Over the last two weekends my best friend Chris and I have seen two hero movies. The first was Wolverine, which we hated. The second was Star Trek, which we loved. We disagree a lot on movies, so this is a rare event. We’re sitting at a coffee shop discussing the heroes of each story and can only conclude we actually only saw one hero. Here is our blog post.
The hero is Captain Kirk. Here we see a man possessing wisdom and the willingness to act regardless of the consequences. The first example of his heroism is on the mining drill where, without hesitation, he jumps off to do whatever he can to save Sulu. This lack of hesitation is shown repeatedly throughout his story. Kirk’s instinct for what’s right gives him the confidence to act. The man that comes off as cocky is truly confident because he knows what’s right. That’s wisdom. Barry Schwartz spoke about wisdom at TED this year. Click to watch it here. It is wisdom that tells Kirk that going to a meeting to decide what to do next isn’t going to help. Wisdom tells you that if the right thing to do is contrary to the rules or societal norms, you do it anyway.
Wolverine spends the movie avoiding heroism. His motivation is selfish vengeance. When provided an opportunity for heroism at the beginning of the movie, when he recognizes the group of mutants he is working with is doing the wrong thing, he simply walks away. When presented with a situation that we know is wrong, we have three choices. Do nothing, join in, or fix the situation. Wolverine does nothing. It is only when his girlfriend is apparently killed that he decides to act. This action is not aimed at fixing the bad thing he knows is happening, it is simply based on his grief or need for revenge. Even at the end of the movie when he appears to do something heroic by rescuing a group of imprisoned mutants, he does so without any risk to himself.
The ultimate problem with the Wolverine movie was that the hero’s journey was not completed. At the end of the journey the hero is supposed to have learned and changed – becoming the Master of Two Worlds. The character that we’ve spent ninety minutes with ends as a blank slate – his memory erased. What lessons can we learn from such a story? Star Trek showed Kirk begin on Earth, go on a journey in which he changed, and return to earth. Kirk learns the importance of responsibility, listening to advice, and of compromise. And so do we.