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!

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!