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Justice League: Hope Lost, Hope Restored

Rusty Wright - Contributing Writer

"World Without Hope" screams the Daily Planet front-page headline. "The world remains in mourning after the death of Superman," explains a broadcaster. Absent its savior, is humanity destined for extinction? 

"You can't save the world alone," reason Batman and Wonder Woman as they seek superhero compatriots in Warner Bros' Justice League.

It stars Oscar winners Ben Affleck (Batman), Jeremy Irons (Alfred, Batman's butler), and J.K. Simmons (Commissioner Gordon), as well as, Academy Award nominees Amy Adams (Lois Lane) and Diane Lane (Martha Kent); plus Henry Cavill (Superman) and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman). Zach Snyder directed.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) ended with Superman sacrificing himself to save humanity, and Wonder Woman connecting with Batman. Wonder Woman (2017) reminded us of this superheroine's origins and prowess. Now, Justice League shows them assembling an "A Team" to save the world in Superman's absence.

Character Capsules: Who You Need to Know

Perhaps you're unfamiliar with some Justice League players. These spoiler-free character capsules will help.

Superman: "Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful that a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings with a single bound!" Kal-El's father sent him from Krypton to earth as a baby. He became Daily Planet reporter Clark Kent and the Man of Steel, humanity's hope in a red cape. Superpowers galore include flight, X-ray vision, and a wicked punch. Likes Lois Lane lots. Loathes Lex Luthor.

Batman: Caped Crusader, Dark Knight, super sleuth. Accessories include the Batmobile, Batrope, Batarang, and lots of money.

Wonder Woman: Amazonian princess Diana wants to end war, wields a golden lasso that compels truth telling, deflects bullets with her bracelets, displays spectacular sword-and-shield combat moves, and is gorgeous. Seems to live forever. Tough as nails; heart of gold.

The Flash: The fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, has nothing on this guy. A lightning strike gave forensic scientist Barry Allen super speed and agility. But, his experience has limits.

Aquaman: "King of the Seven Seas," ruler of Atlantis, known as Arthur Curry from his youth on land. Advantages: underwater breathing, swimming really fast, thick skin, telepathic communication with sea creatures.

Cyborg: He's the Six Million Dollar Man on steroids. Star athlete Victor Stone became half human, half machine when his scientist dad repaired his son's seriously injured body with computer sensitive mechanical parts. He's super strong, intelligent, fast, and durable. His computer skills make Russian hackers look amateurish.

Steppenwolf: Not the 1960s rock band that could take you on a Magic Carpet Ride. Not Hermann Hesse's 1927 novel of despair and healing that became a 1960s counterculture fave. The Justice League Steppenwolf is an eight-foot-tall supervillain.

Why the Superhero Fascination?

Markets showcase Justice League action figures (there's even a Justice League Barbie). The love of superhero stories reaches beyond cultural and religious groups -- speaking to the desire we all have for hope. KISS rocker Gene Simmons is a longtime Superman fan. Growing up, activist Gloria Steinem felt Wonder Woman was "irresistible … the only hero that made you feel good about yourself." My own childhood heroes included Superman, the Lone Ranger, and Zorro. I had costumes for each and was a devoted radio/TV follower.

Superheroes provide both inspiration and escape as we navigate a frightening world. Imagining yourself vanquishing foes – or applauding fictional heroes who do – can provide respite (albeit temporary) from worries about overdue bills, failing marriages, or even terrorist attacks.

Justice League's Bruce Wayne notes, "Superman was a beacon to the world; He didn't just save people. He made them see the best parts of themselves." Many desire a beacon of goodness to inspire and empower them.

Batman v Superman showed the Man of Steel die in the 2016 movie, but there were hints at his burial. Could he rise from the dead?

Fascinating Parallels

Instead of spoiling Justice League's plot, let's look at some fascinating parallels. A father sends his only son to earth. The son becomes a savior, providing hope to humanity. Opposition arises, and the son dies, sacrificing his life to save humans, but rising from the dead to serve again. 

Superman? Sure. (DC comics even portrayed his resurrection.)

Does it remind you of anyone else? Maybe someone who said: "I am the light of the world… [who] came…to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). And "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die" (John 11:25).

As a former skeptic, I've written extensively elsewhere about unmistakable Jesus parallels in the Superman saga. And it's hard to miss them in Justice League

So if you go to see Justice League, ponder your own reasons for admiring superheroes as you watch the story unfold. And consider the One who really rose from the dead and who could help satisfy the hope and courage desires we all have.

Justice League is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and opens in theaters nationwide on November 17, 2017.

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