I remember seeing bits and pieces of the original Clash of the Titans on TNT when I was growing up. I was fascinated by the story of Perseus, the demi-god, but I couldn’t quite sit long enough watching the claymation to really enjoy the whole of it. I knew there was lots of action, but the fake creatures really turned me off to the whole thing. But when I saw that the flick was being redone, I became excited. Updated graphics and with Liam Nieson, how could the film go wrong. I’ll just say for our purposes that it was a good movie, because I’m not really going to review the film here. I am rather interested in talking with people who did see the film about something that struck me very hard from beginning to end.
Follow me on some syllogistic logic here.
(1) If the Greeks had stories which guided their lives about the gods, and of men, and of creatures – and how they all interacted. (Mythology)
(2) And if, in this story, the Greeks are defying their gods, making a way for man to be free of the crushing fear that they are too small to affect eternity.
(3) Thus, in this story, the Greeks were throwing off old stories that hindered their ability to be masters of their own fate.
I have to admit, I am not a huge reader of mythology, but I know enough from High School to know that the stories of the gods were pretty messed up. Their lives were as twisted as the people that believed in the gods. Adultery, conquest, murder, revenge, and all human vices are present in the battles of the heavens. These gods are basically super-humans, much like the super heroes of American comic books. They are eternal, but they are still tinged with humanity. The stories themselves show that they are a product of people who are in difficult situations, horribly intense ethical situations, and seeking to make sense of the universe that wishes to crush them with storms, volcanoes, floods, and famine. The people are using their imaginations to tell stories that orient themselves in their situations.
But then the story of Perseus.
Half human, half God. Bred in a moment where Zeus was defiling a married woman’s womb, Perseus is a mistake. The whole story hinges on him being a surprise. Humans don’t trust him, his father wishes his death, his mother is dead, and he does not know who he is or how much power he holds. He constantly surprises himself. What does that tell us about the Greeks that told this story? It seems to me that they were surprised with some power that they had aquired. Some mastery that they had attained, some normalcy that they had eeked out from existence. Perhaps cities had formed refuges, as people banded together, and the seas and the wind, and the sun were no longer as terrible as their ancestors had imagined. Their stories had become obsolete. They needed Perseus because he made their new situation epic and real. This was the spirit of their age.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people my age (28) do not seem to like this movie from the impromptu reviews that I’ve seen on facebook. The positive reviews seem to be coming from teens, which is very interesting to me because teens are often surrounded by uncertainties, but simultaneously discovering great power that they did not have in childhood. New mental and physical capabilities surface daily, and like Perseus, they grow into their surprises.
I think that my generation has come out of the teen years, the college years, and many are finishing up masters degrees or are now professionals, and they may feel that they do not need the story of Perseus. They have attained their powers, they are using them, and they may or may not like the direction those powers have taken them. Perhaps we need reminding that we are never quite “There” yet. That new powers are always being discovered.
Now on Easter morning I’m thinking of the story of Christ that is told every year through the liturgical Christian calendar. It is a different story than the story of Perseus, despite some similarities. Christ was not discovering powers, he already knew everything. He had all power but chose to remain quite small. His Kracken was not a physical beast, but a spiritual bondage that the whole human race was suffering under. The story is not of a human realizing he was a god, but the God realizing the frailties of the humans he created through experience. And in that frailties, became broken, died, and this Easter morning we remember that Christ lives, even now among us. A transforming spiritual presence that tranforms all stories.
I know that many in my culture think that Christ’s story, like the stories of the old Greek gods, needs to be expunged from our identity. We are trying to rediscover ourselves as masters of our own universe because our world somehow became tame, as the consumer made all things good. But the story of Christ is not like the stories of the old gods. God’s story is of a perfect being, who shows man his error in worshipping created things (even worshipping our own stories), and asks us to remember Him. That we are not merely servants of God, but stewards of his creation, and that the scariest things on our earth that we feel are beyond our control, are actually our failures in loving our neighbors. That our cities won’t necessarily fall from a Kracken, but that we can destroy our cities by being hard and callous towards others in our hearts. In Christ’s sacrifice of life for all people, we see how we can sacrifice ourselves for others.
Good movie, good story, but one story orients life in a more perfect way. I’ll continue more on this later.