Beware, in order to discuss the Catholicity of the movies below, SPOILERS may be introduced.
2012 was a wonderful year for movies. And we as Catholics should not shun the popular media per se, but embrace what is good and can be used to delight or illuminate.
What I found fascinating were the number of Catholic themes throughout the movies I saw this year. And while I wouldn't go so far as to say that all of these movies mentioned below are consistently Catholic, you can pick out some very Catholic themes in them.
There were 2 movies produced with a very specific religious message that I saw this year: October Baby and For Greater Glory. The former was the story of a girl who had survived a botched abortion and went in search of her birth mother. The other was about the religious persecution done to the Catholic Church by the socialist government of Mexico.
Both were fine films. But the problem that we tend to find with movies of this nature is that they feel preachy. A good story should not be preached at you. It should draw you in and let the story work on you at a primal level. There were some wonderful moments that were moving in both movies, but they could not escape the preachiness.
THE CHRIST FIGURE
Ever since the dawn of Christianity, Jesus has been the ideal archetype for the hero. He defines what a hero is, particularly His willingness to lay down His life for the greater good.
In 2012 there were plenty of examples of this in movies. In The Avengers, Tony Stark finally became a hero when he chose to take the nuclear missile out of harms way, thinking he was giving up his life for others.
In The Dark Knight Rises, Selina Kyle begs Batman to save his own life and not try to save the people of Gotham, who hunted him and hated him. "You've already given them everything," she says. He responds: "Not everything. Not yet." He understands that for love to be love, it must be unconditional and it must give everything.
In Les Miserables, Valjean makes the choice to save Marius' life, even though Javert would put him in chains forever. The Hunger Games begins with Katniss volunteering as tribute to save her sister, thinking that by doing so she has called a death sentence onto herself.
One of the most refreshing things about the silly-fun movie Here Comes the Boom was its matter-of-fact sprinkling of Christianity throughout the movie. The trainers quote scripture. They pray together before fights. The main character enters his final match to the song "Holy, Holy."
Les Miserables also does this in a historical context. It shows us kind clergy and pious religious who try to create an air of virtue in a fallen world. Some beautiful Catholic art and architecture are constantly on display to move you towards the films deeper meanings.
Even the generally awful Seeking a Friend for the End of the World has a scene where, with only a day left on Earth, people went to the ocean and were baptized. Then they spent the day celebrating their rebirth before being united with the Lord. It was a sublime moment in an otherwise raunchy film.
ABSENCE OF FAITH
I maintain that one of the best Catholic movie's is The Godfather. Michael Corleone is a generally decent man who chooses to do morally horrible things, thus losing his soul bit by bit. This an important lesson about the Catholic doctrine of fallen human nature. One of the most effective ways of combating sin is to experience it vicariously along with all of its soul crushing consequences.
The Hunger Games takes place in a future without religion. There are some who strive for virtue, but they are few. Power is the only right an wrong in Panem. As a result the horrible spectacle of children killing children goes on because the Capitol has the power. Without a religion like Christianity, there is no internal freedom of the soul that can lead to external freedom of the citizenry.
The Cabin in the Woods may have sharp dialogue and a clever twist on the horror movie genre, but ultimately it points to the real horror of life from an atheist point of view: life is meaningless. Faced with that prospect, there is no reason to save human life whatsoever.
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
Teddy Bear may not have dealt directly with marriage, but it did show how love and affection are more important than empty sexual contact. The main character is empty inside and wants to find someone who he can love.
Brave also made a strong point about the importance of family obligations. Even when we are at odds to the point of shouting, family is family. You do everything you have to for your family.
Despite the general dysfunction of This is 40, it held firm to the idea that marriage is a lifetime commitment in good times and in bad.
Even the movie Ted eschews the modern notion that marriage is an out-dated concept. Part of John's growth as a character is getting over his old hang ups about marriage.