternal figure for her says a lot. Then between the end of the first game and the beginning of the last game we see them both try to navigate this found family dynamic they've cultivated as Joel wants to protect Ellie the way he could not protect his own child but they both know they aren't related. It's messy, difficult, and an extremely touching story that shows how this unlikely pairing between the two of them allows them both to change drastically.

Joel and Sarah (rip <3)

2. Telltale's The Walking Dead

Lee and Clemmie

I have been meaning to revisit this game for a while, and while I have mixed feelings on the series as a whole, I think Lee and Clementine's relationship is one of the first times I really appreciated the "man with child" arc in a story. When we first meet Lee, the character we get to play as, at the beginning of the game he is literally in the back of a police car on his way to jail. He is not an inherently violent man by any means, but he is in a low place and is grappling with a dark past. Clementine is an absolute ray of sunshine. She's a sweet little girl and is incredibly naive and I think it says a lot that unlike Joel and Ellie, Lee instinctively takes her under his wing.

As the game progresses, Clementine in her child like innocence encourages Lee to be conscious of others even in this time where it's difficult to tell who the real monsters are between the zombies and the other survivors. She embodies the humanity that it feels like the world is missing, and in turn Lee teaches her how to protect herself. It's a symbiotic relationship that encourages both of them to grow and change as people in order to survive. Lee and Clementine are the prime example of how important the connections we make and the communities we build are and by the end of the game we know neither of them would've survived as long as they did without the other.

3. God of War (2018)

Kratos and Atreus

A few weeks ago I caught a cold and spent a week watching a playthrough of God of War (2018), then I spent another two weeks after that watching one of God of War: Ragnorok. I would be lying if I said originally this wasn't going to be a post about me gushing over God of War. It may well have worked its way to the top of my favorite iteration of this dynamic. And it seriously helped me pinpoint what was missing from Love and Thunder, maybe because it also involved Norse mythology or maybe because Kratos and Atreus' relationship is simply that well written.

I will also say that I had no previous experience with God of War before the 2018 game and I still loved the father/son dynamic present, which I feel is a testament to how good both the story and the voice acting is. Kratos and Atreus are an interesting combination because they are the only pairing on this list that are blood related. Kratos, the Greek god of war is one of the most violent men to ever exist (if not the most violent). He's killed countless people (including his first wife and child) and countless gods (including his father, Zeus) and God of War (2018) opens with him and his 13 year old son Atreus mourning the loss of his second wife, Faye. Kratos has renounced his godhood and has been living in seclusion with his wife and child for years, but in the wake of Faye's death him and Atreus embark on a journey to fulfill her wishes by spreading her ashes.

While Kratos and Atreus do have the added element of having a blood relation to one another, they still suffer the same disconnect early on as the other duos I've discussed. Kratos is a man that has been at war for nearly his whole life. He's incredibly emotionally unavailable and in an effort to ensure his son doesn't end up like him keeps his distance, hiding family secrets from him and often referring to Atreus as "boy" instead of "son" or by his first name. Atreus grew up spending a lot of time with his fun loving mother, and is a 13 year old boy. He's immature, hyper active, and incredibly talkative. They clash.

As the two make their way across the realms and grieve Faye in their own ways, they learn a lot about each other, Kratos especially. He spends much of the game hiding his past from Atreus in fear that if he knew the truth he would hate him, or even turn out making the same mistakes he did. A running theme in both games is that running from things you did in your past or bad decisions you've made isn't how you should cope. That instead all you can do is learn from the things you've done and be better. When Atreus finally learns about his godly powers and the violence his father has inflicted, be tells him that just because their gods doesn't mean they have to be the absolute worst. They can be the ones to change things, to lead with love and open their hearts to connecting to others.

The most common theme in all these "man saddled with child" storylines that makes them so compelling is the way that both parties are able to learn from one another, especially the way the parental figure can learn from their child. These fleshed out relationships allow us to have some stake in the relationship and give way to universal lessons that hit us in our guts and pull at our heartstrings. A concept Thor: Love and Thunder severely misunderstood and completely fumbled.

There were tears in my eyes :-)

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1 Comment

Dec 09, 2022

While I liked Love and Thunder, it was pretty abrupt that they introduced this pairing. --And, in fact, it DOES seem more like a trailer for the next movie, than a satisfying completion of this one. --Also, this girl seems poised to become evil, if we take a cue from the way she interacts..... --But it's a superhero movie, so I have a feeling that introducing her is MORE a way to entice kids to take a greater interest in the next movie than anything else. 💁🏾

As always, though, it's nice to see you slicing and dicing the intricacies of the movie for yourself (instead of letting someone else decide for you). 😬🙌🏾

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