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This paper gives a critical and theological review of two recently produced American films. The movies I have chosen for this assignment include Wonder Woman and Black Panther. Wonder Woman, released in 2017, is a superhero film based on Detective Comics (DC) character bearing the same name. The film features actress Gal Gadot as Diana Prince (the Wonder Woman), together with actors Chris Pine, Danny Huston, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, and Elena Anaya and many others. The film tells the story of Diana (the superhero), the daughter of Queen Hippolyta. Diana grows up in an invincible island called Themyscira together with other women warriors of Amazon created by Zeus to protect humanity. They are completely isolated from the rest of the world, and it is only after an allied pilot crashes on the shores of the island that they encounter the first outsider. Diana, now a trained warrior, rescues the pilot, an American spy called Captain Steve Trevor. The island is soon invaded by the Germans searching for the crashed plane. The Amazonian warriors kill the crew and interrogate Captain Trevor. He informs them about the Great War going on. Diana believes that it is her destiny to save humanity from the evil Ares, agrees to go to war with Trevor and leaves Themyscira.
Similarly, the Black Panther movie is also a superhero film based on the Marvels Comics character of the same name. The film, released in 2018, casts stars like Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa (Black Panther), Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, and Daniel Kaluuya among others. T'Challa or Black Panther, returns to his home country, Wakanda, to assume the throne after the death of his father in the Civil War. After his return, he is crowned the new King and Black Panther and promises to bring Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) to justice for stealing vibranium, the kingdom's primary resource. Ulysses also kills many of his fellow countrymen in the occurrence. However, the story takes a quick turn when one of Ulysses acquaintances, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), turns out to pose a more significant threat to the new king than Ulysses. Erik Killmonger also has a direct claim to the throne though no one is aware. Thus, a power struggle erupts between the Black Panther and Erik Killmonger.
Critical and Theological Analysis
Both movies contain some theological insights in them. Firstly, the contextual of the Wonder Woman's story incorporates some fundamentals of Greek mythology and the idea of Lucifer or Satanism as discussed in Jewish scriptures. The movie combines these divine features with other aspects of modernity to develop an apocalyptic subject. The superhero, Diana, believes that the Great War is a continuance of a longstanding conflict between cosmic forces of good and evil (Di Paolo, 2007). She thinks it is her calling to destroy, Ares, the god of Olympia responsible for the evil deeds, and once again bring peace to the world. In that line, the notion that there is a perpetual conflict between good and evil forces exists among most societies today. For instance, the Bible tells about the Great War between God's angels led by angel Gabriel and rebel angels commanded by Satan. The outcome of the war resulted in Lucifer being condemned and exiled to Earth. However, the conflict continues, and therefore, every Christian has to fight against evil forces by praying to God and obeying his commandments. This way, the war will be won when Jesus comes back for His people. Hence, from the illustration, we can identify some aspects of theology emanating from the film.
Apart from that, Wonder Woman also reminds the viewers of the belief that humans were made according to the image of God and that man is a divine creation. For example, in the cosmology of the film, the Amazonians believe that Zeus made humankind in his image. Besides, we can relate this belief with the teachings of the bible. For example, in the book of Genesis, we are told that God made people in His appearance and that He was pleased with the creation (Genesis 1:27, Genesis 1:31). The statement also indicates that humans are beautiful creatures and therefore deserve treatment with respect, love, and dignity. Diana also believes that humanity deserves to be given a second chance to change its sinful ways and that Zeus will always love human beings. In that line, the Wonder Woman also realizes some disturbing facts about human beings. She finds out that people knowingly choose to do evil instead of good, and that evil exists in their hearts. Thus, eliminating just one evil person does not guarantee a sin-free society. This conception comes to pass when Diana kills Ludendorff, but the fighting does not stop. Therefore, for us to make the world a better place to live in, we must first destroy the evil in our hearts. This teaching is also available in the scriptures which point out that human beings are susceptible to sin, and hence have fallen short of the glory of God. Consequently, humans will continue to pay for their sinful ways through death just like the scriptures say.
Also, another theological element evident in Wonder Woman is that God always sends to his people an example to emulate. For instance, Diana inspires the allied soldiers to cross the area designated as a "No Man's Land." Both armies have never crossed this area since the war broke out. However, by emulating her courage, the allied soldiers manage to cross the "No Man's Land" to the other side eventually overpowering the enemy and winning the fight. Besides, we can also pinpoint another significant theological teaching from the movie, that is, sometimes doing good deeds requires a sacrifice. From the film, we see different characters making sacrifices to help fight evil, from Queen Hippolyta to Steve Trevor. Queen Hippolyta gives up her only daughter to go and save the world while Trevor sacrifices his life to protect the innocent. We can relate this incidence from the Wonder Woman with teachings from the bible. The Bible informs us that God had to send his only begotten son to come and die on earth to save humanity from sin. Also, in the scriptures, there are others like Stephen, the martyr who sacrificed their lives so that goodness could prevail.
Secondly, the Black Panther film also portrays some theological features. However, this movie mostly sheds light on black theology. The central theme reflected in the movie challenges and at the same time affirms some aspects of Christianity. The film gives an insight into the plight of blacks in American that conforms with the principles of the church and its mission. Through critical analysis, we can identify three themes emanating from the story, violent Black Nationalism, isolationist black nationalism, and an engaged nationalism concerning the whole world. By relating the arguments to the biblical teachings, we can identify some commonalities. For example, during the days of Christ, the Zealots advocated for the use of violence against the Roman oppressors whereas others chose to isolate from the rest of the world to preserve their dignity as followers of Judaism. In the end, the people of Wakanda decided to engage the world by using an agent called Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o). Nakia, together with T'challa and Okoye leave Wakanda and travel to Busan, South Korea where Klaue is planning to sell the artifacts he stole from the Kingdom.
In line with that, the movie teaches us that rejecting violent nationalism does not mean ignoring the plight of the oppressed. Similarly, Christianity also teaches about the significance of moderation. Even though Jesus had divine powers, he opted for the use of nonviolent means in soliciting for peace. At the same time, He never shied away from fighting for the rights of the oppressed. For example, Jesus encouraged people to continue paying taxes to Caesar even though the regime was brutal and corrupt. Martin Luther King Jr. also once said that "a riot is the language of the unheard." Besides, the bible also teaches us to give a second chance to those who have wronged us. Jesus states in the New Testament that he who has no sin to cast the first stone and not even the heavens can curse. We can relate this teaching to some happenings from the Black Panther film. For instance, W'Kabi pleads with T'Challa to bring Klaue dead or alive. This shows that regardless of his sins, the society still has mercy for Klaue by offering him the option to live.
In conclusion, this paper attempted to give a theological review of two movies, that is, the Wonder Woman and the Black Panther. Both films portray some apocalyptic elements. However, the evidence of theological basics in the two films differs regarding the weight of the argument. From the illustrations, we can comprehend that the Wonder Woman displays more theological features compared to the Black Panther. The reason being that the Wonder Woman relates more to various essentials of theology like the teachings of the scriptures as well as portraying some elements of Greek mythology.
Di Paolo, M. E. (2007). Wonder Woman as World War II veteran, camp feminist icon, and male sex fantasy. The Amazing Transforming Superhero: Essays on the Revision of Characters in Comic Books, Film, and Television.
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