James Harelman from Mars Hill Church presents a review of Ironman 2, latest of the comic book movies in the Marvel franchise.
As Harelman notes elsewhere, “science fiction and fantasy films will often cherry-pick ideas from philosophies, religions and worldviews to add depth and color to its narrative.” The question is how do we approach movies (or any artistic expression) with a view to, as the Westminster divines succinctly taught, “to glorify God and enjoy him”?
Distortions, warped reflections, and half-truths should certainly be dealt with, but this isn’t the preaching device the apostle Paul used when quoting Athenian poetry in Acts 17 as part of his sermon. For a man who without question believed Jesus Christ was the only way to reconciliation with God the Father Creator, he felt confident enough in his foundation to establish common ground that “we are God’s offspring” (even though the quote he referenced at the time was part of a poem associated with Zeus). In other words, you can lead your discourse with a “wrong god” attack or you can lead with “right idea…” bridge and work to “true God” in the treatise. I see good reason and a compelling example for the latter.
It’s always important to filter and discern a compelling narrative, but what am I looking for first? Am I primarily an “evil-hunter” strutting through life with wrinkled nose and curled lip pointing out the ills, or sifting for joy-bringing, God-declaring gems amidst the fool’s gold? Am I Buffy the sin-pyre slayer, or Indiana Jones grasping for the grail amidst dirty cups? While I’m not suggesting misleading philosophies shouldn’t be illuminated, it can be very telling what a person declares first, and how that illuminates their focus as well.
Is the first thing that stands out in The Matrix the spoon-bending conversation, or the one where Morpheus tells Neo he has been deceived, and may remain self-deceived? Does the Buddhist child stand out first, or the baptism as Keanu Reeves’ character literally comes out of an embryonic shell to find himself immersed and raised to new life? Similarly, is the first chord struck in your mind with Avatar the pagan trappings, or the man being born again? Does a life-sustaining tree in the center of an idyllic garden remind me of pantheistic philosophy, or Eden? Do I wrinkle my nose at seeming creation worship to such a reactionary extent that I neglect my call to steward and cultivate the creation our designer declared “good”? All of these things should be discerned carefully in handling the highest grossing film of all time. As it has been with Star Wars, as it has been with The Matrix, so it will be with Avatar. Vehement voices will abound. There is nothing new under the sun… what goes around comes around… to every thing turn, turn etc.
James Harelman is the Founder and Editor-in Chief of Cinemagogue, where Cinema meets Truth.