Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hancock Revisited - bums gettin' busy as gods

(Note: this is a long blog. Count it as Friday's, too)
RedBox, if you do not know, is to movie rentals what your friendly Coca-Cola or Pepsi machine is to soft drinks.

DVDs are so much easier to handle and produce than the old VCR tapes and so cost-effective to produce, that it was only a matter of time someone thought of dispensing them like a can of pop.

How it works: you swipes your credit card, you rents the DVD you wants (till 9:00 pm the next night) for one thin dollar. You keep it overnight? They charge you one another dollar. Simplicity itself. If you accidentally lose or destroy the thing, it charges you only up to 25 nights - so you effectively own it for a pricey figure. Nice thing is, you can see recent movies - or even sample some very doubtful films - for a mere buck.

Clear and simple interface, easy to follow and find selections - color me impressed. So - enough praise for the RedBox developers, I want to talk about Hancock, which I re-watched Monday night for a buck.

I analyze films - both their stories and their message. I like seeing how a cool concept performs when it hits Truth dead-on, or simply does a drive-by shooting. We all get Truth through Story. We may declare certain morals, certain beliefs, but how we respond to Story tells everything about us. Our preconceptions, our likes or dislikes, our sense of justice or compassion all come to the forefront. [Quick aside: because of the way they are produced, animated films often have the strongest story/message combo - the story is NOT found in editing like in so many live-action films. Its too costly to do it that way. Story is first, so the animators do not waste their time.]

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Hancock.

Will Smith plays all three stages of this bitter anti-social superhero who admits he is wrong, gets reformed and ends up being the "real deal" in a very entertaining way. Not to spoil it, but the reason he is bitter is tied up with Charlize Theron's character, the wife of a "Save the World" wannabe, ultra-positive PR man Ray - who himself actively (and bravely) engages Hancock compassionately to get him to change, to let go of his anger and stop offending the very people he wants to save.

Hancock is a binge-drinking bum because he is heartbroken; he is immortal, superstrong, flies and - mentioned on the extras on the DVD - has even MORE powers than he imagines - think of a cross between Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca and Thor of the mighty Avengers. Add to this mix is his amnesia. He has no memory of who he really is. When he work up in a hospital 80 years ago, he was asked for his 'John Hancock' as he signed out - so he took that as his given name.

As I watched this movie, I was punched in the gut with two revelations:


1) No matter how strong or smart or talented or powerful you are, if you lose your identity - if you have no one who loves you to tell you who you are - you become lost and bitter. Nothing 'feels' right. No one loved you enough to speak into your life, so "to hell wif 'em all!"

2) Being a truly heroic world-changer involves humility - the first thing to go is personal pride or ego. The second is worrying what anyone else thinks. They must go in that order, or you become anti-social. Like the Abominable Snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, we have to become "humble 'bumbles" and get our fangs removed or we ain't gonna get invited to any parties, folks.
"C'mon -you save people's lives and they reject you -so you reject them back!" Ray informs his newest client even as he's trying to pry the bottle of rum from Hancock's hand and is failing miserably against his super-strong grip.

Heroes are as bound to their calling of self-sacrificial endangerment as any other person is bound to their calling of friendly compassion or material grace. Now of course the two callings are not exclusive, but rather they are designed to be complimentary. Policemen need to carry weapons and EMT's need to carry medical kits.

Force, any force, to be useful, must first be under control.

If you lock up a criminal, its time to get him or her to some soul-healing - so they themselves despise what they have done and are transformed by God's grace. But make sure of this: they need to be locked up FIRST before they are willing to change. Not all will surely, but being stopped cold from what you were doing is an inescapably necessary step to change.

That's what happens to the "bad guys". The ones who hurt us or rip us off. But may I be so bold as to say the same happens to heroes? To the good guys?

They have to be stopped too: "You're a hero, Hancock. That's your calling! And you are going to be miserable the rest of your life until you accept that!" says Ray. (see below)



Did you see the movie Unbreakable? In it we hear an echo of this from Elijah Price (played masterfully by Samuel L. Jackson):

"That little bit of sadness in the morning you spoke of? I think I know what that is. Perhaps you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing." (Advance to 7:35 to see that scene.)




David Dunn is invulnerable - like Hancock - but he is dead on the inside. His marriage is failing, depression is overwhelming him and he is without a future, serving merely as a security guard at a university when he is FAR more.

The Calling of a Hero is painful - but it is even more painful to deny it. You cannot. "To much has been given, much is required," said Jesus.

When a person gets called by Christ to be His disciple (true intimacy with Jesus), he or she is being called to do miraculous things - to preach the Word of God (transforms souls), to cast out demons (clear out villains and save those so oppressed) and to heal the sick (physically, emotionally, mentally). This is a big honkin' calling. Jesus doesn't ask everyone to do it.

Mark 3:14 says this: "Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to Himself those He wanted, and they came to him."

I know this passage so well because I opened my Bible twice the past two days and landed on it. I am not stupid. I know when the Holy Spirit is trying to get my attention. I read about 300 words a minute - pretty slow for some - but those three words nearly leapt off the page at me. Twice.

Not everyone is chosen for this. "Many are called, but few are chosen."

Sadly, today Christianity has been turned from an empowering faith in the son of God that prodcues heroes to a theological doctrine that assures the worldly-minded all is O.K. Thankfully, some saints DO increase in faith and begin living radically for Jesus, but we all-too-often get comfy where we are and when "the Call" is made we have a hard time accepting it.

Yes, you are saved by grace. No, you don't have to go, but when you end up dry and dead and alone, you should know why, hero, child of God.

You became a bum because you did not accept your calling. You wanted to be a mere mortal instead of being empowered to do MORE than a mere mortal.

That ain't humility. That's timidity.

C. S. Lewis puts it this way:

Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.

We are far too easily pleased.

One last thing: Hancock ends with the Hero alone but not lonely. He has friends and those who care about him. He has taken his rightful place as a protector and servant of those who are weaker. He accepts his Calling and thus he has peace and joy.

We Christ-followers can either be bums or active, miracle-working gods.

Jesus said that, believe it or not. He has glorious plans for the Sons and Daughters of God.

It is our "weight of glory" as Lewis said.

A weight only a child of God can bear.

Amen.

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