History Channel’s “The Bible”: Episode 2

This installment, like the first week, was a mixture of good and coulda-been-better.  They totally screwed up one of my favorites, (Samson), but I liked how they did the David storyline so well that by the end I forgot I was upset about their portrayal of Samson (until I looked back over my notes.)  I think it was better than last week’s, and I’m starting to wonder just how many of the inaccuracies are due to budget or time constrictions, but I don’t really see how limited funds would have prevented them from showing things like Rahab hiding the spies on her roof or Samson standing with a hand on two separate pillars like it specifically says he was.  *sigh*

Jericho

This episode started by re-playing the last few minutes of the previous show, when Joshua sent spies into Jericho. In the Bible, they’re supposed to scout the whole area, but Joshua does tell them “especially Jericho” so I guess it’s alright that the show simplified.  I’m not sure why they felt the need to add scenes of the spies knife-fighting in the street, (other than the sense that the producers of this series think bloody fighting=good drama, as we saw with last week’s warrior angels), but according to the Biblical text, somehow the king of Jericho did find out that there were spies in the city, and sent people to Rahab’s house to find them.  So I guess it’s possible that the city was alerted to the presence of spies because they left some dead bodies and lots of witnesses in their wake, but then they would be pretty poor spies, wouldn’t they?  (Like spies who try to shush an enemy woman into not giving them away…why wouldn’t she?  Just because you “shushed” her?  That was kinda dumb.)  Anyway, the show changed the manner in which Rahab helped the spies escape quite a bit, but it still showed her saying she thought they were sure to succeed in their coming campaign because she had heard of all the miracles that God had done and was convinced He was on their side.

Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. –Joshua 2:8-11

I wish the show hadn’t shown the spies coercing her into cooperation by holding a knife to a boy’s neck, (presumably her son).  Because that takes away from the power of her volunteering to help them just because of the reputation the Israelities and their God had.  I was glad they showed Rahab joining the victory chant at the end of that segment, though, because it’s indicates that she did become one of them as the Bible records.

But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day. –Joshua 6:25

Did you know that Rahab actually went on to become part of the lineage to Jesus?  I guess my main complaint with her portrayal in the show is that they took away a lot of her agency as a character.  She’s threatened into helping the spies instead of volunteering, and they only established that she was a prostitute by having a smarmy soldier leer at her and call sneer “my little whore,” which to me was not a clear indication that she actually was a prostitute as it could have just as easily been interpreted as harassment, so she’s a passive victim and not somebody who makes choices for herself, good or bad.  Maybe she was forced into a life of prostitution, whether explicitly or through socio-economic factors; we just don’t know.  But did the producers make this style choice because they didn’t want to portray one of Jesus’ ancestors as someone who once willfully sold her body for money? I don’t like any attempts to sugar-coat people in the Bible and make them seem better than they were.  They were all flawed humans, and God used them anyway.  I don’t understand the tendency for Christians to elevate Bible heroes and make it that much harder for us to relate to today, as if they never struggled with doubt, as if they never had moments of weakness, as if they were all perfect from the start and not broken, emotional messes like we are.  As if we could never measure up to their example if we tried.

But it was never the people in the Bible stories that were incredible.  It was always God’s power working through them.   Their biggest contribution was having the faith to trust Him to lead their lives, and not one of them ever got that totally right either.  Go read Hebrews 11, which lists many of the imperfect people from the Bible, including Rahab, and commends them for the actions they took by faith.  This whole awesome list is basically concluded by saying, now it’s our turn!  What will God do with our lives, if we let him?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. –Hebrews 12:1

You can read more fully about Rahab and the spies in Joshua 2, and about the battle of Jericho in Joshua 6.  I was pleased that they included details that are often omitted in re-tellings of this particular story, like the angel visiting Joshua and instructing him on how to take the city, and the fact that they actually walked around the city once a day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day.  The main concern I had for this section besides the Rahab thing is that they never really explained the ark of the covenant.  They opened with a shot of Joshua praying by it, and they mention it briefly throughout, including when the priests carry it around the walls of the city, but it is such an important symbol of God’s covenant and power that it would have been really helpful to the audience to establish that a little more, so that the significance of David rejoicing when it’s brought into Jerusalem later in the episode makes sense.  The ark has the stone tablets of the ten commandments in it!  It has Aaron’s staff that budded, and a jar of manna.  It represents God’s presence with the Israelites.  When it’s captured by their enemies and placed in a temple of Dagon as a trophy, the statue of Dagon falls off its pedestal and bows to the ark.  It gives the people who captured it tumors.  The ark of the covenant deserves its own segment on the show, is what I’m saying, yet I can’t even find a picture of it on the show’s website.

Samson

The Samson in the show was pretty close to how I’ve always imagined him, except that show-Samson had more than the seven braids mentioned in the Bible.

Samson, (with his more-than-seven braids), and his mom. (source for image).

Samson and his mom. (source for image).

My statement in the opening paragraph of this post that the show “ruined” the story of Samson may have been too harsh, but they just left so much outSamson is easily one of my favorites; his story is full of great drama, and he’s so deeply flawed and tragic.  He has a weakness for women.  He has a temper.  He’s a fascinating character.  But the show left out a lot of the best parts of his story, like killing a lion with his bare hands, and making a clever riddle out of the fact that bees made honey in the lion’s carcass, and the fact that his new wife was married off to the best man because they thought Samson didn’t want her anymore, and she wasn’t burned to death until after he burned all the fields of the Philistines by tying torches to foxes’ tails and making them run through the grain.  I suppose some of those things were cut to make it shorter, and some because they didn’t have the budget for the CGI or whatever, but I was basically just yelling at my screen the whole time because they skipped through it so fast, and it could really be an amazing full-length movie on its own.  I’ve always secretly wanted to write a screenplay for it myself.

Anyway, there were a lot of points that the show got right: Yes, his wife was burned to death, yes, he handed himself over to be bound and brought to the Philistines before breaking out of the bonds and kicking butt, yes, he used a donkey’s jawbone as an improvised weapon (but he killed way more men with it than the one or two in the show), yes Delilah betrayed him for money and yes he was that stupid and told her exactly how to do it, (but only after he had lied to her 3 times about how to make him lose his strength, and seeing her try to betray him all 3 times.  I told you he had a weakness for women.)  And yes, he prays for a final surge of strength when he’s brought out at a Philistine party to be mocked, and pushes down the pillars and the whole building collapses and kills all the revelers along with himself.  His mother wouldn’t have been there so soon after to dig him out of the rubble, but it does say that:

Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him.  They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father.  He led Israel twenty years. –Judges 16:31

I don’t have time to include quotes from all the great parts in the Samson story, but you should go read the whole thing, it’s really really good.  Probably my favorite part in the show was when he snapped the chains that were supposed to be restraining him and then started swinging them around as a weapon.  But wouldn’t it have been cool to see him tear the gates of the city of Gaza from the wall and carry them up the hill, too?  That might have been more doable under the budget than fighting a lion with his bare hands.  Oh well.

Saul and David

Is it bad that the first thought I had when Saul appeared on screen was “he’s not handsome enough!”?  (Right after “whoa, they skipped all the way from Samson to Samuel with no transition!”, that is.)  Here’s how the Bible introduces Saul:

Kish had a son named Saul, as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else. –1 Samuel 9:2

Sorry dude, you're probably not as handsome as the real Saul was. (source for image)

Sorry dude, you’re probably not as handsome as the real Saul was. (source for image)

Regardless, I liked this portrayal of Saul, and later in this section that of adult David, and this was my favorite segment this week.  They got a lot of things just right; now that I think about it, I probably liked it the best because it was the most accurate to the text.  (They still skipped a lot, but in fairness there was a lot more to skip, too.  I mean, David’s narrative spans two whole books of the Bible).

I loved the sarcasm of Samuel when he said confronted Saul about not having carried out the Lord’s instructions to destroy everything that belonged to their enemies; it was perfect.

“But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears?  What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?” –1 Samuel 15:14

The David and Goliath bit was pretty good except I’m not sure I would have swapped out David’s original dialogue as he went up against the giant for the 23rd Psalm.  In a way it was a cool decision because David did write those lyrics, and maybe he did go around quoting his own stuff when it felt relevant, (although it’s unknown whether he would have written that particular psalm by this point in his life or not.)  I like the first part of what he really says in the Bible, about his God being his weapon, but re-reading it now I guess the second part is pretty grisly:

 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” –1 Samuel 17:45-47

I liked Goliath’s warrior ponytail when he took off his helmet, but then I liked it even more when I realized they only styled him that way so they could make it easier for David to hold up his severed head.  It just made me laugh, along with the inexplicable British accent of the young David a la Isaac and Sarah from the last episode.

I didn’t quite catch whether the show mentioned exactly what was inside that bag that David handed him as proof that he had more than fulfilled Saul’s price of 100 dead Philistines for the hand of his daughter Michal, but it was 200 foreskins.  Gross, right?  I’m totally okay with the decision to put them all in a bag and keep them unseen from the audience instead of having them count out the full number before the king as the text says.  Yeah.  I don’t need to see that.

The inclusion of Saul ordering some priests killed was a bit of a strange choice; maybe it was meant to really show how far off track he had gone?  I don’t think it illustrates his craziness as much as him hurling spears at David one minute and then asking him to soothe his nightmares away with his harp the next, but if they had done this scene the way it happens in the Bible, Saul comes off more paranoid about everyone conspiring against him to support David, yet most of his men are unwilling to carry out his kill order against the priests.  It’s just kind of a strange story, but maybe it was included to meet the show producers’ seeming quota for bloody violence.  They love to fit those fight scenes in wherever they can.

David creeping up behind a peeing Saul and cutting a piece of his cloak to prove he could have killed him if he’d wanted was pretty much exactly how it happened.

The deaths of Jonathon and Saul and David’s reaction to hearing about them were terrific, I thought.  The text doesn’t specify how Jonathan died, just that it was during the battle, so an arrow makes sense, especially since it does say that archers critically wounded Saul.  Saul does kill himself by falling on his sword, but only after his armor-bearer refuses to kill him for him.  The messenger that relays the news of the deaths to David tries to take credit for killing both the king, perhaps mistakenly believing that David will reward him for killing his “enemy.”  In the show, David rebukes the messenger for thinking it’s good news, but in the Bible he kills him for “lifting your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed.”  But the emotions of this whole part were right, if not all the details.

The dramatization of David and his men crawling into Jerusalem through the water shaft and climbing up out of the well was fantastic.

I do wish they hadn’t introduced Bathsheeba during the scene where David is dancing in the street before the returning ark of the covenant, because it tainted the unbridled joy of that scene, when David is supposed to be leaping and dancing in such an undignified manner that his wife Michal is embarrassed, and tries to shame him for it and his skimpy attire.  (I always thought the linen ephod the text says he was wearing was more like underwear, but in the show it looks more like a kind of a kilt?)

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” –2 Samuel 6:20-22

I loved Nathan’s rebuking of David for taking “everything from [Uriah’s] life,” and I thought it was a good choice to have the ending focus on the fact that David’s son Solomon will build the Lord’s temple.

Sorry it took me a few days to get this post up.  I’ll try to be faster next with next week’s episode!

History Channel’s “The Bible”: Episode 1

Last Sunday, The History Channel debuted its new five-part miniseries, The Bible.  I didn’t get a chance to watch the first episode until later in the week, but I will try to catch the premieres of the rest of the episodes and have a review post about them up later that same night.  I know I’ve neglected this blog lately, but this is the exactly the sort of thing this blog is suited for, I think.

Overall I must say I am pleased that such a show, (dramatizing stories from scripture), is on the air.  I admire the motivation of producer Mark Burnett, as quoted in Entertainment Weekly:

Burnett has said he made the special effects-filled project to help tackle “Bible illiteracy” among young people. “In school, you have to know a certain amount of Shakespeare, but no Bible,” Burnett told the Christian Science Monitor. “So there’s got to be a way to look at it from a pure literature point of view. If it wasn’t for the Bible, arguably Shakespeare wouldn’t have written those stories.”

I’m not so sure Shakespeare’s works are directly dependent on the Bible, but it is at least true that many works of art and literature are full of Biblical allusions and a working knowledge of scripture would be useful in studying and understanding them.  But of course I don’t think that’s the main benefit for knowing what is actually written in scripture, and while I am pleased that an effort is being made to bring some of the Bible to life in this most recent project, it is not without flaws, and it is my job to point out the scriptural inaccuracies and the reasons why they matter here.  I hope that my posts are another contribution in the struggle against Biblical illiteracy.

Noah and Creation

I can get behind the decision to open with Noah on the ark, reciting the creation of the world from Genesis 1 as the rains pour.  The first chapter of the first book of the Bible doesn’t really lend itself to visual representation or re-enactment very easily, (but A+ for the brief shot of Adam rising up out of the dirt), and I liked that show-Noah made an explicit link between sin entering the world through the first humans’ actions and the manifestation of the Flood to “cleanse the earth.”  That’s theologically spot-on.

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.  So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. –Genesis 6:5-8

The fact that it stops raining just as Noah gets to “and on the seventh day, God rested” doesn’t make it clear that the Flood was much longer than a week, though.  It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, and they were on the ark for almost a year total since they had to wait for the waters to recede.  The shot of a rainbow behind the floating ark in the show is not quite right, since it shouldn’t appear until after they’ve gotten off the ark and made a burnt offering sacrifice, but it’s probably good that they included it since the rainbow is such an iconic element of that story.

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” –Genesis 9:12-16

One of the main complaints I have for the Noah portion of the show are that I don’t believe the ark would have been that leaky; they spent years building it and the whole thing was coated with pitch inside and out, after all.  I’m sure having water pour in was for dramatic effect, but it kind of makes it look like they barely survived as opposed to having planned and prepared by God’s instructions to be spared from the destruction.  At least the dimensions of the ark from the outside look pretty accurate.  The other complaint is that the girl in the scenes with Noah and his wife is too young.  She must be the wife of one of Noah’s sons, because the only 8 people on the ark were Noah, his wife, his three sons, and his sons’ wives, but the show made her look more like a daughter than a daughter-in-law.  Relatively minor inaccuracies, and they didn’t really show enough of Noah to clarify a lot of elements, so I’d say this first segment wasn’t too bad.

Noah on the ark (source).

Noah on the ark (source for image).

Abraham

This was my favorite segment; I thought it was mostly very well done.  I particularly loved the way the relationship dynamics between Sarah, Hagar, and Abraham were portrayed–the bitterness and jealousies felt very realistic.

Abraham and Sarah.  I was pleased that there weren't any blue-eyed, blonde-haired characters populating this ancient near-eastern stories...but then a blonde-haired blue-eyed Isaac showed up. (source for image)

Abraham and Sarah. I was pleased that there weren’t any blue-eyed, blonde-haired characters populating these ancient near-eastern stories…but then a blonde-haired blue-eyed Isaac showed up.  Also, why did Isaac and Sarah have British accents?  That was random. (source for image)

I liked the depiction of the angelic visitors at first, but I was disappointed in the artistic license decision to embellish their role by having them kill people, with swords.  And get injured in said sword-fight!  I’m sorry but I just don’t think beings with the power to instantly blind an entire crowd would have a need to resort to measly mortal weapons.  Also, even though they were on a mission to destroy the city and everyone in it (except Lot’s family), I was uncomfortable with the idea of the angels actually physically killing people one-on-one.  I’m just not sure that’s something God’s warriors do.

Bible_Warrior_Angel

A warrior angel, I guess?  Do angels bleed?  Maybe only when they take human form? (source for image)

As far as the depiction of the sacrifice of Isaac, I thought that the emotions were well done, and I was very glad to see that they did show Isaac carrying the wood for his own sacrifice up the mountain, because that is one of many parallel’s to Jesus’ sacrifice, (in this case to carrying his own cross to Calvary.  The parallel was slightly blurred since in the show Abraham also carried a bundle of wood instead of “the fire and the knife” as it says in scripture, but at least it’s still there for people who know to look for it.)

The problem with this scene was that it deviated from the Biblical account when Abraham turned around and saw a lamb with it’s leg caught in a tree, instead of a ram with it’s horns caught in a thicket, to sacrifice in place of Isaac.

 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

Genesis 22:13-14

This may seem like a small change, but it’s actually quite significant.  There are strict specifications for the appropriate way to make a sacrifice.  The animal had to be the best that you can offer; you don’t give God an imperfect specimen.  It had to be without blemish.

Do not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him.

Deuteronomy 17:1

If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord.

Leviticus 1:3

 If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the Lord your God.

Deuteronomy 15:21

The lamb in the show with its leg caught in the the tree would likely not meet the requirements for sacrifice, since its leg is probably injured.  At the least bruised, at the worst twisted or broken.  Either way it’s not an animal without blemish.  That’s why the Biblical text includes the detail that the ram was caught in the thicket by his horns, so it’s clear that there’s no flaw on the animal’s body.

It’s a very high standard, and it may seem like a small element of the story, but it’s theologically important.  Because that standard is why Jesus’ sacrifice was so critical, and so necessary.  Literally no-one else could have done what he did.  No other human has ever lived a life “without blemish” like he did.  No-one else’s undeserved death could have offered a cleansing for the world’s sins, because no one else would ever be pure enough.

Moses

I wish they hadn’t skipped from child Isaac all the way to adult Moses!  I know Moses is one of the most famous stories, but I thought part of the whole point of this show was to educate people about the Bible stories they didn’t know.  And there are so many richly dramatic interludes and interesting characters in the span they skipped!  *sigh*  There’s so much context to the story of Exodus that gets left out if you start with Moses instead of his ancestor Joseph, who is the reason they were in Egypt to begin with…just read all of Genesis, everyone, you won’t be sorry.

This section was by far the one I liked least, because it was so poorly done, and same subject matter has been done before so they needn’t have bothered.  They should have just aired The Prince of Egypt, which does a much better job overall even though it features some of the same inaccuracies as this version (like Moses not knowing about his true identity until he’s an adult.)

The burning bush scene was woefully lacking.  Some of it may have been just due to budget limitations; Moses is supposed to be watching a herd of sheep but there are none to be seen, and he doesn’t perform either of the two miracles that God makes him do (turning his staff into a snake and making his hand suddenly leperous then suddenly healed) to boost his confidence that he’ll be able to convince the Israelites to follow him.  The CGI for the flames on the bush didn’t even look that impressive.  Moses didn’t take off his sandals, as he is instructed to do in the Bible because “the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:3).

The whole scene was just far too short; show-Moses asks “but how can I set them free?”, and after hearing the reply “I will be with you,” show-Moses is suddenly super-sure of himself, throws his staff to the side, and proclaims “With your power, I will set my people free!”  Compare that to the Biblical account, when Moses is still reluctant to carry out God’s bidding even after God has him perform the two aforementioned miracles at the burning bush, displaying absolutely no self-confidence and begging twice for someone else to do it instead.

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue.”

The Lord said to him, “Who gave man his mouth?  Who makes him deaf or mute?  Who gives him sight or makesh im blind?  Is it not I, the LORD?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite?  I know he can speak well.  He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you.  You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.”

Exodus 4:10-15

Show-Moses just seemed overly arrogant and cocky, strutting around without any self-doubt and throwing miracles and faith certainties in people’s faces.  Also, why did show-Moses have Aaron put his staff into the Nile to turn it to blood, instead of Moses doing it with his own staff as he does in the Bible?  Was it to indicate that Aaron’s staff is tied also tied to miraculous power as it later grows an almond bloom as a sign he’s to be the leader under Moses?  They didn’t include that part anyway, so there was really no point to confuse things the way they did.  Maybe this was the show’s way of acknowledging that it was Aaron’s staff that turned into a snake in Pharaoh’s presence, before the plague of blood?  It’s really the only time in the show that Aaron assists Moses, but as mentioned in the preceding paragraph, Moses actually relied on his brother’s help in a much more significant capacity.

Moses and Aaron (source for image)

Moses and Aaron (source for image)

I also didn’t like how they made Joshua look weak and full of doubt.  Maybe I’m wanting to hero-worship him too much, because I’m sure he was a flawed human like everybody else, but he’s known for being one of the very few who had faith that God would deliver the Promised Land to them, when ten of the other twelve spies argued that it was impossible.  But who knows, maybe he really was bitter and doubtful before witnessing the miraculous exodus out of Egypt…although I think the real reason the show made Joshua keep voicing doubts was so the audience would recognize him when he takes over as leader of the Israelities.  The end of this episodes sets up his leading the battle of Jericho for next week.

The ten plagues were not specified, (how many people unfamiliar with the story would realize that the scene with the lit torches was meant to take place during the plague of darkness?) and I’m not even sure the showed all ten.  All of Moses’ warnings to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh’s giving in and then recapitulating on his promises after numerous plagues were lifted, is reduced to quick-cuts of vaguely-identified plagues and Pharaoh saying “no.”

They only killed one lamb (which really looked more like a sheep) for Passover, instead of one for each household as scripture instructed.  And most egregiously, instead of using hyssop branches to spread the blood on their door frames, they use what looks like a literal modern-day paintbrush for one house, and a dirty rag for another!  I found this whole depiction very troublesome, in line with my complaints about failure to accurately depict the significance of sacrifice in the Abraham section as outlined above.  The whole point of the blood on the door frames was to show that a death had already cleansed that house.  You don’t show respect for cleansing sacrificial blood by smearing it around with a dirty rag!  And it’s not as if this was a minor, little-known element of the story; the hyssop branch used to paint the blood on the door frames is an explicitly mentioned part of annual Passover dinners.  I just don’t understand how they messed that up.

Furthermore, the crowd of Israelites was far to small.  I’m sure they just didn’t have the budget for that many extras, but it looked like maybe a few dozen people, yet Exodus 12:37 says:

There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children.

The show left out the pillars of cloud and fire that led the Israelites and that came between them and Pharaoh’s pursuing chariots to keep them at bay for the whole night while the crowd crossed the Red Sea.  Now doesn’t that make more sense (and isn’t it more of a spectacle) than a ragtag bunch of newly-freed slaves somehow out-running the finest warrior chariots?  These inaccuracies matter because too many people already don’t believe that Bible stories like this one really happened. It doesn’t help to deviate from the text and make them even less believable, and they aren’t suffering for drama as written.

Conclusion:

Even though there were all these issues, I have to repeat that I’m glad an attempt to portray the stories of the Bible is on television at all, and I hope more than anything that watching this series might inspire people to actually read some scripture.  Because as is often the case with film adaptations, the book is better!

Trailer (Tuesday) Wednesday 10.24.12

I’m a day late this week (and haven’t posted a new review in about two weeks, shame on me,) but here we go with this week’s trailers.  Yesterday we got our first look at Iron Man 3 which I am definitely excited for.  I like that they mention The Avengers, when Tony says “nothin’s been the same since New York.”  It definitely looks like our beloved reckless and egotistical hero is going to be struggling through some heavy difficulties this time.

Coming to theaters this week is Cloud Atlas, based on the book of the same name which I am about 70% done reading.  I’m planning to finish the book before I see the film, so I may not get to it this weekend, but I’m definitely curious to see how the story is adapted for the screen.  The book follows a chiastic structure, meaning the beginning corresponds to the end, the second section to the second-to-last, and so forth, centering around the middle.  It deals with several individuals living at different times in history and the future who are, (I think, not having finished it yet), reincarnated versions of the same souls.  I think that’s why the actors play several parts in the different time periods for the movie.  The title comes from this passage, in the middle section of the book:

Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an’ tho’ a cloud’s shape nor hue nor size don’t stay the same, it’s still a cloud an’ so is a soul.  Who can say where the cloud’s blowed from or who the soul’ll be ‘morrow?  Only Sonmi the east an’ the west an’ the compass an’ the atlas, yay, only the atlas o’ clouds.

It will be interesting to finish the book and see what it and the movie conclude.  The idea of reincarnation doesn’t fit with the Bible, but there are some other themes I think the story holds that might.

Also new in theaters this week is Chasing Mavericks, which I really haven’t heard much about and hadn’t even heard of until a few weeks ago.  When I first saw this trailer I thought it looked cheesy and predictable, but when it got to the part where Gerard Butler’s on-screen wife says, “There are all kinds of sons for us T, some are born to you, some just occur to you,” I was emotionally sold on seeing this movie, even if it does turn out to be exactly as predictable as it looks.  Like it looks like the kind of movie that will feature a Hogwarts cheer in the conclusion, doesn’t it?

New on DVD this week is Magic Mike, about which I would just say, would you go to a strip club in real life?  If the answer is no, don’t bother watching this, ever.  There is no difference and the story is not worth it.  Also on DVD is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which was not as epic as I thought it would be but still enjoyable and kinda fun if you don’t mind ridiculously gratuitous violence and re-imagined history.  I’m definitely more excited for Steven Spielberg’ Lincolnthat we’ll get next month than I am for this DVD; check out the trailer below.  His words were so powerful, they just give me chills:

Trailer Tuesday 10.9.12

This week marks the release of the new film directed by (and starring) Ben Affleck, Argo. Based on a true story involving the Iran hostage crisis, it looks good and has already received Oscar buzz.  I don’t think it’s coming to my theater this weekend, but I hope it comes soon because I really want to see it.

Also new this week is Here Comes the Boom.  I’m not really eager to see this, I’m sure it will be fine but comedy’s not really my thing and the high-school-teacher-who-gets-into-MMA-for-the-money just reminds me of Joel Edgerton’s role in Warrior, which I would rather watch again instead of this.

Seven Psychopaths is about a group of petty criminals that make money by dog-napping and then returning the dogs for reward money from the distraught owners.  Of course they somehow get mixed up with hardcore criminals.  I can’t decide what I think of this movie, partly because I’ve heard next to nothing about it besides seeing the trailer.  I think I’m going to like Christopher Walken’s character, though.  “Put your hands up.” “No.” “But I’ve got a gun!” “I don’t care.”

Also in theaters this week is Sinister, (a scary movie so no thank you,) and Smashed, a small-budget film about an alcoholic married couple whose relationship struggles when the wife decides to quit drinking.  It looks really good, but I think it’s a limited release, too, so I don’t know when I’ll get to see it.

This week on DVD is Prometheus, one of my favorite films of the summer (even though it has a lot of flaws) because it sparked the most discussion and deep thought.  I’ve updated my review, since I wasn’t sure when I originally posted it what I thought of everything.  Also on DVD today is Rock of Ages, which I didn’t like, and The Raven, which I didn’t formally review, but must sadly report was mostly stupid despite the intriguing idea (Edgar Allan Poe (John Cusack) must help the police solve copy-cat murders inspired by the author’s writings.  By the end I didn’t even care about the reveal that answered the mystery; it was that bad.)
I’m pretty proud of myself for having posted two movie reviews each the past two weeks!  I don’t know if I can keep it up or not, but I’m definitely putting in a lot of effort on my blogs lately.  I’d still like to get reviews up for some of the movies I saw this past summer, and I’d like to review the Twilight films before the final installment comes out in November.

Looper

I loved this movie.  I saw it very late at night and was tired at work the next day, but it was totally worth it.  It was every bit as interesting as I’d hoped it would be, but it was also surprising.  There were so many “wait, what? OH!” moments, and it turned out to be much less “about” the time travel than it was about the complex, compelling characters.

There are potentially a few reasons why some of you may prefer to wait to watch this on DVD; there is a scene with a topless prostitute, and two of the trailers beforehand were for graphic horror movies, (at least at my theater.  I know that’s different at different locations, but the trailers are always trying to target a segment of the audience they’re predicting will see the feature presentation).  You could fast-forward through the topless scene without missing anything crucial, and come back and read below my spoiler warning to find what the dialogue in that scene added to the story.

**SPOILER ALERT**  Everything below this picture is a spoiler.  I think the movie is much more enjoyable on first viewing if you don’t know anything about what’s going to happen, so read on at your own risk.

The story is set 30 years in the future, (in Kansas, supposedly), and we’re told that 30 years from that point, time travel will have been invented.  It’s illegal, but the mob in the future uses it to send people they want eliminated back in time, where hired guns like Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) shoot them and dispose of the body.  Joe is what’s known as a “looper,” and the job ends when one day the anonymous target turns out to be the looper’s 30-year-future self, thus “closing the loop.”  The retired looper then has 30 years to spend their money and enjoy life before the inevitable date that they know they will be sent back and killed by their younger self.

We see what happens when a looper fails to kill his future-self, because Joe’s friend Seth does just that.  The scene with Old Seth losing his extremities (they just disappear, and we know that off-camera, Young Seth is being mutilated by the mob, since they can’t have a future-man running around and potentially changing the timeline) is one of the most horrifying yet bloodless things I’ve ever seen; it’s very creative storytelling.  (And it’s probably the reason for those horror trailers at the beginning.)  When Joe is confronted with the prospect of closing his own loop, he too fails to shoot his future-self, so Young Joe spends much of the movie trying to track down and kill Old Joe to right himself with his mob contract, while Old Joe (Bruce Willis) has his own agenda of tracking down and killing a child who will grow up to be the future-mob leader responsible for killing Old Joe’s wife.  (It’s a little confusing, as time travel always is, but it’s a perfectly thrilling story if you don’t let yourself get hung up on figuring out exactly how it works).

old joe and young joe across the table

Old Joe and Young Joe order the same food, but agree on little else.

Old Joe and Young Joe are entirely different people; they have different motives, attachments, and skills. It’s fascinating to think about how much a person can change in their life.  Joe didn’t intentionally try to change himself, it just happened as he accumulated experiences and relationships.  Old Joe is motivated almost entirely by love for his wife and a desire to save her, which makes him willing to carry out despicable acts that Young Joe would never consider.  Scripture tells us that we should become a different, “new” person when we give our lives to Christ.  As Old Joe’s life and all his decisions are dominated by a love for his wife, Christians’ lives should be dominated by a love for God that changes our attitudes and goals from what we may have wanted before.  (I’m NOT saying Old Joe is a good example of becoming a new creation!  Just that the way he’s transformed is a perverse partial parallel to conversion.)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2

Joe grows up without a mother, and the loss of that nurturing, loving guidance in his life is profoundly felt.  In the aforementioned scene with the topless prostitute, Young Joe is upset because he betrayed his best friend to the mob.  He laments that he can’t remember his mother’s face, and misses the way she used to brush her fingers through his hair.  I think he’s wishing both that she could comfort him again, and that he could have asked her what he should have done.  Later, he talks to Cid about the fact that his mother abandoned him when he was younger than Cid, and says joining the mob as a looper gave him purpose, that his assassin’s gun was “something that was mine.”  The parallel to Cid is clear; if he grows up without his mother, too, we understand that he will follow the same bad path as Joe, but with magnified violence and destruction due to his telekinetic abilities.  All of this illustrates the importance of parents providing not only love and care, but also instilling a good moral compass into their children.

Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

Cid’s mother, Sara, (Emily Blunt), left her infant son to be raised by her sister, and admits her guilt over abandoning him as a baby to Young Joe.  It’s clear she regrets not having been there to take care of him, and that she truly loves him and is willing to be unconditionally dedicated to protecting and nurturing her son.  She tells Young Joe that she cares more about Cid’s well-being than the painful, daily reminders that he doesn’t acknowledge her as his mother:

Whether he loves me back or not, as long as I’m there to raise him, he’s gonna be okay, he’s gonna be safe.  He’s never gonna get lost.

pic of cid and sara

Pierce Gagnon, the child actor who plays Cid, is excellent–and creepy!

Sara’s relationship with Cid reminds me of Isaiah 49:15; even though she acts like she doesn’t care about him at first, she still obviously cares about him more than her own life and is willing take a bullet for him.  God says his love for his people surpasses even the deep love of a mother for her child:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!

In the end, Young Joe sacrifices himself to protect and potentially save Cid, not only from the immediate trauma of losing his mom, but from the damning future ahead of him if he grows up “bad.”  He’s also saving Sara’s life.  His self-sacrifice fulfill Jesus’ words in 1 John :15:12-13:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down this life for his friends.”

Young Joe’s decision to “change the loop” also reminds me of what he told Cid earlier, when talking about the anger he once felt towards the men who got his mother addicted to drugs.

“It’s just men trying to figure out what they gotta do to keep what they got.  That’s the only kind of man there is.”

What Young Joe has, that he knows he will lose if he grows up into the version of Old Joe standing in front of him in that field, is a compassion and morality that will not let him kill a child.  Young Joe has killed many unknown victims in his job as a Looper, but still cannot stomach killing a child, even when he has seen the violent destruction the child is capable of and “knows” he will grow up to be ruthless killer.  But Old Joe has already killed a child, and is intent on killing another.  Old Joe was targeting three children, even though he knew two were innocent, all to save his wife and despite being horrified himself at what he was doing.  By killing himself, Young Joe not only saves Cid and Sara, but he also “keeps” what he’s got; a clean(er) conscience, and hands that haven’t yet spilled an innocent child’s blood.  In a way, he’s saving himself, too–from every becoming that dark.

Overall, I loved this movie because it was so creative and exciting to watch, even the second time through.  There are all sorts of little clues and hints you pick up on repeat viewing, and the acting is fantastic.  After I watched it I realized that the promotional trailers and the first half of the movie foretold how it would end, because Young Joe kept saying he was going to kill Old Joe, and in the end he did, he killed himself just like he said he would!  But I didn’t see it coming until it almost happened!  It’s great storytelling, and I do think the message of self-sacrifice is one of the most powerful themes out there.  I mean, Jesus himself said there’s “no greater love.”

Pitch Perfect

This movie is a lot of fun!  It’s very funny, the musical numbers are fantastic, and I love how enthusiastic everyone is about belting tunes out all the time! It’s totally nerdy but in an empowering, “we’re-not-embarassed-that-we-love-music” kind of way.  As one character says in a completely serious tone, “Organized nerd-singing–this is great!”  Some of the jokes are sexually suggestive/explicit, so it’s not really appropriate for a high school or below audience, but it’s set on a college campus and it’s not surprising that college kids would talk about sex.  And I appreciated that this movie didn’t feel the need to show anyone having it.

picture of the Barton Belles

“I love you, awesome nerds.” -Beca

The story follows rival a cappella groups competing at the collegiate level, but focuses most on a young wanna-be DJ, Beca, who is very concerned with maintaining an “I’m not like everybody else” image.  She joins the Barton Belles partly because she does, secretly, love music, partly because they’re desperate the recruit new members, and partly because her dad promises to help her pursue her true dream of moving to L.A. if she will spend a year really trying to get involved on campus.

picture of jesse and beca

“What? You don’t like movies?! What is wrong with you? How do you not like movies?! Not like movies is like not liking puppies!” -Jesse (Obviously I loved this line.)

I won’t spoil the ins-and-outs of the competition, but Beca is forced to confront and change the way she has been emotionally isolating herself, start to reconcile with her dad and make some real friends.  The story isn’t the forefront, since the emphasis is on the singing first of all, and the jokes second, but I think there is real character growth from the surly, eye-rolling girl who checks into her dorm at the beginning and the one who smiles broadly from genuine enjoyment while she sings with her now-friends by the end.  Also, the leader of Beca’s group is a control freak, and must learn by the end to let everyone’s input be heard, and to not prioritize winning over relishing the music and the act of singing together itself.

Those are good, healthy messages, although there aren’t necessarily scriptural references to go with them.  There are a lot of verses about singing and praising God, and while this movie definitely wasn’t singing praise songs, it reminded me how much I love singing, and I think God likes to watch humans throw their whole hearts into their using their talents and pursuing their passions the way these characters do.

picture of rebel wilson as fat amy

Amy tells her fellow songstresses, “Even though some of you are pretty thin, I think you all have fat hearts.”

When I walked out of the theater from Pitch Perfect, I just wanted to walk around singing all night.  I think David must have surely felt the same way, when he wrote this passage:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
   make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
  with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Psalm 98:4-6

Trailer Tuesday 10.2.12

Perks of Being a Wallflower is still in limited release and has not opened anywhere near me yet.  I’m still greatly anticipating it, so I really hope I like it when I eventually get the chance to finally watch.  Pitch Perfect didn’t premiere here last week as scheduled, either, but it’s coming this week so I am planning to see it on Friday with my sister who is going to be in town visiting.  I can’t wait!  I hope it’s not too crass.  Here’s a clip:

I did see Looper last weekend and thought it was fantastic, and I might be going to see it again tonight.  I also need to see End of Watch soon; my plans to watch it keep falling through.

Coming out in theaters this week is Taken 2.  I never saw the first Taken, so I’m ambivalent about this, but I know a lot of people will be excited about the chance to watch Liam Neeson go around fighting people to protect his family.

Also in theaters this week is Frankenweenie. I’m not interested.  Against my better judgment I saw ParaNorman a few weeks ago and really didn’t like it, so I don’t feel like subjecting myself to another spooky kids’ show about Hollywood’s philosophy on death.

On DVD this week is Dark Shadows, which I never formally reviewed but can summarize by saying I do not recommend it.  Besides having no great moral message, it was a very poorly written story, with ridiculous twists thrown in towards the end.

I’m not excited about any of the new movies this week so I’m going to include a new trailer that I recently saw for Life of Pi, which comes out in November.  It’s based on a book that I haven’t read, but I think it looks beautiful.  Maybe I’m biased because I first saw it in 3D at the theater.

The Words

This was a layered tale about writers, aptly named The Words, with an emotional story of the regret and consequences that followed one selfish action.  I enjoyed it very much, and I think it does a good job of portraying the long-lasting repercussions a bad decision can have.  (Warning: The rest of this post contains **SPOILERS**).

Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) is an accomplished author reading excerpts at the launch of his new book, which is the tale aspiring novelist Rory, (Bradley Cooper).  Rory has been unable to get anything published, has had to stop writing full-time and get a job, (because his father refused to keep lending him money),and then finds a typed manuscript by chance, hidden in an old briefcase.  The manuscript is a masterpiece, and adds to Rory’s depression.  “In those words, he had been confronted by everything he had ever aspired to be, and the reality of what he would never become,” intones the narrator.  Later, an upset Rory yells at his wife, “I’m not who I thought I was.  And I’m terrified that I never will be.”  Surely many viewers can sympathize with Rory’s feelings of inadequacy.

picture of bradley cooper as Rory with the briefcase

“He didn’t know why he was doing it; he just wanted to feel the words pass through his fingers, through his mind.”

 

Rory doesn’t initially set out to actively steal the manuscript.  But he re-types it, word for word, onto his computer.  When his wife (Zoe Saldana) finds the document, her glowing praises are, unknown to her, heartbreaking; she says it’s “so much better than anything you’ve ever written before!”  It would be painful, but this is the moment for Rory to admit that the words are not his.  Another moment would be when he submits the manuscript to a publisher, or before he signs a deal with a literary agent.  Clay narrates that Rory goes along with the assumption that he wrote it without protest because, “There was no epiphany, no sign from the gods to point him in the right direction,” but this is a refusal to take responsibility.  He could have told the truth at any point, and when he signed the publication deal, “Rory Jansen had made his choice.”

It’s true that there are rarely blaring epiphanies from God telling us what to do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t discern what His will is in any given situation.  There are no verses to tell Rory, “thou shalt not steal credit for a manuscript thou didst not write,” but there is just plain “You shall not steal,” Deuteronomy 5:19.  (The 8th of the 10 commandments, for you trivia buffs.)  Even if Rory isn’t sure whether this act would constitute “stealing,”  there’s 1 Corinthians 10:31,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

There’s Proverbs 3:5-6,

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Knowing whether something is right or wrong isn’t so much about memorize Bible verses on what’s forbidden as it is about looking at the situation from the perspective, what will honor and glorify God?  What does He want me to do?  Does what I am considering fit within the boundaries of scripture?  God’s probably not going to answer with a vision or sudden inspiration, but if Rory had honestly asked himself whether he ought to take credit for writing this book or not, he should have seen clearly that the answer was no.

movie still of rory and old man at the park

The Old Man who truly authored the manuscript confronts Rory about his theft.

Instead, Rory does a lot of justification for his selfishness after the fact, which crumbles when he’s forced to confront the reality of what he’s done–I imagine that scene between the Old Man (who actually wrote the book) and Rory in the park, when the old man says “No no, my friend, there’s no misunderstanding, no.  You can’t slide out of it now.  Those are my words, my stories,” is a little like what God’s judgment will be like; all the lies people have told themselves about their actions, all the ways they’ve tried to justify things that they did wrong, completely falling apart when God looks them in the eyes and says, “I know what really happened.  You can’t slide out of it now.”  (And then, if they claim it, Jesus’ blood will atone for the sins they could never wipe clean on their own.)

Needless to say, Rory’s ill-gained charmed life crumbles in the wake of this confrontation. The Old Man refuses to forgive Rory, rebuffing the thieving author’s attempts to “fix this” with, “There’s nothing to fix.  You just go like the life you’ve chose.”  And, “You can’t make things right, things are just things. No matter how hard you try to martyr yourself.”  Although he’s a victim in this, he doesn’t gain anything by clinging to anger; in a way he is twice a victim, both to Rory’s theft and to the the self-inflicted bitterness that he daily poisons his life with over it.

movie still, the old man as a young author

Ben Barnes (who played Prince Caspian in the recent live-action Narnia films) is excellent as the young version of the true manuscript author.

The publisher advises Rory not to publicly admit his wrongdoing, saying, “Don’t screw yourself for the rest of your life over one stupid mistake, and don’t you screw me.”  This is advice is obviously selfishly motivated, and is also directly contrary to Provers 28:13,

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

And of course, even though he doesn’t publicly admit to stealing the novel, by not doing so Rory has “screwed himself” for the rest of his life–he never reconciles with his wife, and he is consumed by guilt, regret, and self-doubt.  Clay says of his “fictional” character Rory, (who by this point is pretty clearly autobiographical), “Maybe he can create, but it doesn’t matter because he’ll never believe it.  He’s robbed himself of the chance to find out.”

Ultimately, The Words is a sadly accurate depiction of the truth of Galatians 6:7-8,

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

When he decided to take credit for the novel, “Rory Jansen had made his choice,” but he continued making that selfish choice to protect his own ambitions every day for the rest of his life when he did not tell the truth.  And a lifetime of sowing deceit and carrying around hidden guilt yields a sad and lonely reward.

Brave

I graded this movie as an A+ in visuals by the wonderful, hard-working animators at Pixar, and A+ for music in the score by Patrick Doyle, but only a B for story.  A “B” isn’t really that bad, (and still above average), but it’s just not nearly as good as I’ve come to expect from a Pixar film.

Pixar misses the mark with the storytelling in this film.

The tagline for Brave was “change your fate,” and I’m sure if you saw the ubiquitous trailer this summer, you heard the line, “if ya had the chance to change yer fate, wouldja?” (spoken in a Scottish accent), but I wouldn’t really say that’s the main theme in this movie, –I would say it’s about the consequences our actions can have, and the importance of reconciliation.  (It’s also not really about being brave, so neither the title nor the tagline are terribly appropriate).

Scottish princess Merida of the Dunbraugh clan is “destined” to marry the heir of one of her father’s allied clans.  Merida’s mother is frustrated that her daughter doesn’t seem serious about applying any of her lessons in ladylike behavior and queenly decorum, and the heroine is equally frustrated that her mother doesn’t appreciate her interests and skills in horse-riding and archery and her disinterest in an arranged marriage.  Mother and daughter share a simultaneous line in split-screen about wanting the other to listen to her point of view.

The Queen does put an unbearable pressure on Merida when she tells her, “above all, a princes strives to be perfect,” as if that were attainable, and really doesn’t seem to understand her daughters anxiety and dread of betrothal with a throwaway “Oh, Merida, it’s marriage, it’s not the end of the world!”  For her part, Merida spits a very hurtful line at her mother, shouting, “I’ll never be like you!  I’d rather die than be like you!” as she slashes the family tapestry that her mother has been sewing all her life in two.  The Queen responds by throwing Merida’s beloved bow into the fire.  Both are deeply, justifiably hurt.

Merida runs away and comes across a witch, from whom she buys “a spell to change my mum.  That’ll change my fate.”  Surprise surprise, the spell doesn’t quite do what Merida thought it would.   **SPOILER ALERT**  It transforms her mother’s body into that of a bear.

The “will o’ the wisp”s are supposed to be “magic” or spiritual guides, but they really function as plot devices leading Merida to the place where the next scene happens.

Merida and the bear-Queen return to the witch for help reversing the spell, but she’s gone, having left behind only a potion-operated answering service, (that is supposed to be funny but annoyed me because it was ridiculously anachronistic to the story setting.)  They learn that if it is not reversed before “the second sunrise,” the spell will be permanent and the Queen will become a wild bear.  The formula for reversing the spell is:

Fate be changed,

look inside,

Mend the bond

torn by pride.

Merida and her mother are equally frustrated that the other doesn’t understand her point of view.

Merida and the bear-Queen interpret the witch’s instructions to mean that they must literally sew the family tapestry, torn apart in anger, back together.  This involves sneaking the bear-Queen back into the castle and past the roomful of gathered clansmen, and Merida has to utilize the skills in diplomacy and decorum (to distract the clansmen) and domesticity (to sew up the tapestry) that her mother was always trying to impress upon her.  (Earlier I guess we were supposed to think that the Queen had also come to realize the validity of Merida’s perspective, because as a bear she was quite un-ladylike and ate raw fish.  I’m not sure that being physically forced by magical coercion to behave differently than you normally would counts as empathizing with someone else, but then I wasn’t convinced that the Queen didn’t really understand her daughter’s point of view to begin with, just that she didn’t place much importance on it.)

As you could probably guess, mending the tapestry does not reverse the spell, because the “bond torn by pride” was between mother and daughter.  I was fully expecting Merida to have to utter the “magic” words, “I’m sorry”, but instead the movie went with the cliche and less powerful (in this situation) “I love you.”  Really, Pixar?!  This isn’t Beauty and the Beast!  Love and forgiveness overlap, for sure, but I don’t think they are always mutually interchangeable.  Merida to shouted to her mother’s face that she would rather die than be like her, she ripped apart the project her mother had spent years working on, and she tricked her mother into eating a bewitched pie to “change her.”  Even if she didn’t realize it would turn her into a bear, she was purposefully manipulative, underhanded, and selfish.  The appropriate thing for her to say is “I’m sorry”!  (This is one of the reasons I only graded the story as a B).

Looking at this positively, I guess it could be a good illustration of two scripture passages on anger.  The hurtful words and actions that the Queen and Princess exchange are spoken in anger–all the trouble and hurt feelings might have been avoided if they two had tried to apply James 1:19 to their relationship, which says:

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

The other verse this storyline made me think of was Ephesians 4:26-27:

In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Don’t let the sun go down (or the second sunrise come up) on your anger, or else your mother might be permanently transformed into a bear.  That’s the Brave version of Ephesians 4:26.  I should add that, while the Bible doesn’t place a two-sunrise time limit on reconciliation, it does urge a quick resolution to interpersonal conflict.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23-24 that it is more important to make our human relationships right than to observe religious rituals:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

Despite the disappointingly weak and predictable storyline, the film is well worth watching just for the stunningly beautiful animation. Just look at the details in the gif below, like her pinky finger clenching, the light on the fabric moving, her ribcage expanding and contracting as she breathes.  And this shot doesn’t even include her hair, which is incredible–I read that Pixar developed new software in the process of making this movie, just to animate Merida’s hair!

In conclusion, this is a good film, it’s just too bad it’s not the great one I was hoping for.  The message of understanding another’s perspective and reconciling broken relationships is good, and it is one of those rare princess films where the girl has her own plot lines independent of any romantic interests.  (One little girl, after seeing Brave in the theater, reported that Merida doesn’t end up with a prince because “none of them were very handsome.” -thanks EBR).

Trailer Tuesday 9.25.12

I had hoped to have my Brave review up yesterday, but was unable to finish because I got called in to do a last-minute babysitting job.  That was okay though, I used the money to buy the special edition Avengers DVD that just came out today!  (I’ll try to finish my Brave review tonight or tomorrow, and also write up The Words which I saw last weekend and loved.)

The movie I am most excited for this week is Looper, a time-traveling mind-bending action movie where a man is trying to kill his future self, or else save his past self?  Looks very interesting, if only for trying to untangle the time-tangled web.

Other films coming out this week are Hotel Transylvania, an animated tale about an overprotective vampire dad trying to protect his daughter from frightful humans, Won’t Back Down, an inspirational based-on-a-true-story drama about mothers fighting to give their kids’ a better education, and Pitch Perfect, a comedy about college acapella singing groups, which I’ve already admitted I really want to see.

But enough about this week’s movies; what I’m really excited for is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey!  Part 1 of the adaptation of Tolkien Lord of the Rings prequel will debut on December 14, and the only reason I don’t have tickets yet is because they haven’t gone on sale.  Last Wednesday we got a new trailer, (which I have already analyzed elsewhere).  In case you haven’t seen it yet, here it is, (and check my other post if you want to see bonus footage):

While we’re talking about December, another highly anticipated film for that month is Les Miserables, which comes out on Christmas Day.  So far we had only seen this one teaser trailer (which was enough to sell me):

But now there is also a behind-the-scenes video about the process of filming this musical and how they had the actors singing for real in every take.  I am so incredibly excited for this movie!

And for a completely different genre, Django Unchained, (the latest from director Quentin Tarantino), opens on the same day as Les Miserables.  I want to see it too, but it won’t be for everyone.