The Tale of Two Kings
I knew I’d be excited for Avengers: Endgame. But it wasn’t until I saw the trailer for The Lion King that I got amped for Disney’s newest “live-action” remake.
At first, I questioned why Disney would even try to recreate an already perfect movie. But once I heard that score being played over the trailer, I had one thought.
“Crap. They got me.”
The Lion King actually came to mind while I was watching Endgame. It was during one of Thor’s final scenes.
Looking over New Asgard, Thor turns to Valkyrie and says, “I think it’s time I stop trying to be who I’m supposed to be and be who I am.” So he hops on a spaceship and leaves Earth with the Guardians of the Galaxy.
This brought me to a screeching halt.
“What?! Thor, we need to have a talk buddy...”
Let’s back up.
At the start of Endgame, Thor is at the lowest of lows. Of all the Avengers, he was closest to killing Thanos. But, due to his arrogance, he wanted Thanos to have a painful death rather than an immediate one. It was his own pride that led to Thanos’s victory and escape.
On top of that, he’s lost everything. His brother Loki had just been brutally murdered. His father turned out to have a corrupt past and recently died. His sister killed his best friends. His home, Asgard, was destroyed. And half of his people were slaughtered in front of him by Thanos.
So his character reversion at the start of Endgame makes sense.
He’s hiding in his home. He’s disregarding his people who are living as refugees in a foreign land. He’s an over-eating alcoholic. And he’s wasting the days away with his two friends.
So throughout the movie, you have one question.
How is going Thor going to rise to the occasion and be the hero we all know he is?
Well, sadly, he never really does.
Sure he gets his hammer back and is really awesome in the final fight scenes. But unlike the others of the “Big Six” (Iron Man, Cap, etc.), there’s no resolution to his character arc.
His mother had told him, “Stop trying to be who you are supposed to be and be who you are.” So he hops on a spaceship to go…find himself?
It was at this point I wanted to say, “Thor, let’s you and I sit down and watch a little movie called The Lion King.”
In The Lion King, Simba finds himself in a pretty tough situation. Made to believe he’s responsible for the death of his father, Simba commits his life to one of ease.
He spends his days with two goofy friends doing nothing more than hanging out. Hakuna Matata.
But it’s not until he’s confronted by Nala do we see how out of place Simba actually is.
What is this full-grown, rightful heir to the throne doing wasting his life away in the jungle?
With Rafiki’s help, Simba encounters his father in wilderness in one of the most powerful moments of cinematic history.
Mufasa: Simba, you have forgotten me.
Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Simba: How can I go back? I'm not who I used to be.
Mufasa: Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true King. Remember who you are.
It’s at that point when Simba decides to step into who he is and return to Pride Rock.
“Wait, Kyle, isn’t that what Thor said?”
No. Because what Thor says is separating his identity from his responsibility.
See, Mufasa says something profound to Simba in this moment.
Simba’s identity is tied to who he is supposed to be. He is both a son and the one true King.
So him taking ownership of that means returning to his home, stepping into the role of King, and ruling graciously over the pride lands.
Why would Thor’s heroism be any different?
He is the son of Odin and the one true King of Asgard. Heroism would be taking ownership of his role as King and leading his people, who are literally refugees who have lost everything. But he’s done the exact opposite!
Thor’s mother essentially told him, “Your role should not determine your actions. Only who you feel yourself to be.”
Well what happens when a whole people is depending on you because of your role?
Mufasa tells Simba he can’t separate his identity with his role. Simba was King whether he felt like it or not. I wish Mufasa told Thor that also.
Wouldn’t we admire him more if he stuck it out, took responsibility for his failures as King, and move forward in his rightful place?
But sadly, it’s Thor’s self-centeredness that keeps his eyes on himself. He leaves his people in the hands of [a thankfully very capable] Valkyrie and goes off to…do what exactly? Wouldn’t we have been ashamed of Simba if he had done the same?
I’m really hoping Thor’s character is redeemed in future films. I’m hoping even more Mufasa’s message goes unchanged in the remake. (I’m honestly fearful it might.)
Either way, Disney’s taking my money.