Thanos and the Old Testament
This blog post contains spoilers. (Here are more words to keep spoilers from showing up in the previews).
Sometimes the bad guy wins, and that’s a good thing
Avengers: Infinity War did not end with heroes walking in slow-motion to triumphal music. There were no parties or romantic kisses. There was definitely no celebratory shawarma.
The film ended with heroes stabbed, choked to death, or reduced to ash. Perhaps the most moving scene of all was of a dying Peter Parker clutching his hero, Tony Stark, crying and pleading with him “I don’t want to go, please, I don’t want to go Mr. Stark. I’m sorry Tony, I’m sorry.”
In the midst of all the pain and suffering, Thanos merely sits down, watches the sunset, and smiles in satisfaction.
The shocking thing is that with even such a sad ending, fans are raving about the film. Critics and fans alike loved the movie. After only a few days in theater, it has already broken many box office records and continues to do so. And that’s no small feat. Hype alone cannot produce those kinds of sales. People actually really like the film.
Why is it that people love a movie where the bad guy wins?
Simply stated, it makes for a better story.
It’s a simple equation really. The greater the evil, the sweeter the victory.
Here’s a really bad example. The “new” DC movies launched with Man of Steel. The villain was the extremely dangerous General Zod. Being Kryptonian, he had all the powers of Superman, more advanced technology, plus vast military experience. Based on this information alone, he could have been a great villain. But the movie ruined his potential when Superman’s dad beat him up at the very beginning of the film. Who’s scared of a villain who loses a fight to a scientist?
The threat needs to feel real. The challenge has to seem impossible. People don’t make inspirational movies based on all the times dominant sports teams have swept the underdogs. People don’t want to see the ordinary. Stories are greatest when the unthinkable happens.
That’s why Thanos winning works. It seems impossible for him to ever be defeated. He has already fought all of the universe’s greatest heroes and won. None of the few remaining heroes stand a chance. He’s the enemy who can’t be beaten.
The stage is set. If someone were to overcome impossible odds and defeat the undefeatable, that would be an epic story.
I think this is part of the magic of the Bible. Most of the Bible is this dusty, untouched section we call The Old Testament. In general, people don’t read the OT for fun and it’s not just because it’s written in an archaic writing style. It’s not just because of the lengthy genealogies and odd prophetic literature. It’s because the OT is a story about losing.
In Genesis 3, Adam eats the forbidden fruit and everything spirals out of control. The judges were mostly godless. The kings committed atrocities. There were a few bright spots in the OT story, but even the greatest heroes had some pretty nasty flaws. Overall, it’s a mess. It’s one loss after another.
Before I was a believer, I decided I was going to read the entire Bible. It took me forever to get through the Old Testament. I honestly didn’t like it and it mostly made me feel depressed. But when I got to the New Testament, everything changed. I read it in just a couple days.
I had read much of the New Testament before, but this time something was different. I finally understood that the gospel is profoundly good news. It didn’t matter how dark sin’s stain had become, Jesus was able to wash it away. As all of history seemed to spiral deeper into evil, Jesus came and turned the tide. I soon became a believer and trusted Jesus as my savior.
When you’re tempted to skip over the Old Testament, don’t. You will see sin enter the world and claim victory after victory. You’ll see patriarchs, judges, kings, mighty men, and prophets try and fail. You’ll realize sin is an unbeatable foe, and no man can conquer it.
Sin is the greatest enemy the human race has ever faced. Anyone who can defeat it, would truly be the greatest hero of all time. THAT would be a story worth telling.