Marvel’s showstopper Avengers: Endgame has already become part of pop culture history. It smashed the box office record for an opening weekend—making US$1.2 billion—and is set to become the highest grossing film of all time.
For the blissfully unaware, Endgame is the culmination of 22 superhero films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the past decade, it has garnered the kind of following that will remain part of the pop culture lexicon for generations to come.
Some would say it has almost a religious following. And, perhaps, that hints at why these seemingly superficial blockbusters have made such a profound impact.
One commentator linked the resurgence of the superhero genre with the attacks on 9/11—the first successful Spiderman reboot came out only a year later, and the genre has gained momentum ever since.
The superhero genre gives space to something deep within our humanity. Terror and fear may mask it but, ultimately, it cannot be quenched. And that is our nobility.
In an ambiguous world, superheroes are still essentially about the fight between good and evil. In a cynical world, they celebrate grandeur and adventure.
Humans are made to be part of something greater than themselves. We were born to connect to something vast and deep. ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you,’ wrote St Augustine. Those words were written towards the end of the fourth century—but we can sense that same restlessness today.
Our modern era is living under a great lie, writes Matthew Kelly. That lie is: holiness is not possible. We think of holiness as belonging to ‘our grandmothers or some medieval saint—but not for us,’ he says.
The cult of individualism has disconnected us from our greater story. So, we have lost the language of holiness—words like honour and nobility feel like they belong to another time and place.
As a Christian culture, we must take some of the blame for this. We made holiness a set of rules to follow, not a relationship to pursue. Holiness—to be set apart—means to enter into an intimate relationship with our creator which allows us to commune with him, to listen to his voice and learn from him.
The superhero genre gives our secular culture the language to explore these expansive concepts. In it, heroes are set apart—given special powers—to literally save the world. They make great personal sacrifices, for the greater good of humanity.
There is a theology that argues that every great story we tell, is simply a mirror of the Great Story—of how God sacrificed himself to restore humanity to him.
Avengers: Endgame contains a spark of this Great Story. It shows us that holiness, nobility and honour are still alive in the human spirit. This is the story that we are all made to live.
By Ingrid Barratt (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 18 May 2019, p3 - You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.