There are at least fourteen superhero and sci-fi movies releasing in 2015 and 2016. Avengers: Age of Ultron blew up the box office. Star Wars is getting additional episodes. Batman and Superman are facing off next summer. On TV, there is Gotham, Arrow, The Flash, and Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. Netflix released Daredevil. Doctor Who and Orphan Black have become fan favorites around the globe.
But is this fixation on fantasy, aliens and comics making us unable to deal with the real world? Sci-Fi poster boy Simon Pegg thought so and said as much in an interview published earlier this week. His concern is that these films don’t force us to deal with real life but indulge our imaginations and don’t force us to think. He worries that people become so wrapped up in what isn’t real that eventually they can’t cope with what is real in the world. Pegg makes an interesting point. Sure he’s made most of his money from capitalizing on the exact fantasies he’s now concerned about, but his words are something to consider.
Personally, I’m drawn to the superhero stories for many reasons. The action and special effects are usually spectacular. And while the storylines can become trite and overdone, there’s still something about watching someone overcome themselves for the greater good. Or a fun twist on history because of time travel. Watching villains and heroes struggle with not purely being one or the other is engaging cinema. It’s easy to watch these films and get wrapped up in the possibility of worlds beyond ours and stories that take us away from the mundaneness of life.
However, as with anything, there has to be caution and moderation. If we indulge our imagination too much, it can be difficult to keep a hold on reality. In our attempts to connect with the culture and to be relevant, saturating our sermons or small groups with illustrations from these movies can be counterproductive to what people need.
Epic stories of good versus evil and heroes saving the day have their place. Some of the greatest works of literature illustrate our need for right and truth to prevail. Who doesn’t love seeing the bad guy on the receiving end of justice? Superheroes can inspire and move us. They entertain us and tie up a storyline in a neat two and a half hour bow.
It could be easy to insert, “But that’s why we need to lead people to Jesus, because He’s our hero,” in here. There’s some truth to the sentiment. Many of these stories point to a deeper truth and more profound human need. However, we can’t let our fantasy heroes with suits and shields get to the point where they become some a substitute for the reality that surrounds us.
We’re called to be a people who minister the love and truth of Jesus to people who are in need of rescuing, just like we were. We have a story in our hearts, lives and hands more epic than any movie could depict. And we have an enemy devoted to destroying that story and the hope it is. As hard as reality can be, we need to remember Superheroes, Doctors, and Clones can’t blot out the reality of the depth of human brokenness and our need for a Savior.