And Now, Something Good (or at Least Interesting) About Justice League

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Justice league

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.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 19 days ago
By CbinJ
Nice blog post, but can we all just admit that the DC movie universe is the absolute worst? Being that the movies are so terrible in quality, I find it hard to see anything compelling in them. Sure, one can mine the depths of any story and find some value or lesson in it (or at least fabricate value or a lesson from it.) However, I think when we do that in the context of something so objectively below mediocre, we are only going to continue to see uninspired, sloppy, plodding retreads that cater to the least common denominator within us all.

I find specifically with regards to this series of DC universe movies, that they fail to even live up to previous incarnations. Batman v. Superman was done better in a single episode from "The Batman" (2004 cartoon series). For all its flaws the Dark Knight trilogy was a character study that presented thought provoking questions about good vs evil, sacrifice, courage, current events, and etc. These movies, with their frenetic yet empty worlds, overzealous yet universalitist messages, and shallow yet archetypal characters just do not compare to their previous incarnations, let alone some entrees in the MCU.
By CbinJ
charitysplace 20 days ago
Nice blog post. :)
bobed 20 days ago
I'm not too keen on "allegorical" stories about people dying and coming back to life, when it apes the Gospel. The most awesome, life-affirming, world-changing event in the history of the universe should be treated with a tad more reverence in my opinion. The fictional Superman is nothing compared to the glory of Christ.
charitysplace 20 days ago
I respectfully disagree. Stories open doors for people to find the truth (which is why they can be so dangerous, when they do not tell a truth). As C.S. Lewis wrote in Narnia: the children found Aslan in Narnia... now they must search for him "by another name in their own world."
bobed 19 days ago
Stories do open windows to tell the truth. I find that the original story in the Bible is the best one. The others are diluted, distorted and painted with falsehoods. 
Anonymous 19 days ago
While no story can ever compare to the true story of the Bible, charitysplace brings up a good point. Sometimes, a fictional story can make people wonder: "What did they base this off of? Is there anything like this in the real world?" And that, in turn, can point them to the Bible and God. Yes, even something as simple as a superhero movie can open a door for people searching, consciously or not, for God.

As charitysplace mentioned, stories like The Chronicles of Narnia can make the Bible more "alive." When I was a little girl, I related to characters like Lucy, Susan, Edmund, Peter, Eustace, and Jill, because they were all children like me. Their adventures, and their encounters with Aslan, all spoke to me on some level. The account of Narnia's creation was much more personal than "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." I began to picture the Genesis story as a pure, holy Being singing the stars into creation. Aslan's sacrifice and resurrection was more personal (at the time I first read it as a little girl) than the story of Jesus on the cross. The simplified narrative of "Jesus loved the world so much that he took on all our sins so we could be with him in Heaven" had meaning for little-girl-me, but it felt so...distant. Seeing a noble, beloved Lion, a character I had come to adore, give up his life to save the soul of a little boy, a child just like me, was much more relatable. As I got older, and I read the Bible more, the fictional stories began to fade in significance, as they should - but I can't deny the impact they had on me, growing up.

As a gateway to the Bible and to God, fictional stories can often help our broken, impure human minds fathom the idea that there is a God who loves us and that He has a plan for the world. Made-up stories should not, of course, *replace* the Bible, but they are quite the effective tool for reaching this hurting world, whether they are something as blatant as pure allegory - Narnia - or something as flighty and fluffy as a superhero movie.

- Lionsong 
(I apologize for any spelling errors I didn't catch, I'm on a mobile device and it's a tad difficult for me to type!)
bobed 19 days ago
If allegory brings people to the message of Christ, then good. Very good. However, on my view, when we start saying things like "allegory makes the Bible more interesting, accessable, modern, relevant"... That's dangerous territory. The Bible doesn't need flashiness added, modern updates added, relevancy added. The Bible is perfect. Even if allegory makes people understand Christ more, ultimately, they must seek the Bible to find ultimate truth. It is timeless and always relevant.
Anonymous 19 days ago
Gosh why do you always have something negative to say
bobed 19 days ago
What is negative about what I am saying? What's negative about the statement "the Bible is ultimate absolute truth and nothing else compares"? That's basically what I'm saying. If you don't like that argument, then perhaps PI isn't the best place for you.
bobed 18 days ago
Preaching = allegory? I don't know what church you go to, where they don't preach absolute truth, but it's nothing like any church I've ever gone to. Your argument is absurd. Why do we need allegorical stories as a tool to illustrate the Bible? We don't need fancy words to illustrate anything. The Bible is adequately illustrated by itself. And you call MY argument absurd.
bobed 17 days ago
"Ad hominem" is such an overused phrase. I wish my enemies would come up with something original. If there's something wrong with the poster themself and their way of thinking, of course I'm going to mention it. You can call me ad hominem all you want.

I don't agree with your argument whatsoever, but it is clear you and I are at an impasse. Good day. (By the way, those Biblical phrases you mentioned? Yeah, you pretty much couldn't have chosen clearer, more self-explanatory ones. So.)
Reed Jacobs 17 days ago
Sure, we can agree to disagree :)