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DVD Review: Tomorrowland

tomorrowlandThis weekend we had a pizza party sleepover for our 10 year old’s birthday. We were looking for a family-friendly movie that would keep the attention of a group of girls aged 7-11. We opted to try the Disney film Tomorrowland from 2015. It stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie (from House), and a couple of younger actors that were new to me. The movie has a metascore of 60, which means it’s not considered a great movie but it’s not a dog.

The IMDB.com film summary simply says:

Bound by a shared destiny, a teen bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory.

The basic premise of the film is found in an early description of Tomorrowland from one of the characters played by Keegan-Michael Key:

Have you ever wondered what would happen, if all the geniuses, the artists, the scientists, the smartest, most creative people in the world decided to actually change it? Where, where could they even do such a thing? They’d need a place free from politics and bureaucracy, distractions, greed – a secret place where they could build whatever they were crazy enough to imagine…

This is Tomorrowland. It’s the better version of what the world could be, designed by the best of us. And the worst of us, those in the real world, are quickly leading the world to it’s end. Thus the main characters must find a way to save the world and put things back on the right track.

In all honesty, the movie was decent. It had many fun moments that the whole family could laugh with and the adventure element was engaging for kids and adults. I was a tad surprised at the language in a PG Disney movie marketed as a family movie. There are several uses of “damn,” “hell,” “bloody,” and “bollocks.” Clearly the PG Disney of today isn’t much like the PG Disney of my youth. Perhaps in the context of our current society, our kids are hearing far worse in public schools and on the shows and movies they watch.

As far as the movie goes, though, I liked it, and wouldn’t have any problem suggesting it as a family film for older kids. But the content is what intrigued me – the idea of humanity being able to create a better place. This is entirely a biblical concept!

The Bible envisions the kingdom of God as an “already/not yet” reality. It is something that is currently present in this world. It is something that is still yet to come. While some religions believe in an afterlife or spiritual realm that is completely distinct from humanity, the Bible portrays Yahweh as a God who is actively present in the life and history of humanity. When Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, he says:

Your will be done, Your kingdom come ON EARTH as it is in heaven.

God is active HERE AND NOW! We have an opportunity to welcome heaven into our daily lives. It begins with God’s activity. It continues with our own activity. As God’s agents in this world, being people who reflect HIS image and HIS glory, we have the opportunity to welcome heaven here.

It’s not another dimension with fantastic technology like Tomorrowland. It’s a world where God’s presence and reign are reflected in our activity, in our homes, in our workplaces, even (GASP!) in our politics. We fail miserably when we consider God’s activity to be a future element of the next world instead of an active call for us to live heavenly lives now.

All of us, from our varied backgrounds and experiences, our numerous skills and talents, don’t create Heaven through anything we have or bring to the table. We create Tomorrowland when we start living kingdom of God lives every day. Already. And not yet, for we know that there will come a day when we see Jesus face to face, and there will be a new heaven and a new earth.

Until that day, though, let us strive to create heaven on earth as we live kingdom lives!

Movie Review: Zootopia is Really a Race Relations Morality Story in Disguise!

Like most Americans alive today, I had seen the trailer for Disney’s Zootopia. If you live in a cave and HAVEN’T yet seen it, here it is:

So it was with great anticipation that my wife and I took our three kids, ages 9, 6, and 4, to go see it. And it was NOT was I was expecting.

Sure, it had the funny scene from the trailer. Who hasn’t been stuck in a DMV line and thought about the incredible slowness with which the employees move?!?

But Zootopia is much more than some funny scenes strung together. It was actually a VERY well-done story that tackles some tough issues in a way that is accessible to children and adults alike.

Character_zootopia_judyThe basic premise of the movie is that a cute and lovable rabbit named Judy Hopps moves to the big city of Zootopia to become a police officer. She has big dreams for making the world a better place and sees Zootopia as a wonderful place where animals have moved beyond their preditor/prey natures and live together in harmony. If you’re not a literary sort of person, there is a loose reference to Thomas More’s Utopia, which is about a perfect society but whose name literally means “no place.”

Anyway, while there she runs into a fox who is cleverly named Nick (nick being an American slang term for cheating or taking something from someone – just ask Dora) who tells her that the world isn’t great and that they don’t all hold hands and sing Kumbayah.

I won’t give out any spoilers, but Officer Hopps and Nick go on an adventure trying to solve a case that shows the true nature of reality – that underneath a smooth exterior of love and acceptance, deep down at the core there is real friction between different groups. This is where the story really shines as an example of American culture.

On the surface we like to pretend that our society has evolved beyond some of the old racist attitudes and expressions that used to be so commonplace. I’ve even heard some (white) people say, “Of course there’s no racism any more – we have a black president.” This sentiment is really quite stupid and naive. Like the cute bunny, we’re often blind to the reality that there is raw friction between groups and the fact that racism is still prevalent in our world.

Case in point: racial tensions in America. Just yesterday at a political rally, violence broke out as minorities demonstrating against a political candidate squared off against the candidate’s supporters. Then the candidate publicly proclaimed many of the protesters to be “thugs.”

I confess that I don’t know the background of all of the protesters, but labeling them as “thugs” seems to be an easy way now for white people to dismiss people of color with whom they disagree. An angry black man isn’t necessarily a thug – he could just be an angry black man.

This is part of what Zootopia addresses. When we expect others to be bad (and label them thus), we end up being small-minded jerks and do damage to others. This is where the teaching of Jesus practically screams at us:

Treat others the way you want them to treat you!

It seems so simple, yet we’re so far away from living in a culture that can actually do this. Instead we yell, scream, and throw punches at each other. By the end of the movie, Officer Judy Hopps tells the audience:

Life’s a little bit messy. We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you.

The Bible actually talks about equality. About fairness. About one-ness. And we do damage to the faith we claim to hold to when refuse to make the kind of change that brings the world to see all of us through the same lens. We can’t hide behind out politics and our family upbringing. There is no excuse for treating anyone poorly, no matter who or what they are or believe.

It’s time for those of us who claim to follow Christ to leave the garbage behind and make moves towards love, peace, and reconciliation among ALL people.

TV Show Review: Mercy Street

Mercy StreetEvery once in a while you’ll come across a tv show that captures your interest and imagination from the very first few minutes in. Downton Abbey was such a show.

Mercy Street is not.

Oh, I wanted to be a believer. I’m a history buff and a big fan of historical fiction. I enjoy seeing how writers can take real history and create fictional stories in and around real events and lives. I’m also a fan of PBS – it’s a terrific channel with some great programming. When I saw the trailers for Mercy Street, the first original series to come to PBS in years, I was excited.

It is executive produced by Ridley Scott. The cast includes Gary Cole and Donna Murphy. It should be EPIC! Right? Right? Yet it falls short.

The Rundown

The cinematography is fine. Not great, just fine. It’s a tv show, so normally you don’t go into it thinking you’re going to seeing something spectacular. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled with Downton Abbey, which DID have spectacular cinematography and came across more as art than television. I guess that’s my biggest beef with Mercy Street (well, that and the Union doctor who insists that the war isn’t about slavery at all but rather about preserving the Republic).

It’s just a tv show. It isn’t art.

The dialogue is painful in places. There were some questionable casting decisions. The delivery of the performances is bland at best and painful at worst. The story-line itself drags and we spend an hour really going nowhere. Some of the characters seemed better suited to be in a 21st century setting (which I’m not yet sure if the fault is with the actors or with the writing). And you can thank Ridley Scott, I’m sure, for the graphic gore of a Civil War era hospital. All said and done, it felt lackluster. My wife and I have yet to determine if we’re going to stick around for episode 2.

The Story

Mercy Street is about a Virginia hotel that is turned into a makeshift hospital. Well, I suppose it’s REALLY about the people in and around the hospital. Think ER in an 1864 setting.

Here’s the recipe:

  1. Doctors vs. Nurses
  2. Medical professionals do crazy things to save patients
  3. Romance and relationships develop throughout the whole thing
  4. Hospital personnel wrestle with personal drama/issues.
  5. Throw in a healthy mix of slavery and North vs. South story-line.
  6. Mix vigorously for 60 minutes. Pour into PBS-sized containers and served chilled.

From a biblical point of view, my favorite part is the discussion on the universality of humanity. One of the docs says something to the effect that there is no blue blood or grey blood – Soldiers are Soldiers. It’s a good point that Christians often forget. All humanity is made in God’s image. That means there is inherent value in every individual.

Where the show falls short, though, is that the doctor who espouses this “all blood is the same” ideology only applies it to white troops and fails to see how the same reasoning applies to people of color. There is no white blood or black blood – people are people. Yes, one of the nurses calls the doctor’s view of race “unenlightened,” but it goes beyond enlightenment. It’s about a basic biblical understanding of humanity and the image of God. I believe this can be a point all Christians can and should get behind.

Will I watch the next episode? I don’t know. Maybe. But I’m not excited about it.

Now ask me if I’m excited about the next episode of Downton Abbey…  😉

 

DVD Review: The Theory of Everything

theory of everythingMy wife and I recently watched “The Theory of Everything,” the biopic about famed physicist Stephen Hawking. Here’s the rundown:

  • Cast

The acting was superb. Eddie Redmayne doesn’t just portray Stephen Hawking – he BECOMES Hawking. The physical transformation in incredible to watch, and quick research will tell you that Redmayne studied and talked to many people who suffer with ALS. He also trained with a dance coach in order to learn how to better control his body so that his physical performance was accurate. I wouldn’t necessarily call the film a happy film, but the actors do an excellent job of drawing the audience into the struggles (and triumphs) of the characters.

  • Score

The musical score for the movie was excellent. I know most people reading reviews don’t really care about the music, but my wife and I both noticed it. It is the kind of music one would want as a stand-alone album.

But let’s get down to brass tacks – what people REALLY want to talk about when it comes to movies like this: the thematic elements.mathematics

  • Themes

The first, and most easily identifiable, theme, is the back and forth between Atheism and Theism. This theme was a point of contention within the Hawking marriage, Jane being a Christian with the Church of England and Stephen being an atheist. I won’t spend much time debating this theme myself – blog posts about atheism/theism never convince anyone on the opposite side to change positions. Clearly I believe in God, and I think Hawking is wrong.

The movie actually does a decent job of portraying the different viewpoints of Jane and Stephen without demonizing one or the other. One of my favorite scenes is when Jane is explaining how science views God differently depending on whether one is looking through the lens of relativity or quantum physics.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not a Christian film, and the director clearly portrays Hawking’s bias against God, but the theme can make for interesting conversation and should prompt us all to think more deeply about the interplay of faith and science (yes, they CAN coexist).

The second theme I noticed was that of the suffering servant. Suffering Servant is a phrase I’ve come across only in biblical studies, but it seemed appropriate for this movie. At the beginning of Stephen’s diagnosis, his father tells Jane (who is not yet married to Stephen) that she doesn’t realize what she’s in for. It’s not a fight, because there’s no positive outcome. It will only be a brutal beating. She stays the course and decides to pursue a relationship with Stephen.

For 30 years she was married to him and helped care for him. The movie portrays the kind of toll being a caregiver can take on family. It’s hard on spouses who care for each other. It’s hard for parents who care for children. It’s hard for children who care for parents. It’s hard on ANYONE who provides full-time care for loved ones. Emotional and relational damage are all too common, and the movie shows such damage; damage to the point of the eventual divorce of Jane and Stephen. It should cause us to ask difficult questions about our level of care and commitment towards our loved ones – even when things get tough.

Once upon a time weddings used to use the phrase, “For Better or For Worse.” Being a full-time caregiver for a family member with special needs can definitely run the gamut of better to worse. In an age where it’s all too easy to put loved ones in homes and institutions, how far does our care, commitment, and yes, even love, take us?

The final theme I want to talk about is that of hope. At the end of the movie there’s a neat scene where Stephen is asked, since he doesn’t believe in God, what drives him to carry on day after day. In the scene, Eddie Radmayne suddenly shifts his feet, stands up from the wheelchair, and walks down some steps to pick up a pen dropped by a student. Cinematically it’s a neat way of showing the imagination of Hawking and leads us to his answer. What drives him day after day? Hope. As a physicist who believes in a world with no boundaries and endless possibilities, he says, “As long as there is life, there is hope.” Of course the audience stands and erupts in applause.

But life isn’t enough for hope, because when life ends, then what? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:19 ~

 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.

Those who believe in God know that hope is so much MORE than the idea of possibilities in this life. Hope goes beyond life into the great beyond. Hope is the anticipation we have that this life WILL end and that God will make all things right.

At the end of the day, The Theory of Everything is an excellent film that is worth watching. Talk about the themes with your family and friends. Don’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions raised by the film.

Enjoy the show!

 

 

 

DVD Review: Exodus – Gods and Kings

ExodusI like movies.

I like the Bible.

I generally dislike movies about the Bible (at least anything done in the last 30 years). I dislike movies about the Bible because the production value is so low, the acting is so bad, and the script writing is so terrible, that the movies are fodder for jokes and ridicule rather than being vehicles for delivering biblical content to the population.

That’s why I’m always interested when a major studio greenlights a Bible movie that has a decent budget, a good director, and a terrific cast. I was intrigued when I saw the first trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings. The cast included Christian Bale, Ben Kingsley, and Sigourney Weaver. It was from the director of Gladiator (one of my favorite movies of all time)! It was going to be epic.

But then I watched it last night. Ridley Scott put together an epic film, to be sure. It was 2 hours and 30 minutes and was really action-packed. And, while it contained characters who shared names with biblical characters and had a similar story to the biblical story, it was clearly a movie “based on the biblical story” rather than a movie version of the Bible.

I was surprised at how much the movie differed from the Bible. While some stories (like Noah) are relatively short in the Bible, the Exodus story as told in the movie is covered by TWENTY (20) chapters in the Bible. The biblical narrative contains narration, dialogue, intrigue, drama, death, you name it! There is really no need to change the story to make it compelling – it already is.

In a nutshell, some of my specific problems with the film:

  1. God is represented by a tantrum-throwing 10 year old.
  2. Faith and the supernatural is present but is downplayed.
  3. Moses is portrayed as a warrior general instead of the biblical version of a man who describes himself as “slow of speech and tongue.” Instead we’re given a leader like Gladiator’s Maximus.  -.-
  4. Moses’s encounters with God occur after he’s in an accident and receives a serious blow to the head, calling into question the validity of his visions.

All in all the film was entertaining. It CERTIANLY wasn’t the Bible. If you do watch it, don’t go in thinking it represents the biblical story. It could, though, be a good entry point for engaging non-believers in conversation about God, faith, and the Bible.

Just read the first 20 chapters of Exodus in the Bible before you watch the film and you’re good to go.  🙂

 

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As always I welcome all conversation, whether you agree or disagree. Just keep all comments civil and polite. Thanks!

DVD Review: Whiplash – A Conversation With My Father

My wife and I recently watched the award winning Whiplash.Whiplash It is a phenomenal movie and stirred something in me. I found at times that I was holding my breath and my heart was racing. I watched a few scenes over again and had the same effect (you can watch one of my favorite scenes at the end of this review). If you’re going to watch it, though, know that the language is raw and graphic – clearly a reason the movie is rated-R. After making a comment about the movie on social media, my dad, Paul Linzey, mentioned that he and my mom had also recently watched it. Then I had a great idea: Why don’t I co-write a review with my dad, looking at some of the themes of the movie from a biblical perspective? So today’s review is actually from an ongoing email conversation he and I have been having over the past couple days. I’ve enjoyed it immensely and hope you find some value in it. 🙂

Chris: I’d like to kick off with the theme of relationships since I’m doing this with my you. There are three primary relationships I can identify in the movie:

– Andrew and his dad
– Andrew and his girlfriend
– Andrew and Fletcher

I think it’s pretty clear that Andrew’s relationship with Fletcher overrides the others. Here’s what I find interesting, though. While the girlfriend moves on and finds someone else, the dad is constant throughout Andrew’s ups and downs. They go to movies together. Dad stocks Andrew’s apartment with snacks. When the lawyer is trying to convince Andrew to testify against Fletcher, Andrew asks his dad, “Why are you here?” Dad’s response? “Don’t you know there’s nothing in the world I love more than you?” Even when Andrew returns to play with Fletcher for JVC after both had been kicked out of the conservatory, his dad was at the performance and ran backstage to hug the son in his most embarrassing moment. I’m very much reminded of the father in the Prodigal Son story. No matter what the son did, the dad is still there to throw his arms around his son and proclaim his love.

Paul: Yeah, the relationships are a powerful part of the story. And at times they’re pretty painful. Like in the scene at the family dinner table. It’s obvious the whole family is so proud of the football star and totally unimpressed with Andrew’s musical ambitions. You can feel his pain and anger when he points out that the football player is merely at a Division III college. In other words, it’s not worth bragging about. But nobody gets it, and Andrew is still considered the oddball whose goals and values are meaningless. But you’re right about the dad’s loyalty. Even though he didn’t understand his son, he was always there, like you pointed out. There’s a verse in the Bible that says

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he grows up he will not stray from it.”

Some commentators point out that the terminology in the text is farm language, agricultural terms, specifically having to do with shaping and growing trees. If this is so, they believe the point of the verse is that good parents will find out their child’s interests, callings, and personality and adjust their parenting methods to bring out the best in the child – to help the child discover his or her direction in life. It’s not telling parents to make sure they raise the child the way they want the child to turn out. There’s more to parenting than that. It’s an art. It requires diligence, attention, getting to know the child intimately. It calls for relationship patterns that allow the child to explore and experiment. And the wise parent guides the child in the process of becoming. I didn’t see Andrew’s family fostering this kind of emotional-psychological freedom to be. We typically use that verse to tell parents how to raise their kids, and to tell our kids what we want them to do. Very controlling, very heavy-handed, very condescending. But maybe it was actually designed to liberate parents and liberate children, freeing all of us to discern what the Lord might want us to do, and to become. And then support each other in that process.

Chris: Let’s talk for a second about Andrew’s intense desire to be the best. In one scene, he tells his girlfriend, “I want to be great.” She responds, “You’re not great?” He comes back, “I want to be one of THE greats.”

Paul: Why are people who excel in almost any field edgy, quirky, OK — weird? Do we have to be so intensely focused and driven in order to be the best? Is it even possible to be “normal” and still be the best in the world at something? It’s true that in order to succeed, we have to make sacrifices. We have to prioritize. But is there a limit to how far we should go?

Chris: I was really pondering this one. I had a friend some years back who thought that all competition was contrary to Christ-like behavior. I’m not inclined to go that far, but I see his point. When you hear Jesus using expressions like “servant of all,” “the last shall be first,” and “the least of these,” it’s easy to see that Jesus has a heart for the underdog. The question is, “How far do Jesus’s teachings call us to care for the underdog vs. how far do Jesus’s teachings call us to BE the underdog?” I’m don’t think Jesus is calling us to eschew success, but there needs to be a healthy balance between success and humility, and my personal opinion is that such humility prevents us from ever achieving the status as “best in the world.”

Paul: It seems clear biblically that the Church will be the underdog societally, especially as we move towards the Eschaton. It’s also true, if I understand James 1:27 correctly, that we are called to care for the underdog. And it is true that we are called to be servants of all. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are called to be underdogs, impoverished, or less than the best in our chosen vocation. To follow that logic, each of us would need to be orphaned and widowed to truly be Christian. But that is clearly not the case. Jesus told at least one person that he would need to sell all his possessions and give to the poor, but there were quite a few other rich people he did not tell that to. In fact, there were some wealthy folks who supported him and his disciples so they could do the work of the Kingdom. Same with Paul and his ministry team. I don’t think humility per se is contrary to being the best. Many would agree that Moses would be considered one of the greatest leaders of all time. Yet Numbers 12:3 specifically says he was the most humble man in all the earth. I think you and I would agree that Jesus was the greatest person of all time. Yet, he was humble, according to Philippians chapter 2. And St. Paul was a pretty impressive apostle. Perhaps the best? Yet he displayed some impressive humility. Perhaps understanding of the word “meek” can be helpful here: “Power or greatness under control.” So I don’t believe that humility ought to prevent a Christian from being the best at what he or she hopes to achieve in life, whether as a musician, an athlete, a teacher, a pastor, a plumber, or anything else. In fact, the Bible says,

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”

Don’t we usually understand that to mean “do your best”?

Chris: I don’t think humility NECESSARILY prevents us from greatness, only when pursuing greatness requires trampling on others.

Paul: Absolutely. I agree. And this is what we see happening in Whiplash. People trampling all over each other. Dog eat dog. Get mine. do what it takes to self-promote. I guess you could say Osteen’s teaching applied to the music industry. It’s all about you.

Chris: BWAHAHAHA! Joel Osteen applied to the music industry – now that.is.funny. Making sure that “I get mine” regardless of how it affects others flies right in the face of biblical principles:

Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them (The Golden Rule) Matthew 7:12

and

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

Switching gears again, how did you guys respond to the language? It was incredibly harsh.

Paul: The profanity was indeed overwhelming. But we knew going in that the main reason for it’s R rating was raw language. More importantly, however, being in the world means we rub elbows with real people, real heathens, real scoundrels. We’re called to be in the world, though not “of” the world. Jesus didn’t avoid sinners. That included prostitutes, tax collectors, and cussers. Besides, there’s not a single word or phrase in the movie that I haven’t heard in the Army . . . . . . . or in the church! An aspect of human existence that I thought the movie showed pretty well was that every one of us has our own pain, our own problems, and our disillusionments. This was true of just about every character in the show. Would you comment on that?

Chris: You hit the nail on the head. The director has even said he approaches life from a dark place and I think the characters reflected that. But each gets so caught up in his own trouble he fails to find the relief that can be found in community. It’s the attitude that greatness only comes through suffering and, while there may be some truth to that, authentic relationships can help heal wounds.

Paul: And that’s where art and the gospel begin to intersect.

Chris: Thanks, Dad.

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As always I welcome your thoughts and opinions. did you see the movie? What did you think?

Paul Linzey is a pastor, writer, and mentor. A retired Army chaplain, he and his wife live in Lakeland, Florida.
Paul Linzey is a pastor, writer, and mentor. A retired Army chaplain, he and his wife live in Lakeland, Florida.
Chris Linzey is a husband, dad, pastor, and writer. Currently an Army Reserve Chaplain, he and his family Illinois.
Chris Linzey is a husband, dad, pastor, and writer. Currently an Army Reserve Chaplain, he and his family live in Illinois.

DVD Review: I, Frankenstein

Now available on DVD (or streaming on Netflix) is the 2014 film I, Frankenstein. I, FrankensteinThe IMDB user reviews give this movie 5.2 stars out of 10. I was surprised, because the movie’s premise is the eternal struggle between gargoyles and demons, and who doesn’t love storylines like that?!?

Honestly, I thought 5.2 stars was generous. The movie was everything I expected it to be. For some reason, I enjoy watching cheesy apocalyptic movies showcasing the forces of good vs. the forces of evil. Since I was expecting a terrifically terrible movie, I was not disappointed!

– Affected acting.
– Poor writing.
– Ridiculous plot lines.

It’s everything you’d see in an MST3K movie. MST3K

Here are the basics of the movie:
– Demons exist and are trying to take over the world
– God created the order of the gargoyles to fight off the demons
– Frankenstein’s monster (named Adam in the movie) is a soulless, ageless creature roaming Earth for hundreds of years.
– The demons realize that the soulless Adam is the key to possessing the dead and bringing legions of demons to Earth to finally conquer everyone.
– Adam and the gargoyles fight off the demon horde.

Enough about the film-making elements – let’s talk about the film from a biblical perspective.

I’m always amused by these kinds of films because there is a segment of humanity that is greatly fascinated with the idea of angels and demons (true, the gargoyles aren’t exactly angels, but they’re supposed to fill the role of some kind of angelic protector-figure). The demons are your traditional Hollywood demons Demon Prince – they growl a lot and when they are dispatched go out with a burst of fire.

But there’s nothing quite like that in the Bible. In fact, the biblical accounts of demons never show us a visual image. The horned-headed, spikey-tailed, pitchfork-wielding demon of the screen is not biblical. The biblical image of possessed people is always of the human. While demons cause people to cut themselves and behave like lunatics, we never get to SEE them. When Jesus talks to demons, it is always through the voice of the possessed person.

So why our fascination with demons and angels?

I believe it’s because there is something in us that recognizes the reality of the spiritual realm even though the Western world denies it. In biblical studies and missiology (the study of missions) we talk a lot about worldview and how we perceive reality. The reality of the Western world tends to be one of rational thought. Angels, demons, and spiritual things are relegated to the heaven and hell but have little to do with human reality. It can be represented in this graphic of the “excluded middle.” The Excluded Middle

But there is no exclusion in the Bible. The spiritual world interacts with the human world. And Jesus takes dominion over it – in a powerful and final way. There is no power that counters God. The Bible is not about cosmic dualism, yin and yang. While there are evil forces, they are not equal to God’s good. God is superior and none can compare.

But we love to make movies about spiritual forces fighting tremendous battles for humanity. It can be disturbing to realize that the Bible DOES talk about demonic interaction with humanity. And the Bible never says that demons went away once the New Testament was completed. Yet the truth remains that God has fought the battle for us. Jesus conquered death, and because of his sacrifice we are assured of our final destination – the presence of God.

There is no power that rivals God’s.

So take movies like this for what they are: complete fiction.

And poorly done fiction at that.

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DVD Review: Noah

Noah

Last night my wife and I finally caved and watched Noah. I had heard a lot about it from Christian and secular sources, but wanted to see it with my own eyes. So here’s the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): This is quite possibly one of the worst movies of all time.

I mean all time.

As in the entire history of the world.

It’s that bad.

Remember how bad Waterworld was?

Noah was worse. At least Waterworld knew it was campy, with the “Smokers,” “jet skis,” and hilarious performance from Dennis Hopper. In fact, the best “end of the world” films always have that campy element.

But Noah seemed to think that it was a serious film, and that was a big blunder.

The biggest problem of the film was that it was confused. The writer/director claimed he wasn’t trying to make a biblical story on film – he simply used the Noah narrative as a foundation for his sci-fi/fantasy movie. This is where the confusion came in.

The story of Noah RELIES on the audience having prior knowledge of the biblical narrative. Without prior knowledge, the movie becomes completely disjointed and bizarre.

What’s with the snake?
What’s with the rainbow shockwaves in the sky?

Viewers familiar with the Old Testament will understand, but a secular audience misses these cues without prior knowledge. Therein lies the problem.

The writer/director needs prior knowledge for his story to work, yet he makes the mistake of deviating from the original story. I’m not just talking about taking artistic license with telling the story. This movie goes WAY beyond artistic license. I’m talking about adding elements that simply never existed.

– the villain who hacks a hole in the side of the ark and escapes the flood
– the strong vegetarian vibe (the animals are the only innocent ones) when the Bible CLEARLY says that God gives animals to humanity to eat
– the exclusion of Ham and Japheth’s wives when the Bible CLEARLY says that they were on the ark
– Noah wrestling with annihilating his family for God (because all humanity is evil) when the Bible says God chose to spare Noah and his family because Noah was righteous

See what I mean? The writer/director needs the biblical narrative to make sense of his story. The writer/director blatantly disregards the biblical narrative. The film is schizophrenic from the get go.

This doesn’t even begin to address the anachronistic elements like medieval knights and Old Navy wardrobe choices, fallen angel rock monsters that can be sent back to heaven with a hot spear, and Noah’s wife creating the first EPT (I wish this were a joke but, alas, it is not). EPT

As my wife said about two-thirds of the way into the movie:

This.is.odd.

Yup, that was an understatement, sweetheart.

If you care about the biblical narrative, you won’t want to see this movie. If you care about decent cinema and the art of filmmaking, you won’t want to see this movie.

Noah is a total dog.

Woof.

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