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My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1 ESV)

This past week, my wife and I were finally able to check out “Conviction,” a movie that came out in the fall and is now out on DVD, starring Hilary Swank (Amelia, Million Dollar Baby) and Sam Rockwell (awesome in Iron Man 2). I’m not sure why I waited so long to give this movie a shot, but I was not disappointed. This film would have made my top 7 for 2010 had I seen it when it came out. Why? Betty Anne Waters’ single-mindedness and unrelenting fight for her brother brought out a neglected piece of the gospel for me.

Single-Mindedness

Betty sacrifices everything for her brother in this movie. He gets convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison and Betty works over 18 years to get him released and to prove his innocence. She burns down her marriage, does not prioritize her boys, views her money as completely expendable, and counts her own life as practically nothing. Is this a good example? Probably not, even if her husband should have been more supportive, but it’s not like she makes these choices for her own good. Getting her brother out of prison becomes the main idol in her life and everything else gives way. I didn’t like what she sacrificed but the example is pretty amazing and causes me to question what I would do that for. Would I yield anything for Jesus? What would I move hell and high water for? Most of time: my own comfort, not for others.

Advocate

Critics hammered this movie saying it’s move manipulative and not as compelling as it should have been but I disagree. The emotion, honestly, is not nearly as powerful as it should be. The truth is unbelievable. I think critics just can’t comprehend that this story is actually true.

Betty’s brother, Kenny (Rockwell), is not a good guy. He is a wild card and prone to anger and impulsiveness. The film tries to give some background on this in showing their upbringing, but it doesn’t change the fact that Kenny is not exactly someone you’d be quick to stand up for. It doesn’t matter. Betty is so vehemently for him that when anyone even remotely questions his innocence she boils to a rage and with many colorful words defends him and kicks them out of her presence, even if that person questioning his innocence is her one and only friend. She fights for him way beyond what he deserves. She gives up a huge chunk of her own life just working for his release. She will do anything to find his innocence and get him out. She stands up for him even when he starts giving up. She is unstoppable. About midway through the movie, I agreed with her husband and her kids, I was practically annoyed with how she didn’t care about anything else. Yes, it’s an injustice, but move on, there’s nothing you can do! Give up! Of course, she doesn’t. By the end, however, her heart and efforts crushed me. She was her brother’s living advocate and defense even when nobody else cared.

That is exactly what Jesus is for us. Even now, he lives to be our defense and advocate. He fights for us. He will not hear a bad word about his children. He rebukes Satan’s accusations about us. Are we deserving? Are we worthy of such an advocate? Not in the least. Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and he stands up for us in spite of our worst sin and crimes. I think I forget this a lot. I know I’m forgiven but do I trust in Jesus as my risen and active advocate? Jesus is not dead anymore but risen. One of my pastors was extremely helpful in walking through the importance of that this past Sunday. He is risen and he lives to intercede for us.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”

Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. (Zechariah 3:1-5 ESV)

Conviction is worth watching for the build to the climax and emotional ending. Let yourself be “manipulated” by this film and then realize that Jesus is all that and more for you if you would let him. The language is pretty foul, very raw and fitting, but very consistent and harsh throughout – be aware and stay away if you’re sensitive to this.

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In my previous post, I more or less introduced the Twilight series and tried to give a decent overview for you, including some foreshadowing of some Gospel themes. In this post, I’d like to dig into some Gospel themes and engage spiritually with this series.

Let’s get one issue straight first. I am primarily discussing the books, not the movies. The movies are what they are; the themes are there but, as with any movie, they don’t have the depth or the emotional engagement of the book. The movies are pretty harmless, a little scary, but extremely cheesy and watered down.

A key reference for my thoughts is a talk given by James Harleman, a pastor for Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Download or listen to his talk on Twilight, as part of their Film and Theology series: here.

The Gospel of Twilight?

I alluded to a few things in my first post. The vampire motif is turned on its head by Stephanie Meyer. In the past, vampirism has been used as a picture of our sinful nature and slavery to it. See Louis in “Interview with a Vampire” or Morbius in the Spiderman comics and you understand the”Why do I do what I don’t want to do?” picture of vampirism.  It’s a curse with seemingly no way out. The vampire, whether they like it or not, is a danger to those around them and literally sucks the life out of them. Their very core is broken and cursed – just like our sinful nature.  You see some of that in this series, but it’s not the intent. Meyer’s intent seems to be to use vampirism as a picture of divinity.  Edward and his family have an ideal Bella wants–divinity and eternity added to her love for Edward so their love will not end. Some from the Cullen family wrestle with their vampirism, wondering what will happen if they die (they can be killed) and if it’s a curse. Edward wonders if you lose your soul. Carlisle has confidence and optimism in their goodness. However, in all this wrestling, the end reveals Meyer’s intent: the vampire is a picture of divinity and eternity and is the key to eternal happiness. Once Bella is changed, everything goes well and she is ultimately satisfied (once they’re safe and free at least). This is where Meyer’s Mormonism can be seen.  God is a side note, with little relevance in the story. The ultimate ending is a divine family, living happily ever after for all of eternity. For the Cullens, eternity is not complete without their daughter–eternal divine family is the satisfaction.

The Key: Viewpoint of the Story

So where is the Gospel of the Bible? The true attractiveness of the story lies in the narration of the story. Outside of a small portion of Breaking Dawn, we are given a first person account of Bella and Edward’s love story as it is told from Bella’s perspective.  Is Bella missing something before she meets Edward? Yes. Is she lost? Yes. Is she satisfied? No. Is she divine and eternal? No. Each storyline is threaded with her need for Edward. Part of the danger of this series is that Bella and Edward’s relationship is not simply codependent, it’s necessary and glorified! Their codependency is elevated beyond the codependency itself. Once she gives her heart to him, she needs him and is sold out, given only to him. But he is dangerous to her unless she is changed and until they are united in a covenant relationship. Bella is transformed into her glorious vampire body and they fully experience their love for one another for eternity.

Do you see something there? This is beyond a typical love story. There are plenty of love stories out there but why does this one tend to grip women’s hearts so much? Because it is otherworldly and because only Jesus can play the part of Edward! Why do guys hate this series?  Because they’ll never be the noble, perfectly handsome, infinitely strong, wise Edward of the book. Women get sucked in because there is nothing like this in the world. Or is there? We as Christians know there is. This story is Christ and the Church. Jesus loves us like this. Jesus will one day give us glorified bodies in heaven. Jesus is God – He never tires, never sleeps, never forgets, never changes in his love for us. Jesus in TRUTH has an otherworldly love for us.

But Jesus has at least one major difference from Edward. Jesus suffered for relationship with us. Jesus chose to yield his divine nature, become human to get us, to pursue us, and ultimately to pay the price for our transformation. Unlike Edward, Jesus doesn’t need us. Jesus is fulfilled within the love of the Trinity. However, His love overflowed toward us. He was willing to die for us and did it joyfully.  He chose the worst way ever devised to die and to demonstrate His love for us, so we would never doubt his love ever again.

Do you want love like what Bella and Edward share, a passionate, otherworldly, divine, eternal love? Don’t despair or try to escape into a world of fantasy like Twilight. Truthfully there is a love like that for you–in Jesus.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11 ESV)

As Harleman says at the end of his message about Twilight: Forget Team Jacob or Team Edward. How about Team Jesus?

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Before I dig in to this to far (as in, a dude discussing Twilight), let’s get the facts straight:

1. I read all 4 books in the Twilight series. I read them for a few reasons: to be a student of my wife (who read the series), to connect and process them with  her, and to try to figure out exactly why this series has been so insanely popular.

2. I have 4 daughters age 4 and under. Translation: people don’t hesitate to remind me that someday my girls will all be teenagers. So let’s just say I have a vested interest in understanding women as best I can and the way most teen girls think!

3. I would not recommend the reading of these books to my teen or preteen daughter (if I had one). In fact, I would hesitate to recommend this series to most of the single women I know who love Jesus. The truth is that these books can definitely act as emotional porn for women – the ideal man, the ideal love story, how Bella is fought for, it can be engrossing for the female mind.

Now let’s dig in. This series has been immensely popular. Many wives I know have all read the entire series. The movies and books have made a ton of coin. Locally there were around 10 midnight showings opening night, and I bet all of them were packed. The fans of the series can be obsessive. From teen girls that have read the books 20 times, to fans visiting the actual town of Forks, to everyday moms, obsessive might be too light of a description. This book has genuinely struck a chord with women and that cannot be denied. Outside of the Twihards, many others mock the series and parody it like crazy, men detest it, feminists deplore the themes, movie critics absolutely destroy it, and Christians have strong responses and concerns about the connection with the occult as well genuine worry about their teen daughters. So what is the deal? Why so obsessed? Why so fired up? Why so revolted? Everybody seems to have an opinion.  To close this post, I’ll touch on a few key themes and then in Part 2 hit upon the gospel themes and where I think Stephanie Meyer’s Mormonism comes into play.

Key Themes

The Feminine Question. Why do women like this story? [SPOILER ALERT] Bella is an unassuming, not so confident, pretty innocent, non-supermodel, teen girl who is swept off her feet by an older, wiser, chaste, extremely strong, extremely handsome, emotionally deep (in the books as least) Edward. He fights for her, protects her, goes to all lengths for her. He even fights for her purity and understands his limits and the depth of his own evil within. He has the capability to do all of this. He falls short in practically nothing. He woos her, seeks to win her heart, marries her, becomes a caring father, saves her life, and they live happily as a divine-like family in love for eternity. Like an arrow, this is straight to the heart of the questions that, in general, women wrestle with: Am I beautiful? Am I worth someone fighting for? Am I lovely?

Non-Traditional Vampires and Werewolves. In this movie, the vampire theme is distorted from the historical legacy. Yes, they need blood to survive. Yes, they are eternal beings who can be killed. Yes, they are extremely powerful. However, the main vampire “family” (the Cullens) in Twilight are like vegetarians, seeing their human blood lust as an evil they must live with but can abstain. Each vampire has a special ability of some sorts – compassion, mood control, reading minds, and even seeing the future. The vampire motif in this series is sort of a like a fallen divineness – changed, made eternal, given a new ability, yet still very flawed and still very dangerous.

Finally, the werewolves are the antithesis to the vampires. They spawn as a counter to the vampire to protect humans. They have extremely hot body temperatures as opposed to the ice cold bodies of the vampires. They are built to kill vampires and have an innate hatred for the “blood suckers”. These werewolves are the “good guys” and are not made from getting bit by a werewolf but from birth.

The Big Picture and Family. The love story begins when Bella and Edward meet, the human killing vampires bring the conflict, the werewolves rise up, more vampires try to destroy what the Cullens have in their family, marriage and parenthood happen, and one final confrontation arises to bring about freedom and eternal happiness as a family. This story is about more than just Edward and Bella but also family and how happiness is ultimately rooted in a family.

In Part 2, we’ll dig a little deeper. What about this story repulses and yet is so attractive? Where is the gospel in all this? Where are the dangers?

Twilight Part 2: The Gospel According to Twilight?

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My wife and I saw the new movie Robin Hood with Russell Crowe last week. Most of what I had heard about it was just so-so. Ebert thought it was too realistic and not fun. Someone else said it was too predictable. The previews with Russell Crowe rising out of the water made me laugh and think it should have been called “Gladiator 2”. On top of that, it was another Robin Hood movie.  How many predictable Robin Hood movies do we need? We had the disney cartoon, Men in Tights, Kevin Costner, and more old school Robin Hood movies I haven’t seen. Well, I think this one was worth it, especially because Russell Crowe absolutely destroys Costner in terms of acting chops and machismo. Crowe is the main reason I wanted to see this one; I knew that he would play the role well. As much as the guy is hard to like in real life, I have a hard time not appreciating his skills as an actor (even if it is the same role! See: Gladiator, Cinderella Man, Robin Hood). (Spoiler Alert!! for rest of this post)

But this movie, to me, is not really about Robin Hood. He’s just a part player who has a cool story – the fatherless wayward man who gets adopted into a family and then restored his true legacy to his true father who he never knew. It’s awesome how the true Lochsley son gets killed and Robin gets “grafted” in in his place.  He then takes on that identity, wins the heart of the lady, and is a key catalyst in defending England from invasion. Robin then becomes an outlaw because of his politic views (about half a century too early…) that he inherited from his father and because his leadership is a threat to the king. That’s a good story. But Robin Hood was not the key to the bigger plot of this movie:  a devious plan to destroy England. Who is the key? A man named Marshall played by William Hurt.

Marshall is the key advisor to the king, Richard the Lionheart and was adviser to Richard’s father as well. King Richard is killed and his brother John becomes king. The storyline is straight out of 1 Kings. John is young and foolish, and immediately kicks Marshall out and make the lying snake Godfrey his adviser. Godfrey then hatches the plot to help France invade. What would you expect Marshall to do next? Fade into the background, go off to pasture for sure. Nope. Marshall stays loyal to the king and to the big picture of protecting the country and keeps an eye on Godfrey. Marshall discovers the plot to invade, wisely figures out the best way to tell the king, and does his best to unify the country as Godfrey turns everyone against the king. Even in the midst of this, when King John learns of France’s invasion, he still balks at Marshall’s counsel. What is Marshall’s attitude? He still fights for him, works for the king’s best, and subjects himself to the king, who gets more prideful and foolish as the film goes on.

Marshall is such a good character. He is a man who seems to seek no glory for himself. Even at the end when all is settled, he gives all the glory to Robin. All Robin does is make one good speech and lead the men to battle, a battle that is pretty much settled once England unites. Marshall then becomes the official adviser to King John once again. This man pretty saves the country by discovering the deception and helping avoid civil war to then defeat an invasion and he just steps back into his old role that the young king embarrassed him in previously. Does he whine, complain, or seek recognition? Nope. Does he slander the king, a terrible and prideful leader? Nope. Does the king deserve to be followed like this? No way.

Though Marshall is an older character with no route to kingship, the way he supports the king and fights for the kingdom reminds me of Jonathan, the son of King Saul, and best friend to David (see 1 Samuel). King John reminds me of Rehoboam, the foolish son of Solomon (look it up in 1 Kings 12). Jonathan is the rightful heir to the throne but seeks not his own glory but the best for David, whom he knows is destined to be king. At times, Jonathan is ust as much of a warrior with heart for God as David is. You could argue that Jonathan would make a better king than David even – Jonathan walks in integrity, leads men by word and example, trusts God to enable to do what it takes, and is loyal and self-sacrificing. In all this, Jonathan walks in utter humility and deference of power to be a friend to David and to see God glorified not himself. This is Marshall. Except Marshall is a friend to the king and kingdom with no reward and no return. He essentially helps a king who practically acts like an enemy. The character of Marshall makes Robin Hood a really good movie.

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Just a few thoughts on some movies coming out or just out on DVD between May and July…

Crazy Heart (Already out on DVD). Probably worth a post in and of itself. Unbelievable movie simply because it felt so real. Jeff Bridges deserved the best acting oscar he received for this role. The alcoholism,  the skeaziness, hitting rock bottom, and the repentance – you feel it all and believe it. At points it feels like a documentary because the characters and their conversations are so genuine. Maggie G (her part made this movie for my wife), Duvall, and even Colin Farrell were perfect in their roles to say the least. Believing in someone and loving them is always a risk, there will indeed be a cost. But change will likely not come apart from it – be it God the Father demonstrating his love for us on the cross or us being a conduit at personal sacrifice for someone who doesn’t even seem to deserve it. The reality is that we all never deserved the love God has shown us or even the love people around us. All of us are just as fallen as Bad Blake is and in need of redemption and wow, do I desire to be a friend like Duvall is in this movie. The movie has a lot of rough language (rated R for a reason) and 2 scenes of sexual content that are very easy to see coming and fast forward through but if you can handle the rawness without stumbling, definitely worth engaging in.

Alice in Wonderland (Already out on DVD). I have not seen this movie but every person that I know who has seen it has recommended it saying it has a redemptive ending. Take it at that.

The Book of Eli (June 15 release). Another one probably worth a separate post. Just see this movie. Definitely very raw and violent with rough language. Some of the violence, especially the way women are treated, made me squirm a bit. But the violence against women points to the unrestrained sinful nature of an post-apocalyptic future and is definitely not glorifying of it. It merely magnifies the need for redemption and how fallen we really are. The spiritual themes of the movie and the centrality of the Bible are almost shocking for a Hollywood movie. James Harleman at cinemagogue.com writes:

“My wife got an advance copy of the screenplay over a year ago from a friend and was struck by its unerring Christian center. She summarized it for me, from awesome apocalyptic beginning to its shock-peppered ending, and I was surprised. We both agreed there was NO way this screenplay would ever get made. When we heard it was in production, and starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman, we were blown away… yet determinedly pessimistic. We altered our tune, certain there was NO way it would ever survive with all the biblical elements intact.

We were (happily) mistaken. Not only have The Hughes Brothers made a thoroughly enjoyable film, they maintained it’s spirit and even surprised me with the casting of Denzel as a very quiet, deliberate action hero.”

I saw this movie twice and I think I enjoyed and was more struck emotionally the second time than the first. It’s like the perfect manly movie – plenty of action and Denzel rampaging through his opposition and yet a very spiritual message with spiritual overtones in the context of what he is fighting for and why he is fighting.

Edge of Darkness (Already out on DVD). Simply put, this movie attempts to be too much. Is it about Mel Gibson being pushed to the edge? Is it about a conspiracy to cover up something? Another good thriller that just falls short because it didn’t do either those things well. It does not deal with our own darkness hardly at all. The conspiracy reveal is much too shallow and vengeance is far too easy.

Green Zone (June 22 release). Not really worth seeing. I had to really work to pull out gospel truths and find redemption. It’s a good thriller but it sets itself in the historical context of the Iraq war and yet it’s 95% fiction which can be annoying. Damon’s quest to expose truth is noble for sure but there just wasn’t enough in this movie for me to consider watching it again or really recommending it.

Invictus (Already out on DVD). This movie could have been so much more. Between Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and his backdrop storyline to the underdog South African rugby team, how could this movie be a flop, right? Wrong. You watch this movie and you’re just waiting to feel it, you want to engage emotionally, but it never comes. Mandela is such a larger than life historical figure that this movie doesn’t or cannot do justice. It seems like it would have been fantastic to have him either be the entire movie or just given more of a cameo. It’s hard to explain, I almost need to watch it again, but the movie never feels like it’s enough. Damon’s character doesn’t seem to go through the change that the movie has him walk through. The movie wants to move him from default racist to overcoming racism by the end but I never believed Damon’s character was a racist to begin with. He doesn’t seem to change at all. The rugby scenes were also too much with very little explanation. I don’t have the first clue of the rules of rugby so I had no idea what was really going on for all the extended match scenes. How much is field goal worth? Why is a scrum needed? What are the positions or are there any? There is a lot of rugby in this movie and yet those scenes have very little drama. I feel bad ripping on this movie but the real life story is so awesome and Mandela is such an inspiring individual, the movie just fell flat.


Shutter Island (June 8 release). This movie is growing on me as I mull it over. Such a good thriller. Such a powerful & emotional ending. DiCaprio with his usual excellence. Very creepy and disturbing at times. The lighthouse and it’s imagery. This movie gets better and better as I think about it and put the pieces together. I need to see it again. I’ll leave it at that. I can’t even mention the main theme or I give too much away.

Any other movie out there released from May to July, I haven’t seen or most likely just thought it wasn’t worth seeing – except for The Road (already out on DVD). I definitely still want to see that one with Viggo and his son trekking and struggling through another post-apocalyptic world based on the book by Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men – another fantastic gut punch of a movie).

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In the first part I discussed my goals as I engage with movies or other media. Now let’s apply those 3 principles to the first two Iron Man movies. Both are rated PG-13. For both, you’d be wise to heed that with the innuendo and suggestive content (translation: some immodestly dressed women and inferred sex – in the first one).

Iron Man (2008)

This was an insanely popular movie registering $312 million at the box office (in the U.S. alone) and even today still has a 93% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Even among top critics, it still achieved close to 90% approval.

I loved the first Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr was the perfect man to play Tony Stark – a rich, narcissistic, genius, playboy arms dealer. Right off the bat you see him as prideful, sleazy, and full of himself as he is showing off his latest company designed weaponry for his latest contract.

Then, within a few minutes, nearly everything changes. His caravan gets attacked by terrorists utilizing his own weaponry and he is taken captive and take shrapnel to the heart in the process. He wakes up tied to a battery which is supposed to keep the shrapnel from entering his heart and he is told to design a missile for the terrorists or die. With Tony is another man, another captive, who tells him to his face that Tony is a man who has everything and yet nothing, that he is wasting his life. Tony just wants to escape but comes to admire this man. He eventually designs and build a suit of armor instead as well as a mini reactor in his chest to keep him alive. He activates the armor but the terrorists figure things out and he is about to be stopped before getting the armor active. But his new friend, the other captive, goes at the terrorists and gets killed trying to give Tony enough time. Tony then escapes and the rest of the movie ensues with Tony trying to change his ways, develop a better heart mechanism to keep himself alive, and dealing with the demons of his past in arms dealing as well as his true deceiving enemy, a man he thought to be his friend.

Does this storyline sound familiar? Taken captive in large part because of his own sin and made a slave. His heart is busted, he’s at his lowest with almost no hope. He tries to get away but can’t even do it on his own power. So how is he rescued? By someone laying down their life for him! He then moves on, committed to a new life, getting a new “heart”, and turning what he used for evil into resources to be used for good and fighting a Satan-like enemy who’s main power is deception. Sounds like the gospel to me. That’s what made this a great movie to me – the gospel metanarrative combined with a perfect lead actor, and solid acting beyond the main role as well.

Iron Man 2

Now we finally get to Iron Man 2. Iron Man 2 has made over $280 million domestically so far as of this past Memorial Day weekend. Is it as good? Did people come just because the first was so fantastic?

The second film wasn’t quite as good but it continued the same story arc that the first started. That, combined with Downey Jr doing another great job and Cheadle making for a better Rhodey than Terence Howard’s in the first one, made a film worth seeing.

In this film, he’s changed, fought some past demons, u-turned his life towards fighting for good, now what? Legacy. The problem is that he is still very narcissistic and selfish, and getting very prideful in his position as Iron Man. He feel invincible and that no one can touch his technology. As Solomon says in the book of Proverbs: pride comes before the fall. He needs to realize that he has a long way to go.

What happens? A new enemy emerges with the same technology, Tony’s heart starts to fail again, he pushes away Rhodey and Pepper and very quickly hits bottom in his pride and alcoholism. But his friends don’t give up on him. He again gets his “heart” renewed and reenergized, starts learning how now to be a lone ranger, wins the next battle, and is straight up about his weaknesses and faults. Sounds like our walk with Jesus to me. Just because you’ve changed and you’ve turned your life to Jesus doesn’t mean things get easier – they get harder. Between the harshness of life, the struggles with your own sin and growing in the likeness of Jesus, other people’s sinfulness, and the battle to maintain the mission of glorifying God, if you’ve come to Jesus for ease of life or health, wealth, and prosperity, you’ve come to the wrong place.

So I loved Iron Man 2. Stark realizes that his new direction and heart change is for a marathon not a sprint. I love how in each of these movies, a “heart” change/fix precipitates the outward change. Just awesome imagery.

Below are some links to some other thoughts on this film and the first Iron Man from James Harleman who is a pastor at Mars Hill in Seattle. His blog and their Film & Theology series is a great resource. He does a fantastic job, much better than I can hope to do, in picking a movie apart both artistically and Biblically.

Iron Man: well suited for a sequel

Iron Man 2: The Legacy of Howard Stark

Riddle Me this, Iron Man

Film & Theology: Iron Man

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Almost 2 weeks ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to see the movie Iron Man 2 (released May 7th).  My opinion: not as good as the first but a really good movie with the continuing metanarrative from the first one.

This will be a 2 part post. Since this is my first post, I want to give you some background on what my goals are whenever I engage with a movie or even with a TV show for that matter.  My wife and I love seeing a good movie in the theater but how we do that in a manner in which God is glorified? In the second part, I’ll give some thoughts on the first Iron Man movie and then dig into Iron Man 2 tying them both together. I’ll try to cover most of it without giving away any spoilers but the reality is that you know how these movies are going to end, you’re watching because of the characters!

My Goals with Movies & TV

#1. When in doubt about the makeup of the movie regarding explicit content that would have the potential to be a stumbling block, just avoid it. I’m not saying I’m perfect with regard to this goal but I usually do as much research as I can prior to watching a movie. I don’t even mind knowing the entire plot. Knowing the ending to a movie doesn’t usually take away from it for me as long as the metanarrative is strong.  There is a progression in my life with this. There are movies that my wife and I viewed when we were first married (over 8 years ago) that there is no way I would choose to watch now or even take the chance with. This is an area where convictions need to be developed (see Romans 14 and Philippians 4) so that you can walk in faith with whatever media you take in. I definitely have failed with that many times but significantly less and less as my wife and I have grown in discernment.

This is my responsibility as a husband to lead in this and even recently I failed in having my wife and I watch a pretty terrible movie called Inglorious Basterds. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the satire in the characters and the violence and the acting was fantastic especially Pitt and Waltz (who won best supporting actor) but overall the movie was too over the top at getting you to the point that we American were just as rotten and violent as the Nazis were. I was just getting pulled into laughing at the wrong things. The point is – I’m a sinner and I’m in progress in learning discernment with regard to movies. I’ll try to help both you and myself with that with this blog.

#2.  Seek out the metanarrative of the story. By metanarrative I mean the overarching big picture storyline that the movie is drawing from. This metanarrative is usually why we like a certain movie or why a movie is so rewatchable and what brings us to tears or draws out other emotions. We cannot be passive when we approach media. I know we all want to just relax and “veg” but if we are passive, our viewing will not necessarily be refreshing in the right things. It does not take much more effort to learn to watch for the metanarrative and for truth about ourselves or God. The movie is preaching to you in a powerful way, will you choose to engage with the message that is being evangelized?

#3.  Seek to glorify God in seeing how the metanarrative reflects a truth about him or his character or reveals the very Gospel itself. Can this movie help me to see God more clearly? Does it point out something about myself that I need to understand further? Does it give me another illustration of gospel to use in communicating the gospel? These are things I want to be thinking about.

In my next post, I’ll dive into the Iron Man movies and try to demonstrate how to apply the above concepts.

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