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Rev. Jim Ball Headshot

The Avengers: Missing Their Chance to Be Heroes On Climate Change

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Recently my wife and I took in a 10:15 a.m. showing of "The Avengers." (At our local theater the first show on Saturday's and holidays is even cheaper than the matinee. For the rare times we actually go to the movies, I simply can't enjoy it if we pay full price.)

The movie has received good reviews and has raked in a whole lot of cash, setting records in the process. As the Wikipedia article notes:

The Avengers has earned $552,950,398 in North America, as of June 3, 2012, and $806,500,000 in other countries, as of June 3, 2012, for a worldwide total of $1,359,450,398. It is the third highest-grossing film worldwide and the highest-grossing 2012 film. It is also the highest-grossing film based on comics, the highest grossing superhero film and the highest-grossing film released by Walt Disney Studios.

The highest grossing film released by Disney? Now that's saying something. To state the obvious, it's a monster hit, and the sequel is already in development.

One of the things I was pleasantly surprised to find was that sustainable energy is a major part of the plot. Not only is Tony Stark, aka Ironman, a big-time investor in clean energy, but more importantly for the plot, something called "the Tesseract" holds the possibility of providing an unlimited supply of clean power.

The Wiki for The Avengers movie describes it thusly: "The Tesseract is an ancient Asgardian artifact of unimaginable power. It was kept in Odin's artifact chamber but came to Earth by accident."

Once on earth the Tesseract was placed under "the Tree of Life" in a Viking church in Norway. During WWII an evil villain invaded the church and stole the Tesseract, using it for all sorts of bad stuff. But then...

"The cube fell in to the Arctic ocean and was found by S.H.I.E.L.D.'s creator Howard Stark some time later. The Tesseract was kept under guard by S.H.I.E.L.D. to make sure that it didn't fall in to the wrong hands. In 2011 Nick Fury called in Erik Selvig and asked him whether he would help S.H.I.E.L.D. with making the Tessesract an unlimited power source."

Holy Smokes!

Even Energy Secretary Steve Chu, himself a Nobel prize-winning physicist, has taken note of "The Avengers" and clean energy:

While the "Tesseract" may be fictional, the real-life global competition over clean energy is growing increasingly intense, as countries around the world sense a huge economic opportunity AND the opportunity for cleaner air, water, and a healthier planet. This is now a $260 billion global market, a sum that would impress even Tony Stark. According to the International Energy Agency, last year -- for the first time -- more money was invested worldwide in clean, renewable power plants than in fossil fuel power plants ... The good news is that we have an advantage every bit as powerful as the Incredible Hulk: Americans' talent for entrepreneurship and innovation is unrivalled by any other country in the world. We have world-leading scientific facilities that would make Bruce Banner green with envy, and the investments we're making today in groundbreaking new technologies can help American businesses stay ahead of the curve. Ultimately, however, the clean energy prize is still up for grabs and countries like China are competing aggressively.

But in drawing attention to our desire for clean, sustainable energy, the film begs the question "Why?" Why do we want clean energy?

And so while I was watching "The Avengers" I assumed their answer would include the most important reason of all: to help overcome global warming. Since overcoming global warming is the great moral cause of our time and the next great cause of freedom, it would be quite apt for Superheroes to get in on the action.

Unfortunately, I waited in vain for "The Avengers" to mention climate change.

After the movie, while my wife and I were discussing it over brunch at IHOP, I wondered whether the efforts by conservative climate skeptics to intimidate the entertainment industry had its desired effect with the creators of "The Avengers" movie.

Did "The Avengers" have their punches pulled in this great cause of fighting global warming? Did these Superheroes -- gulp -- wimp out on climate action?

Great Scott! I hope not!

As has been documented by others, conservative critics have been going after films with a positive message about caring for God's creation and overcoming global warming. Wholesome fare like "Happy Feet" and "The Muppets" have been bashed and trashed by the deniers. There's even a website devoted to trashing movies with creation-friendly and climate-friendly messages.

(Beating up on "The Muppets" and "Happy Feet." Geez! What will the deniers do next, steal our lunch money?)

So were "The Avengers" cowed by climate-denier trash-talking into taking a pass on the greatest moral cause of our time and the next great cause of freedom?

Or was it fear of the loss of ticket sales? After noting that there are "about 123 million adult conservatives" in the U.S., an article in The Hollywood Reporter observed that the movie industry, "risks alienating a huge chunk of its potential audience" if it includes climate-friendly messages.

Could it be that the movie industry cares more about ticket sales than allowing its Superheros to help in the fight to overcome global warming?

Say it ain't so, Joe!

One thing about blockbusters, you have a second chance with the sequel. So the creators can get it right the next time and have "The Avengers" be true Superheroes by helping the world to overcome global warming.

As Robin might say today, "Holy climate action, Batman!"

The Rev. Jim Ball, Ph.D., is author of 'Global Warming and the Risen LORD.'