Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

birdmanposterBirdman was definitely your unconventional Best Picture Winner.  It will, no doubt, be viewed as strange for most moviegoers.  While it definitely has it’s fair share of unusual qualities, I don’t really find it all that bizarre.  I’m pretty certain I’m not the only person that talks to myself, and it’s simply this introspective communication that makes up most of the content that’s viewed as “weird”.

Let me first say that I think Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Riggan/Birdman deserved the Oscar for Best Actor.  While Eddie Redmayne did a fine job, there are plenty of other actors that could have pulled that off (In fact, fellow nominee Benedict Cumberbatch also portrayed Stephen Hawking).  I felt that the character of Riggan had greater depth and Keaton did a phenomenal job.

However, I was simply blown away with the extended shots this film contained.  It was unreal how few cuts this film actually contained – I’m sure if I googled it, I would find out.  The complexity of extended shots is overwhelming for the actors and film crew.  If one person misses a line or one of the set crew is out of place, the whole scene is blown and they have to go back to square one.  All of this to say, it’s really hard to do what director Alejandro G. Iñárritu did.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

The film follows the story of Riggan.  A former big-budget movie star who’s attempting to redefine himself through the theater…and I don’t mean movie theater.  Riggan is determined to break the image that’s been assigned to him, by writing, directing, and acting in a Broadway play.

Riggan’s character – as many of us can identify with – has become obsessed with other’s opinions of himself.  This initial obsession led to him donning the Birdman mask.  And, while it produced fame and money, his newest endeavor seeks to destroy the mask that constantly plagues him.  Much of the plague manifests itself in an inner battle between Riggan and Birdman.

This film doesn’t sanitize the depravity of the theater – both on and off the set.  In my estimation, the viewer gets an accurate portrayal into the world behind the theater curtain.  To put it bluntly, it ain’t pretty (viewer be warned).  Debauchery and vice are an aspect of each and every character as we get a front-row seat into their lives.  The flaws of these characters even manifest itself onstage, making the viewer assume the play will be an enormous failure.

Riggan’s attempt at theater, however, becomes a success.  Even as he’s guaranteed a devastating review from New York’s most notable critic, his efforts seem to win the audience over.  Yet, as we come to expect, Riggan has a surprise left for the audience.  During the climax of the play, Riggan’s character commits suicide.  While the gun has been a prop throughout the rehearsals, Riggan takes a loaded gun onstage for the live performance.  Sure enough, he puts the gun up to his head and pulls the trigger, moving the viewer to assume he’s just killed himself in front of a live audience.

The next scene opens in a hospital room, where we discover that Riggan is still alive.  As he fired the revolver, he actually blew his nose off instead of his brains out.  As he regains consciousness, Jake (Zach Galifinasakadkjas) informs him that the play has been a huge success.  What’s interesting, however, is that Riggan now has a new mask.  Blowing his nose off resulted in plastic surgery and we see him covered in gauze and bandages, resembling a mask.  He’s succeeded in ridding himself of the Birdman mask – which was beloved by fans – only to don the Surgical Mask which is also beloved by a new audience.

To be completely candid, Birdman is a film I don’t completely understand (there’s much I’m still processing).  What I do know is that it contains excellent dialogue that will resonate with most humans, because Riggan is us in so many ways.  We are shaped by opinions of others and we’re longing for acceptance.  Because of this, we put on mask after mask, hoping to find significance in the eyes of others.  For the Christian, however, we already possess something no audience can take away.  And it’s not a mask but a robe.  We just need to talk to ourselves more often about it.

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[Note: This is being re-posted to foster thoughts on the pornographic film, Fifty Shades of Grey]

Since American Reunion makes the eighth installment of the sex-worshiping franchise, American Pie, we have compiled 8 reasons Christians shouldn’t watch it. Yesterday, we posted the first four, below we have the remaining four.

Sex is Idolized

The first American Pie was all about losing one’s virginity on prom night. That was the god of the four main characters. In one scene, the character actually prays that God would allow him to fornicate with a girl. Sex is still the false god of this newest installment. Sex is a good thing, but when it becomes the thing it’s idolatry. This is the first and greatest commandment. Love God first, not sex. This film feeds THE lie of this culture, that lie? “Sex is the greatest thing.” Sex is a good thing, but God is the greatest in all creation.

Lust & Pornography

One would be hard-pressed to find any film that didn’t cause you to lust, whether it was for food or possessions or sex, however, lust is a sin (Prov. 6:25, Job 31:1, Matt. 5:25, Col. 3:5). And if I were a betting man, there is no way you could make it through an American Pie film without lusting. The entire franchise is designed to make you lust. I’m surprised they don’t give you a money-back guarantee if you don’t. The bottom line is, this film was created to make you sin. While we are on the subject of lust, let’s just go ahead and call this a pornographic film. Compared to more raunchy films this could be considered a “soft” porn, yet it is porn nonetheless. Even though this film will not be as explicit as some porn, there are plenty of pornographic elements contained in the film. Pornography is clearly sin and is one of the most powerful addictions in our culture. Even though this film will have less graphic content, it will lead to more explicit content because porn can never satisfy. It destroys marriages, spouses, & children – it is not funny. Why take the chance of indulging in something that could be your end, and laugh at something that ruins so many lives?

Masturbation is Okay

The combination of lust and porn will bring us here. In the previews Jim (Biggs) exclaims that he doesn’t have much sex now that he’s married, therefore, he decides to “please” himself. However, his 4 to 5 year-old son walks in and catches his father masturbating to pornography – again, all played for laughs. This is wrong on so many levels, but let me just take one. God created sex to bind two people together, once married. Jim’s character is idolizing sex to such a degree that his own pleasure is more important than his union with his wife. Instead of drawing towards his wife, he is committing adultery with strangers on his computer screen…in front of his son. Hilarious…right?

One Final Thought

If you are still persistent and say, “As a Christian, I think I can watch this film.” My question for you is, “Will you be embarrassed?” If you were to go to the cinema and see this film and run into someone you know – parents, girlfriend or boyfriend, pastor, or grandparents – and they knew you saw this film, would it bother you? Chances are that it would. And if it would, that means there’s a certain level of shame and guilt attached to it. I would say that there is a certain level of guilt and shame attached to this film, because of the above mentioned reasons. If you say, ‘I won’t be embarrassed.” You should be.

Use great caution in possibly indulging these areas of sin for some cheap laughs. Christians have much freedom, because of our beautiful Savior Jesus Christ, but that does not give us license to let grace abound. Let me close with God’s Word in Romans 6:1-4:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

 

[Note: This is being re-posted to foster thoughts about the pornographic film, Fifty Shades of Grey]

As mentioned before, Reel Thinking, wants to be cautious about its approval or disapproval of any film. We are aware of Christian liberty and understand what’s offensive to some, might not be offensive to others. However, there are times we will speak more bluntly, and American Reunion certainly gives reason to.

It’s interesting to note that the last time I spoke strongly against a film was A Very Harold & Kumar Mockery of Christ….or something like that, I can’t remember the exact title. And, American Reunion has some of the same writers involved. Adam Herz & Jon Hurwitz have been responsible for such classics like Harold and Kumar 1 & 2 and American Pie 1-7 (I’m not exaggerating; Reunion makes the 8th installment of the franchise). So one must not be Det. Columbo to figure out that Herz & Hurwitz have an agenda for sex in their films.

Now we want to be cautious of not sounding hypocritical or judgmental toward those involved in this film, or even those who really want to see this film. With a certain level of guilt and shame, I admit that I saw the first American Pie in the theaters and today I wish I wouldn’t.

All of that being said, Christians would be hard-pressed to give reasons why they should subject themselves to a film like AR. If you simply say you want to see it because it’s funny, I can think of some more wholesome ways to enjoy a good laugh. Plus, should we be laughing at the jokes AR are telling? I’ve thought of eight reasons why Christians, or anyone for that matter, shouldn’t go see this film. Since it’s the eighth installment of the franchise, I figured this would be fitting. I will post four today and the remaining four tomorrow, so be sure to read all my reasons before you say I’m an out-of-touch-culture-hating-Christian.

The Content

Let’s begin with the obvious. The film contains crude sexual content throughout, nudity, language, brief drug use and teen drinking. And I think it’s safe to say, none of these will be presented in a redeeming way. In actuality, all of this will be glorifying the sinful depravity of man. I would say, that there are times when this content could be okay to accurately tell a certain story, but not when it’s making light of it or glorifying it.

Adultery

Remember, I haven’t seen the film, and won’t be seeing it, so I’m going off of the previews. The character of Stifler (Sean William Scott) encourages Jim (Jason Biggs) to have sex with a certain girl. When Jim tells Stifler he’s married, he makes another crude remark encouraging the pursuit of adultery. Last I checked, adultery is not only a sin listed in the Bible, but it also wrecks the lives of the spouses and children involved, therefore, it shouldn’t be a punchline Christians should laugh at.

Marriage is Mocked

Now maybe the film teaches a moral at the end about marriage and family, but you have to wade through a lot of garbage to get there. On the other hand, at least one scene from the previews implies that life is over once married. This may seem like a ‘Lighten-up-John’ comment, but let’s not be too quick to dismiss. Marriage is instituted by God, therefore, Satan and the world hates it. We live in a world with an insane divorce rate, so should we take lightly a film that mocks it? The world is buying this lie, let’s not propagate it by laughing along with them.

Fornication is Funny

This film sees sex outside of marriage as funny. Period. Sleep around, sleep with many different people, laugh about sleeping around, etc. Let’s get back to some basics. God made sex as good. He made it to bind two people together. Sleeping with many different partners tears people apart – spiritually, mentally, & emotionally speaking. I know plenty of people who slept around and they carry difficult baggage with them throughout life. Fornication is not funny, ask the people who have done it.

 

[NOTE: This was originally published in June of 2012, but is being re-posted to foster thoughts about the up-coming release of Fifty Shades of Grey.]

Yesterday we considered many thoughts that surrounded the movie Thor, centering on lust. Is it okay to watch a scene that highlights a certain actor’s – or actresses – physical attributes? Does it bump up too closely to lust? In my opinion, the scene from Thor was designed to make you do so, and other similar scenes do so as well.

These thoughts came about from a post I read on Facebook, the rise of female pornography addiction, and the release of Magic Mike. Here is the synopsis of the film: A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money. Classy! I promise to stick to some of the same concerns from yesterday and stay away from the question of, why Steven Soderbergh is continuing to throw away his career by making bad movies?

I guess this is the main question I have with the release of Magic Mike, is this a preview of what’s to come? Will films like this become common-place because of the rise in popularity of female porn?

I may be wrong, but I cannot think of a film that has marketed male nudity this explicitly, at least in recent years. The content says “brief graphic nudity”. Some may think, ‘at least it’s brief.’ Yes, but it’s still graphic. This film is dangerous for at least two reasons.

First, the cast is made up of notable actors. Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey are guys that have catered to girls idolatry of love in many romantic comedies. Now, they are going to be leaving little to the imagination in MM, but women will flock to the theaters.

Secondly, the story seems to follow your typical romantic-comedy plot. Rom-coms usually depict rank fornication, but do so in a cutesy way which sells tickets. And even though the story of MM follows male strippers, the added rom-com subplot makes this pill easier to swallow. It makes porn seem cutesy.

To me, a line from the film sums up everything. Dallas (McConaughey) is giving his fellow narcissistic strippers a pep talk and states, “You are the husband she never had.” This statement is wrong on so many levels, but let’s just pick one.

Husbands and wives make a vow before God that death will be the only thing to separate them. Because of this covenant, the man commits to the wife and visa versa, no matter what. In light of the current discussion, this means the wife holds the husband as her standard of beauty – not some stripper.

And this is the true danger of films like this, creating lustful covetousness of a fantasy. You see, many men and women can remain in a marriage, while fulfilling fantasies through movie stars and make-believe characters. The new, exceedingly popular, pornographic novels Fifty Shades of Grey have proved that. Walt Mueller, President of Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, recently wrote an article about the literary porn phenomena. Read what he witnessed at the book table at Costco one afternoon:

A younger woman was holding the book and pondering the purchase. She had an inquisitive and slightly guilty look on her face. An older women standing nearby happened to see the same inquisitive and guilty look and decided to engage the younger lady in conversation. . . . a conversation that pushed the latter to a tipping point. “Thinking about reading it?”, the older woman asked. “Yes, but I hear it’s a little dirty,” the younger woman replied. At that point, the young woman’s husband appeared behind her with their cart. Noticing her husband was now privy to the conversation, the young woman turned a little red and muttered something about her husband showing up. . . as if the conversation needed to come to an end. She looked like a guilty kid who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. The older woman. . . probably in her mid-60s by my estimation. . . looked at her, gave her a little wink, and said, “It’s ten dollars well spent.” With that, the young woman placed the book in her cart. . . . and I watched her exchange a sly little smile with her husband. That was an interesting mentoring moment that says a lot about who we are and what we’re becoming as a culture [read the full article here].

One can never point out the deceitfulness of our sin enough. Whether it’s Thor with his shirt off, Magic Mike struttin’ his stuff, Twilight vampires glistening in the sun, or new explorations in bondage from Fifty Shades of Grey, we must be cautious of toying with our sin. Remember, sin wants to destroy your marriage, lead you down a path of adultery, and, ultimately, drag you to hell, so be wary of the lie it’s telling. Should you go see Magic Mike? Will it help you appreciate your husband? Will it cause you to lust? You might not have to search your heart too long on this one.

home-alone-movie-posterNothing says Christmas like a young brat beating up on two criminals.  When you really take a step back and consider the story of Home Alone, it is a bit strange that it has become a holiday classic.  It is an annual tradition in my house, but it’s one I don’t allow the kids to see just yet (I don’t want to get my hand burned on a doorknob or my face smashed with an iron anytime soon).

Why did this movie catch on?  The movie had a $15 million budget and grossed over $285 million at the box office, not to mention the fact that the sequel did pretty well too.  But, why?  Why did so many line up to see an irresponsible family accidentally leave their child at home and pummel two wannabe criminals?

Well, we know Kevin McCallister [Macaulay Culkin] was a tad on the rebellious side.  He did call his mother a dummy and attempt to kill Buzz, his brother, at dinner.  Even though we all might wish evil upon Buzz, the disrespect to the parents is inexcusable.  Instead of Kevin repenting of his rebellion, he embraces it and wishes that his family would disappear.  Even when his mother challenges him, he exclaims, “I never want to see any of you jerks again!”

Little did Kevin know, his wish would be granted.  Lost power, a frantic household, and a misplaced neighbor in a roll call, all led to Kevin being home alone.  At first Kevin rejoices in his newfound freedom.  Screaming through the house, shooting pellets at action figures, eating rubbish and watching junk, with absolutely no one to stop him – this is the life!  Or, so he thought.

The junk he’s watching turns out to be a little unsettling, the basement is a bit on the terrifying side, shopping for the essentials can prove to be challenging, and, if you’re not careful, you can end up becoming a shoplifter.  Not to mention the fact that, two clumsy criminals have their eye on your house.  It turns out, however, that all of Kevin’s pinned-up anger towards his family has found a useful outlet in Marv [Daniel Stern] and Harry [Joe Pesci].

In the end, Kevin learns that his rebellion hasn’t made him any happier.  In fact, those he felt like he could not live with, were the only ones who made life worth living.  And, this is ultimately something we can all identify with.  Not only do the themes of family resonate with each of us, but the theme of rebellion definitely does.

Every human being on the face of this earth is rebellious.  The people who dished out over $285 million at the box office tell us that, as well as, the television networks who air the show each year and those of us who watch it.  We are born with rebellious hearts that can only become hearts of service through the grace and power of the Holy Spirit.  What Home Alone teaches us is the fact that we ultimately need our hearts broken.  It isn’t until we taste of our rebellious hearts, that we realize how empty self-service truly is.  And, if the lesson learned by Kevin is never one you can echo, you too will find yourself all alone.

familyIf you’ve followed this site much at all, you know that The Family Man is a film I watch every year around Christmas time.  I know, I know…Nicholas Cage is the star, but this was before he got to be the Nicholas Cage who stars in Left Behind.  For those of you who’ve only grown up with this Nicholas Cage, I need to remind you that he won an Oscar for Best Actor.  And, I would also say that his acting is good in this film.  Therefore, if you haven’t seen this film, give it a shot.

With that endorsement, however, comes a warning.  There is some questionable content, but I would argue that the content isn’t needless – it’s illustrative of the overall message.  The movie shows the emptiness of worldliness, but it must do so by accurately depicting worldliness.

However, a specific aspect of this film I enjoy is its depiction of marriage.  I was helped to see this through a conversation I had with a friend.  While I was sharing my enjoyment of this film, my friend exclaimed that he didn’t like it.  As I inquired further, I discovered that his dislike was due to the fact that the husband and wife “argued too much.”  I would simply say that this is part of the reason I do appreciate it.  Many Hollywood films sanitize marriage, love, and relationships to such a degree, the audience ends up being lied to – given a false hope for what marriage should be.

Listen to the opening words of Tim & Kathy Keller’s, The Meaning of Marriage:

I’m tired of listening to sentimental talks on marriage.  At weddings, in church, and in Sunday school, much of what I’ve heard on the subject has as much depth as a Hallmark card.  While marriage is many things, it is anything but sentimental.  Marriage is glorious but hard. It’s a burning joy and strength, and yet it is also blood, sweat, and tears, humbling defeats and exhausting victories.  No marriage I know more than a few weeks old could be described as a fairy tale come true.

This is the strong point of The Family Man.  It gives a truthful and glorious picture of marriage.  The exhaustion, the frustration, the joys and the blessings are on full display in this movie.  While husbands and wives can grow in areas of their marriage, marriage is work and TFM is a film that shows this.  However, TFM doesn’t only display the difficulties, but the blessings that come about because of the work.

So, anyone can understand why we long for a sanitized image of marriage.  Scripture tells us that marriage was designed to communicate Christ’s love for his church. (Eph. 5:22-33)  Our desire for the “perfect marriage” will only take place in the new heavens and the new earth.  This, again, is why I appreciate TFM.  It reminds us that marriage will not be heaven on earth.  Yes we get tastes of that, but it reminds us that we still need redemption and – I don’t know about you – but I like films that point us to our need for that.

shrunkA few weeks ago we decided to pop in the Rick Moranis’ classic, Honey I Shrunk the Kids.  If you are like me, this is a childhood favorite.  I saw it in the theaters and then re-watched it time and time again.  I even remember my mind being blown when I went to Disney World and discovered they had a playground resembling the movie (Disney really is magical, isn’t it?!)

All of this to say, I was anxious to see how my adult thoughts and emotions would align with those from my childhood.  For example, I gave extra sensitivity and care to my daughter as she wept over “Anty’s” sacrificial death – I, too, fought back the tears…when I was little, of course.  I remember the Lego the kids lodged in over night, the bumblebee flight, and the big Cheerio – “Dad!  Don’t eat me!!”

Something I didn’t remember was the strife between the husbands and wives in this film, which trickled down to the children.  I realized that the children were literally shrunk in the film, but they were also figuratively shrunk, as well.  The two fathers, Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) and Big Russ Thompson (Matt Frewer), were men that were consumed with themselves.  (I also need to add that Disney remains consistent in degrading men – they are both buffoons.)  Wayne is a scientist who ascends into his laboratory (attic) to the neglect of his entire family.  While I’m sure he loves his children, he often doesn’t even make conversation or eye-contact when interacting with them.

Conversely, one could say that Big Russ gives too much attention to his boys – specifically, the oldest, Little Russ Thompson.  In fact, one could say that Big Russ harasses Little Russ.  Big Russ is obsessed with his former athletic prowess and pushes his son to be just like him, without a care for the lack of gifts his son may have.

Therefore, Wayne and Big Russ have both “shrunk” their kids, in a sense.  It isn’t until the kids are literally shrunk, that the two fathers realize their errors and swear to change.

Sadly, we know this is true of our own lives.  While we may not possess a laser in our attic with the capabilities of shrinking our children, we often shrink them and their concerns for our own.  Because of sin, it turns each and every human inward.  Instead of being focused on others and their needs, we look to self.  Sin makes it unnatural to love others, which shows the significance of the first two commandments and our need for Christ.

Although Honey I Shrunk the Kids focuses on fathers, we know mothers fall into the category of selfish living as well.  The question for each of us is this, Are we more prone to the distracted, isolated Wayne, or are we prone to the overly critical, vicarious, mind-set of Big Russ?  How do you find yourself shrinking your kids?  If you have no children, how do you shrink others around you?  Bosses?  Employees?  Neighbors?  Spouses?  Friends?  Strangers?  Homeless?  Orphaned?  Widowed?

We are all well-aware that the current culture is one of distraction.  The primary distractions come from the screens we carry around in our pockets and purse.  And, when we’re not carrying them, we’re passing them off to our children to distract them for a moment’s peace.  Bluntly put, we are masters at shrinking each other.  Praise God, he was one who was others-minded.  He sent one who did not count equality with God as something to be grasped.  He was one who looked out for the interests of others.  And, He was one who became nothing – or, shrunk – to ensure a bunch of “nothings” could be called children of the Most High.

The-Secret-Life-of-Walter-Mitty-2013-Movie-PosterNot too long ago I shared some thoughts about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film.  I understand that the film may seem a bit bizarre to some, but so is our thought life – in many ways it’s just a commentary on any individual’s thoughts throughout the day.  However, one scene I wanted to highlight was a conversation that takes place between Walter and Sean O’Connell [Sean Penn].

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Sean has been sending his pictures to Walter (who works at Time magazine) for years.  He feels that Walter is one of the few who actually understands what he is communicating through his pictures.  Walter and Sean have had a relationship for years without ever meeting each other.  However, after Walter’s surreal adventure in search of Sean, he finally meets him on a secluded mountain-top while Sean is attempting to take a picture of a snow leopard, or “ghost cat.”  Sean explains the reasoning for the name is due to the fact that so few have actually been able to snap a picture of them.

While Sean has been waiting on this mountain-top for this rare picture, the ghost cat emerges from hiding.  As Sean’s hesitance to snap this once-in-a-lifetime picture begins to bother Walter (and the viewer), he urges him to take the picture.  Listen to the interaction:

Walter Mitty: When are you going to take it?
Sean O’Connell: Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.
Walter Mitty: Stay in it?
Sean O’Connell: Yeah. Right there. Right here.

Sean explains that, “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”  Now, I understand that many people have blogged/ mused/discussed this reality in light of our ever-sharing-Instagram-Facebook-Twitter-culture, but I thought it’d be worth sharing again (Yes! I understand the irony of sharing it through a blog…which will also be shared through social media).  What’s interesting is how our over-sharing culture is picking up on this phenomena.  Take comedian, and father-of-five, Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat (if you’ve read his book you understand the intro I just gave Gaffigan):

As parents, we can’t stop taking pictures of our kids.  “Hey, take a picture of that.  We’ll never look at it.”  We take pictures of everyday life and act like we are capturing history.  “Unbelievable! The cat is asleep.”  Click.  I’ve calculated that if I showed you all the pictures I have of just my six-year-old, it would take roughly six years.  It kind of defeats the point, right?  I suppose this happens because we have cameras on our phones.  Do we need that?  It’s not like ten years ago we were thinking, “I wish I could take a low-quality photo of my dessert and text it to someone who’s not interested.”  Remember when photos were special?  It was not that long ago.

I guess the point others have made from similar posts, and the point Walter Mitty and Jim are trying to make (as well as this post), is lamenting the fact that we are missing moments of our life.  We think snapping pictures of “the moment” are helping us preserve them, but often times we are missing them – simply perpetuating this distracted culture that has become the norm.

Now, for all those who may be guilt-ridden over the amount of sharing you do via social-media, turn that frown upside-down.  Take those low-quality pics as much as your little heart desires.  But, maybe holster that smart-phone from time-to-time.  Instead of longing for the “likes” and “comments” you may receive from a family outing, enjoy the family at the outing.  As great as it may seem to share moments in community, enjoy the community called family.

Second-Guardians-of-the-Galaxy-Poster-High-ResCombining two aliens, a tree, a talking raccoon, and a man sounds like a recipe for a bad joke. To be completely honest, that is exactly what I thought Guardians of the Galaxy would be—a likable and well-executed joke. “It’s a Marvel movie, so it can’t be that bad,” I said to myself, expecting a box office disaster all the while. The results are now in, and I was wrong. Guardians had a huge opening weekend ( $94 million); and, much to my surprise, I really enjoyed the film. It is the ultimate summer blockbuster and one of the best Marvel movies to date. That being said, this post will be a little different than my usual fare. First, I want to provide a few bullet point thoughts about why this movie is so much fun. Then, for something a little more serious, I’ll focus on the team of guardians themselves and attempt to show what sets them apart from other comic book superheroes.

  • Pop Culture references. Kevin Bacon, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, the MacGuffin, and The Giving Tree are just a few that I can think of off the top of my head. Oh, and if you stay until the credits are over (which you should always do in a Marvel movie), you just might get a glimpse of … I won’t ruin it for you.
  • The soundtrack. Aside from being a tremendous amount of fun, the hits from the ’70s and ‘80s remind us that, unlike the majority of characters in the film, protagonist Peter Quill (Chris Pratt)—who goes by the name Star-Lord—is an earthling. The soundtrack also provides seasoned (i.e. older) audience members with something familiar, which is important when you’re dealing with an ostensibly campy movie about a talking raccoon and tree.
  • Genre blending. Comedy, action, romance, and heart-warming moments: Guardians has it all, deftly blended and served in perfectly portioned bites.
  • The thinking audience. Guardians spends very little time explaining its intergalactic politics to the audience, and it is all the better movie as a result. Instead of giving us a five-minute monologue or title card sequence explaining the backstory, the filmmakers assume that their audience can connect point A to point B. That’s a rare thing nowadays.

 

In addition to all of these really fun aspects, Guardians of the Galaxy invites more thoughtful consideration by giving us a group of unconventional heroes. Impolite, unpolished, and socially challenged, these guardians are like the mischievous stepchildren of Steve Rogers, the straight-laced Captain America. They are, in fact, antiheroes. Why, then, do we cheer for them, stand alongside them, and sympathize with them? The answer, in part, is that in our broken, fallen, and sin-stained world, our heroes often have more in common with the Guardians of the Galaxy than they do with Captain America (I like the Captain America movies, by the way). We all love a hero we can put on a pedestal and admire without fear, knowing that he or she will always do the right thing, will always save the world. That’s one reason Superman has endured for over 75 years. But in reality, heroes are often flawed and depraved and not near-perfect pictures of Christ. After all, any good that human heroes are able to do is solely because of God’s common grace in spite of human sinfulness. In this respect, Guardians gives us some of the most lifelike heroes we’ve ever seen.

So, if you’re going to see Guardians of the Galaxy, have fun, look for the Pop Culture references, and enjoy the soundtrack. Then, think about this strange group of heroes. You can leave the theater comforted by the fact that the sovereign Lord—not Star-Lord—guards the universe.

IncrediblesSo, my family and I were watching The Incredibles for the 53rd time and I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before.  For those of you who have already seen the film, be patient for just a moment.

TI is about a family of superheroes who fight to save the world.  Mr. Incredible fell in love with Elastigirl and they made a family of supers.  As happy as all of this sounds, they actually have to live in hiding, so to speak.  You see, Mr. Incredible was doing his “thing” saving people and put supers around the world in jeopardy.

While Mr. Incredible was on top of a building, he saw a would-be jumper and dove to save him from his sure death.  While he was saving this suicidal citizen he stopped a bank robbery and saved an elevated train from plummeting to the earth.  However, through all of his heroic acts, he discovered that some of these people did not want to be saved.  Therefore, the supers were sued and forced into hiding because some people just didn’t want to be saved.

The nuance I noticed on this viewing was the name of the individual Mr. Incredible saved – Mr. Sansweet.  This was the one individual that destroyed the supers’ organization.  This was the one individual who brought destruction to a people attempting to save humanity.  This one individual wanted to end his life and his selfishness led to widespread destruction.  His name – Sansweet.  It struck me that the word “sans” means “without”.  Therefore, you could say that his name literally means “Without Sweetness”.  In other words, this guy was without sweetness and worked in such a way to bring destruction.

Mr. Sansweet (without having any prior knowledge of him) wanted to end his life.  Maybe he was in financial trouble?  Maybe he was lonely?  Maybe no one showed him the love every human longs for?  Whatever the case, he decided to jump off of a building with the hopes of ending his life.  When, however, an individual (Mr. Incredible) decides to save his life, it drives Mr. Sansweet to hatred – not love.  He moves forward in a suit that would benefit him financially and bring about difficulty for the supers, as well as, the citizens who have been under their care.

This got me to thinking about humanity’s “Mr. Sansweet”.  There was this beautiful angel named, Lucifer.  He had happiness, unity, joy, but he was still unsatisfied.  Why?  He was self-focused.  Instead of being happy with unimaginable joy, he wanted more.  Therefore, he pursued suicide over joy.  He left the life that was graciously given to him and dove head-first into a suicidal path of destruction.

You see, Satan did not appreciate the love he was lavished.  He did not rest content in the life that was created and granted to him.  Instead he selfishly sought for more.  He was Mr. Sansweet.  In other words, he lacked sweetness.  He lacked love.  He lacked joy and his selfish act brought about a path of destruction ever since his appearance in the garden.

However, Love wouldn’t allow selfishness to have that last word.  Love didn’t stand to the side.  Love didn’t give up.  Love left His throne and made sure selflessness would reign supreme.  Instead of allowing the selfish suicide of “Mr. Sansweet” to reign supreme, Jesus allowed Satan to pursue another form of suicide – the cross.

As John Piper once said, the day Jesus died on the cross was the day Satan committed suicide.  You see, Satan knew he had lost.  Satan knew he had been defeated.  Satan knew that his selfish acts had not brought him life, rather, death.  All of that to say, Satan is our Mr. Sansweet.  He’s not a sweet guy – in fact, he’s pure evil.  However, we have a King who does not allow sin and selfishness to reign.  Instead, he brought a selflessness to this earth and it’s allowed peace and love to dominate this creation that’s filled with Mr. Sansweets like you and me.