Friday, June 24, 2011
Scripting for Spirit Blade 3 has been going very well this week! All the outlining is done and now I get to sit down and let these characters talk to each other.
One of the first scenes is a very "explosive" one that launches right after the opening credits, featuring Vincent Craft. I'll leave it at that for now.
The following scene introduces a new plot thread I'm referring to as "Falcore's Legacy", which complicates things a little for the Sheida and has major significance by the end of the story.
And the scene I'm working on now develops some of the relationships between characters in the main cast. These people have all been around each other for long enough now to have clear opinions and feelings about each other, and that will be coming out more strongly in this story than ever before.
On a totally different note, I wanted to remind everyone that the last day of our big 50% off sale is July 4th!! Whether for you or someone you know, this is the best chance yet to get your hands on our intense and groundbreaking audio dramas! For all the details, visit our online store!
Lastly, although there will be a podcast this weekend, there won't be next weekend, as I will be out of town visiting family on vacation. (In fact on that particular day I think I'll be hanging on for dear life amidst white-water rapids in Alaska.) There also won't be any new blog posts next week. All physical product orders will be processed on July 5th and I'll be answering e-mails again then as well.
As always, thanks for your support! Have a great week!
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
In previous verses, Paul outlined how the majority of Jews have rejected Christ, resulting in the offer of salvation being extended to Gentiles (non-Jews). Paul anticipates the arrogance this might bring about in Gentiles and warns against it.
The fact that God has allowed and used the unbelief of Jews to “graft in” Gentile believers to God’s family should not make Gentile believers feel more valuable or important than Jews. The Jews who have become broken off from God’s kingdom and family became that way because they refused to believe and trust in Christ. Gentile believers are only a part of God’s kingdom because they chose to believe and trust in him. The same standards apply to everyone, regardless of their ethnicity. (v.19-20)
Rather than arrogance, we should have a healthy fear of God’s authority and right to save or condemn us. If God did not automatically grant forgiveness to Jews when they rejected him, he won’t spare non-Jews who choose to reject Christ, either. (v.20-21)
There is both a kindness and severity to God that have to be equally acknowledged in order to have a right picture of him. Paul says that those who fell (which in this context in the Greek refers to sinful disconnection in relationship to God) experience God's severity. Paul's audience of primarily professing Gentile believers were assumed to be experiencing God's kindness. But Paul says that experiencing this kindness is not guaranteed to last forever, and those who don't "continue in his kindness" will be cut off.
As a side note, and not the focus of Paul's teaching here, this is not a proof text for the belief that a person can lose their justification (right standing with God and promise of eternal life) by choosing to reject Christ after genuinely believing in him. Paul doesn't have the mind of God and so doesn't know with certainty who has genuine faith in Christ. None of us can know anyone's spiritual condition with absolute certainty. But regardless of your position on the issue, Paul's point in verse 22 is that it's just as possible for Gentiles to make the same mistake as the Jews in Paul's day: To arrogantly believe and ungratefully take for granted that they are in good standing with God when they are actually not. Many who experience God's kindness on some level because they superficially live a "Christian" lifestyle and do so among other Christians, will actually be cut off from God in the end because they don't genuinely believe and trust in the work and identity of Christ.
On the other hand, there is still hope for Jews (and Gentiles) who change their minds and choose to believe in and trust Christ. God will readily graft them right back in to his kingdom and relationship with him, as was always intended. (v.23) In fact, a Jew who turns to faith in Christ is even more appropriately equipped to know and serve God than someone who turns to faith in Christ from a pagan religion or atheism. (v.24)
Paul further dispels potential arrogance by explaining that the current partial "hardening" in the hearts of Jews is part of God's ultimate plan, and will last until the complete number of Gentiles destined to have faith in Christ become believers. After this happens, then "all Israel will be saved", which likely refers to either all Jews in history who are destined to have faith in Christ, or the majority (or possibly all) of the Jews living when this comes about in the future, as prophesied by Isaiah, whom Paul quotes here. God is far from finished with the Jews, and the day will come when "the deliverer"(Christ) will "remove ungodliness from Jacob" (another name for Israel) and take all of their sins away from them. (v.25-27)
To Paul's original readers, the Jews were antagonists, even enemies of Christians. But from God's perspective they are treasured and loved and have a special plan set in place for them through the promises made to their ancestors. And God does not change his mind or take back gifts he has promised to give. (v.28-29)
God's plan is amazing, complex and beautiful in its workings. Gentiles have been given mercy from God because of the disobedience of the Jews in rejecting him. And the mercy given to Gentiles, who had rejected God before, will be seen by the Jews and result in God giving them mercy when they return to him. Even our free and willful disobedience has been part of God's plan to show us this beautiful attribute of God called "mercy", which we could never have known otherwise! (v.32)
In light of this Paul can't help but burst into an excited description of God and his actions on behalf of humanity. He marvels at the amazing wisdom and knowledge of God in how he operates. God's ability to evaluate the human heart and take the appropriate action is so far beyond what we can comprehend. (v.33) No one can know the mind of Yahweh and it would be ridiculous for any created being to offer him advice. (v.34) No one has any object or personal attribute that has any value to God when compared to his own attributes. (v.35)
We so often put God in a box, making him a smarter, older, more powerful, idealized version of ourselves. But getting a glimpse, through verses like these, of how God operates and what he is capable of, and stopping to consider the ramifications those things have regarding who God is, forces us to admit that he is so much more than we can possibly imagine.
In summary, everything comes from God. Everything continues to exist because of God. And everything is ultimately about God and for his purposes. He deserves to be the focus of creation's attention forever. (v.36)
Coffee House Question- What is an example you can think of, in either your life or in history, where God used something painful or evil to bring about something really good?
Next- Our Response To God's Gifts
Monday, June 20, 2011
After a couple months of anticipation, TNT's new series "Falling Skies" premiered last night in a two hour special.
The story begins six months after an invading alien force has wiped out all military forces and disabled electronics across the globe. Humans survive in roaming "camps" and ordinary fathers and mothers have become scavengers and warriors in the fight to keep their families safe. Meanwhile, children are being kidnapped and forced into mind-controlling harnesses by the bug-like alien race. The purpose of these devices and the agenda for controlling the children is still a mystery, but removal of a harness has so far been fatal every time.
Noah Wyle plays a father of three boys who lost his wife, and their mother, in the initial attack. One of his sons was thought dead but is discovered alive...wearing a slave harness.
The budget invested for the appropriate action sequences helps to make things engaging, even if the promised "limited commercial interruption" at the top of the hour was actually multiple breaks at about 7 minutes apart. (Whaa?)
The visual design of the show is appropriately bleak and there is so much potential for this to be another "Battlestar Galactica". But the light tone of the dialogue and unrealistic ability for most everyone to emotionally adapt to their circumstances takes a tremendous amount of power away from the story.
Considering the stakes and the tragedy involved, I wanted to see so much more gripping, emotional drama, which could have been implemented without sacrificing a single beat of action. It's also made far too easy to identify who is in the right and who is in the wrong, which further removes tension from the viewing experience. When you're settled on who the black and white hats are and think you know who deserves what, it just becomes a waiting game for everyone to get what they are due.
This is the kind of show that, if it lasts two seasons or makes it all the way to a non-cancelled conclusion, I'd go back and check it out on DVD. But time is a very precious commodity for me these days, and I could spend that "Falling Skies" hour more enjoyably each week with an involving RPG on my xbox.
(Note: "In Search Of Truth" will be posted on Wednesday.)
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Friday, June 17, 2011
Part 3 (of 3) of the Pilgrim's Progress: Similitude Of A Dream Interactive Audio Commentary is available for download now on the Media Page!
Hear what it was like to work with Mickey Bryce (Spirit Blade, Isaiah Daniels) again and how God seemed to orchestrate a "happy accident" in the scripting process!
Over 20 years ago I read my first Green Lantern comic and knew immediately that he would forever be my favorite superhero. Since then I've been waiting for Hollywood to take interest in him enough to make a big screen, big budget movie, and at last it has arrived.
Because I'm such a huge fan of Green Lantern, writing this review has been a significant challenge. I tried not to go too easy on the film because I love the source material so much. I've tried not to be too hard on it for the ways in which it didn't meet my hopes and expectations. In the end I did the best I can to be objective, but I obviously make no guarantees. ;-)
A race of ancient beings called The Guardians have taken it upon themselves to protect and preserve order in the universe. To this end they have divided the universe into 3600 sectors and given a powerful ring to one representative in each sector, inducting them into The Green Lantern Corps. The rings can create from solid energy anything the user imagines, and these "constructs" are as powerful as the will of the user. The chief requirement for entrance to the corps is fearlessness.
While fighting off an ancient and powerful entity, one Green Lantern is mortally wounded, and passes his ring on to human test pilot Hal Jordan, who finds himself a fish out of water in a strange new world. Hal must learn what it means to be a Green Lantern and rise to the challenge of protecting those he cares about and his entire world from the most powerful threat the Green Lantern Corps has ever faced.
The script feels a bit unfocused at times and the humor is also a bit forced on a few occasions. During the end credits, when a laundry list of writers are credited for the script, you can see how things may have become a little "scattered" with so many cooks in the kitchen.
The action is visually imaginative and explosive from the very beginning. The pacing is almost perfect throughout, balancing adventure with character driven moments. Ryan Reynolds has a quick whit that keeps the movie fun without spoiling the serious moments or taking things too far. Reynolds handles the intimate character moments as well as he does the one-liners, and though he may feel a bit different from the Hal Jordan of the comics, the core of his character is consistent with what fans have enjoyed reading for years.
Peter Sarsgaard is a wonderfully pathetic and creepy Hector Hammond. This is a villain who has very different motives than any comic villain I've seen on screen. Hammond already feels alienated, and the powers he gains only enhance this feeling in him, driving him to lash out for very personal reasons and in very personal ways.
While Blake Lively as Carol Ferris is fine as Hal's love interest and moral support, I would have liked her to be a much firmer, stronger character, as Carol Ferris is in the comics. Not just for consistency with the comics, but because the chemistry may have been stronger between her and Hal if she were able to match his bravado more equally. I also thought chemistry was lacking between Hal and his "best friend" Tom Kalmaku, who seemed friendly, but not like a guy who had really spent a lot of "buddy time" with Hal.
Mark Strong is both commanding and subtly layered in his portrayal of the Green Lantern Sinestro. He makes for a wonderful obstacle for Hal to overcome as he finds his place in the corps. (As an aside, stay and watch for a scene with him during the ending credits.)
Of course one of the big stars in a movie like this is the visual effects. The variety of ring constructs in this movie is wide and they are often used in dazzling rapid succession. I'm extremely pleased that the best moments of this movie were never shown in the trailers or TV spots that I saw. It's also fun just to watch constructs come together as they form from separated green energy particles that pull together and assemble into the ring-bearer's selected object. There are a lot of cool things to see when it comes to the constructs alone.
Oa is a mysterious and beautiful world that feels ancient and even fantastical despite the alien sci-fi trappings. The visual design of the Guardians is true in essence to the comics, but employs some design changes that add a sense of myth and wonder, giving the Guardians and their world a sense of history and making both ripe for further exploration. Oa represents a new realm for audiences to explore and become fascinated with and stayed with me well after leaving the theater.
My early fears about the visual effects used to create Green Lantern's costume were quickly put to rest. The costume works very well, along with the motion capture technique used to put it on screen. Rarely did Hal's movements in the costume seem animated and the effect offers a new way to approach superhero costumes that is uniquely appropriate to this particular character concept.
I wish I could say the same for my fears about the CGI for the various alien races. While the various CG created alien Green Lanterns and the Guardians look as good as any CG aliens in the recent Star Wars prequels, to me that is not a compliment but rather a way in which Hollywood continues to fall short. A combination of CG and puppet animation, like that used in Hellboy 2, would have been much more satisfying.
On the whole, this movie delivers for those expecting a big summer special effects bonanza. I'm thrilled that Warner Brothers took a chance and invested the kind of money needed for this project to be made the way it needed to be made.
Audiences may have mixed feelings about the climax of the movie, which I won't spoil. I saw what I interpreted as a significant plot hole, but my wife also provided a counter argument that I had to grudgingly leave room for. Some may find the ending to be anti-climactic, wanting more of the Green Lantern Corps than we're given. Others may be content for this movie to be primarily Hal Jordan's time to shine. I sit somewhere in the middle, and found the ending cool and satisfying, but not all it could have been.
The central theme of this movie is fear, and the need to overcome it in order to do what is noble, courageous and right. Hal is forced to not just face his fears, but admit they exist in the first place, as he has been living in denial of them. The same, Hal says, is true of the Guardians, whom he accuses of denying the existence of their fears. In this I think there are two themes that could potentially be discussed after watching this movie.
The first is fear itself, and what it takes to overcome fear. The Green Lantern Corps members and the Guardians would answer with "will". But will has to have a source of strength as well. Psyching yourself up can only go so far.
The will to persevere is fueled by belief in something. Christians who accept torture in countries hostile to their beliefs do so because they believe this life is only a dot on the line of eternity, and that living for what comes after this life is infinitely more important that living for the comforts and pleasures that can be experienced temporarily right now.
The second potential, though less likely, discussion topic may be truth. In order for Hal and the Guardians to face their fears, they first have to stop kidding themselves and admit that their fears exist. We so often fail to grow in this life because we hold onto views of ourselves that are false. We try to convince not just others, but ourselves that we have it all together, when in fact we are broken and need repairing. This mentality prevents many non-Christians from turning to Christ for forgiveness and many Christians from turning to him or those around them for help in areas where they are weak or dealing with sin.
While the theme of fear is very present, the way in which it is treated is not as emotionally involving for audience members as it is an obstacle for the characters, so the likelihood of it triggering discussion after the movie is still pretty low.
This is a fun, adventurous movie that most fans of action/sci-fi effects movies should see. It's not without some noticeable flaws, but the experience as a whole amounts to a great superhero movie.
I would add that the extended edition on Blu-ray is the preferred version of this flick. The extra story is devoted to character backgrounds, giving viewers more reason to invest in Hal and his journey.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.
Listen to this review this weekend at- spiritblade.net/podcast
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Since this is a big week for Green Lantern (I'm seeing the movie tomorrow morning!) I thought I'd squeeze out an extra post and give a "First Five" review of "Green Lantern: Rise Of The Manhunters" as it plays on the Xbox 360.
I reserve my "First Five" reviews for video games. They involve me giving my first five impressions of the first five hours of a game. So they are not complete and thorough reviews, but hopefully they're both timely and helpful.
This time around, I actually ended up getting through the entire game, although only on the lowest difficulty and without trying multiplayer.
Up front I should say that I almost never play action games because I suck at them. Anything requiring the precise movement or timing of joysticks or buttons is going to kick my butt and leave me frustrated. Especially if death or failure means playing the same section of a game over and over and over again. (Burn in hell, Super Mario Brothers!) I much prefer RPGs or action RPGs, which allow me to go and level up somewhere for awhile if a foe keeps killing me.
I only bought Green Lantern: Rise Of The Manhunters because it was a Green Lantern video game (which I've waited for almost as long as for a movie) and because I'd been hearing surprisingly good things in multiple previews. Surprising because it is both a comic book property and a movie tie-in. Usually a one-two knock out punch against any hope a game will be good.
But this game IS good! Not fantastic, and certainly made mostly for fans, but still good! So here are my first five impressions:
The visual design is a high point of the game. Based on the movie previews, it looks like they've used the concept art from the movie to create the world of the game. You spend much of the game on the Green Lantern planet headquarters, Oa, but also visit two other planets, one of which (Zamaron) has similarities to Oa, and the other (Biot) which looks very different (made entirely of metal).
There's enough variety to keep things from looking old. The environments are all cool to be in. But the variety won't captivate you, either.
The ring constructs look great and when the action goes into slow motion it's really cool to see them form. There are some really epic looking shots of Green Lantern that remind you of his power.
In between levels are some brief animations as Hal flies or jumps from one section to another, that are extremely cool at first. But as they are used over and over again for the entire game, they get downgraded to "neat" looking.
On the Xbox, I noticed some "stuttering" in the image of the cut-scenes, and a number of times there are "jaggies" visible that I would normally only expect from a PS2 game. Bummer.
The music, (which may be lifted from the movie, I'm not sure) sounds really good, if understated much of the time. It has the orchestral/electronic blend of many modern scores and fits the material almost perfectly. But it has a reputation for sometimes cutting out during cut-scenes, which I think I only experienced once.
Sound effects are all fine, though not very creative. Though I do like the ring energy related sounds better here than on the Justice League animated series.
What works especially well for this type of game is the voice acting. Ryan Reynolds plays Hal here as well, and his approach was a nice departure from the normally over the top performances that voice actors give to these games. The other actors also do a great job and are very well suited to their roles.
The story takes places sometime after the events of the movie, and no spoilers are present. (Although the presence of Sinestro does eliminate one possible ending for the movie.) The action is all in space. Nothing on earth. The game opens at the funeral of Hal's predecessor, and then an attack by The Manhunters throws everything into chaos. From that point on, there is a bit of a mystery to be solved as to who is ultimately behind the attacks, but most of this game is about blazing through bad guys with the most powerful weapon in the universe.
The dialogue is fine, although I hope the writing in the film will be much better. Nothing stands out from any conversation in this game.
Have you ever played God Of War 1 or 2? Strip that game to its skeleton and paint Green Lantern all over it. That's what this gameplay is.
You've got constructs that you earn by collecting experience orbs from enemies. Though unlike God Of War you don't have to keep learning button combos and can instead map your construct abilities to the button of your choice. (Much easier to remember and use.)
Your normal attack options (which use various ring constructs but are not technically called "constructs" by the game) are upgradeable (which freshens them up visually as well!) and don't use energy from your ring.
"Constructs" use ring energy with every use, but you always have a small amount of reserve ring energy that regenerates quickly. But if you want to have enough energy to use a bunch of construct powers quickly in a row, you'll need to recharge your ring by smashing "pots" with ring energy in them. (I know. Lame.) Now and then you'll also find a Lantern Battery that fully restores both your ring energy and health, and often enables you for "Ring Surge".
Ring Surge is the same as "Rage Of The Gods" in God Of War. You power it up by giving and taking damage and when activated, it increases your damage and defense for a short time, during which you also have constantly full ring energy.
As I mentioned before, there is drop in/drop out co-op play, where player two takes on the role of Sinestro. But I have no experience with this function and so can't comment on it. (I haven't pinned my wife onto that second controller yet, but soon...)
For someone like me, who sucks at games requiring any level of hand-eye coordination, this game was challenging even on the lowest difficulty. I died two or three times over the course of the roughly 8-10 hour game. (I've heard a number of others finish in closer to 7 hours.) But never in the same place, which kept me from being frustrated. Often I just realized I hadn't upgraded in a little while and that, along with lessons learned the hard way, gave me the boost I needed to succeed on the next try.
But in addition to dying, there are also some puzzle elements that, while not too hard on the noggin', were sometimes tough to complete because they require quick, precise timing. One or two of these I had to try 3 or 4 times in a row before finally getting it. A little frustrating, but on a second play through now I think I'd do better.
In addition to the normal "God Of War" levels, there are flying/shooting levels where you travel on a pre-determined course, blowing every enemy out of the sky that you see. Once I realized that holding down the rapid fire blaster doesn't drain ring energy on these levels, I found them easier, but they were still very challenging and were one of the first places I died.
My sweet spot for difficulty would have been just a little easier. This game had me stressed out more than I would like. (Especially since I'm a GL fan and wanted to be able to play through the entire GL game I just paid 60 bucks for!) But I was rewarded by a largely fun experience and the ability to replay levels after beating the game with my acquired experience and upgrades. (This option appears before beating the game, but I do not recommend using it, as glitches have been reported that make the game impossible to finish if you use Mission Select before beating the entire game.) This is great because now I can play through the game more casually (like I wanted to the first time) and when someone joins me for co-op, they have the same experience level I do, so they can enjoy the more casual Green Lantern experience as well.
A few minor glitches have been reported for this game in addition to the ones I've mentioned. The manual is virtually no help in understanding your options either. FYI, your game is ONLY saved through the autosave function. And you can only have ONE game save at a time. Starting a "New Game" will erase any previous save, along with the experience and upgrades earned. And if "Mission Select" is used before beating the game, it will make uncompleted levels impossible to play. (Meaning you have to start all over again.)
I've heard reports of in-game bugs, but only once did I ever have to restart my game because of one, and the autosave feature kicks in fairly often, so I didn't have to backtrack much. I'm still hoping that a patch will fix all of these bugs in the future, as it would improve the game a bit.
So how faithful is this game to the Green Lantern concept? There are some great nuggets from the recent Geoff Johns run in the comics that make it into the game.
The emotional spectrum is referenced (although on a side note I don't agree with Johns that "will" is an emotion). And some great characters from the Green Lantern supporting cast appear, like Amon Sur, Queen Aga'Po, Kilowog and the Manhunter Grandmaster.
There are also references to the book of Oa and the Central Power battery is the focus of an early mission. So lots of cool lore make it into the game that GL fans will dig.
Even though it's a little lame that you get health and ring energy from breaking containers and meteors, they match the function of each restorative energy to an appropriate "emotional spectrum" energy. Green Will energy refills your ring, of course. Blue Hope energy refills your health. (I know *I* was more hopeful when I found those!) And White Life energy gives you added experience. So those little touches were neat. And as a nerd, I have the power to make the cannisters and meteors work in my head. "Well, the Manhunters have been collecting energy on Biot. And Zamaron and Oa are probably somehow especially suited to collecting energy from the emotional spectrum. And they just kinda put it in cannisters until they decide what to do with it. Yeah... yeah that works."
As I briefly mentioned earlier, I don't agree with Geoff Johns that will is an emotion. Rather, it is our capacity to overcome the control of our emotions. At times, Johns (and therefore modern Green Lantern stories) contain hints of both relativism and a belief in absolute morality. An odd mix that is philosophically inconsistent. But in most cases, this game included, Johns philosophy sits far enough in the background that it doesn't intrude on the story directly. This is especially true in this game, so I find it unlikely that any meaningful conversation will spring up while hammering on your controller with a buddy.
Gamers who dig the new movie and want to ride that excitement into a video game experience will find a fun but flawed game here that they'll probably enjoy but that won't stand the test of time. This is no "Batman: Arkham Asylum", but it's far better than we have a right to expect from a movie/comic tie-in. And for Green Lantern fans, this is probably a buy, or at the very least a "must-play".
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
What is it about grown men in spandex flying around and shooting lasers that is so fascinating, even thrilling to me? And why is the "Green Lantern" concept so especially exciting? I believe that the concept of superheroes is often an unintended response to the ideas God has placed in our hearts about what we and the world should, and one day will, be like.
Comic book heroes sometimes seem to resonate with biblical principles. Justice is highly valued in the Bible and you can almost hear the comic book heroes of today quoting passages as they head out for their nightly patrol:
Batman might like the New Living Translation’s rendition of Psalm 101:8.
My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the LORD from their grip.
Uncle Ben may have just been reading Luke 12:48 before telling Peter Parker that “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.
And compare the core metaphor and sentiment of Alan Scott’s original “Green Lantern Oath” to John 1:5: "And I shall shed my light over dark evil for dark things cannot stand the light... the light of the Green Lantern!"
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Superhero comics express longings for justice and security ingrained in the human psyche.
Maybe the most obvious reason I like comics and other similar fiction is the power the characters have. We all hate feeling victimized, weak or insecure and prefer to have control over our lives. We hate disease, injury and death. We all long for an existence where these things are absent and we have nothing to fear.
The special abilities of super-humans also makes them stand out. They are “unique” and valuable to others. They’re often appreciated, liked and admired. (At least outside the Marvel universe.)
I think we all want to be appreciated and valued. We want to be thought well of. We want to have the ability to achieve our dreams. We might be jaded enough to stuff down those dreams to avoid disappointment, but we still have them somewhere deep inside. And comic books are an expression of those dreams.
The concepts of Green Lantern and The Green Lantern Corps appeal to me for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that awesome ring.
The power to bring into reality what you create with your imagination is such a potent and exciting idea. I figured out awhile back that I just don’t have enough time in the few years I have on earth to bring about all the ideas swimming around in my head. And more ideas always seem to keep generating, as if they’ll never run out! What I need is eternity!
I think this is part of what is meant by Ecclesiastes 3:11 when it teaches that God has "set eternity in the hearts of men". He has built into us a desire to fulfill our dreams, to become what we were always meant to be, and for that experience to last forever.
So what exactly does the Bible say we are meant to be? What does the future hold for those who place their future in the hands of Christ?
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (ESV)
Specifics are hard to come by, but we have a few indicators to ignite our imaginations and spur us on toward this prize.
First of all, we will have bodies patterned after the body Jesus had after he rose from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
(“Firstfruits” here refers to the fact that Jesus is the first of the same kind that will follow after him.)
Philippians 3:20-21 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
So what was his body like and what will our new bodies be like? In gamer terms, “let me see your stats”.
1 Corinthians 15: 42-44 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
These bodies will not be subject to any form of disease and will be completely indestructible. They will not have any cosmetic imperfections. If you think the idealized bodies of superheroes look good, these will be even better.
We will not be frustrated by a desire to do something that we are incapable of doing. The Bible is not specific regarding the nature of our bodies’ “power” (which in the Greek means simply “strong capability”), but we will have any abilities God decides to grant us in order to perfectly carry out whatever task he has for us. Although our bodies now are “natural” (meaning in the Greek that they are subject to our corrupted instincts) our perfected bodies will be “spiritual”, meaning that they will be perfectly in line with God’s purposes. No more emotional “baggage” or sinful tendencies weighing us down!
And though it’s pure speculation to do so, we can also potentially apply the activities of Jesus’ post-resurrection body to what ours may be capable of (at the very least, we aren’t foolish to consider these abilities as possibilities since they are clearly compatible with Jesus’ body), which included appearing/disappearing (John 20:19&26,Luke 24:32) and flying (Luke 24:51,Acts 1:9).
And the possibilities really become amazing when God creates an entirely new universe.
Revelation 21:1-2 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (ESV)
Astronomer Hugh Ross points out in his book, "Beyond The Cosmos" that if our familiar law of gravity were in place in the new creation, the physical dimensions of the New Jerusalem would cause it to collapse into a spherical shape.
We have no reason to assume that the new creation will have the same laws as the old. In fact, since decay is itself a natural state of our universe, and death and decay will be done away with in the new creation, we can assume that physical laws will be entirely different, and that our bodies will be perfectly suited in advance for those laws to be put in place.
Romans 8:18-23 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (ESV)
But power seems meaningless without purpose. A comic book about a super-human who sits around and never uses his powers would be hard-pressed (and need a GREAT writer) to get past more than a few issues.
But the lives of these new beings that believers are destined to become are filled with purpose and activity. For starters…
2 Timothy 2:12a if we endure, we will also reign with him;
Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
Even before the arrival of the new creation, Christ will literally, bodily take leadership of the world for 1000 years. Scripture indicates that in some way, believers will rule with him. Many have concluded that in addition to these perfected beings that believers will become, there will be normal humans who are born and live during this time period, both those who willingly submit to Christ and those who don’t. What role the perfected believers will play during this time is anyone’s guess, but my mind can’t help but drift to comic book superheroes as I speculate on our role as "priests".
For example, Green Lanterns are also united with a common goal of promoting peace and justice. They are empowered by beings of great knowledge and wisdom to protect the innocent and make the wrong things right.
I wonder if this might be a subconscious expression of our potential role during Christ’s 1000 year reign on earth: To serve God, empowered by him to care for and protect the innocent while ensuring peace and justice.
But the responsibility of ultimately putting all wrongs right does not fall on humans, even those perfected for God’s purposes. Even the strongest of us needs to be rescued. And I believe this common (yet often suppressed) desire for rescue fuels a ton of comic book stories.
In the cosmic story of the universe, there is one hero alone who will finally and completely make the wrong things right and rid the universe of evil.
1 Corinthians 15:22-26 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Superheroes remind me that we need to be rescued; that there is such a thing as absolute good and absolute evil, and that we should right now, as believers are destined to do eternally, stand on the side of good. They remind me that even though life is unfair and unjust, there is a real hero, a real rescuer, who is
1. all-knowing and so can RECOGNIZE evil.
2. all powerful, and so is ABLE to defeat evil.
3. all good, and so WILL defeat evil.
So next time you pick up a comic or watch a superhero flick, let your imagination run wild and consider what God has in store for us.
Monday, June 13, 2011
I think the worst is over today, but yesterday I was hit with some kind of stomach flu and it left me only able to basically copy and paste an already written review on my other blog and get on here to let you know that "In Search Of Truth" will be delayed until Wednesday.
See you here then!
To coincide with (a.k.a "milk every drop from") the release of the live action Green Lantern movie, the DC animation studios have released another Green Lantern animated movie on DVD and Blu-ray. This time, instead of focusing on Hal Jordan as "Green Lantern: First Flight" did, "Green Lantern: Emerald Knights" tells a handful of stories from the history of the Green Lantern Corps in anthology format. The Corps is about to fight an extremely powerful enemy, and to encourage a rookie, Hal Jordan and some other Green Lanterns tell stories that highlight interesting facets of the Corps' history.
When I heard they were going with an anthology format for this release, I had major reservations. I found "Batman: Gotham Knight" to be an odd assortment of different storytelling styles that had no momentum driving it. Although "Emerald Knights" also lacks a strong and consistent build from beginning to end, each story is packed with action and the animation style remains consistent throughout. The rings are used creatively and the animation in action sequences is beautiful and busy. The battles are fierce and fast-paced. I'll need to watch this multiple times to appreciate it all. There is a lot to see in these action scenes and they are a significant improvement over "First Flight".
The voice acting is solid almost across the board. Nathan Fillion("Firefly") has been a fan favorite for the Green Lantern live action movies for years. But since he didn't get the gig for the live action flick, fans can at least hear him in this version. Unfortunately, he doesn't get near as much humor to work with compared to his performance as Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman animated movie. Jason Isaacs replaces Victor Garber as Sinestro, and does a fine job, even though I personally prefer Garber's version. The casting that missed the mark for me was Henry Rollins as Kilowog. Although he has the raspy tone appropriate for a drill instructor, he sounds inappropriately small in Kilowog's bulky frame.
Each story is memorable. No strange duds in this bunch as in "Gotham Knight" or "The Animatrix". And the writing in each segment is great. One moment between a father and daughter even threatened to blur my vision with tears. But newcomers to the Green Lantern mythos may feel a little lost, as only a very basic introduction to the concept occurs at the beginning before throwing us into the stories.
An odd point to note is that the animation models are identical to those used in "First Flight", giving the strong visual impression that this movie shares the same continuity with First Flight. The trouble is that Sinestro went rogue in First Flight, and even after that story it was clear Hal Jordan was still a rookie in the Green Lantern Corps. But in "Emerald Knights", Sinestro is a respected member of the Corps and Hal Jordan is a veteran.
My guess is that they used the same models to cut corners in the development cycle so they could get this release to time with the live action movie. But they could have created this project without Sinestro by modifying the script slightly, resulting in a story that fits with the previous animated release as well as the visuals so obviously do.
The Blu-ray extras are great, starting with a 30 minute documentary that delves into the psychological nature of bravery that hits on the strong moral component involved. Some very thought-provoking stuff that could easily lead to worthwhile conversation!
There is also a commentary to the movie featuring Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio, who talk about Green Lantern comics in general as elements of the animation trigger memories and topics. I’m no fan of what DiDio has been responsible for in the DC universe, but it was a lot of fun to listen to him and Geoff Johns talk Green Lantern for 80 minutes. (Even if DiDio didn’t know the difference between Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner when describing his “favorite” Geoff Johns Green Lantern scene.)
This movie is a “must see” for Green Lantern fans and also shouldn’t be missed by the average fan of sci-fi animation.
Rated PG for sci-fi action violence throughout, and for some language.
Please note that the “Relevance” score in particular takes the blu-ray special features into account.
Listen to this review this weekend at- spiritblade.net/podcast
As an added bonus, if you’re looking for some more animated Green Lantern to watch before seeing the live-action movie this weekend, here is my short list of essential Green Lantern animation.
Green Lantern: First Flight- This flick might spend a little too much time developing the “mystery” aspects of the plot, but it captures Hal Jordan’s origin really well and the climax is about as cool, and massively cosmic as Green Lantern stories get!
“In Blackest Night”- This two part episode from season 1 of the Justice League animated series takes a little time to get going, but it’s got some great Green Lantern Corps action and classic Green Lantern villains, The Manhunters!
“In Brightest Day”- This classic episode from season 2 of “Superman: The Animated Series” is still my favorite on this list. In a little over 20 minutes, this episode introduces the character concept with a great origin story and features some extremely cool Green Lantern action.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Boy, taking time off really hits me hard when I come back!
I had the usual massive number of e-mails to check and answer. That took about two days. (I usually spend over an hour each day doing e-mail related work.) I had an extra movie to watch and review this week, which took a massive bite out of my Tuesday. I had a huge sale to launch, which involves adjusting prices and creating notices. I launched a Facebook ad for my interview with Brent Weeks. (BTW, as a personal favor, please don't click on it if you see it. I'm charged by the click and I'm hoping to steer some new folks to the blog and podcast this way. Thanks!) And I also squeezed in watching coverage of E3 on G4 and some online videos.
So all the things I would have normally hoped to do this week, like writing some of Spirit Blade 3, got completely pushed aside. Bummer.
But it was still a great week, I'm stoked about the massive sale at our store and the other stuff I checked out to share with you guys this week on the podcast! I'm also gearing up for a big Green Lantern themed podcast and blog posts at Paeter's Brain next week!
Yeah, that's been real painful work to do... ;-)
Let's get this out of the way. Super 8 is a 10 out of 10. I don't know how it could realistically be any better. The "Goonies" for this generation. Go see it. Now for why...
In 1979, a pre-teen boy and his friends pass the summer by making movies together on 8mm film. But while passionately shooting their zombie flick, a train derails right in front of them, and it is later learned that something emerged from the wreckage and is now causing dangerous and mysterious happenings in this small town community. There is so much more I'd like to say about the plot, but giving any more detail in a synopsis would risk spoiling the various gems in this story that should really be experienced on a first viewing.
The movie could be described as a blend of mystery, drama, suspense and science fiction. It works for the same reason that Battlestar Galactica and the best of Farscape work. It works for the same reason that Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and E.T. work: Compelling characters you care about who experience real, emotional, human drama that just happens to have a sci-fi backdrop.
It's no surprise that this flick feels a bit like classic Spielberg movies despite being written and directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek). Spielberg served as a producer for this movie, and it has his trademarks all over it.
The performances are amazing across the board, especially among the kids in the lead. I felt like I was watching real kids. Not the kind that are too clever, too capable or too nice. These kids cuss when their parents aren't around, they're funny in that awkward pre-teen way and have tremendous vulnerability, which lends incredible tension to the action and suspense sequences. Either these kids will be big stars in the near future, or J.J. Abrams is a genius at bringing out authentic, genuinely emotional performances in young actors.
This movie has mastered the art of surprise action. At the moments I least expected, bad things suddenly started to happen and I jumped in my seat more times than I can keep track of. And the natural vulnerability built into young protagonists kept me cringing and on the edge of my seat during action sequences more than any movie has in years. Abrams knows that suspense works in direct proportion to how much we care about those threatened, and puts that knowledge to skillful use.
The effects are great, though not groundbreaking, and they are used very well. Creature effects are used sparingly, but not so sparingly that the movie feels cheap. Rather the creature is kept hidden and revealed only bit by bit as the movie progresses, and even in the end we never get a full screen, brightly lit shot that allows us to examine every detail. I wish more film makers would do this, instead of assuming that their special effects "masterpiece" is so cool and real looking that they can and should show it off in every frame possible.
The movie is much more cathartic than it is about expressing ideas or messages. I think you're highly unlikely to talk about anything of philosophical value after seeing this, but you may just spend 20 minutes sharing what it was that made the experience so intense or enjoyable for you.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and some drug use.
Listen to this review this weekend at- spiritblade.net/podcast
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
I must have lost my mind!
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When I first heard rumors that an X-Men Prequel was in development (shortly after seeing the disappointing X-Men 3), I figured things would continue to go downhill with the franchise as it desperately tried to milk itself dry with an unneeded story. It wasn't until some of the latest trailers for X-Men: First Class were released that I thought we might have a movie worth paying to see here.
Matthew Vaughn directs this flick with less style and creativity than his amazing film, "Kick Ass", but he gets the job done well. The story is a period piece and takes place in the 1960's, with the Cuban Missile Crisis at the core of the plot. Magneto, played by Michael Fassbender, is on a hunt to kill the man who experimented on him and killed his mother when he was just a boy during the Holocaust of World War 2. Along the way he meets Charles Xavier, played by James McAvoy, who is beginning to connect with other Mutants for the first time, assisted by the US government. As more mutants collect around the two leading men, and the object of their pursuit is approached, the place of mutants in society is explored and dividing lines are drawn more and more deeply.
The movie has plenty of cool mutant action and the special effects are enjoyable, despite not making any improvements over the last one or two Marvel mutant movies. It's enjoyable to watch new mutants learn to use their powers and the fact that the world has not discovered the existence of mutants yet adds a breath of fresh air and a clean slate from which to re-discover the exciting and imaginative world of super-humans. There are also a couple of cool cameos (one that's especially cool) by former X-Men cast members that help connect this flick to the others.
The performances by Fassbender and McAvoy stand out, especially in one moving scene in which Magneto's hardened heart is confronted as he trains to use his powers. But the rest of the cast never really made me care about them much, despite characters like Mystique and Hank McCoy having some great, potentially emotional material to work with.
Kevin Bacon plays the villain surprisingly well and provides a charismatic and extremely powerful threat for the heroes. Unfortunately, his final scene misses the opportunity to truly showcase that power and left me feeling just a little let down.
The "Mutant=Homosexual" metaphors of the first two movies are still present but much more subtle. This movie doesn't seem to be selling any particular worldview to the degree of previous franchise installments. Although the Marvel mutant concept itself is certainly in support of classic Macro-evolution. ("From Goo to You")
Many classic evolutionists believe that the massive explosions of new species we see in sudden "bursts" in the fossil record are times during which massive amounts of favorable mutation occurred, as opposed to the more slow and gradual change that is commonly associated with evolution the rest of the time. The X-Men movie franchise suggests that "mutants" are the result of a similar spontaneous (almost "miraculous") burst of favorable mutations. It might make for interesting conversation to ask someone who holds this position if they believe that the basic plot of X-Men could actually happen.
X-Men:First Class is a cool flick that genre fans will probably enjoy, although it doesn't reach the bar set by X-Men 2. Worthwhile conversation can be mined from this movie, but you may have to dig fairly deep unless you're with someone who especially enjoys discussing evolutionary theory.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image.
Listen to this review this weekend at- spiritblade.net/podcast
Monday, June 6, 2011
In previous verses, Paul made it clear that God has not given up on the Jews. Although in Paul’s day and today they have mostly chosen to reject Christ (and therefore God as well, according to 1 John 2:23 and 2 John 1:9), God still has a special purpose reserved for the Jewish people. In the meantime, their rejection of God has resulted in the offer of salvation being extended to all non-Jews. Paul reasons that if their rejection of God resulted in God blessing the rest of the world, the world will be blessed even more when the Jews pursue God again and fulfill his purpose for them! (v.12)
So what does all of this mean for those of us who are not Jews? Paul refocuses his attention toward his Gentile (non-Jewish) readers, calling himself an Apostle (representative of Christ) to the Gentiles. He even aims to draw attention to his ministry to Gentiles (which would have seemed very strange to Jews, who didn’t associate with Gentiles) so that his fellow Jews might take notice and pursue the truth, leading to their salvation. (v.13-14)
This entire scenario serves as another example of how God can use what we intend for evil to accomplish incredible good. The Jews rejected Christ, but God used his crucifixion to make salvation possible. And while they continue to reject Christ and God, God responds by offering salvation to the rest of the world. And once again, when the Jews return to pursuing God, it will result in incredible blessing for them and the rest of the world, which Paul dramatically compares to “life from the dead”. (v.15)
So God is still very much at work in the Jewish people. Paul references the offering of the “firstfruits” that God established for Israel in Numbers 15:20-21. When the first bread from the first harvest was offered to God, it symbolically meant that the entire harvest was dedicated to God’s purposes. So Paul is saying that, likewise, the Jews were established at the beginning to be God’s special people, and that purpose still remains consistent throughout the rest of time. Even now, as they reject God, they are being used to fulfill his purposes. And eventually they will be a unique and powerful instrument for God.(v.16a)
In a similar metaphor, Paul implies that the "root" of Israel ensures that the "branches" will be like it. Israel’s foundation, or “root” is in God’s dealings with them as described in the Old Testament. God repeatedly promised and assigned a special role and purpose for them. This is the foundation for all Old Testament teaching to the Jews. The branches are the people of this chosen group. (v.16b)
From Paul’s day until now, a number of Jews have been “broken off” from God’s chosen group because they refuse to pursue and trust in Christ, while non-Jews have been “grafted in” through their trust in Christ and his offer to save them and bring them into this family he is creating.
But Gentile Christians (as most Christians currently are) should not be arrogant and discount the special role of the Jews in God’s plan. Instead we should be grateful to be grafted into God’s family, realizing that we owe our salvation to God’s work through the Jewish people throughout history. (v.17-18) Despite the fact that most Christians today are Gentiles, Christianity is a Jewish religion; a Jewish kingdom and a Jewish family that the rest of the world has been invited into.
Next- The Disowned And The Adopted Of God’s Family
Coffee House Question- Why do you suppose we don’t usually think of Christianity as a “Jewish Religion” and how might we change that perception?