June 5, 2014
I love to go to the movies. Like many of you, I love the communal experience of enjoying a motion picture on the Big Screen, en masse. The smell of the popcorn and twizzlers while watching the previews of coming attractions all melds together with the rising theme music to create an atmosphere designed to take us to a totally different place.
Some of my favorites, as you may have deduced, are the classic historic features. I love the oldies like Gone With the Wind,
Ivanhoe, Wuthering Heights, Camelot, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur…they all helped to solidify my love of literature and history and help put some mundane classroom facts into glorious,historic technicolor perspective.
Over years of dedicated research, I’ve noted a common thread running through Hollywood offerings. It is a theme of Transformation.
Avatar, for instance, a huge movie a few years ago where the scientists and soldiers become those Big Blue critters with tails. I forget why … but the theme of eventual permanent transformation into Big Blue alien tree-huggers from mean, planet-destroying earthlings was designed to make us all ashamed of our dull, non-neon pigmentation.
Other examples which jump to mind are the enormously successful Transformer series. These entertaining shows, which trace their roots to the popular, multipurpose 1980’s toys, involves mechanical aliens come to help ( or harm) the puny earthlings and are disguised as cars and trucks when not destroying the Chicago skyline at climactic moments.
We can’t have this discussion without the seemingly bottomless pit of Marvel Comics turned Big Blockbuster Mega-hits. Clark Kent changes in a phone booth into Superman. Peter Parker is bitten by a rogue spider on the school fieldtrip gone wrong and becomes Spiderman. Who wouldn’t want to change overnight and go from ordinary geek to extraordinary superhero? Bruce Wayne is traumatized in his youth and turns into Batman in the dark shadows of Gotham City. It isn’t enough for wise-cracking Tony Stark to be rich, handsome and brilliant. As Ironman he can be all that and save the world from a variety of dastardly villains.
Recently, Captain America has come to the Silver Screen several times as the result of volunteering to take that super-secret potion. He went from patriotic 90 lb. weakling to a Nazi/villian fighting fool.
Avengers, Fantastic Four, Thor, Incredible Hulk. The list goes on and on with interesting variations on a theme of transformation. Teenagers want to be vampires, or werewolves. Hobbits, dwarves and elves hunt down magic rings and secrets that transform the owner into a power-crazed ruler of evil empires.
Is it the allure of universal transformation in these screen characterizations that enable us to avoid examination of our own ordinary little lives? I am in no way discounting the value of two hours of fun, action-packed escapism on it’s own merit. But, is there a secret passion within us all that wants to fly away, solve problems, fight crime and be more than we ordinarily are? Is it merely escapism, or has Hollywood tapped a common spark in all of us. A spark that says, not only should we, as earthlings and ticket buyers, aspire to become more: but that there is actually within us all a desire for some level of supernatural transformation. A “God-shaped” void, if you will, that hungers for definition and fulfillment with something, anything and Hollywood is attempting to meet the need with comic book thrillers and re-hashed classics.
A few days ago our little Lake City, “Mountaineer Theater” had a special showing of God is Not Dead. I didn’t have particularly high hopes but went along anyway. I was expecting something corny and of second- rate quality. There had been no media advertising for this last minute addition to the summer venue other than the compelling white lettering against the dark brown side of the theater stating the simple truth, ” God is Not Dead”.
The theater was packed to capacity. Anticipation was palpable. The movie proved to be really good! It had universally relatable characters, with criss-crossing lives and story lines. The plot was realistic and well-written and woven together artfully. No corn in sight. I encourage you to go see it.
If you are hungry for real transformation, this film showed it on a host of different levels. These characters may not have been able to leap tall buildings or swing from spider webs, but , I believe ordinary lives , on screen and in the theater, were changed in supernatural ways that will make eternal differences. God is Not Dead!