Avengers: The Spirituality Behind the Superheroes

Avengers Infinity War

This weekend, Avengers: Infinity War will roll into theaters worldwide. It’s kind of a big deal.

Infinity War, wherein an array of Marvel superheroes will try to prevent the evil Thanos from collecting super-powerful galactic artifacts known as Infinity Stones, is the culmination (along with next year’s untitled fourth Avengers flick) of a decade-long journey that began with 2008’s Iron Man—one of the first movies I reviewed in my tenure here. Since then, Marvel, Disney and even Sony have released 18 separate movies that belong in what’s called the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each movie stands on its own, but most contain narrative tendrils that tie in with all the others. And most, if not all, of the heroes in those movies will make an appearance in Infinity War.

Marvel’s umbrella strategy was as audacious as ideas get in Hollywood, but it has paid off critically (every single movie is rated “fresh” by the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes) and commercially (all told, the movies have made nearly $6 billion in North America), and it has spanned a collection of (less successful) copycats.

But for me, Infinity War has also been a perfect excuse for me to watch lots of superhero movies. And to think about them, too.

I’m on record as being a pretty dedicated superhero geek who loves delving into the spiritual underpinnings of these high-flying do-gooders. And for about the last four months, my family and I have spent a chunk of each weekend re-watching a movie from the MCU, mostly in order.

Part of my rationale was to figure out just where all those Infinity Stones are as Infinity War opens. Part of it was a geeky desire to catalog all of Marvel impresario Stan Lee’s cameos. And a lot of it was because I’ve successfully turned my whole family into superhero fans: My kids are grown now, and it was a great excuse to have them over for dinner every weekend.

But it also triggered some religious reflection, too. As such, I wrote a handful of posts for my personal “Watching God” blog over at Patheos. Those new posts join others I’ve done over the years on Marvel’s heroes, for movies such as Black Panther and Doctor Strange. I thought I’d share those posts with you here—just in case you’re super-jazzed for Infinity War but really don’t want to go unless you know how, say, the storyline in the Hulk reflects the spiritual age in which we live.

I didn’t get to every superhero on the docket.(Though if I have time, I’ll be writing about one or two more before the weekend.) And be warned: The fact that I wrote about a given superhero movie doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily an appropriate one for you and your family to watch. As always, check out Plugged In’s reviews for the lowdown.

But for those who are interested, here’s what I’ve got.

Why Iron Man’s the Perfect Imperfect Hero

The Incredible Hulk and the Terrific, Terrifying Power of Faith

Why Captain America Must Die

Why Black Panther’s the Movie We Need Right Now

How Thor: Ragnarok Connects With Christian Faith in Four Freaky Ways

Doctor Strange is the Most Religious Superhero Movie Ever

Guardians of the Galaxy: Grateful for Groot

7 Hungry Sins to Watch for in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Oh, and once Avengers: Infinity War is in the books, I may have something to say about that one, too. Just maybe.

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.

ealpha store More than 1 year ago
Wow. Thanks for your information. In India, there are lots of fans of Avengers and of course, Ironman.we are ready to infinity war. https://ealpha.com/
Elanor Gardner More than 1 year ago
I can't wait for Infinity War!  It looks like it's going to be awesome, and it will be really interesting to see which of the fan theories are right (if any). 

P.S.  Thank you so much, Paul, for your reviews and blog posts!  They are always so interesting to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have gotten burnt out a bit by super hero movies as well (there's a bit of an over saturation problem in my book) but I am kind of excited to see Infinity War just for the novelty of a whole big smash up between a bunch of guys as the culmination of a long game plan and experiment by a bunch of film makers.

Also, I sure wish the Dark Universe and the DCEU were better, those could have been fun competitors to Marvel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I also wish the DCEU was doing better. It would helped Warner Bros if they viewed the DC heroes as actual characters instead of dollar bills.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yeah. I just feel sorry for them, Zach Snyder seems really passionate about the DCEU and think he's a decent choice considering that his visual style is heavily influenced by comic books, but something always comes up to ruin his plans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Who else wants to see Spider-Man use his instant kill on Thanos?
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Don’t count on it. Marvel (for the most part) makes great movies, and as long as superhero movies keep being great, I don’t think most people will tire of them

On the other hand, if we get more superhero films like Fant4stic, X-Men: Apocalypse and Justice League, people will definitely tire of superhero movies.

I got a feeling that Venom may join the latter group.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why should there be an expiration date on a genre? You could ask the same question of buddy cop movies or westerns or war films or animal documentaries or dozens and dozens of other movie categories. As long as there's still an audience for the genre, it will continue, and it's very obvious that the superhero genre still has a huge audience of people who aren't tired of it. You're perfectly free to skip movies in categories that don't interest you, but we superhero fans aren't going anywhere any time soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Magnificent Seven (a western), Hacksaw Ridge (a war film), and Comrade Detective (a buddy cop TV show) were all released recently and were pretty successful. I saw media attention on all of them.  
Dan Haynes More than 1 year ago
@bobed Why would you care that much about what movie genres other people care about? I don´t understand what difference it makes to you. If you aren´t a fan of the genre, don´t support it with your cash. Easy peasy, 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

A.O. Scott has a review of Infinity War in the New York Times that beautifully captures the bewilderment that people like Bobed and I feel about the massive cultural domination of superhero movies, particularly Marvel's. I’m not sure if we’re allowed to post outside links, so I’ll just encourage you all to google it.

I don’t judge individual people who like superhero movies. They’re free to watch whatever they want. But I think that in general, our culture (and our politics) is going through a troubling period of infantilization that doesn’t bode well for any of us.

Bobed, I think the best way to react to this trend, without tearing anybody down, is to support movies (and politicians) that are intelligent, mature, humane and creative, and that have ambitions that go beyond blowing things up.

-- The Kenosha Kid

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
 @bobed Dude, why can't you just let people enjoy what they like for once instead of being a literal black hole of negativity? The world's a dark and dreary place, enjoying things like superhero movies and similar stuff to take your mind off of it (if you keep it balanced and healthy) is a perfectly fine, if not necessary at times, thing to do. Sure, there's an over saturation of them and a lack of diversity and the box office right now and I agree with Kenosha, support the movies you'd like to see more of (Unless it's God's Not Dead, let that dumpster burn. ;) ) but seriously, don't get on other people's cases for enjoying something you don't get.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Glad I am not the only one pumped for Infinity War, lol!