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#270. Lightning Power!

When we think of the raw, unbridled force of nature, there are many things that come to mind. The winds of a hurricane. The eruption of a volcano. The waves of a tsunami. These are all destructive and powerful; however, the one elemental event that struck fear in the hearts of ancient civilizations was that of lightning. Its fickle nature and raw power were what helped propel its mythos. When society became more advanced, we understood electricity much more than our ancient counterparts. That being said, we are still no closer to controlling this incredible power. Perhaps this is why the idea of lightning-powered items and individuals has remained a staple of fiction for so many years. This week’s two films highlight lightning power and how it can be an advantage to overcome insurmountable odds.

The NaturalThe Natural
Year: 1984
Rating: PG
Length: 138 minutes / 2.3 hours

Lightning can produce some very interesting items when it strikes the ground. If it comes in contact with sand, the intense heat that is released can create glass. If lightning strikes more metallic soils, its strong electrical energy can create magnets. Partly because of lightning’s immense power and unpredictability, it is difficult to study as it happens. This could be why it is often used as a trope in media to explain the sudden and miraculous change to an item. It’s the reason why Johnny 5 received his sentience in Short Circuit (1986). It’s the reason why Adaline became immortal in The Age of Adaline (2015). It’s why Roy Hobbs was able to hit so well in The Natural (1984). One would then wonder if the eponymous “Natural” in the aforementioned film is in reference to Roy’s latent talent at baseball or the forces of nature that allowed him to succeed.

In the midst of the tragic death of his father, Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) witnesses a tree on his family’s property being struck by lightning. Since this was the same tree where his father died, he takes it as a sign that he should use the lightning-infused wood to carry on his father’s spirit through a baseball bat that he names “Wonderboy”. Over time, Roy becomes a talented baseball player, using his pitching skills to propel him into a potential, Major League position. Unfortunately, a freak assassination attempt sets him back many years. Slowly regaining his skills, Roy finds himself on the New York Knights’ roster with his lucky bat in tow. While the team struggles due to some corruption, it is the lightning-powered bat that Roy wields that eventually leads them into a winning streak. Will it be enough to win the pennant, though?

ThorThor
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

In the ancient world, lightning was always seen as a sign of wrath and judgement from the gods. With the loud, bright, and deadly lightning accompanying storms, it’s pretty obvious why they would think this. In fact, any of the deadly natural disasters that could occur were often attributed to the anger of a specific god. This is perhaps why each of these disasters ended up being assigned to a different god. Almost every ancient society had a lightning god, which just goes to show the ubiquity that lightning holds across the world. Of course, because of the popularity of certain mythologies, some of these gods are well-known. From Zeus to Thor, each of the different civilizations had unique attributes assigned to these gods, but all of them dealt with lightning. Now, what if these ancient gods were also modern superheroes?

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Norse god of thunder, is ready to take the throne of Asgard from his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Unfortunately, his brash behavior leads him to confront the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, thus leading to his exile and separation from his hammer, Mjolnir. Meanwhile, on earth, Mjolnir has been found by S.H.I.E.L.D. and is being examined by a team of scientists. Thor, also arriving on earth, is discovered by Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is studying wormholes out in the wilderness of New Mexico. After infiltrating the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, Thor retrieves his hammer before the nearby town is attacked by an automated statue from Asgard. Defeating this enemy, Thor comes to the realization that his trickster brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is behind his banishment and heads back to Asgard to deal with him.

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