It was a given that the Avengers would be a big winner at the box office. In it’s first week, the movie has earned a Hulking $654,838,708 worldwide. Stateside, it beat Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2 for biggest opening weekend. Everyone is talking about this film. And it didn’t take long for the Christian community to chime in. Here’s a sampling of what they’re saying.
The Gospel Coalition‘s Mike Cosper gives a positive spin on the movies biggest theme: facing incredible odds amidst human weakness. He writes
It’s funny to me that in a world of flying aircraft carriers, lightning bolts, and rage monsters, we nonetheless tell stories about frail and broken people. Yet that’s the core ofThe Avengers, and of the whole superhero genre generally: Superman is an orphan displaced. Batman, too, is an orphan, a mere human with an obsession with justice lost. Spiderman is haunted by his failure to save Uncle Ben. The heroes we invent all have a flaw weaved into their fabric, which makes their lives more believable and their victories more spectacular.
But not everyone one is sure the movie is worth the praise it’s garnered. Think Christian‘s Josh Larson takes issue with humanistic themes in the film. He states
In the way that its faith in humanity leads to the creation of pop gods, The Avengers echoes the tension that can be felt by Christian humanism. At its best, Christian humanism is a blending of respect for imago dei with reverence for the Almighty. The Avengers, by the very nature of its narrative, forgets the Almighty part, of course. But how often do we? To what extent do we marvel at our “gods” – our athletes, our rock stars, Steve Jobs – before we find ourselves coming close to kneeling? At what point do we forget to say, “Not to men like you?” The Avengers is a reminder of humanism’s ugly side, the one that yearns to not simply venerate, but to elevate.
So far, the strongest review I’ve seen has been from theologian John Mark Reynolds. Over at his Eidos blog he titles his review “The Avengers: Soulless Fun”. He bemoans the lack of a moral core in the film. Reynold’s observes
Avengers was great fun, but it lacked a moral center. When Americans bowed to Loki, I wondered, “Where are the Christians?” Millions of Russians died rather than bow to false gods, but Whedon has all but one New Yorker bow to Loki. I loved the New Yorker who stood up, but evidently is was only memory of heroism and evil in World War II Germany that provoked this old man to stand.
World War II haunts the film. It is as if it is the one moral certainty in a better time: Nazis are bad. Why are they bad? It is not certain in the film, but it has to do with control, boasting, and posturing. What is missing . . . in every character but Captain America is a compelling moral vision.
All three reviews aren’t wrong. This film lacked some moral substance (save for Captain America). But, I am hopeful about this film. For all its flaws, I think it has a lot going for it. Here are three things to consider:
1. It’s family friendly. When was the last time you saw an action film with your family? I saw it with my friend’s parents and they loved it. I would hope we can have more movies done this well and capable of being a family event.
2. The heroes are real. They have flaws, but they don’t brood over them-ok maybe the Hulk but he’s not all broody! I’m glad for the darker tones of some comic book films. We shouldn’t be afraid to tackle the hard realities of life. But I’m getting tired of anti-heroes who are always going against an evil, faceless government or society run amuck. Sometimes it’s good to see good guys beat up on bad guys.
3. Humor. A wise cracking hero has been sorely missed on screen. This movie has quips by the handfuls. Even the Hulk manages to steal the show with some very funny scenes. It’s looking like the upcoming Spider-Man film will be just as fun.
I liked The Avengers. I think you will too.