The Avengers: How Feray and Chango Dazzle Audiences on the Silver Screen
People are flocking to the Avengers. This box office hit is generating numerous accolades and a fortune to match. The film’s success rests not in the allure of action packed scenes, the charm of humorous and clever dialogue, nor the magnetism of spectacular special effects. Rather, the movie draws its success from the deep seated human fear of destruction and unchecked evil.
The Avengers is the classic superhero tale – the story of a group of extraordinary people determined to save the world from a cunning and powerful villain. Many stories of fiction and faith, personalize our fears, turning good and evil into entities rather than portraying them as values used in judging the moral worth of human actions. In the Avengers, we see nothing less, as Loki, a Christian Lucifer-like figure, embodies evil, with horns and a scepter which gives him the ability to turn people into his subjects. In the movie morality is tangible and not conceptual.
The Avengers unapologetically inspires from religion, alluding to the “Tale of Jonas” in a scene in which Iron-Man takes a trip through the belly of a militarized whale. In another scene, Christ, the central hero of the Christian faith, is referred to as a “God-Man”. Anyone of the main characters- Loki, Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man - with the powers they wield, could be considered as “God-Men”. In fact, Loki tries to take on the title “God-Man” but is mocked by the Hulk who possesses even more power than Loki could muster.
This is a cross-cultural film, grossing over one billion dollars worldwide just three weeks after its release. Curiously, despite its global appeal, the movie is based on characters created by Marvel Comics, a New York based company founded at a time when women and non-Europeans were oppressed in American society. For this reason, there are no superwomen heroes nor is there a non-European superhero. It is new Hollywood sensitivity to these issues that made the film feature both an African-American as well as a European woman in prominent roles.
Still, a well told good-versus-evil-story is appreciated everywhere. Iron-Man could well have been called Feray, the warrior hero in Haitian traditional religion. Thor, if taken out of his Northern European religious roots, could have been Chango, the Haitian hero known for his ability to manipulate lightning. The diverse religious traditions alluded to in the movie work because people throughout the world have always depended on religious superheroes to save the world from disaster. The Avengers is a modern replay of that theme and uses superheroes to retell with great humor this timeless and universal story of human fears and desire to be saved.