Ben Affleck Explains Why Superhero Films Are Hits: They Remind Us We Need a Savior
"Thor: Ragnarok" is the sixteenth movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and "Justice League" is expected to take over $110 million at the box office on opening weekend. Counting from "Iron Man" (2008) and "Man of Steel" (2013), Marvel and DC Comics have raked in over $15 billion just at the box office, and the superhero train shows no signs of slowing down. Why do Americans (and indeed a global audience) show this much appetite for superhero movies?
The action, banter, character development, and villains go a long way toward explaining this success. Even so, Ben Affleck, who plays Bruce Wayne/Batman in "Justice League," suggested a psychological — and perhaps even spiritual — reason.
"We certainly are in need of heroes in 2017," Affleck told USA Today. "There's a lot of stuff going on in the world, from natural to man-made disasters, and it's really scary. Part of the appeal of this genre is wish fulfillment: Wouldn't it be nice if there was somebody who can save us from all this, save us from ourselves, save us from the consequences of our actions and save us from people who are evil?"
Affleck, a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, likely meant to lament the presidency of Donald Trump. Even so, people across the political spectrum can admit that this year hasn't been the most heartening. In the past year, devastating hurricanes ravaged Texas and Puerto Rico, a church shooter killed 26 people, a deranged man shot up a congressional baseball practice, and a man whose motive remains unclear carried out the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
In the midst of tragedy, political polarization, and murder, people everywhere want to look to the sky for hope — and Superman, the Avengers, the X-Men, and many others have temporarily filled that gap in their hearts.
Any Christian listening to Affleck's lament can immediately pinpoint the source of the hope he's looking for — and the ultimate answer isn't fictional.
"Wouldn't it be nice if there was somebody who can save us from all this, save us from ourselves, save us from the consequences of our actions and save us from people who are evil?" Affleck asked. Who fits that job description?
The evil in the world is no surprise to Christians. The Bible teaches that all men and women have fallen short of the glory of God, but it goes further than that. According to Romans 1, humanity rejected God, turned to worship the creation (including the internal self) rather than the Creator, and "they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened."
Jesus gave His disciples the Golden Rule: "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" (Matthew 7:12). It sounds simple enough, and nearly everyone agrees this is a basic moral principle. Even so, people distrust one another. Nation quarrels with nation, classes fight within nations, party rises against party, and even families are torn apart by selfish rivalries.