Great movies, busy summer
This June and July have been quite busy for me in my ministry work, but the one thing that I know I can count on in these hot summer months is a nice respite at the local air-conditioned movie theatre.
I haven't had much time to write about them, but they sure have helped guide my thoughts and prayers as life has gotten incredibly busy for me (isn't that true of so many of us???). Below are a few thoughts about the six movies I have seen in the past three weeks - some of them I enjoyed, and others not so much. Regardless, here's a snapshot of what God has been bugging me about this summer.
In a fun, but not-so-great remake of the Get Smart television series, I learned that the hero is often the ones we notice the least (in the case of Maxwell Smart played by Steve Carrell, not to mention the enjoyable comedy crew of gadget guys Bruce and Lloyd played by Masi Oka and Nate Torrence). Furthermore, we shouldn't always assume the one we notice the most (such as the chiseled superstar Agent 23, played by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) isn't necessarily the shining hero either.
All in all, Get Smart is a great lesson in being careful in how we judge appearances, remembering to put our hope in good and decent people, not just the most popular or handsome people.
This film is basically two movies in one - with one basic lesson uniting it altogether. This story reminds us that sloth and laziness is no way to go through life. Here is a superhero named Hancock (Will Smith) who learns that even though he has the power to do anything he wants, he also has a responsibilty to treat that power with respect. Too often in life, we squander our God-given gifts and don't use them all that often. We blame busy-ness or distractions, but the truth is that God has given us each a purpose and we should not waste it in any way.
Hancock is a film that shows even the most powerful among us can experience a redemption moment. No one, it seems, is so powerful that they don't need to be redeemed.
Set many centuries in the future, WALL*E is a film that shows us that love transcends time and space. WALL*E, a trash compacting robot left on earth, is smitten by the arrival of EVE, a vegetation-seeking probe droid from outer space. WALL*E is taken by EVE's beauty and majesty in a world full of garbage. After some coaxing, EVE warms up to the little robot and starts to fall for the quirks, nuances, and uniqueness that WALL*E has grown into over the centuries.
EVE may be beautiful and WALL*E may be quirky, but these are the very reasons they love each other. They complement each other and compensate for what the other lacks. Timeless love is the connection of two individuals, complementing one another like no one else can.
It is important to realize that God created us all different not to confuse matters or to pit us against each other, but to complement each other. Whether we're talking cultures, nations, political ideologies, friendships, or soul mates, we are called to reach out to those who are the most different from our own experience. In a world where we talk about compatibility and finding whether someone thinks just like us, let us re-introduce the example of WALL*E and EVE, where opposites not only attract, but truly need and complement one another.
Journey to the Center of the Earth
In this roller coaster ride of a movie, we are called to go deep. In Journey to the Center of the Earth, Trevor (Brendan Frasier) literally takes that advice and searches out the deep, where others doubt and fear to go. That depth takes him all the way down to the "center of the earth," where a whole other world awaits - filled with overgrown mushrooms, magnetic rocks, and hungry dinosaurs - just like in Jules Verne's masterpiece by the same name.
Jesus invited his fishermen disciples to "put out into deep waters, and lower your nets for a catch" where they are sure to find more fish. (Luke 5:4) In a similar way, Jesus calls each of us to go deeper. We live in a "surface world" where so much of life is superficial. Even when we greet each other, we do it half-heartedly saying "How you doing?" to which the cliche answer today is just a one-word "fine." (as if anyone in this world could actually sum up their lived experience at that one moment in time as just "fine").
Journey invites us to explore and to go deeper, to educate ourselves, and to go beyond the norm. Whether it's political discussions or learning more about our friends, Jesus challenges us to "put out into deep waters and lower our nets for a catch." Just imagine what you'll discover when you decide to go a little deeper.
"So what have you done lately?" is the question asked in the final frame of Wanted, and is the underpinning of what this film is all about. The movie is the journey of Wesley (James McAvoy), who is recruited by a super-secret band of assassins, led by Sloan (Morgan Freeman) and Fox (Angelina Jolie) to be their next superstar hero. Up until this recruitment, Wesley was a number-crunching cubicle drone who let his boss, his girlfriend, his best friend, and just about anyone else walk all over him - because he wanted to avoid confrontation throughout his life.
But once he becomes trained in the assassin ways, he discovers that he does not love the killing (in fact, he hates this destructive act), but that he is more than the man he thought. He also learned that healthy confrontation is a good thing. Wesley takes his newfound confidence and purpose to turn around to do what he can to end the endless cycle of destruction.
"All who live by the sword shall die by the sword," said Jesus in the face of violent, unhealthy confrontation in the New Testament (Matt. 26:52). And that seems to be the case in this non-stop action film. And judgment does come to those who choose this life. But in the end, this is a story of someone who looked at their life and wondered "what have I been doing with this life?" God gave us each a life to live abundantly, but are we wasting it or are we using it to make a real difference in the world?
The Incredible Hulk
Anger is a powerful emotion. We can use it as a weapon to strike those with whom we are upset, or we can use it in healthy, powerful ways - to defend and to protect. How do you use your anger?
The Incredible Hulk is the story of gamma-infused Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) who has decided to hide his anger. He takes medicine to keep his emotions in check and he runs away to a distant Central American country to avoid contact with anyone in his home country and risk disaster. But this method ultimately defeats him, and he is forced to come out of hiding. The rest of the movie is the journey towards controlling or destroying the anger. At first, in an attempt to be peaceful, Banner chooses to destroy his inner beast. But that is not the answer.
Just like Jesus in the Gospels, who overturns the money changers' tables in a fit of healthy anger, Bruce Banner ultimately learns that destroying anger isn't the final answer... controlling it and using it for good is. Furthermore, it is through the love of another (in this case, Liv Tyler) that Banner finds purpose and meaning - and why he must use his anger in the cause of good - to protect, defend, and save others. Let us all find ways to calm the beast inside and use our anger for good and never for destruction.