Monday, June 18, 2007

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I dig the Silver Surfer. Always have. Always will. He is an outsider. He is a stranger in a strange land. He is a philosopher and prophet. And how many super-heroes ride a surf board through space? That’s just ultra-cool.

I was concerned then when my all-time favorite comic-book hero was slated to appear in the next Fantastic Four movie. The first movie was lacking and Doctor Doom, one of the greatest comic book villains, was ruined. I feared for the cinematic treatment of Norrin Radd, the Silver Surfer. After seeing FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer I am not disappointed. The filmmakers understand the Surfer.

The Silver Surfer begins as an apocalyptic character. His arrival heralds judgment and doom. Ultimately, the Surfer is a messianic figure. He is a visitor from another world who would save us from ourselves with his unlimited power, but we of course treat him with contempt and fear.

The Silver Surfer saves earth from Galactus, the world devouring entity, by placing himself between earth and his master. This is comparable to certain atonement theories that involve appeasement of God. In these theories, Christ is the messiah who saves humanity by placing himself in front of the consuming wrath of God.

I do not think an appeasement or substitutionary theory of atonement is the only way of describing biblical atonement. It certainly is not a comprehensive theory. The comparison of Christ and God to the Silver Surfer and Galactus in this film only demonstrates the limitations of common appeasement theories of atonement. Is God a devouring force that seeks our destruction? Does Christ have to rebel against his heavenly father in order to save the world? Of course not. The biblical teaching about atonement is more about the reconciliation of a broken relationship between God and humanity than appeasement of an angry deity.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer may just be a gee-whiz comic-book flick, but here I am reflecting on atonement and the Messiah. This is why I dig the Silver Surfer. He makes us think. Preach it, Surfer.

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