After seeing Thor earlier this week, I was lying in bed and realized why the movie seemed familiar to me–it wasn’t too far off from Tron. As a matter of fact, the title of both films is only one letter off. To all my geek relations and friends, forgive me for not using correct terms or having the vast background that you do on the comics or the video game, but what I want to point out are some themes that each movie had and what that may mean on a personal level to the viewer.
First off, there are father son issues in each film. Thor is banished by his father to another realm due to his arrogance and too-quick temper (which hinders him from being an effective leader). In Tron, Sam, son of computer-designer Kevin Flynn, is unintentionally abandoned by his father who is stuck in a digital world of his own making. Both Thor and Sam must engage in warfare to work out the conflicts they have internally and with their fathers. In Thor, “father knows best;” in Tron, teamwork is required. For the characters and us, it is not until we experience how our flaws affect us (and others) that we become willing to be more objective and possibly change. Thor thought war was the best way – he wanted to emulate his father, but the father-king saw Thor’s immaturity and knew it would threaten their world. So he practiced “tough love” and sent Thor out, stripping him of his power. In Tron, the father/son relationship is one that has to be rebuilt – understanding, trust, and teamwork must occur, along with ultimate sacrifice.
There is quite a bit of realm-hopping in each film. Thor’s world has a special device which shoots one to any other planet or realm; Sam finds a portal in the empty arcade where his father worked that transports him into the virtual world. In the conclusion of both films, the bridge to the other world is destroyed and travel from one realm to another is prohibited until things are re-built. In each virtual world or realm, the main protagonist either gains or loses power. Sam is amazingly talented in the virtual game world, dodging and fighting successfully. On the other hand, Thor loses his ability to pick up his hammer on Earth and must experience vulnerability.
What these films allow us to do is experience situations vicariously. Why do we like Thor so much? Because he’s arrogant, he’s hot-tempered, he lacks humility – we all have been this way or fantasized about being so. Therefore, we have empathy. We feel bad for Thor, even though we know his father is right to boot him out of Asgard. We also relate to the abandoned Sam, who loses his father after a bedtime story, never to be seen again until Sam enters the digital world and has to reconnect with his true father.
Furthermore, Thor and Sam are victims of trickery: Loki (Thor’s brother) is constantly manipulating things for his own good, and Clu tricked Sam into entering the virtual world of his father. We’ve all been duped or betrayed by someone. So again we relate to these characters and their plights. Within each protagonist is an alter ego –the humbled and de-ranked Thor, the powerful and reunited Sam. Each enters in a realm not unlike our own dream worlds, where battles are fought, connections are made, and, most importantly, conflicts are solved. For me, the most powerful part of these is films is the connection between the alternate realities of the characters and our own alternate reality of the dream world. For those who do not remember their dreams upon waking, I can assure you that you, too, engage in these very battles and scenes. Compensatory dreams, dreams where we face our fears, dreams of the future, and dreams of longing all represent an aspect of our own needs, conflicts, and selves. It is fascinating to spend time with your dreams. They will enlighten you if you take the time to examine them. Last week, before seeing Thor, I dreamt of a bridge much like the one in the movie. Instead of being unsettled when I saw my own dream-image on the big screen, it was confirming. It let me know that yes, there is a collective unconscious out there. Yes, there are images that speak universally. The hard part now lies with me: what is my bridge a symbol of? How will I cross it; will it be destroyed? If so, can I repair it? While the conclusion of each film had the bridge to the other world or realm being destroyed or greatly damaged, there was a sense of hope – a longing on Thor and his mortal love interest to be reunited; and in Tron, an empty arcade room that still holds the secret entry-way into a virtual world and the possible reprogramming of things. So no matter how scary a dream may be, or how stressful waking life may be, dreams should be viewed as spiritual gifts, gifts which give us tools and hope to aid us in our journey — which is both unique and universal.