Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Avengers RAGE: "That's my secret, Captain..."

You were warned, poppet! 

Me Love HULK!
One of the neat surprises I got from The Avengers was my new appreciation of the Hulk's alter ego, Bruce Banner.  Portrayed by Mark Ruffalo as charming and socially awkward, he nevertheless is no man's fool. Ruffalo decided that Banner had grown emotionally and come to understand maybe the Hulk had a place after all. He portrayed Banner as a man who desperately WANTED to belong, yet obviously would not be able to stay - if 'the other guy' [the Hulk, natch] ever showed up.

But Banner is so smart, so knowledgeable and so analytical, he is also unstoppable in his pursuit of truth. In two instances in the movie, you see what angers him is not physical pain, not insults - no, it is being lied to. He cannot stand someone trying to deceive him.

It enrages him.

And all through the movie, the running gag is why doesn't this guy turn into the Hulk more often? We all get angry, you know? What does it take to make him rage, to transform into a juggernaut of near-beserker destruction? After giving a quick electrical shock to test Banner's self-control, Tony Stark [Robert Downey, Jr.] asks point-blank, "What is your secret, Doc? Yoga? Pilates? A huge bag of weed?"

We all laughed. We understood Tony. Yeah, those are all the mechanisms we can use to keep from getting out of control with our anger. We use drugs and techniques to calm ourselves down and not let others control us with their assaults or with their stupidity.

The Answer Banner Gave
Climatically, the question is answered, and the answer was so unexpected yet so on-the-money my jaw dropped. The Scene:  another huge Whale-Cyber-Air-Monster is flying towards the Avengers. Everyone is in gear and ready to fight except Bruce Banner - who has just arrived riding a two-cylinder motor scooter that has seen better days.

Doc Banner gets off of his humiliating escort and begins walking TOWARDS the flying behemoth.

Captain America says "Doc - NOW would be a good time to get angry!" 

Charmingly, Banner looks back over his shoulder and replies: "Well, you see, Cap - that IS my secret..."

"...I'm always angry!"

His muscles begin to grow and he smoothly and speedily transforms into the monstrous Hulk, just in time to lay a HUGE one-fisted SMACKDOWN on the creature, plowing it into the ground and flipping it end over end.

Yeah, baby. I think we got it, now.

What Good Is Being Angry?
Anger is an emotion and it has its place, if it has a reason in justice and fairness and honesty. 

When we are angry, it is often because we have been done wrong - or witnessed a wrong to our beloved.

When God is angry, it is because we have done wrong - or witnessed a wrong to His beloved.

I never liked the Hulk before - all his anger seemed to be emotionally driven and feelings-based. Usually, the director or writer would put him in a very unjust situation, so we would sympathize with our anti-hero.

But as I grow older, and see how the World lacks repentance and a true fear of God, and with all the lies we are told and are supposed to swallow, often to 'keep everyone happy' or maintain the status quo, I find myself getting angry that we as humans keep making the same mistakes. We refuse to change - to repent - and thus we store up for ourselves wrath - not just from men, not just from victims, but from God.

And that wrath is understood to have consequences.

If you are angry at the injustices of the world, keep in mind God is angrier.

But if you want to be saved from His wrath, His anger, you had better run.

To the cross. To Jesus.

Because baby, when 'the Big Man' comes to lay the smackdown, there will be no stopping HIM.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Avengers RULE: "You have made me VERY desperate!"

To have a great superhero story, you need a great villain. He cannot be two-dimensional foil, or the heroes have no real victory in fighting him/her - there must be a heroic qualities that are perverted - glimmers of hope that the villain COULD be redeemed - or was once a great ally. This is the stuff legends are made of  and these are the villains we love to hate and find ourselves attracted to even as we know they must be defeated. Having many excellent qualities, they are undone ONLY by their villainy, the very wrongness of their goal. Thus, it gives hope to all of us that one day the good guys will win, despite other inadequacies they may have.

Loki has always, in my mind, been a second-rate villain. Conniving and deceitful, the "half-slash-adopted" brother of Thor, he is portrayed in the comics as a manipulator behind the scenes, and terrifically unequal in combat to his larger and more noble sibling.

But not under Joss Whedon's expert writing and Tom Hiddleston's dynamic, Heath Ledger-esque, Anthony Hopkins-honoring, Jack Nicholson-emulating performance, Loki is the Deceiver made flesh. He is a murderer, a liar and a thief. He is precisely what Satan is described as.

He's also vulnerable, charming, intelligent, witty, sarcastic, fashionable, ruthlessly sleek and courteous.

Whatever works, he uses. Scary as hell, folks. Scary as hell.

Hiddleston Becomes Loki
Like watching Robert Downey Jr. take the role of Iron Man and make it his very own, Tom Hiddelston  leverages his clean features, even smile and noble face to portray a dark son of Odin, who has fallen from grace yet is loved by the very family he hates. All because he wants to be a king, and rule as such.

Hiddelston has pulled off nearly the impossible working with Joss Whedon. He becomes a villain you almost wish you could be. My God, it is terrifying to see you WANT to like Loki and listen to him, even help him, and then, in two seconds, find him eviscerating you emotionally, digging your guts out only to snarl and spit on you for your weakness. [OK, I identified a little too much with the Black Widow in one scene... sue me! ;)]

Those who have lived with and/or argued with functional alcoholics - or just have met them online - will understand the shocking power of getting into verbal tete-a-tete with a wounded soul that has all their intellect intact. They have no mercy, no compassion, no grace for anyone except themselves.

I have not only witnessed such an emotional raping as some can dish out, I am sorry to say I have too crossed that line in the past.

And when Loki begins doing it, to get what he wants, he finds Nick Fury opposing him. Building a team to oppose him, to fight him.
"How desperate you are!" mocks Loki, referring to Fury's assembling of The Avengers.
"You have made me VERY desperate," agrees Fury, and then adds, "You might not be glad you did."
Loki's greed and arrogance, his demand for rule launches the very opposition that ultimately defeats him.

Loki? For Real?
If you are feeling desperate right now, may I suggest you have a dark foe, an enemy of mankind that brings monstrous despair? May I suggest that you call on God to avenge you and save you from him?

It may sound archaic, but the Enemy of mankind is "prowling around, seeking whom he may destroy."

A friend of mine committed suicide recently. I am still grieving. I think he must have felt too desperate to continue living, though a committed Christian full of good works and faith.

Yet he forgot he was part of a team, a body. We would've risked our lives for him, done anything for him.

But his actions have left me desperate for comfort and strength and power and love. I am calling on Christ for all of it, and not just for myself, but for others he hurt as he left them behind.

My faith in God is stronger than ever. My love for Christ and his sacrifice is growing again.

And my dead prayer life has been resurrected.

We say it, but I think we do not accept it in the modern church very easily: the enemy of the Christ-follower is Satan himself.

Let's keep it that way. Let us not be so fooled. We are indeed hated without cause.

But we are also loved unconditionally by God, so we must never despair. When we are made desperate, let us call on God to help us and defend us.

Perhaps even avenge us?!

He is just -and He knows just what to do.

Avengers Assemble!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Avengers ROCK: "There's only one God, ma'am."

O.K., I need to stop spending money at the movie theater and get in here to give my take on the Avengers movie that is breaking ALL box office records due to geeks like me. [Worldwide take this week? One billion dollars US]

I've seen it three times already, and I think tomorrow will be my fourth. Yes, it is that fun, that good, that witty and that spectacular. If you want to AVOID SPOILERS, stop reading now. You were warned.

And may I say, as a Christian who LOVES spiritual metaphor in films, seeing Christ-friendliness in movies that are definitely NOT 'family-friendly' [cf. Magnolia, Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, etc.] is a real joy. Marvel's The Avengers NAILED some timeless Christian truths with a dead-on bullseye.

[Please forgive me if I rant and drool and slosh my Coke on the screen, but I waited 35+ years to see this movie and it was DAAAAAYYYYYYUUUUMMMM worth the wait. We Bible-teachers can say 'Damn' and 'Hell' but only in proper context. So, DAAAAAAYYYUUUMM! will have to do!]

Why Was It So Good, Reverend Geek?
It had a crisp plot, awesome villain, witty and thoughtful dialogue, not a word or scene was wasted, exciting CGI effects that kept you engaged IN the story and most of all, a Message that resonates with Christians who fight among themselves even as they try to fight a Greater Evil that uses deceit and illusory tactics to rule the world.

Captain America, Compassionate Conservative and His Theology
It is SO easy to mock a position we do not like and create a straw man to abuse. When the notoriously liberal-minded Tony Stark and soldier-out-of-time Steve Rogers trade verbal blows, I was struck how understandably wrong Cap was about Tony - in other words, I KNEW Cap was wrong, but I could see why it upset him. I could see why Tony did not like nor appreciate the judgmental attitude of this older man from a more conservative time - but what was smokin' hot was how fast they agreed when a threat appeared. And how do you handle demi-gods who were worshiped in ages past? When they can blow you apart or take over your mind with a touch?

You face them down; they are not the real God of gods. Immortal? Possibly. Powerful? Certainly. But to be worshiped? Not on your life.

Marvel Comics has always been pretty good at this, treating the 'ancient gods' as powerful beings of myths and folklore as denizens of other realms and higher civilizations. Problem is, many unbelievers want to denigrate the Real God and the Real Savior to those roles, and that folks is just plain wrong - and frankly, childish.

But how do you sum up all that in two lines of dialogue? Without being preachy or smug?

Joss Whedon showed us how. That's right: a self-described "angry, hard-line atheist" wrote some of the best God-honoring dialogue.

The scene: After an amazing lightning blast lights up the sky, Thor, god of thunder, lands on  top of the SHIELD Quinjet, and bursts in to reclaim the villainous Loki from the custody of Captain America and Iron Man. One smack to Iron Man and Thor is out the door with his brother. Iron Man rockets out the back to recover Loki, and Cap decides he must follow. Grabbing a parachute and strapping it on, he's about to exit the aircraft when our pilot, the Black Widow shouts, "Cap! You don't want to go after them! They're the myths - the gods of legend!"

Cap replies matter-of-factly and courteously: "There's only one God, ma'am -and I'm pretty sure He doesn't dress like that!"

Then he jumps out of the plane with his shield slicing the air in front of him.

In the dark.

At umpteen thousand feet.

Yeah, BABY!

I and a few others shouted "AMEN!" at the screen. The rest laughed or applauded.

But THAT scene summed up true faith -and the TRUST and DEVOTION that God digs. Men who believe and act heroically in full trust upon Him.

"I am the Lord, thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me."

Well, why should we? They all suck except Him [sorry, Thor!]. Way to go, Cap.

Kudos, Joss Whedon! You did a good job, even if you do not believe.

More observations on the next blog. But for now, I have to go home and practice jumping off the couch with my custom-made Captain America shield for the next few hours.

Call it my geeky fan-boy devotional. ;)