15 June 2006


Hero (directed by Yimou Zhang, starring Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Maggie Cheung) is the story of one man who becomes a hero in seeking peace in his land. The tagline tells us of a pre-united China that “doesn’t know a real hero. Yet.” The film employs vivid colors, graceful use of movement and camera angles, and powerful acting, where one actor skillfully performs several parts. It is a complex plot that keeps you guessing as to the true nature and relationships of the characters. In this world, characters, nature, and color cooperate to tell the story. Characters are able to leverage and work with nature to accomplish their goal. As Christians examining this movie, we can see reflected in this movie God’s creation, His relationship with man, and our responsibility to God.
Hero reflects God’s unique design of His creation to paint a picture of Him, of His intention for mankind to control nature, not for our own convenience, but to care for God’s creation, reflect His creativity in motion, beauty, thought, and expression, and, ultimately, to glorify God. The characters’ ability to wield the power of nature, to fight on water, and fly through the air conjured up images of Christ calming the storm in a picture of true humanity, of Peter walking on water as a display of his faith in God. This movie reminds us that all of creation groans, waiting for the final redemption and final glorification, to be reunited to its Creator and to its caretaker.
Even more than that, this movie portrays the sacrifice of one man willingly giving himself to save many. The main character is born a nobody, orphaned at a young age, called “Nameless,” and considered nothing to nobles because of his meaningless prefix. Yet, because of his skill, he attracts a following and becomes a leader. He gains a seating near the emperor because of his feats and then is presented with “temptations” to bask in his honor with the emperor, take his rewards, and return to rule a large area. However, Nameless is single-minded. His goal is to defeat this tyrant in order to achieve peace in his land. Even so, his mentor’s words ring in his mind, while he reflects on the emperor’s demise, and, tyrant though the emperor may be, Nameless realizes the truth of his mentor’s wisdom. This emperor is the only one who can bring unity, stopping the wars. This will require Nameless’ life, and he willingly gives it.
In the same way, Christ rose from nothing (born in a barn, from a nothing town) to a man of many followers because of skills (i.e. miracles), but overcame temptation to willingly die so that mankind could have true unity and peace with God and others. Of course, unlike Nameless, Christ did not discover his purpose of death but always knew it, and while Nameless had the burial of a Hero, Christ had the resurrection and victory of a Hero.
Side note: great warriors in Hero shamed their reputation and even put their lives in Nameless’ hand in order to see his goal – their shared goal – of assassinating the emperor realized. When Nameless instead gave his life so that this emperor might live, how must these warriors have felt? Shamed? Furious? Defeated? How must the disciples have felt when Christ, their hope of a King for a risen nation, for whom they left family, job, lives, for whom they were shamed by the great leaders, how must they have felt when Christ hung on the cross as a criminal?
As the body of Christ and members of His kingdom, this movie gives us a picture of how we should live with true allegiances. As Nameless develops in his understanding, he realizes that he must turn his back on his national loyalty in order to support the greater vision of unity and peace for the whole land, “Our Land.” As believers, we are first members of God’s kingdom. Political, national, racial, gender, generational, sociological boundaries must be crossed, even obliterated at times, to truly love our neighbor, to serve first God’s global kingdom.
While this movie attempts to recreate a known tyrannical leader as compassionate and considerate and does not perfectly type the Christ figure in Nameless’ limited and developing knowledge, it exemplifies our responsibility as members of God’s kingdom, illustrates Christ’s sacrifice and shame in willingly giving His life, and perhaps even represents our future restored relationship with nature.

No comments: