Superhero movies are idealistic representations of the most extremely righteous version of humanity that people want to be. The fantastical and outrageous elements of those stories are merely an exaggeration of the moral willpower and strength of integrity that people wish they had. While there have been many super hero stories on both film and television, based on comic books, graphic novels, and many other source fictionalized source materials, no story captures these ideas more realistically than that of Sam Childers’, immortalized on screen in the true biographical action movie ‘Machine Gun Preacher’.
Based on a very true story, as pointed out in the end credits of the movie itself, ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ is about a drug dealing criminal biker, who has a graphically violent experience that causes him to rethink his life and turn to God. Turning his life around, Childers, played to perfection by Gerard Butler, gets the opportunity to visit Sudan on a missionary expedition. During his visit, his experiences of the way the children of Sudan survive in a war zone affects Childer’s in a harsh manner.
Real Life Superhero
Childers becomes very involved in the efforts in Sudan to protect the innocents in the warzone, by building orphanages for the kids orphaned by the war. Given his militia background, Childers even becomes directly involved with some of the military on their missions, shooting his way outof trouble and saving kids from being taken on as child soldiers by the various warring factions. It’s a culmination of religious pacifism coupled with extreme superheroism, that may seem unreal and fictionalized, but was very much a reality in the life of Sam Childers.
The Dark Side
One of the greatest things about ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ is its very real depiction of a flawed person who is by no means perfect, despite his amazing good deeds. Prior to his turning to God, Childers was a violently aggressive man. That quality remained even when he became a man of God, as he became passionate about saving kids in Sudan. This passion, when faced with adversity, causes Childers to become as aggressive and violently frustrated as he was before. It’s a great case study of the human psyche; while external factors may cause one to change the priorities of their lives, find something to believe in, have direction and purpose, their own inherent nature still resides within them, but the triggers behind the surfacing of that nature, varies.
By the end of the movie, Childers has to deal with himself, beyond everything he has achieved and all the good deeds he’s done, he still had to face and overcome his own flaws as a person. That sort of deep thinking, counter intuitive to the depiction of a character, is truly what makes ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ more than the typical biographical movie. The Storyteller Director Marc Forster is known for his wide range of movies, tackling everything from critically acclaimed projects, (‘Monster’s Ball’) zombie apocalypse stories, (‘World War Z’) to even a James Bond movie. (‘Quantum Of Solace’) So it’s no surprise that he is able to tell the story of Sam Childers in ‘Machine Gun Preacher’, which has to be many things all at once. While it’s a bio-pic of a wayward man turned onto the path of salvation, it’s also a story that appeals to the basic human nature of seeing terrible tragedies first hand, and wanting to do something about it. Forster also knows what not to do, as he prevents the movie from devolving into a socio-political commentary on global politics of other high brow subjects. The merits of the situation are never discussed in ‘Machine Gun Preacher’, but the solution is what’s focused on, up to and including the clear obsession that Childers shows for it.
If the history of the superhero concept stems from an idealistic representation of unrealistic morals and ethics, then the story of Sam Childers, captured on screen with actors reliving the real life incidents that happens in that man’s life, ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ would be the truest example of a superhero. However, one that is not fantastical but very much drowned in the flaws of real human error and characteristics. Childers himself embodies the various attributes that most superheroes are given; generosity, passion and powers that can be seen as extraordinary skill sets. Even that outrageous-ness of superhero stories follows Childers’ own; he was a man of God, attempting to save orphaned children in a war torn country, and was doing so by picking up a a machine gun, a violent piece equipment designed to kill, and doing good through it. It’s the epitome of the conflicting nature of man, thereby proving that heroes are so based on intention and selfless-ness, and not from an unachievable standard of morality.