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Thor: Ragnarok – What Does The End Of The World Mean For Us?

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 4/5

What would you do if your home comes under threat of destruction? For Thor, it involves a journey to alien planets, squabbles with family and friends, and letting go of some of the things he was once so attached to.

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok spelt the destruction of Asgard—home of the gods. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the same narrative is brought to life with a distinctly comedic flavor. With the impending doom and destruction of his world upon him, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is stranded on an alien planet. Thor has one goal throughout the movie: get back and save his homeland.

Thor: Ragnarok represents a bold development in the progress of the series. It’s clearly heavier on comedy, but also a lot more enjoyable. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s what makes it so fun. Director Taika Waititi’s previous work in smaller scale indie comedies means the tone of this movie was always going to be different from its predecessors. And the result is a movie that is exceedingly self-aware, bordering at times on parody. The actors, Hemsworth in particular, seem to revel in the looser, more improvised tone.

The dynamics between characters are richer for it too. There’s a charming road trip-buddy feel to Thor and Bruce Banner’s (Mark Ruffalo) partnership. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki also develops from the anti-hero of the past movies; the sibling rivalry and bickering he shares with Thor is both compelling and humorous. Driving the evolution of these relationships is Thor’s commitment to being a hero and preventing the end of Asgard.

Similarly, the Bible tells us that our world will eventually come to an end, and how we respond to this defines our adventure now. We all tend to get caught up in the invincibility and seeming permanence of this world, working as hard as we can to wring the value from each activity. Be it career success, performing well in school, or just enjoying life, we work hard to relish the fruits of this world.

But it’s these very things that entice us away from the purpose that God has for us. Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster perfectly encapsulates this sentiment—a slave owner who tells his slaves that he loves them, all whilst making them fight to the death.

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

However, the Bible warns us about getting too absorbed in the things of this life, that hold no eternal value. The constant reminder throughout the New Testament is to look forward to the new creation, and everything that it holds in store for us. This has real implications for the way that we live now and should shape what we work for and what we are willing to give up. The plain fact is that all the things of this life will be swept away without a trace by the arrival of the new creation.

In the end, being a hero is very different from what Thor expected. The circumstances call for some hard decisions to be made, but these are the very decisions that make Thor a hero.

What about the decisions that will define us as Christians? What are the things that we will pursue in light of God’s plans for eternity, and all that they hold for us? They vary from individual to individual. But the common denominator has to be the Gospel. It is the one thing that carries eternal value, and whilst its consequences may not seem apparent now, they will certainly be felt at the return of Christ.

This means that it is not just about whether we accept the Gospel, but what we do with it after. We must continue to grow in our conviction and commitment to the Gospel and what it means for us. At the same time, we are commissioned to work for the Gospel, advancing it in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

It’s always worth sitting to the very end of Marvel movies to see what surprises the directors have for us. But for Christians, there are no surprises about the end; our world has an expiry date. God will destroy it as he ushers us into the New Creation. So how should we live now, given the temporal nature of this world? Work for the things that carry true eternal value. In light of eternity, everything else will seem insignificant.

Blade Runner 2049: What Does It Mean To Be Christian?

Screenshot taken from Official Trailer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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What does it mean to be human? That was the question at the heart of Ridley Scott’s neo-noir science fiction masterpiece Blade Runner (1982). It’s a question further explored and dissected in Blade Runner 2049, with French-Canadian film director Denis Villeneuve now in the driver’s seat.

In the first Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) was tasked with hunting down rogue human-like androids called Replicants, who were on a mission to extend their built-in four-year lifespan. It was against this backdrop that he wrestled with his own humanity as well as his feelings for a replicant, Rachael (played by Sean Young).

The sequel has us following the exploits of Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, a latest-version Replicant who has not only been built to live longer but also programmed to be more obedient than his predecessors. K, too, is tasked with hunting down rogue Replicants, but stumbles upon a revelation that causes him to question the very meaning of his existence.

Villeneuve’s America of 2049 is an immersive experience. It draws you in with stunning visuals and landscapes, with towering pyramids and monolithic structures that fill the majority of the screen and engulf the characters. Then there’s the soundtrack, both evocative and transfixing, which pulls you into the tumultuous world of K. But they never distract from the narrative, which centers on K’s personal turbulence. For it is this ultimate mission to find significance and purpose in his existence, that drives the unfolding plot.

The film grapples with this issue through the juxtaposition of humans, who come into the world through birth, and replicants, who are manufactured. As with the first film, the lines are blurred. And with the sequel being told from the perspective of a replicant, their plight begins to seem all the more human. For K, to be birthed carries consequences beyond the obvious biological implications; birth imbues an individual with a significance and purpose that K craves.

In reality, we too crave significance. Everything about our culture is geared towards telling us that we are special, that there is more to life than mundane existence. From the media we consume to the experiences we seek, we’re encouraged to dream of a purposeful, exciting destiny.

However, as Christians, we recognize that our purpose is very different from the one that mainstream culture tries to sell us. As one of Blade Runner 2049’s most poignant lines suggests, purpose and significance is born out of a cause worth dying for, rather than what gains we may manufacture in this life.

The Christian existence revolves around the gospel. Our purpose is very much tied to it and never manifested apart from it. For it is through the gospel that we are brought from spiritual death to life, as described in Ephesians 2:4-5. And it is for the gospel that we are called to suffer for—and ultimately, if need be, to die for. For Christians, the gospel is the cause worth dying for.

The theme of dying for a greater cause is a big thing in Blade Runner 2049. The opening scenes feature the replicant farmer Sapper Morton (played by Dave Bautista) telling K that he, K, is settling for a mundane life because he’s never witnessed a miracle. Morton himself has found the meaning of his existence and a cause worthy of death, because of a miracle that lies at the center of the film’s plot.

Similarly, the miracle of Jesus’ death and resurrection should radically change the way we live and our perception of life on this earth. In light of what the new creation has in store for us, material pursuits should lose their shine. The miracle of the gospel should shape the way we approach our daily tasks, and the way we prioritize our time.

If there is one thing about Blade Runner 2049 that might discomfort, it’s the notion that the grand scheme of things is not really about us. We like to feel special and noteworthy, and we like to put ourselves at the center of the known universe. To hear the gospel saying differently grates against our instincts.

The cause and purpose of the gospel is far greater than our ambitions and dreams. It is an opportunity that God presents to us to be a part of His great redemptive plan, which is something infinitely larger than anything we could ever possibly accomplish on our own. We play our role by living out the gospel and proclaiming it, but in the end, the real star is Jesus Christ. As Colossians 1:28 says “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” Jesus is the cause worth living and dying for.

Blade Runner 2049 asks what it means to be human. But there’s a bigger question: what does it mean to be Christian? As we consider the purpose and significance of our existence, a good starting point would be to take cues from the Gospel and the way that it radically and intrinsically reshapes our existence.