First of all, this movie rocked. I wasn’t a big fan of all of the individual character films leading up to this one (except Iron Man), but bringing all of them together was fantastic (as the box office stats prove). Joss Whedon stuffed this tasty dish full of humor, action, tension, and heart. Bravo, Joss. Bravo.
(Warning: Thematic spoilers ahead, but no major plot reveals.)
The Avengers is far from your run-of-the-mill superhero blockbuster. Though some may disagree, while there was a lot of flash, I thought there was also a lot more than just surface substance. There is deeper meaning, and it’s not just a commentary on the hodge-podge that is modern American society (though those parallels are present).
The Avengers (for the most part) are superheroes. Traditionally, superheroes start out as failures, outsiders, or rebels, but these drawbacks are rarely revisited once they obtain and master their unparalleled powers. This is not the case in The Avengers. This film reminds us that even the seemingly immortal and invincible among us are still human (or demi-god). Even the greatest heroes have weaknesses.
Though this fact would be alarming if we lived in the Marvel or DC universes (no person protected by Superman wants him going anywhere near kryptonite), it’s comforting to us who live in this sans-superhero reality. We all have weaknesses, failures, and regrets. We all have moments when we doubt ourselves. And we all have, at one point or another, let these things keep us from working well with others or from being who we want to be. The fact that the “greatest” among us are severely flawed puts us on a more equal ground: we might not all turn into bus-tossing green monsters or have stylish suits that fly and launch rockets, but we’re all screw-ups.
The Avengers tells the story of extraordinary people overcoming ordinary weaknesses to do extraordinary things. Iron Man is self-centered and obnoxious. The Hulk has anger management issues (to say the least), as well as serious depression and self-loathing. Thor has the whole sibling rivalry thing, paired with a god-complex. Captain America is stuck in the past and extremely critical. Even the non-superpowered (but equally skilled at kicking butts) Black Widow shows her vulnerability when she talks about her regrets and debts, wanting her slate wiped clean. Each of them must overcome themselves and their problems with each other to become the team they’re assembled to be.
Fortunately, unlike our marvelously costumed heroes, the fate of the world doesn’t hinge on us overcoming our weaknesses. But there are still goals to be met, jobs to be completed, and lives to be changed. Ordinary people overcome these same flaws every day to accomplish both the ordinary and the extraordinary. Who, then, are the real heroes?
The Avengers also has a strong theme of sacrifice running throughout– a lack of sacrifice is even something Captain America calls Iron Man out on. Throughout the movie, every one of the heroes makes some sort of sacrifice. It’s only when they decide to look beyond themselves (and their weaknesses) that they begin to truly work as a team.
Jumping comic-book universes for a second, my favorite tagline from the Spiderman movies is, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There is so much spiritual depth in that quote alone, but The Avengers adds, “With great responsibility comes great sacrifice,” and if we reach a little further: “With great sacrifice comes great faith.” What enabled these legendary characters to overcome their weaknesses was not their own extreme mojo; it was their faith in one another.
So, what takeaway value do we get from this not-so-rag-tag team of not-so-caped crusaders? A $220 million illustration of 2 Corinthians 12:9 and Romans 12:1-5:
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.
Now, who’s up for some shawarma?
I may or may not have listened to “Assemble” about 20 times while writing this.
COMMENT: Have you seen the movie? What did you think? Who is your favorite Avenger?