In his universe, Zack Snyder creates a respectable German locksmith named Hans Wagner. Once a hard-working man, Hans loses his wife and son tragically. Devastated by their death, Hans spent his life designing four masterpiece safes. These safes were inspired by Richard Wagner’s legendary set of four operas, collectively called the Ring Cycle. These operas were loosely based on Norse mythology.
Zack Snyder pays homage to the legendary German artist Richard Wagner through his character, Hans Wagner. The central protagonist, Sebastian, often plays Wagner’s composition while cracking Hans’ safes, which is a beautiful gesture in the film. However, while cracking Hans Wagner’s safe was an obsession and excitement for Sebastian, he finally understood the reason why Hans locked himself inside his own creation and finally killed himself.
Why did Hans Wagner lock himself in his last safe?
To Hans Wagner, a lock, a safe, were all pieces of a puzzle. Puzzles that could only be solved by a few trustworthy men who had a pure heart, like Sebastian. After creating the Ring Cycle, Hans built another safe and contained himself in it. People tried to liberate Hans from his self-created tomb, but his work was pure genius. The safe in which Hans died served as his tomb and was dropped in the ocean with his body still inside.
Sebastian couldn’t understand why Hans Wagner locked himself. When he cracked the Siegfried, he felt sad for Hans, who had devoted his life to safe making, but nobody really appreciated it. Probably because no one ever understood the poetry in Hans’ safes. Sebastian believed that to understand the work of Wagner (Hans and Richard), one must engage with it. Without transforming his thoughts into words, Sebastian subtly hinted that, Hans Wagner locked himself in his own safe because he wanted to tell the world that no one could solve his genius. Artist often sacrifices their blood and life to make the world realize what they are leaving behind. And Hans Wagner’s act of creating a tomb was a message to the world.
Because only Sebastian truly engaged with Wagner, hence, only he was able to perceive its significance.
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Safe 1 – The Rheingold (Das Rheingold)
Richard Wagner’s first opera in the Ring cycle is Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold), based on Norse mythology. It portrays Alberich, a Nibelung dwarf, who tries to woo the three Rhinemaidens.
At the bottom of the Rhine, Alberich finds Rhinegold. According to the myth, this treasure can be molded into a golden ring, a powerful weapon that gives the power to rule the world. The selfish dwarf stole the gold from the depths of the Rhine and crafted it into a ring. The incidents sparked a struggle much like the Lord of the Rings.
When Sebastian saw the Rheingold safe, he saw three knobs designed like the three Rhinemaidens. To get to the gold, Sebastian had to trick the maidens, i.e., crack the safe.
The Gods attempt to take the ring from the treacherous Alberich, who uses its power to enslave the fellow dwarves. However, while parting away with his beloved ring, Alberich puts a curse on it that it will influence murderous envy in all those who will bear it. The curse will not be lifted until the ring is returned to him.
Safe 2 – The Valkyrie (Die Walküre)
In Norse Mythology, the gods entered Valhalla after the events of Das Rheingold. Wotan or Odin (in popular literature) assigns a band of female figures who bring the fallen heroes in the battle to Valhalla to decide the fate of their souls.
The story’s first act takes place on Earth as the children of Odin, the twin siblings, Sigmund and Sieglinde, happen to cross each other in the woods and fall in love. The twins were separated during childhood, and thus, as adults, they did not know about their blood relationship.
The second act of the story takes place above Earth, in a kingdom meant to represent Valhalla. Odin orders his daughter, Brünnhilde, a valkyrie, to kill Sigmund. However, when Brünnhilde approaches Sigmund, she gets moved by his love for Sieglinde. And thus, she refuses to follow Odin’s order and helps Sigmund instead. This angers Odin, who punishes Brünnhilde and takes away her immorality. Odin casts Brünnhilde out of Valhalla.
Sebastian found engravings on the Valkyrie safe that depicted the same story. He believed that the locks were to be solved in the same order of the story to open the safe. And he was correct.
Safe 3 – The Siegfried
A few years later, after Die Walküre, Sieglinde died, giving birth to a son named Siegfried. In the absence of his parents, the boy was raised by Alberich’s brother, Nibelung Mime.
Mime wanted to take Alberich’s ring from Fafner, the giant, who took it from the gods in Das Rheingold. Fafner has transformed into a dragon. Mime forges a new sword for Siegfried from the shards of Siegmund’s sword, Nothung, to battle Fafner and get the ring for Mime.
Hence begins the story of the hero, Siegfried, who faces his darkest of trials to understand what it means to be truly afraid. He slays the dragon Fafner. Siegfried then confronts his mischievous foster father and slays Mime for betraying him. Later, Siegfried finds a mortal Brünnhilde, and the two fall in love. After all the pain and fear, it is finally a happy ending for the hero. The ending Sebastian wanted with Gwendoline.
Siegfried’s sword, Nothung, was crafted on the Siegfried safe and had 7 knobs, making it one of the trickiest safes to crack.
Safe 4 – Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods)
After pledging his love to Brünnhilde, Siegfried departs for heroic adventures. He leaves Alberich’s ring with Brünnhilde for protection.
Hagen, a cunning chief minister, advises his half-brother, Gunther, Lord of the Gibichungs, to find a spouse for himself and their sister, Gutrune. Hagen wants to get Alberich’s ring, as Alberich was his biological father. He suggests Gunther to marry the beautiful Brünnhilde and even proposes the name of the legendary hero Siegfried for Gutrune.
Hagen prepares a magical potion that makes Siegfried forget Brünnhilde. Cunningly, Hagen orchestrates a plan to kill Siegfried and retrieve the ring. He learns that Siegfried can only be killed by a wound on the back and thus seeks help from Gunther. In the end, Hagen kills Siegfried. A grieving Brünnhilde commands to prepare a funeral pyre for her dead lover. In her mourning, Brünnhilde throws herself on Siegfried’s funeral pyre to send a message to the gods. The flames of Siegfried’s pyre reach Valhalla. It burns Odin’s kingdom, giving rise to the opera’s title, “Twilight of the Gods.”
The gold (ring) returns to their rightful owners, the Rhinemaidens, marking the end of the Ring cycle. Hence, the four Wagner operas conclude with Götterdämmerung.
Sebastian found Götterdämmerung safe stored in The Vegas Bly in zombie stricken Las Vegas. After he finally cracked it, he sacrificed himself like Brünnhilde , putting an end to his cycle of cracking Wagner’s safe.
Army of Thieves is a 2021 Heist Film based on the story written by Zack Snyder and Shay Hatten.