An American hero who loved God and loved his country, Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle was the most deadly sniper in US history, with 160 confirmed kills. His longest shot he credits to God.
In north-central Texas, Kyle grew up dipping tobacco, riding horses and hunting deer, turkey and quail — a cowboy at heart.
He got his first gun at 8 years old — a bolt-action 30-06 rifle.
The son of a Sunday-school teacher and a church deacon, Kyle credits a higher authority for his longest kill.
From 2,100 yards away from a village just outside of Sadr City in 2008, he spied a man aiming a rocket launcher at an Army convoy and squeezed off one shot from his .338 Lapua Magnum rifle.
Dead. From more than a mile away.
“God blew that bullet and hit him,” he said.
This is a post that has been in the works for a while. It concerns the movie Ender’s Game. Besides being a cool sci-fi film, I thought it raised some interesting ideas. In college, I took a course on international relations. When we watched the movie, the course was fresh in my mind, and I got to thinking about elements of IR in the movie. Here are some of my thoughts 🙂
To start, Ender’s Game is set in a futuristic world in which there has recently been a battle between the Humans and the (intelligent) Bugs. The ever-expanding Bug colony wanted to take over the Humans’ world but the Humans beat the Bugs back, at great cost. The movie opens with a conundrum on how to deal with the factions of Humans vs. Bugs, as the former suspect the latter of an uprising.
There are a few main ways to look at the international system and what goes on in it, whether it be wars, trade, treaties, or the Olympics—two of the most famous are realism and liberalism. Realism sees each nation in the world system as looking out for its own interests first. This can include wars but does not have to; whatever best helps the country will be pursued. Liberalism would like the nations of the world to work together. Cooperation and not war is its preference.
There are elements of both realism and liberalism in “Ender’s Game.” The two extremes are demonstrated in Ender’s siblings. His older brother Peter is aggressive and mean, and his younger sister Valentine is loving and peaceful. Neither is accepted into the training academy. When it is Ender’s turn to go the academy, he must find a balance between these two extremes.
Ender has a good character; he does not seek fights but looks for the diplomatic or peaceful solution. He tries to find win-win situations. However, when forced into fights, he will fight back. When attacked by a gang of bitter boys at the academy, Ender tries to walk away at first, but the leader forces him to fight. When he gets the upper hand, he kicks the leader repeatedly, hoping to beat him so badly he will lose the desire to bully him, thus preventing any future attacks. However, Ender does not enjoy doing this. I like how this illustrates the Proverb “answer a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:5). If all they understand is violence, a lesson must be taught that they will actually learn.
There is also a bit on leading by love vs. fear, another issue in IR. The kids are arranged into squads. Because of Ender’s goodness, fairness, strength of character, and likability, he becomes popular with most of the other trainees, but there’s one squad leader, Bonzo, who prefers to rule by fear. Bonzo quickly drops in popularity and seeks to hurt Ender. When Ender acts in self-defense, Bonzo is badly hurt, and Ender is devastated for what he unintentionally did. Even though I think Ender didn’t have to be so upset over the situation that wasn’t his fault, this further demonstrates his gentle character and raises him in favor with the other trainees.
The mantra of the adult in charge of the training academy, Colonel Graff, is realism. His goal is to protect the world from the bugs at all costs. It’s “us vs. them” and he’s determined to win. He sees potential in Ender and wants to develop him into a decisive, skilled leader. He has no problems playing games to do that. He puts Ender in situations to see how he’ll react. He observes Ender’s way of either beating up bullies or cleverly turning them to his side with great interest and approval. Unfortunately Col. Graff also has no problems with lying to Ender and keeping secrets from him in order to make Ender behave the way he wants, all the while showering him with praise. Ender does not appreciate the way the system is set up to mold these kids into military leaders. He also does not like the secrecy and lies that permeate the academy. But who would? Col. Graff wants to make Ender a great military leader, but doesn’t trust him enough to tell him the whole truth of the situation and let him figure it out. Graff still wants to be in control.
There is also a mystery that surrounds the Bugs themselves. They are the enemy, obviously. But most in the leadership of the training academy leave it at that. It’s “us vs. them.” Ender prefers to understand his enemy. He does this in simulations as he returns to the games and analyzes them, wanting to go deeper than just what appears on the surface. Then, once he understands the opposition, he usually ends up sympathizing with them. “When you really know your enemy, then you love him” he says. This is generally a good principle, but we must be careful not to go too far or act unwisely.
Ender’s final test is a battle simulation. He comes on the enemy and sees they are just sitting there, waiting. Wondering at this, but wanting to gain victory, he and his team strike first and destroy the enemy, though at a great cost to his own fleet. However, the situation turns out to not be a simulation—that is, or was, the entire enemy fleet, and Ender has just decimated them. He is hailed a hero, but instead of celebrating he is crushed, exclaiming, “I will bear the shame of this genocide forever!” Through visions, he finds the lair of the Queen bug, and finds her sick and weak and only wanting to care for her baby. The movie ends with him going to find a new home for the bugs, who were not planning to wipe out humanity after all.
Ender was firm that the liberalist way was best in this case. And I agree with him there. The enemy turned out to NOT be all ready to attack, as Col. Graff and the top brass kept insisting. And if Ender had been told the truth at that point about that situation, he would have sent people to reconnoiter and see what the enemy was doing. Once it was ascertained that an invasion was not imminent, parleys could be held, and/or peace terms could have been worked out. This is the liberalist way of doing things. Not that avoiding war at all costs is smart. But “if it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18). If there are alternatives to war, it’s best to take them. These are real human lives that are being dealt with. Also, you have to look at the big picture—the long term impacts. And, the fleet’s avoidance or at least postponement of attacking the bugs in this instance would have been a smart thing to do. The enemy’s off-guard position should have been noted, and more effort should have been put out to find out what they were actually doing. Lives on both sides would have been saved.
Demonstrated are interesting cases where a strong stand is better, and the ending demonstrates that war isn’t always the best solution.
So, those are some thoughts of mine on the movie Ender’s Game. I really liked it, not only as a cool sci-fi film, but also for the thought-provoking issues it raised. Have you seen the movie? What do you think?
And Star Wars fans everywhere wish each other “May the Fourth be with you,” a pun on a famous Star Wars blessing 🙂 Here are some pictures our family took at a “Star Wars Day at the Zoo” in 2011.
For more on how May 4 became Star Wars day, check out this post of mine. May the Force be with you!
(Contains some spoilers.)
The unexpected journey continues.
The background: In the opening scene, it is noted that, in order for the dwarvish armies to join together to reclaim their homeland of Erebor, Thorin, the rightful king, must posses the Arkenstone to demonstrate his legitimacy. Thus, the quest of the 13 dwarves and Bilbo to the Lonely Mountain to find the priceless stone.
The plot: Things definitely heat up in this second installment of the Hobbit trilogy. Azog the white Orc is called away by superiors and Bolg takes over as the company’s new foe. And he is relentless in the pursuit. The friction between Elves and Dwarves comes to the forefront. Thranduil the proud, greedy King of Mirkwood clashes with Thorin, who is still furious over his desertion of Erebor when it was under attack from the dragon. And a confrontation between the Dwarves and Smaug the dragon heats up to an inferno.
The hobbit: Bilbo, armed with not just “his courage,” as he remarks to Gandalf, but also with the magic Ring that grants its wearer invisibility, saves the Dwarves several times. Though it is tragic to watch how the Ring is slowly starting to take hold of him, influencing vicious actions.
The bad: The worst thing about the movie was the love triangle between Tauriel and Legolas and Kili the dwarf. It made things rather ridiculous. Like, Tauriel, supposedly captain of the Elven guard, was totally irresponsible, immature and impetuous to leave her position and take off to follow a dwarf—and if she was like that she would not have become captain of the guard in the first place! And the scene in which she sang over Kili, with the slow-mo and glowing light, was totally, totally a copy of the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring where Arwen first comes when Frodo is hurt. I’m disappointed in PJ for reneging on his promise to not make Legolas a part of any romance. The Tauriel character is cool, but the romance is unneeded in the story.
The book: I really liked how some things from the book were portrayed in the movie. Beorn the skin-changer is there, as a raging bear and a gruff man. Bilbo’s defeat of the spiders of Mirkwood with the use of his (newly named) sword Sting and the Ring is very neat. The barrel scene is there, though it is livened up with an Orc attack and swinging and jumping Elves everywhere. Lake town is really well done—so real and gritty looking. Bard the bowman gets fleshed out so much and even has a family; he’s a really nice character. The failure of his ancestor to kill Smaug in that attack so long ago weighs heavily on him, but he is a good, moral man who wants to do what’s right and refuses to be drawn in to or intimidated by the corruption in his town.
The action: There was a lot of fighting and action. I’m a big fan of the little band type of fighting (though I like the big army type too) and there’s a lot of that, with Dwarves, Elves, and Orcs all attacking each other. There are also major confrontations. Legolas faces down the huge Bolg and wields a mighty sword in the hand-to-hand combat. Gandalf confronts the dark powers at Dol Guldor in a battle of light against dark. The climactic scenes of Bilbo and the Dwarves in the dragon’s lair inside the Lonely Mountain are quite breathtaking. “Smaug the stupendous” is just that, plus being totally conceited. The vast underground chambers and piles upon piles of loose gold strewn all over, covering the floor, make for a dramatic setting for the showdown. The forges are lit and soon molten gold is streaming.
The lessons: A major development is the rapid growth of evil unexpectedly taking place. In the first movie, seeing Orcs was puzzling enough, but now their increasing numbers are plain alarming. Gandalf leaves to investigate further at Dol Guldor, the place where Radagast fought the Ringwraith and found the Morgul blade in the first movie. While the Dwarves and Bilbo are encountering Orcs, giant spiders and Smaug the dragon, Gandalf discovers that hundreds of orcs are massing at Dol Guldor and it has turned into a veritable fortress of the dark lord Sauron. This is bigger than any of them suspected.
“We’ve been blind…and in our blindness the enemy has returned.” -Gandalf
Things are clearly coming to a head. Evil has returned. It is growing. What to do?
Tauriel says it well.
Legolas: “It is not our fight.”
Tauriel: “It is our fight. It will not end here. With every victory, this evil will grow! If your father has his way, we will do nothing. We will hide with in our walls, live our lives without light and let darkness descend. Are we not part of this world? Tell me, Mellon [friend], when did we allow evil to become stronger than us?”
This is what every hero in Middle Earth thinks, and acts on. This is why there is a story to be told here at all. There is evil in the world. When it presses in, do we hide? Do we retreat? If we did, the darkness would overpower all. No, we must fight.
But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?
-2 Corinthians 6:14
You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.
-1 Thessalonians 5:5
And some pictures, courtesy of http://www.TheHobbit.com.
(Click on pictures to bring up larger versions.)
Some wallpapers, courtesy of http://www.MoviesOfHollywood.com.
Today is Star Wars Day! The greeting used by fans today, “May the Fourth be with you,” is a play on the SW movie farewell/blessing “May the Force be with you.” It’s said to have originated when Margaret Thatcher was elected Britain’s first female Prime administer; on that date, May 4, 1979, her party ran a congratulatory newspaper ad bearing the message, “May the Fourth be with you, Maggie.” The date was quickly adopted by fans for celebration of everything Star Wars.
And who else is excited for the new Star Wars series, being released starting in 2015?? As I’m a fan mostly of the original trilogy (the prequels weren’t great at all), I like the fact that the new movies will be sequels, set after the events of Return of the Jedi. I always thought that would be a cool time to set new movies in, and now here comes the new series!!
Anyways, to round out this post, here are some pictures 😀
We unexpectedly got to see The Hobbit on Thursday! It was the first time we’d seen a Lord of the Rings film on the big screen, and it was fantastic! The sweeping scenery is so beautiful, and the score just rousing. Costumes are amazing…the elegance of the Elves, the ruggedness of the Dwarves, the coziness of the Hobbits. The movie’s plot is quite different from the book’s, but all in all, considering how this prequel trilogy draws on the Appendices and other writings of Tolkien and is meant to explain the backstory to The Lord of the Rings, I appreciate the changes. The major incidents in the book are present in the movie and there are many word-for-word lines as well, which is nice. 🙂
Though I do love the epic feel and battles of The Two Towers and The Return of the King, The Fellowship of the Ring is my favorite of the trilogy because of the closeness of the group. And An Unexpected Journey has the same feel. It’s just like going on the journey with the Fellowship; even more so because of the way the group has to learn to bond and work together.
At the start of the movie, we are introduced to a bumbling group of Dwarves with a mission to reclaim an old kingdom and treasure that belongs specifically to them and to a Hobbit named Bilbo who isn’t sure why he’s there or even if he wants to be. By the end of the movie, the group has come a long way from that. Bilbo finds sympathy for the Dwarves and the courage to fight. Proud leader Thorin comes to respect other races. And a new evil shows itself in the forest as the White Council discusses how to deal with it.
“I cannot guarantee his safety,” says Thorin of Bilbo. “Nor will I be responsible for his fate.” On this journey, the Ring comes to Bilbo, and later passes to Frodo, setting off a chain of events that puts the future of Middle Earth in the balance. Bilbo’s fate changes the fate of Middle Earth. But it is clear that it is more than “fate.” In one of my favorite quotes from The Fellowship of the Ring, Gandalf tells Frodo,
“There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
Through it all, the Creator of Middle Earth watches and orchestrates things to save His Faithful.
Pictures (from thehobbitblog.com) and videos:
So, what was your favorite part of The Hobbit? 😀