Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Avengers

So I don't actually have regular TV access, but thanks to the generosity of a friend, I do have access to Netflix streaming, and last week I discovered The Avengers. For the first time in I know not how long, I actually have a favorite something. I've always been more inclined to having lists of favorites, but never to have one top out. The Avengers did it.

I have always responded to the epic good-vs-evil survival stories and there are many great ones out there. I think they do so well because the people of our time recognize our world is kind of a big mess and it wouldn't take a whole lot to push everything out of whack. What with 'wars and rumors of wars' and the ever increasing number of natural disasters, I think the collective sub-conscious is a bit nervous. And the Christian not-so-sub-conscious sees them as warnings preparatory to our own end-story. Hero stories, therefore, reinforce the idea that all is not hopeless and that, even if the meager humans we are can have little appreciable impact on such massive happenings, others with more effect than us can avert catastrophe. Some of them even show how a normal individual can make a difference. (There are lots of stories that fill such roles and one does not need to be a geek or a nerd to appreciate them.)

It is fitting, then, that the movie's problem came from a source rather reminiscent of the Christian fallen-angel-devil Lucifer of similar name: Loki. Brother of one of the Avengers, Thor, his 'imagined slights' over his life-time had previously led him to try to overthrow the ruling structure in his own favor through intrigue, manipulation, and murder. When that didn't go his own way and his father did not see things in his favor, Loki 'let go' and turned his back on the principles that his world was ruled by. It seems in the time between Thor and The Avengers he gravitated towards those who would support his desired reality as it would also benefit their own desires for gain and greed, power and glory. "And the humans - what can they do but BURN." They like to think that no one is as great as they imagine themselves, but as one old man pointed out, "There are always men like you."

The heroes have to face not only one who considers himself a god, but they have to deal with their own egos and issues. Who of us doesn't have to do the same? Used to working on their own, starring in their own shows (our own lives),  they don't mesh automatically. At some point, in Jr. High School, I believe, it occurred to me that there was a parallel between the earth's crust and human nature: when faults collide earthquakes happen. In the case of the heroes, they happened with each character judging another in their ranks and condemning the others' faults. One wonders how much damage in the middle of the show could have been avoided had they been working together instead of fighting each other.

Many look at the Christian, or religious mentality in general, as one that expects us to become mindless servants with no will or individuality or intelligence. Instead, becoming one, finding unity, is not about becoming the same. I would quote 1 Corinthians 12 but the applicable part's practically the whole chapter, so please read it through the link. The point is not in everyone being identical. That would actually be rather worthless in getting anything besides the one purpose done. The point is supporting each other by adding all the skills, talents, abilities together until the sum is greater than the parts. You know, that whole synergy thing that happens when two cows together can pull more weight than two cows individually can pull added together?

They also have to realize that they have a reason to work it out. You'd think the whole 'the world's gonna end if you don't pull it together' would get them into gear, but those faults, the little things they focused on and thought were more important, got in the way. How often do we see something that really needs to be done and we recognize we have responsibility towards it, but we really don't want to be bothered with it? At one point, a regular man out-matched to his own demise told Loki that he would not win despite Loki's apparent encompassing advantage because, "You lack conviction." Those who are willing to recognize the existence of good versus bad must consider if they have conviction in the strength and ultimate victory of good, even in the face of that individual's life. The man died. The heroes remembered why they were fighting.

You can see this same idea in history. The Spartans, warriors from birth to death, decided they liked what their neighbors, the Athenians, had and wanted to take it for themselves. They figured that the soft, intellectual, traders of goods and ideas had no chance against their obvious military advantage. Yeah. Didn't quite go as planned. Why? Because just as the good guys need and can claim the power of conviction in defense of their lives and families, the bad guys can't claim the same. Oh, sure, they are and have to be committed to their schemes to get where they do, but the ego of self can only be a weak imitation of the power found in fighting for others, in being willing to sacrifice your own well being to protect another.

We see it in those who dedicate their lives to public service. We see it in the scripture stories. We see it in the hero stories. We see it in the greatest hero story of all: Christ. And while heroes are not always thinking of such things and the writers of such stories may not always intend such parallels, the populace responds to it never-the-less.

The movie could be considered visually stunning with the amount of detail and effects that had to go into pulling off the great battle at the end. And yet, despite all that, I almost don't notice. Instead, I see the heroes accepting the lead from and old-fashioned God-fearing man who directs them according to the strengths of each individual. Furthermore, as each one fights off their particular monsters, there is almost always one of the others who shows up and lends a hand, or hammer, such as it is. They are paying attention to the others around them rather than going it alone. And they accomplish as a unified group of six what they could not as  six individuals.

Some consider such stories as escapist, avoiding reality and of no actual intrinsic worth. As one who consumes stories for understanding, (intellectual, emotional, spiritual even, food), I must think that those who claim such things must not be inclined to considering the world and the things therein for the good that can be found. Not only is this movie visually stimulating, exciting, full of pretty people and fantastic situations, with well-fitting music that I greatly like, well composed both in writing and directing/editing, with many great and funny lines and moments, it has a depth of ideas that speaks to my core. Symbolically speaking, "Why to fight" and "How to fight". As one who has only made it to this age by fighting to overcome such things as abuse, illness, discouragement, betrayal, loneliness, and temptations, perhaps you can see why it would register so deeply.

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