Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Bug's Life (1998)

     Yes, today we’re looking at another classic Pixar film. Over my spring break a couple weeks ago, I watched “A Bug’s Life” for the first time in years. And dang, this movie is pretty dark. I remember seeing it in the theater when I was a kid, but I never realized until recently how dark the story really is! But I also noticed a connection to a famous story in the Bible that I feel led to talk about today.

     Dave Foley is the voice of Flik, an ant living in the colony run by Princess Atta (Julia Louis-Drefyus), who is still nervously learning the rules of being queen from her mother (Phyllis Diller). Their colony of ants has the duty of collecting food not only for themselves, but also for a colony of grasshoppers that has apparently taken control of them at some point in history. And one day, Flik, an ant that tries to help but often makes mistakes, accidentally misuses one of his many crackpot inventions to help gather food, and he ends up destroying the pile of food for the grasshoppers. Once the grasshoppers come and find their food gone, their leader Hopper (Kevin Spacey) tells them to use the next season that they would normally just use to gather food for themselves to get more food for the grasshoppers.

     Hopefully that makes sense. If it doesn’t, watch the movie. Anyway, Flik suggests leaving the ant island to find bigger bugs to resist the grasshoppers. Eager to get rid of him, Atta sends Flik on his way. And in a comical series of events, Flik comes across a group of bugs that have just been fired from the circus, including walking stick Slim (David Hyde Pierce), fat caterpillar Heimlich (the late great Joe Ranft), and male ladybug Francis (Denis Leary), and Flik mistakes them all for strong warrior bugs. Why? Because they’ve just been running away from—er, fighting against a pack of bugs that were chasing after Francis at the circus. It’s funny. Trust me.

     And after MORE complicated events (seriously, watch it), the ants and the circus bugs decide to build a bird out of sticks, stones, and leaves to scare away paranoid Hopper and his gang. But at one point after they launch the bird and start scaring the grasshoppers off, the bird crashes, and Hopper angrily shouts at the ants that have gathered in fear once again:

HOPPER: You are mindless, soil-sucking losers, put on this earth to serve us!

FLIK: You’re wrong, Hopper. I’ve seen these ants do great things. And year after year, they somehow manager to pick food for themselves AND you! So who’s the weaker species? Ants don’t serve grasshoppers! It’s YOU who need US! We’re a lot stronger than you say we are. And you know it… don’t you?

     Gee! This situation sounds familiar. A dictator of sorts enslaves what he believes to be a weaker race because he’s afraid of them. How about… Exodus 1:8-10? “Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look’, he said to his people, “the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’” And thus, a Pharaoh takes control of the Israelites in Egypt and prepares a nation for Moses centuries later. I think from this passage alone, we can assume that this Pharaoh was a little paranoid. And so was Hopper! Listen to what he had told his gang right before they go back to get their food at the end of the season:

HOPPER: Those puny, little ants outnumber us a hundred to one—and if they ever figure that out, there goes our way of life! It’s not about food; it’s about keeping those ants in line.

     But when they return, Flik bravely stands up to the grasshoppers once more—this time joined by the rest of his colony and the circus bugs. The grasshoppers are chased away, and a bird (a REAL one) feeds Hopper to her chicks. The ants have found their freedom from the oppression of the grasshoppers, as did the Israelites as Moses led them out of Egypt.

     However, the whole comparison of the ants to the Israelites isn’t the sole comparison to be made between this film and the book of Exodus. Moses believed himself to be a very poor choice for the one to bring the Israelites out of Egypt—he tells God as He is speaking to him through the burning bush, “‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” (4:10) However, God used Moses’ life to put him in the perfect position to be the chosen leader! By allowing him as a baby to be placed into the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter, God brought Moses up in the highest place possible. He had access to a great education, wealth, high status, anything he wanted! God used a humble, quiet man to be the one that Pharaoh would eventually believe to bring the Israelites out of oppression.

     Flik is the same way. Flik is an inventive and well-meaning ant, even though he is often clumsy and misunderstood. But he ends up being the one to save the ants from the grasshoppers. He, the lowest in his colony, turned out to be the one to save his colony in the end. In this way, God can use whomever he wants to do His will. He told Moses in Exodus 4:11-12, “‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf and mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” My prayer for you, the reader, is that you will allow God to use you in whatever way he chooses—and whatever condition he finds you in—to complete His will in your life and the lives of others.

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