Listen, I’m not going to tell you that Justice League is a great movie. I’ve written and said too much about it already to claim that. But even flawed movies have something to say, and Justice League tells us something pretty interesting. (Warning: A few minor spoilers lie ahead.)
Director Zack Snyder was, perhaps, not the best person to oversee Warner Bros./DC’s cinematic universe. But his movies, especially his Superman movies, have boasted a barely veiled Christian ethos.
In some ways, it’s only natural. As I wrote in my book (Burning Bush 2.0) the Man of Steel was a salvific figure from the get-go, and that messianic tang has been present in most of the works starring the guy. But as I mentioned in this very blog earlier this year, parallels between Jesus and the Kryptonian Kal-El have been particularly pronounced in Snyder’s movies. In fact, I’d say that the three Snyder movies featuring Superman—Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League—serve as a sort of metaphorical trilogy echoing the life of Christ. In Man of Steel, Superman takes up his calling, both as a savior and as a shining example. In Batman v. Superman, Supes lays down his life to save both the world and rescue one cynical sinner (Batman) from despair and hate. And in Justice League, Superman literally comes back from the dead, returning to earth in full fury and power.
But I think the most resonant parts of Justice League are those where Superman isn’t around to save the day. The sort of movie hinted at in this trailer.
This is more the movie I wish Justice League could’ve been—one without so much Superman. Not because I don’t like a metaphorical messianic Man of Steel as much as the next guy, but because of the sense we get in the trailer that feels so akin to our lives today. The fallen, dangerous world. The uncertainty and fear. The waiting.
In the movie, our heroes at first don’t know whether Superman is coming back. And when they do bring him back, they’re not sure if he’s going to help them. Last they see of him, he’s flying away, angry.
The audience feels very little suspense over the matter: We all know Superman will be back, and it’s one of the movie’s shortcomings that we don’t feel the separation anxiety that Batman, Wonder Woman and the rest must feel.
See, in the movie’s structure, they don’t know what Superman’s going to do. They hope he’s coming back. They may even believe he’s coming back. But can they know? Know for certain? They don’t. And yet they dive into the battle ahead—a battle in which they understand they’re completely outmatched—anyway. They fight the good fight, even as they wait and hope for a red-caped savior to come.
That message hits me right in the chest.
Christians, too, find themselves in a period of watchful waiting. Our world is broken: Everyone knows it, and the cracks are showing a little more each day. We hurt. We weep. We’re like a psalmist begging for help. “My eyes are worn out from crying,” we read in Psalm 88.
And yet we have hope. Jesus saved us already. And we believe He’ll come again. So we push on, not because we have faith in our own strength, but faith in His. We live our lives. We try to follow Jesus’ example as best we can. And we wait.
Justice League is not a perfect movie. But, if you look closely enough, you can find it pointing to a perfect story. A perfect hope.