In J.J. Abrams’s film SUPER 8, teenager Joe Lamb (played by Joel Courtney) learns that it is easier to forgive someone when he understands their side of the story. He and his friends also learn what it means to show compassion and mercy even as the world is falling apart around. Join us as we discuss these Christian themes and so much more on this episode of the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast.
For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:
- 00:00:00 – Introduction and Previous Episode Recap
- 00:04:17 – Movie Discussion
- 00:15:55 – Christian Themes in J.J. Abrams’ SUPER 8
- 00:55:35 – Listener Challenge and Feedback
- 01:00:39 – Well-mannered Frivolity
- 01:01:58 – Upcoming
SUPER 8 and Forgiveness
What drives the action of Super 8 is the idea that it’s easier to forgive someone when you understand their side of the story. This theme is the foundation of almost every pivotal choice made by the characters, and it permeates every relationship depicted in the plot. We specifically see it in two relationships: between Joe and Charles, and between Jackson and Louis.
Joe and Charles come to an impasse when Charles reveals that he has a crush on Alice Dainard. Charles had initially invited Alice to be a part of his film so that he could get to know her better. But as Joe and Alice got closer, Charles became jealous and then became a jerk to Joe. Because Joe and Charles value their friendship, they are able to confront each other openly and honestly. From that conversation, each now has a better understanding of the other. Charles forgives Joe for interfering with his romantic endeavor, and Joe forgives Charles for being a jerk. The two friends are then able to continue on their mission.
Another powerful instance of forgiveness happens when Joe’s father Jackson forgives Alice’s father Louis. Until this moment, Jackson blamed Louis for his wife Elizabeth’s death. She covered Joe’s factory shift when Joe had to call out because he was hungover. Had she not taken that shift, she would still be alive. Jackson’s resentment toward Louis is palpable throughout the film, and when he and Louis have to ride together to find their children, the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Louis breaks the tension, however, with a genuine, heartfelt apology, and because Jackson now understands Louis’s side of the story, he forgives him.
Being able to forgive someone who has wronged you personally is no easy task. That’s why Jesus takes extra time to encourage His followers in the right way to do it. He doesn’t say forgive them only once but then never again. He doesn’t even say forgive them then ignore them. He says to forgive them – as many times as they ask for it – and then simply move on with your mission (which should really be His mission). If only it were that easy.
SUPER 8 and Compassion
That JJ Abrams chose a Super 8mm video camera to be the central, eponymous image for this story fascinates me. It’s a simple device that captures individual images, and yet those individual images move to tell a story. As we’ve discussed on this show several times – most notably in FCC 101: Storytelling for the Kingdom – stories have a way of softening hearts and thus enabling compassion from the audience for the characters. In this film, compassion transcends the lens of the camera and finds itself at heart of this story.
When the alien’s backstory is revealed, we get a haunting glimpse of how harshly it is treated by its captors. One man, Dr. Woodward, is the only human that doesn’t try to kill it. In fact, as Dr. Woodward tries to feed it, he is taken up in its monstrous grasp. But what looks like an attack to the armed forces and the other kids is actually an attempt to reach out and connect with Dr. Woodward. Thanks to Dr. Woodward’s narration on the film strip, Joe, too, now understands what’s really going on and is now encouraged to continue on his journey.
At this point in the film, Alice has been kidnapped by the alien, and the rest of the gang has set out to find her. It’s important for Joe to rescue Alice because she is one of the few sources of kindness and compassion in his life. Amongst other things, Alice helps Joe heal from the sting of his mother’s death. When Joe watches some old family films that feature his mother, Alice is there by his side to help him cope with the loss. It’s strange but not surprising that Alice resonates with Joe’s mom in how they both show compassion.
Alice and his mother aren’t the only sources of compassion in Joe’s life. There’s also the whole Kaznyk family. At Elizabeth’s wake in the beginning of the film, Mr. and Mrs. Kaznyk – Charles’ mother and father – lament that things will be harder for Jackson and Joe and that their relationship will be strained. They know that Jackson is too caught up in his work to give Joe the love and support he needs. That’s why in the following scenes, whenever Joe visits Charles at home, Mr. and Mrs. Kaznyk remind him that there is always room for him at their table.
This is the kind of transformative compassion that Christians are called to radiate into the world, whether it’s ministering to someone’s physical needs or simply just feeding them and taking care of them. It’s about being present with them in the moment and giving care to what needs care in that moment.
Key Texts for SUPER 8
Let these passages be your guide as you watch SUPER 8 with friends and loved ones.
Luke 17:3-4 AMP
If your brother sins and disregards God’s precepts, solemnly warn him; and if he repents and changes, forgive him. Even if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him [that is, give up resentment and consider the offense recalled and annulled].
Luke 6:31 CEB
Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.
Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes – including links to articles discussed – by clicking here.
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