Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Movie Thoughts

I've seen two movies in theatres in the last couple of weeks. I don't usually see two movies in theatre in a year so this is something to write home about or at least post. Since I believe both to be somewhat political, my thoughts.

The Golden Compass:

I wrote about this when the preview came out. I loved the books. Huge fan. I was somewhat disappointed in the movie. All the nuance is gone. So is most of the character. Lee Scoresby comes off as a pervert. The bears have lost all their nature. Is the film anit-Catholic? No. It's anti-Calvinist. Read the books. In all seriousness, it's anti-repression of nature and independent thought especially when done so by religion. If Catholics feel that this criticism is leveled most heavily against them it reflects their own self-image and not reality or Pullman. The movie wears kid gloves compared to the novel. Serafina Pekkala's anti-religious rant has become muted. The true horror of the intercision process is lost (the victim appears to have survived). If religious critics want to be offended, they should read the books, particularly the last one. As for the movie... I hate how they mangled the order of the plot. I hate ending the film early. The Subtle Knife has a different feel and to start the next movie (assuming they make it) with the arctic sacrifice would be improper. The Golden Compass (first titled The Northern Lights) is heavily concerned with snow and ice. Neither The Subtle Knife nor The Amber Spyglass share this fascination. The former focuses on trees and desert and the latter on rock and earth. This thematic division is part of the elegance of the trilogy. To change it loses more nuance. Also, separating Lyra's loss of her best friend from the meeting of her future lover is nice. A little more loyalty to the book may have helped here. On the bright side, the CG is great particularly the polar bears.

I am Legend:

I got asked to see this one today. Not my type of movie frankly. Although, I have trouble finding a genre for this. It isn't really horror or sci-fi although it borrows heavily from both. However, my distaste has nothing to do with what type of movie it is. You may be wondering why this movie is political. Well, I need to be a spoiler to explain. So if you want to wait to see the movie stop reading now. The movie has heavy religious overtones in its ending. Robert Neville (Will Smith) is saved from hell (well mutated humanoid vampires) by the shining lights of a religious prophet and her mute son. He then redeems humanity by having a religious epiphany. The movie's premise is that a scientifically engineered virus has wiped out/mutated most of humanity. Neville and his saviour have a fierce theological debate. Posters in the destroyed New York proclaim God's love. The prophet has spent most of the plague on a boat. His daughter (not saved from damnation) complains that the destruction of mankind will prevent her from getting her Christmas presents and never shuts up (compare with the saved and mute/obedient son of the prophet). The building most prominent in the last bastion of humanity is a church. All in all the movie has a distinctive Noah's Ark (God has killed the wicked and saved the righteous) overtone that I find creepy as all get out (way creepier than the CG vampires). The lesson seems to be that science and perhaps commercialism have distracted humanity from God (the prophet hears God's voice because the world is quiet post-plague). The path to salvation is to bring God back into the centre of our lives and let Him guide our actions. If the Golden Compass is the anti-religion movie for the holidays, this is the pro-religion movie. I have nothing against religion. In fact I am proud of my Jewish faith. However, I don't think it should dictate all of our actions. I don't care if Mike Huckabee wants to wish people a merry Christmas. I just don't want the fact that a kid was born in Nazareth a couple thousand of years ago to dictate policy. You can apply this to any religion, I am just using Christianity as an example. I don't care if you wear a headscarf. I care when a woman is sentenced to be beaten for being raped because that is the interpretation of God's will. I have no objection to a faith based reality as long as the sense and reason based reality comes first.

Hmm... two movies that I saw in theatres... didn't really like either one. Maybe I should stick to not paying an arm and a leg for bad entertainment. If you want an interesting religiously themed movie this holiday season try to dig up a copy of the Hungarian movie Kontroll. That one I liked.


Anonymous said...

Go see Atonement when you can - not sure its out near you yet.

Incredible movie. I wasn't even sure I would like it and ended up being completely impressed with the skill with which they brought the novel to the screen.

Really quite good.

Anonymous said...

Of final note, I don't know that Atonement is really political, though there is a message about who gains and who loses in war and some message about class in society. It's really more about the human condition, and a huge message about trespasses, the human condition, and of course atonement and forgiveness (from others as well as self-forgiveness). Just gives you much to think about.

Suppose it is subversive in the way any move is that encourages you to look at things with your own eyes (I say somewhat sarcastically)

Anonymous said...

Saw I Am Legend.
Didn't really want to, but I was taken to it.
Couldn't wrap my head around the concept. Thought it incredibly unlikely that a virus in testing for years would get out of control after being released for public use in a matter of months and also wipe out humanity in the same timeframe. Too stupid for me, and I like teh stupid in movies.
If there's a movie should be made just to piss off Catholics, then Small Gods should be made. Or Good Omens.

Anonymous said...

Go see Charlie Wilson's War.
Aaron Sorkin (of West Wing fame) wrote the screenplay. Can't go wrong with that.

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