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If you are a fan of superhero movies, choosing between the DC Universe and the Marvel Universe is a tough act. I have decided not to choose, and have twice the fun. Then again, as Catholic priest, I am very comfortable with saying “It’s not either-or; it’s both.” DC and Marvel both offer valuable human lessons through the entertaining stories of superhumans.
Justice League, for instance, is not primarily about fighting the bad guy, but about coming together as a team which – in this case — is a greater challenge than getting rid of the evil one (in this case, Steppenwolf).
Superheroes usually have super egos, and it’s downright difficult for these characters to accept that sometimes they can’t do it all by themselves. Bruce Wayne has matured since Batman vs Superman and he now knows that it doesn’t take anything away from him to admit that Superman’s gifts are needed to win this battle. Right from the start, he takes the initiative in putting a team together, even looking for new people with special talents (like the Flash and Cyborg). While Aquaman is a huge egoist who doesn’t want anything to do with group dynamics, the Flash says ‘YES’ immediately. Because, honestly, he doesn’t have any friends!
We can find a very biblical undertone in our superheroes coming to realize that, despite their abilities, they cannot pursue their calling to defeat evil all by themselves – that they will need a member who is not from this planet. Only a resurrected Superman will be able to guarantee victory over the evil one. Couple this with Superman’s origin story – the boy from another planet, raised by earthly parents, who dies in the process of saving mankind — and I’m sure we can all guess who we are talking about here.
Meanwhile, it is the two women in the film, Wonder Woman and Lois Lane, who personify the voice of conscience and urge the others to do the “right thing.” Wonder Woman acts as the glue to keep the team together, and also directs the others during battle to go save Batman who – contra the original plan — is about to sacrifice himself. She even refers to the other team members as “always behaving like children” — a line that demonstrates her own mature and motherly insight and wisdom in the situation. Does anyone hear Our Lady, there? Can we see Mary Magdalene in the awestruck wonder and cooperation Superman inspires in Lois Lane?
When the Flash (played by Ezra Miller) is faced with his first-ever battle, he goes into panic mode and tells Batman “I’ve never done this before; all I’ve done is push a few people around.” Batman calms him down. “Just save one person,” he counsels. “And then the rest will come to you.”
Ezra brilliantly communicates the questions faced by both the apostles, and by young people who are today facing mountainous challenges. Life itself can seem scary and intimidating. Am I going to succeed? Will I make the cut?
The answer is to start with the first little step, to break down the huge challenge of life into little attainable goals, and then take it from there. In the age of multi-tasking, focusing on one task has become a bad word. But multi-tasking often sacrifices quality for quantity. I remember a professor telling us always, “Do one thing at a time.” Words I hold very dear.
There are so many good take-aways from Justice League. I’ve always loved superhero movies, both for the special effects and for the personal, human stories. There is a little superhero in each one of us, capable of making life better for the people around us, if we only discover and then utilize our gifts.
But as every superhero movie shows, we must continually work to defeat the demons within us. That is essential, and often it is precisely by doing good for others that we conquer our own dark sides.
And too, we need to come together, and work together. We each have been given a piece of the supernatural power of Christ, which we can harness and multiply by working together. I like to think sometimes that there are no super villains; the superheroes have just not discovered themselves.