I started writing this a while ago. In fact I think I started on the Anzac day long weekend. So it’s taken a while to finish. But I didn’t want to let all these keystrokes go to waste.
It was a long weekend recently and I decided to go to the movies as much as possible. I got there three times.
Seeing as I haven’t reviewed a movie once this year, I thought it might be time to do three in one hit.
Movie One: Avatar
This wasn’t the first time I’d seen the film. But my Dad wanted to see it and he was paying, so I was there. Oh, and I got to hang out with my Dad.
Watching it a second time was enjoyable. I was still struck by the visuals but not as impressed by the battle the second time around. It was kinda just that the humans got beaten by the shear numbers of the Navi and friends, rather than being out witted. It was like nature won in the end because it bashed the humans with a bigger stick. That doesn’t really say much for Eiya (or however you spell Mother Nature in Navi), just that she’s happy to sacrifice a bunch of rhino things, dinosaur birds and Navi to protect the glowing tree.
I also spent more time paying attention to the spiritual themes of the movie. This is what Mark Driscoll had this to say about Avatar:
Now that just makes him sound like a grumpy, old fundamentalist who thinks everything but Narnia and McGee and Me is from Satan.
He does have a pretty good analysis of the film. It is full of new age, pantheism. It’s totally at odds with the Christian gospel. But so are most films. Driscoll picks on Avatar because its worldview is so clearly presented. But it’s clarity of presentation, also makes it easy to debunk.
Much more important is that most films present a worldview at odds with the gospel which is a whole lot more subtle. We need to interact with all of it. And if you’re going to call Avatar demonic you should probably call almost everything demonic.
Or you can enjoy the story and the critique the worldview, as you need to do with every message that is presented to us in our culture.
I vote for option two, funnily enough.
Movie Two: The Book of Eli
I think this must have been the weekend of spiritually themed movies, because this one is about one man (Denzel Washington), in a post-apocalyptic world, on a mission to save last copy of the Bible from the hands of bad men.
I reckon if you didn’t care about the Bible you wouldn’t really care about this film. But I care about the Bible, so I cared about this film. I was gunning for Denzel the whole way.
People have said the film is boring, which it probably could be. There’s a lot of walking, talking, hiding and sitting around and then suddenly there’s 10-seconds of ultra-violence with Denzel left at the standing over pile of dead bodies.
I thought it was a pretty cool film. Good fighting, cool guns, and it looked great.
The opening scene was one of the most atmospheric openings I’ve seen in a long time. It set the tone for the rest of the film. I’d describe it but I can’t. I reckon it’d be worth watching the film just for that opening scene. It’s not thrilling, it’s just a great post-apocalyptic image.
As far as faith goes for a film with the Bible as a central piece of the plot, it’s not very Biblical. That is, it is the expected sanitised version of the Bible that Hollywood gives to keep everyone happy.
What’s interesting though is that the Bible is blamed for the war that destroyed the world, the Bible is sought after by the bad guy so he can control people, the Bible is protected by Denzel’s character because he believes it can bring hope back to the world, and the Bible is given to Denzel by God so he can take it on pilgrimage to get it into safe hands. The other sacred texts of the world are around, but only the Bible is given such power. It is a pretty loud affirmation of the unique power of the Bible. I’m not going to trumpet this as a victory for the Christian faith, it’s just interesting to me that Hollywood would allow such an overtly narrow presentation of the Bible be an overtone of the whole film. However…
Right at the end, when the book has been saved, and printed, it is put on a shelf in a secure facility right next to the Koran and the Torah. When I saw that the Bible nerd in me wondered why they go to work straight away on getting Genesis printed when they already had a Torah sitting around. But it is also a moment right at the end, when the filmmakers decided to bring the Bible down to being just one of the sacred texts. It’s not lifting the other up to the level of the Bible, because the whole film isn’t about keeping the Koran or the Torah safe. It’s saying that in the end the Bible is just like these other books, which pretty much weakens the rest of the film. Plus it kinda saddened me that the last time we saw the Bible it was getting placed on a shelf, not given to the people who were supposed to gain hope from it.
But that’s the Christian, Bible lover in me coming out.
All that said, I had a good time. It’s definitely worth watching if only for the imagery. It’s one good looking movie. Plus it’s got Bible love, cool fighting, and Denzel playing a bad ass rather than an inspiring black coach, so it’s hard for it not to be good fun. In fact don’t watch it just for the imagery. It’s a whole lot more than cool looking shots.
Movie Three: Clash of Titans
The third movie of spiritual themes was Clash of the Titans. If you know the story, it’s about a guy whose family is killed by Hades the God of the Underworld, so he teams up with a city living under the threat of Hades’ giant, angry monster to fight the gods who are out to teach the humans a lesson for refusing to pray to them and grant them eternal life. He goes on a fighting odyssey to gain the power to beat Hades’ sea monster and along the way manages to forge a friendship with a desert wizard, ride an over sized scorpion and fall in love with a beautiful, immortal beauty. It’s quite an adventure.
The main character, Perseus, played by our Sam Worthington, is a demigod, half-man/half-god. He was conceived when Zeus snuck into some Queen’s chamber disguised as her husband and slept with her to punish her husband for something.
There is a point in the film where it is mentioned that Perseus, being a demigod, has the best of the gods and of humanity in him. The implication is that he has the strength and fighting talent of the gods, but the compassion, love and honesty of humanity.
It’s interesting that the gods are portrayed as being capricious and powerful, and it’s the humans who have the monopoly on goodness. It’s this worldview where the humans are pit against the gods. It’s us or them and, happily, in the end the humans triumph over the gods. And as Perseus embraces his humanity, he is encouraged to lead the people well, unlike the gods. The gods have failed, now it’s up to humanity to save themselves.
Of course, the film makers aren’t trying to make a statement about how we relate to Zeus and Hades. But the message is pretty clear, hope lies with us, and it’s up to us to use the best of who we are to save ourselves. Looking at all three movies of the weekend, it’s easy to see that Hollywood thinks that we’re at crisis point in human history. It’s a rather clear undertone to each of the films. Some perhaps more obvious than others. Where they look for solutions though is interesting, Avatar looks to nature, The Book of Eli looks to God’s word, Clash of the Titans looks to humanity. I’m pretty sure I know which solution I’m trusting in.
But all this in Clash of the Titans is secondary to the giant computer generated monsters and sword fights. Aside from some terrible writing, and much silliness, the film was a lot of fun. Not very good, but a lot of fun. And that’s good enough for me. It appeals to the best of my humanity within me.