Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War is the greatest Catholic film of all time. That statement is a bit cheeky, given that: a) There is no Christ-figure in the film; and b) I’m not Catholic. But the force that drives the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to resist the archvillain Thanos is the same force that animates the Catholic Church against the culture of death: the conviction that life is inherently sacred.

As an evangelical Protestant, I used to perceive Catholicism as a works-based religion that taught its unwitting adherents to try to earn their way into heaven. While I am less certain that I understand Catholic soteriology today than I did in my twenties, one thing has become clear to me about the Catholic Church: it is the last great bulwark against the culture of death in the West. One by one, the Protestant denominations have fallen, giving up the fight against the creeping malevolence of the sexual revolution and its self-interested ideology of population control. Like second-tier Marvel superheroes, many Protestants have disappeared into thin air, but Bishop Thor and Cardinal Iron Man remain in the battle.

Thanos is the classic, militant hippie who never gave up on the, now discredited, teachings of The Population Bomb. There are too many people! The universe can’t possibly support them all! Humans (and their other world counterparts) are stripping the cosmos bare, voraciously devouring the scarce resources of every planet. Thanos’ own home world, we are led to believe, suffered such a fate. But did it? The ruins of his planet resemble the ravages of war, not the desperation of famine.

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For those of us who grew up in a LEGO world, this is the LEGO movie we’ve been waiting for. There are already several LEGO movies, of course, many of which my son has found on Netflix. There is a Batman movie, a Clutch Powers movie, an entire Ninjago television series, and many others. This big screen adaptation, however, is not limited to a specific set or brand of LEGO, nor is it animated in the same way. It looks like it’s stop motion, but it’s really CG with stop-motion principles and rules.

The brilliance of The LEGO Movie, though, is in its story. It’s not simply a kids’ movie, though it does urge adults to be more childlike. The movie celebrates the triumph of participatory imagination over controlling enshrinement, of play over mise-en-scene. Lord Business (Will Ferrell) is bent on freezing everything and everyone perfectly in place with his nefarious weapon, the Kragle. Emmet (Chris Pratt), the ill-equipped Special and fulfiller of prophecy, and his rag-tag team of master builders must stop Lord Business using the mysterious Piece of Resistance before he unleashes his weapon on Taco Tuesday.


In wisdom we must become adults, but in imagination we must remain as children.
The jokes are playful but the insight is deep. Lord Business represents the inclination we develop as we grow older – to control, to create merely to look upon rather than to engage in hands-on play. The LEGO world, the world of our imaginations, needs to be set free. In wisdom we must become adults, but in imagination we must remain as children. The childlike imagination demands participation, interaction, and invention. We don’t simply create a world and stand back from it, like the god of deism. Rather, like the God of Christianity (though not to the same extent, of course), we create a world and enter into it. The need to control stifles our imaginations, throwing us to the mercy of the instruction manual. But a child whose imagination has been set free is not bound by such instructions. They are free to create and truly play.

This is what The LEGO Movie is about, and this is why it’s important for us adults to see, especially those of us with sons and daughters who love LEGO as much as we did. This is a hilarious, touching, even incarnational film about what it means to stay young even as we grow older.

Can we all just agree that it’s not going to be a literal adaptation of the biblical story? Can we be gracious with the writers, actors, and director who may or may not have taken creative license with the story of Noah? Because this looks excellent, and I’m really excited to see it. Brothers and sisters, please don’t ruin it for me. It is, after all, art.