It’s been a great summer of movies so far. I’m not talking about critical or even box office success, neither of which really matter to me. What I mean is that it’s been a great summer of movies for me. For the first time since becoming a parent, I’ve been able to take the kids to see movies we both want to see. It’s been great. Last summer I saw one movie in theaters- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One. It’s only the end of June and I’ve already seen Green Lantern, Thor and X-Men First Class. Cars 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Captain America: The First Avenger are on the horizon. It’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed getting back to theaters.
It’s no coincidence that most of those are superhero movies. My son loves them, and I enjoy them quite a bit. Having seen three in three weeks, I’ve been thinking a good bit about each, and about superhero movies in general. All were a lot of fun. More importantly as a dad and writer, all three had good messages. Thor discovers that leadership is about service. Pretty solid message there. Green Lantern learns that the way to conquer fear is to accept it. That’s also good stuff. X-Men is about how we respond when people mistrust us because we’re different- do we respond with love or hate? It’s a deeper question, one that my five year old probably cannot quite process yet, but in time he will. I hope that this film will inform how he responds when people treat him badly because they think he’s different in some small way. In fact, I hope all three of these messages inform his life in some way.
These messages are what made these films examples of superhero stories at their best. We don’t just want to see hero’s beating the crap out of bad guys. That’s fun, sure, but it’s not why we love them. We love them for two reasons. First, they make us feel more comfortable in our own skin. Green Lantern gets scared? Knowing that made me feel a little less like a wimp looking at the “Triple Threat” waterslide at Lake Lanier Islands. But that’s only half of it. We also love them because if they can be so flawed and still do so much, maybe we can too. When Green Lantern overcomes his fear and saves the world, we feel like we can conquer our fear as well. I did go down that waterslide, and I had a blast doing it.
That’s why these characters keep being relevant. They are a modern day mythology, revealing truth about human life. They make us feel better about who we are while also inspiring us to be better. At least, that’s what the good ones do. Here’s hoping there are a few more of those this summer.