There’s a new movie coming out in just a few weeks: Champion. And you don’t want to miss it. This one doesn’t come from Hollywood, but from a first-time filmmaker who hits the nail on the head with just about everything Christian families could ask for -- gripping story, clear gospel context, good acting, clean language, solid production.
Set in the supercharged dustbowl of dirt track racing, Champion artfully weaves together a number of themes that point clearly to the truths of the Bible. Director Judd Brannon is to be highly commended for this phenomenal film.
Champions of the past
Champions have been important since Old Testament times. According to my minor research on biblegateway.com, the earliest champion mentioned in Scripture is a giant named Goliath, first mentioned in 1 Samuel 17:4. (I found only one translation that used the word earlier.) Here’s a 1-2-3-nutshell version of this “champion’s” story:
“Then Goliath, a Philistine champion from Gath, came out of the Philistine ranks to face the forces of Israel. He was a giant of a man, measuring over nine feet tall” (1 Samuel 17:4, TLB).
Now, I’m summarizing most of the 1 Samuel chapter, but you’ll recall the story of a teenage boy named David. When Israel’s army was afraid of Goliath, David said, “I’ll take him on!” And he did. With authority. What happened next? I’m glad you asked.
“When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they turned and ran” (1 Samuel 17:51, TLB).
Anyone who reads this Bible account will have to admit that the courageous young David, depending on his faith in the God he served, is the real champion here. Goliath was the champion of men, David the champion of God.
Champions of the present
Today, our culture craves champions in every arena of life – sports, politics, education, business, entertainment, and yes, in dirt track racing. And in many other areas that don’t even come to mind at the moment.
Each winter, we put the Super Bowl champions on a precarious pedestal for a year. Then a whole nation celebrates with the Chicago Cubs when, after a 108-year drought, they win the 2016 World Series. We grow giddy counting the medals our nation’s athletes win at the Olympics; we cry with them as our National Anthem plays while they stand atop the podium, saluted as the champions.
We give Nobel Prizes and Pulitzer Prizes to men and women who achieve greatness in their fields. We crown champions in spelling bees, science, gymnastics, classrooms, boxing, and television. Family Feud? Jeopardy? Oh yes, even in the kitchen. Ever watched Chopped on HGTV?
A Champion for eternity
It is inherent in our natural state, in our minds, to long for role models and heroes we can look up to. But all the world’s champions are only that – worldly. They are confined to a human context that can never satisfy the spiritual part of our nature that craves an eternal champion. There is one, you know – an eternal Champion. And we spell this one with a capital C.
In Isaiah 19, God delivers a menacing warning against Egypt, the enemy of his people. Then, He turns the tide and promises His own a Champion: “[An altar] will become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the Lord because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them” (v. 20, NASB).
A movie champion
Champion has a gripping story line – Sean, an aging race car driver, seethes with anger and vengeance toward Ray, a rookie who threatens the veteran’s place at the top of the heap. Pride, ego, and tension at top speed! A tragic crash on the track creates a plot twist from which other major story lines emerge – Ray’s estranged relationship with his father, Sean’s challenge of rearing a 10-year-old daughter whose mother deserted them, and the fractured relationship between Sean and Rex, a friend from childhood who dares to confront Sean about his destructive attitudes and behavior.
Many issues surface – grief, drug abuse, peace with God, fear, and guilt – but the overarching theme is forgiveness.
“I hope people who see it will connect especially with the theme of forgiveness,” director Judd Brannon told AFA. “Maybe some will be able to turn the corner to begin restoring a relationship. Another theme I’m passionate about is the way it portrays the role of fathers.”
Champion has all the qualities to accomplish Brannon’s hopes. The entire cast does a masterful job, and production values are solid. Actors whom viewers will recognize include Gary Graham (all four seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise), Andrew Cheney (Beyond the Mask), and Robert Amaya (Mom’s Night Out, Courageous). It premieres in theaters May 19, and it isn’t too late to see a trailer and learn how to get it in local theaters.
Around here at AFA, we’re always glad to celebrate family-friendly and Bible-based movies like Champion. We’re even more excited when people like director Judd Brannon agree with us on the more important matters: Brannon’s movie aside, the eternal Champion is still the one we must pursue.
In my title above, I said every cause has its champion. I hope every person has a champion, too - an eternal one. I’m glad I know who my Champion is. I am caught in the grip of how The Voice translation words Psalm 118:7 – “The Eternal is on my side, a Champion for my cause.”