I’m really looking forward to this film. Why? Because stories like these resonate deeply with me – and many others. Frank Smith’s 2004 article with Christianity Today ("Why We Love Comic Book Movies") articulates it better than I can. Highlights:
But there's more to the genre than X-ray vision and billowing capes. Comic book heroes are flesh and blood, not the plastic, pun-spouting caricatures one might expect. Since the mid-1960s, they've explored deep emotions and even deeper issues on their adventures. While still action-oriented, they present insights into the human condition—and the fallen human heart—as compelling as those offered in many other forums. In fact, the comic book's blending of both verbal and visual communication often brings a visceral understanding that other mediums lack, and when well-written, their stories connect with people and leave them thinking, and talking, for some time. They make for a good read and a good movie. . .
Sometimes their struggles are . . . deeper…. Spider-Man struggles with the responsibility that accompanied powers for which he never asked. The X-Men, hounded for being different, nevertheless attempt to defend the same humanity that hunts them down. Batman watched his parents gunned down in an alley and now wages a fierce battle on two fronts: to protect the innocent from criminals, and to avoid slipping into the black holes of revenge and despair. Do these protagonists remind you of anyone? Can you identify with them?
These characters may have super strength. They may be able to turn invisible, or even invulnerable. But their inner battles (and their struggles in spite of them) to right wrongs and take up the challenge of evil, are our own—albeit writ large, colorful and on a grand scale.Smith lists another, more compelling reason we resonate with films like these:
A line from The Matrix (ironically, a movie that was made into a comic book!) puts it into focus. Morpheus asks Neo, "Haven't you had a feeling … that there's something wrong with the world? You've felt it your entire life. You don't know what it is, but it's there, everywhere- (something) pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth?"
We all nod with Neo, because we've felt it our entire lives as well. We know, deep within our souls, that we are more than a haphazard collection of molecules. We know that Someone far greater than ourselves exists, and that mankind cannot be the measure of all things. Despite the best efforts of postmodern culture, the flesh and the Devil himself, we know that good and evil are not relative, interchangeable concepts born of a selfish instinct for survival. We know there's a daily, invisible battle going on around us, pitting humanity against inhumanity. And we sense, deep inside, that we must ultimately choose the side on which we will serve.
This is the deeper appeal of the comic book universe—where good and evil are named, and where mighty beings battle with us, side by side, to free a world enslaved by darkness.
As Christians, Smith says, we know these films only tell part of the story:
As Christians we know these films only tell part of the story. While we long to join the comic book characters to fight the good fight against evil, we must first admit that its lair lies within ourselves: "We have met the enemy and he is us," as Pogo once said. Only the one true Captain in the cosmic battle, Jesus Christ, can vanquish the enemy, leading us out of illusion and into the day.
In addition, Smith refers to the power of story itself:
. . . as Lewis and Tolkien often reminded their readers, the world of the fantastic can often say things best. In a New York Times Book Review essay, Lewis wrote: "Supposing by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained glass and Sunday-school associations, one could make them appear in their real potency? Could not one thus steal past those watchful dragons … that paralyze so much (discussion of) religion?" The astounding success, on every level, of the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings answers his question. If all fiction might be described as "telling the truth with lies," surely the truths that moviegoers walk away with can lead them to deeper investigation and discussion … and, perhaps, ultimately to their Savior.(Image from Cinemablend.)