February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
May 19, 2011
It used to be that superheroes were merely comic book fodder. Then they became Saturday morning fare. In both cases one was likely to find poor writing and cheap animation that stretched most minds when it came to suspension of disbelief. Even when the superheroes started appearing in blockbusters, such as the Superman series in the late 1970s and 80s, they were more camp than substance.
Until the release of the first Batman in 1989, that is. In that film the camp of the Adam West Batman disappeared, and something more akin to the Dark Knight of Frank Miller appears. Comics on the big screen not only became serious business (the movie adaptations have pulled Marvel and DC out of major holes) producing major blockbusters, but their story lines have become serious and sophisticated. Even with the quips and one-liners, the humor and the effects, comic book superheroes have exploded into our consciousness. And this summer has become the hottest superhero summer. While the Green Hornet passed by with barely a notice, Thor is dominating the box office currently. Soon there will be releases for another X-men, Captain America and Green Lantern.
The question to ask it seems is “why?” Why now? Why here? Why superheroes? The answer is simple: Apocalypse. Every time and every place has to come face to face with the precariousness of life. However in a twenty-four hour news cycle that lifts up tyrant after tyrant, revolution after revolution, and natural disaster after natural disaster, the message is loud and clear. The end of the world is near. Superheroes are this current era’s demigods. In response to the ever looming horsemen of the apocalypse unleashed upon the world, signaling its end, superheroes rise up to bring meaning and hope. They provide images of virtue. After all, despite debates in the rough and tumble real world over enhanced interrogation, airstrikes and assassination, superheroes still for the most part refrain from killing. Villains may never bat an eye at the death of mere humans, but the superheroes hold up what is best about humanity. They shed light in an ever darkening world.
Many of these superhero films contain hallmarks of the apocalyptic genre: fantastical creatures, the natural world gone awry, messiahs and anti-messiahs, ultimate battles between good and evil. Thanks to CGI animations, the evil can come to life and produce the breath-taking moments of suspense when the hero is brought to the dark edge of existence, only to break through in triumph and victory. The apocalyptic finds its way into our consciousness through a medium that seems custom made for it.
The astute Christian should be prepared to help others make connections between the imagery of the superhero genre and the Christian message of the apocalypse. That is, in the end, despite all the brokenness of the world, there is hope and a particular way to live in light of that hope. And while the films all have some mutant demi-god messiah or messiahs, Christians can lift up the real thing. These movies become an open invitation to unveil and reveal Christ as the end of the world unfolds.