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.”

The Avengers

The Avengers was definitely the biggest movie in the summer of 2012.  It Hulk-smashed all kinds of records with the money that it made.  Its success is due in part to the fact that it appeals to all ages and easily lends itself to repeat viewings, because it’s just plain fun.

the cast of the avengers

It’s difficult to do an analysis on the “message” of this movie, in part because as a whole, it’s kinda disorganized.  Plot lines are a little scattered, and not many characters are allowed enough screentime to develop or have significant arcs.  Director Joss Whedon himself said:

“The Avengers” is notably IMperfect, which makes its success mean so much more to me — because it’s striking a chord that matters MORE than its obvious flaws. Like the team, it appears to be more than the sun [sic] of its parts. –source

I guess the overall message must be about teamwork, because the Avengers have to work together in order to defeat the invading alien army.  It takes them the better part of the film to get on the same page and iron out their individual issues, but in the final battle they form a single, super-powered unit.  Though not a particularly new or surprising message, it is a Biblical one.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up…Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. –Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12

The world of this movie presupposes the existence of super-beings and portals to alien worlds, but that’s standard fare in comic-based stories, and it’s not like the Bible doesn’t have its share of super-humans.  (Samson, Goliath).  Thor and Loki are referred to as “gods” but it’s been established that they are really just from another planet, so they appear to be more than human, but in this film Hulk demonstrates that Loki is a “puny god” and Captain America responds to Black Widow’s assessment of Thor and Loki as deities with “There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”  In other words, I don’t have a theological problem with the premise of this story.

thor, ironman, captain america

It’s just so much FUN to watch these guys punch each other through trees and stuff!

Even the title, “The Avengers,” isn’t really a problem for me, although we’re told in scripture that the revenge isn’t something we should pursue:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. –Romans 12:17-19

For one thing, an epic fight to save the entire human race from enslavement is a little different than avenging a personal wrong, and Loki and his army are not making it possible for the heroes to “live at peace” with them.  The Avengers might use the death of someone close to them as a unifying motivator to join forces against the invaders, but you have to admit that’s what they would have ended up doing anyway.  That motivation was partially included so they could allude to the title.  And finally, “avenging” the earth is not really what this team of superheroes does, it’s saving the earth and everybody in it just like every other superhero movie.  But when they wrote these comics, they didn’t want to call it “Team of Superheroes,” and “Justice League” was taken.  In other words, I don’t have a problem with the title of this movie despite its connotations.

picture of maria hill and phil coulson in the c.i.c.

The superheroes are not the only heroes in this film. Many “ordinary” humans, such as S.H.I.E.L.D agents Maria Hill and Phil Coulson, are equally brave and self-sacrificing.

There is a moment when Loki overpowers a crowd of terrified civilians and commands them to show him deference:

“Kneel before me. I said… KNEEL! Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.”

Well, Loki is the villain, so of course we’re not meant to agree with what he says, but I just wanted to take it apart and compare it to what scripture actually says rather than writing the whole thing off as bad-guy-blather.  First, I do not think that God agrees that it’s better for humans to be in subjugation, but there might be some truth to the claim that humans crave it.  Sometimes.  If you look at 1 Samuel 8, God’s prophet warns the people what having a king will mean, in detail.  He outlines, at God’s command, all the ways that they will be oppressed if they choose to follow a human leader instead of their Godly one, but the people insist.  It’s a very interesting passage, but I’m referring to it because it’s clear that God’s ideal society does not involve the kind of subjugation that Loki is talking about.


“I am Loki of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.”

God does, however, perhaps agree with the statement that in the end, humans will kneel.  Because he has said:

Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. –Isaiah 45:23

It’s different from saying that humans are destined to be “ruled” in the sense that Loki is invoking, but it is true that our Creator made us to worship him and be ruled by him.  (Why do you think Jesus refers to the Kingdom of Heaven so much?  Who’s the King of that Kingdom?)  Anyway, the final point I wanted to make on Loki’s speech is that God’s intentions for humanity do not involve the squashing out of individual identity.  Just look at the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 on the diversity of spiritual gifts, and how one is not greater than the other, and all are essential.

I guess there are a lot of little micro-messages you might be able to take away from little moments in this movie; not really messages, but things you could use in a sermon or lesson illustration.  For example, if I were teaching teenagers on Jacob and Esau, I might say that they were a bit like Thor and Loki in The Avengers, in the sense that they are estranged brothers, because that motif seems to have really moved people.  I might reference Loki’s manipulation of Hawkeye to explain demon-possession.  I might reference Black Widow’s insistence that she’s only helping the team because she’s “got red in [her] ledger,” when talking about the futility of trying to save oneself by works alone.  I wouldn’t really use Iron Man’s allusion to the story of Jonah, since Biblical Jonah did not set off explosives inside the belly of the big fish, and movie-Iron Man did not spend any time in repentant prayer, so they really have nothing in common.  (But props to the movie for the Biblical shout-out.  And to computer-Jarvis for accurately assessing “I wouldn’t consider him a role model.”  I mean, Jonah’s story begins and ends with him kind of being bitter and wimpy.)

In conclusion, I would totally recommend this movie, to everyone, because it is, as I can’t emphasize enough, just plain fun.  And it’s the most fun if you’ve seen all the other Marvel movies, too.  (Iron Man I, Iron Man II, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger).  I am greatly anticipating the next several films that Marvel is developing, and I hope that I will be able to endorse them as well.


My initial reaction when the credits rolled on this movie, (which I saw in a packed theater opening night), was, “meh, it was interesting, not great, maybe a good discussion starter.”  Considering it is now four 10 days later and I am still busily dissecting the symbolism, having in-depth discussions and arguments over it with my friends, and breaking my never-read-other-people’s-reviews-until-you-have-written-yours rule, I think I have to amend my initial rating.  Yes, it is a great movie, and totally worth seeing (for those of-age and not too squeamish).  Not because the script is flawless, (it’s not), not because the visuals are cool, (they are), but because it does spark conversations, and hopefully some of them revolve around the same question the characters in the film seem to be asking: what is the meaning of life?  What is the significance of discovering humanity’s origin?  What is the relationship between a Creator/s and his/their creation?

I felt that most of these questions were unanswered, or were unsatisfactorily dealt with, (which may be in part because this film is the first of a planned trilogy), but at least they are being asked.  Prometheus certainly has the potential to provide a basis for a deep discussion, even if it isn’t very deep itself.

As I said, I am still digesting this particular movie.  (Hey, that’s the name of the blog!)  I fully intend to see it at least one more time in the theater, maybe more.  So perhaps I will come back and edit this post with more insights later.  Here are some of my thoughts and reactions for now.  Be warned, **SPOILERS AHEAD**.

A major theme in this movie is finding the meaning and purpose by discovering the “truth” of one’s origins. Scientist Elizabeth Shaw becomes convinced through a series of ancient cave-paintings that “I think they want us to come and find them.”  Who are “they”, you ask?  “We call them Engineers…they engineered us,” she says.  When a skeptical crew member aboard the spaceship asks how she knows this, she responds, “I don’t.  But it’s what I choose to believe.”  (I’m not sure whether that shows a strong example of faith or a poor excuse for a lack of sound theology.  I think that, yes, in the end, you have to have faith, because you’re never going to be able to find scientific answers to all of theology’s questions.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have good reasons for choosing to believe. **see update below**)

In any case, finding the answers to the origin, and therefore the meaning, of life, is what motivates Shaw and her partner on this mission.  (The rest of the crew have their own motives, mostly monetary).  It is assumed that the two quests go hand in hand, and that one informs the other.  It is assumed that the answers are critically important, enough to travel light-years into space to find.  I certainly won’t argue with that.  It’s the same assumptions that people make every time the debate about what to teach in schools regarding Evolution flares up.

Humans aren’t he only ones seeking to uncover the meaning of their existence.  David, (an android played by Michael Fassbender and arguably the most compelling character in the film), knows that he was manufactured by his master Weyland.  But he still wants to know “why.”  And though dialogue repeatedly states that as a robot he has no emotions and cannot understand the human condition, this desire for purpose and a personal connection with his creator makes him appear exactly as human as everyone else, despite his precise and calculating movements.  (This artificial-intelligence-appears-fully-human-and-seeks-to-meet-creator theme echoes that of Blade Runner, also a film by Ridley Scott; I think this shows the self-proclaimed agnostic director is himself seeking answers.)

Seeking answers is what many characters in Prometheus proclaim they are doing, but as the movie demonstrates, just answering where we came from is unsatisfying.  When the team finds proof of alien life, but the aliens are all dead, Charlie (Shaw’s partner) reels into a drunken depression.  Finding supposed proof validating his theory on the origin of life on earth is almost meaningless, because “I wanted to talk to them,” he says.  He didn’t just want answers about his creation, he wanted a relationship with his creator. 

This reminds me of Ecclesiastes 3:9-11, which states,

What does the worker gain from his toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on men.  He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Part of the ‘burden’ of being human is continually desiring to know more.  We spend our whole lives trying to figure out the meaning of life.  We’re unsatisfied with the day-to-day and the evil realities of our world.  We want to know that our lives have purpose and understand where we fit into the grand scheme of eternity.  We want to know the reason we are here.  We want to know there is a reason.  The good news for seekers is that God has said,

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. –Jeremiah 29:13

The sentiment is echoed in numerous places throughout scripture.  In Prometheus, Shaw certainly seems to be seeking the truth with all of her heart.  It remains to be seen whether the planned trilogy will show her finding it, but our Creator has promised us we can find Him, even without stepping foot on a spaceship.  If we seek Him with all our heart.

Scientist seeking answers, Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace.

Questions that I am still puzzling over: What was David’s motivation for poisoning Charlie?  Did he realize it would kill him, and was seeking revenge for Charlie’s dismissing and jerk-like behavior towards him, or was he just emotionless-ly curious as to what exactly would happen?  DID David in fact have feelings?  (Seems like the answer is an obvious yes, but, is that too easy?) If wanting to find out what your creator’s purpose was for you is what makes us human, isn’t David one of the most human characters in this film?  Why was the captain so disinterested in doing his actual job?  (Not a serious question, more of an annoyance with the script).  What did David actually say to the Engineer at the end?  (A discussion among linguists about this is over at the Language Log).  Does Shaw really “deserve to know why” the Engineers changed their minds about supporting the existence of humanity?  I mean, do created beings have a right to demand answers from their Creator like that?  Did all the people God wiped out in the Flood “deserve to know why”?

Other people’s thoughts: this livejournal entry by cavalorn* has been getting a lot of attention and there is a lively discussion in the comments.  He points out a self-sacrificing-to-create-life versus sacrificing-others-to-self-preserve motif, identifies re-contextualization of religious imagery (particularly the virgin birth) and theorizes that the Engineers decided to wipe out humanity because Jesus was one of them, (a space alien,) and humans killed him.  This is a mostly negative review that points out flaws in the script, and pretty much sums up how I felt right after I saw the movie.  And elsewhere someone has compiled a list of unanswered questions at the close of the film.

*When I have more time I would like to come back and add my thoughts on cavalorn’s theory.  Particularly the bit about Jesus being a space alien, and what the theological implications of that would be.


Suppose that we did travel to a distant planet and discover humanoid remains that shared our DNA.  What would that really mean for traditional Christian theology?  In the movie Prometheus, several characters assume that finding intelligent alien life automatically verifies the theory that life on earth was seeded by aliens, and discredits the Biblical creation account.  But I see no reason why that would have to be the case.  Like Shaw, who does not lose her faith in the existence of God when she discovers the aliens that Charlie asserts “made us,” but instead asks “and who made them?”, I would not cease to believe the Bible just because we came across an unexpected situation that scripture did not specifically speak to.

If there were life on another planet, I would assume that it had also been created by God.  It goes back to the very first verse in the Bible,

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. -Genesis 1:1

I take that phrase “heavens and earth” to include everything in the universe.  On day four in the Genesis 1 creation account, God creates “lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years,” (Genesis 1:14), which again I would take to include not only sun, moon, and stars but other planets as well.  The creator’s domain doesn’t end with our atmosphere; if he made everything in the universe, then any life out there was also made by him.  If there were intelligent life on another planet, the tricky question would be whether or not those “people” were governed by the same laws of sin and redemption that bind the descendants of Adam and Eve.

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. -1 Corinthians 15:21-22

If humanoid aliens that shared DNA with earth humans were discovered, it would be possible that they were originally from earth and developed space travel and planet colonization in an ancient civilization.  In that case, they would be descendants of Adam just like we are, born into a sinful state and in need of redemption through Jesus’ sacrifice.  If they weren’t human, if they originated from some other planet entirely, well then I’m not sure what their relationship to sin and redemption would be.  Perhaps God would have a different method of salvation set up for them–as there was a different method on this earth, before Jesus, through animal sacrifice.  Perhaps it’s possible that in a parallel universe, God created an alien race that is living in an unfallen state, but scripture indicates that all life in this universe feels the destructive effects of humanity’s sin:

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  -Romans 8:19-22

Finding intelligent alien life would be fascinating and unexpected, but it in itself would not be enough to destroy the theological premise of Christianity.  Now, if, as the narrative in the film Prometheus reveals, an alien life really did seed life on this planet, and Jesus was nothing more than an alien envoy, then yes, that would pretty much destroy the validity of everything that I believe in.  The literal death and resurrection by the Son of God is crucial, and without it, Christianity is meaningless.  Paul says so exactly in 1 Corinthians 15, (although I doubt he ever imagined his words would be used to answer a hypothetical question about aliens!)  This is a long passage to quote, but I think it’s all relevant and important.  Without Christ’s resurrection, there is no hope for us.  If Jesus was just a space alien killed by an angry mob, then I might react like Charlie does and just start drinking and wallowing in self-pity, too, (emphasis added):

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. –1 Corinthians 15:1-19

Having thought about this film for several months now, I think that I do like Elizabeth Shaw’s line, when asked how she knows her belief is correct, “I don’t.  But it’s what I choose to believe.”  Choosing to believe something won’t make it true, and there are a lot of good reasons beyond blind faith to believe that what the scriptures reveal is the truth–philosophical, theological, historical, archaeological, biological, scholarly reasons.  But in the end, belief in the truth of scripture is a matter of faith.  We will never be able to “prove” its claims using the scientific method.  I have a lot of reasonable arguments behind why I believe the Bible is a true and reliable source, but in the end, it is a choice that I make to believe, in the absence of hard evidence.

I have to reiterate, Prometheus, while definitely not a perfect film, is one of the most thought-provoking movies I’ve seen in quite a while.  It grapples with big questions and is almost certain to spark debates over cosmic questions amongst viewers.  It is well worth watching and discussing afterwards, and I hope that this rather disjointed post is a helpful part of that discussion for Christians and seekers alike.


“All men’s souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine.”

This quote, attributed to Socrates, appears in the opening sequence of director Tareq Singh’s sword-and-sandal, man-and-mortal elevated fantasy film, Immortals.  The quote is a bit like the overall tone of the film: interesting, explicitly theological, somewhat true but not exactly scriptural.  Marketed as being “from the same producers as 300,” it features incredible visuals, (including over-the-top violence similar to the aforementioned Spartan epic,) but a weak storyline.  (I would rank it below 300, but above last year’s Clash of the Titans.)  Despite a plot that is at times scattered and in-cohesive, and a setting that is more anachronistic than mythologicaly accurate, Immortals provides some excellent depictions of spiritual truths, and some very inspiring moments of demonstrated faithfulness.  Overall I found this movie to be very thought-provoking, and I liked it.

The plot follows a man named Theseus, (Henry Cavill), favored by the gods to be their (and the human Hellenics’) hero in the fight against villainous King Hyperion, (Mickey Rourke), who is bent on causing destruction and chaos by unleashing the gods’ adversaries, the Titans.  (They were imprisoned for eons by Zeus and his pantheon after losing a cosmic war).   Just how or why Theseus can be useful or necessary isn’t really made clear, but Zeus says it is because the man “does not know danger, fear, defeat, or ridicule.”

The gods of Olympus watch the affairs on earth with concern.

The gods are obviously concerned with the affairs of mankind, (although it’s unclear whether they would care as much if the stakes didn’t directly threaten their position.)  But according to Zeus, there is a “law” restricting the interaction of gods and men.  “None of the mortals on earth should witness us in our immortal form,” he says at one point, and at another he commands that “no god shall interfere in the affairs of man, unless the Titans are unleashed.  If we expect man to have faith in us, then we must have faith in him.  We must allow him to use his own free will.”

Zeus in his mortal disguise (left, John Hurt) and his natural immortal appearance (right, Luke Evans).

Zeus still wants to influence humanity, however, so he uses an indirect method.  He disguises himself as an elderly man, and mentors the fatherless Theseus from childhood, teaching him to fight as well as urging him to consider “finding a good reason to draw your sword in the first place.”  Zeus says, “If there is one human who can lead them against Hyperion, it would be Theseus.  But it must be his choice.”  I really liked the illustration of this subtle strategy, because I do think that God prepares people for the roles he has in mind for them.  Think of Moses, who grew up in an Egyptian palace, then lived in the wilderness for 40 years, which made him the perfect man to advocate against the Pharaoh and then lead his people in a long-term desert lifestyle.  Or think of why Zechariah and Elizabeth were chosen to be the parents of John the Baptist. “Both of them were upright in the sigh of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly,” (Luke 1:6), making them suitable parents to raise the man who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” (Luke 1:17).  You could even compare Zeus’s choice of a mortal hero in Theseus to God’s choice of David as the next king of Israel, even though he didn’t appear as physically kingly as his older brothers, because “the LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7).

However, unlike the deities depicted in this film, it’s important to note that the Bible does not describe a God that resists explicitly “interfering” in the affairs of man.  Instead,we see a God that walks with his creation in the Garden of Eden, that tells Noah to build an ark and shuts the door of it, that speaks to Moses directly, that appears to the people of Israel as a column of smoke and fire, that desires his people to build a place of worship for his presence to reside, that sends his angels to deliver messages and encouragement or break people out of prison.  Time and again God intervenes and interacts directly with humans, and though he does rely on humans in the ways described above, we can take comfort that we will never hear him say something like the lines Zeus utters to Theseus (after Ares and Athena break his law):

No god will ever come to your aide again.  Do you understand, mortal?  I have faith in you, Theseus.  Prove me right.”

Our God, by contrast, states dozens of times that he will answer our prayers, and even when Jesus is tasking his disciples with the monumental task of spreading the gospel to the entire world, he promises:

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. –Matthew 28:20

Athena brings a gift of horses. "They will run until their hearts give out."

Many human characters in this movie say they don’t believe in the gods or don’t think they are worthy of worship because they didn’t appear to answer their prayers.  Hyperion’s vow to “end the reign of the gods” is motivated by the lack of the gods’ intervention to prevent the murders of his entire family.  Well, this is a very difficult and real dilemma.  It is difficult to reconcile faith in an all-powerful God with the reality of terrible suffering daily observed here on earth, it can feel at times even to the most devout people as if God isn’t listening.  But the scriptures tell us,

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.” –1 John 5:14-15.

One of the important things to note in this passage is that it is a conditional statement–“if we ask according to his will” Not just “if we ask”.  If we are honestly thinking about God’s will when we pray, we will have to be open to the idea that he might have a larger plan that doesn’t coincide with what we think we need or want right now.  When Joseph was thrown into the pit by his brothers, do you suppose he was praying that he would get out and be able to return home?  Do you suppose he felt that God hadn’t answered his prayer when he was instead sold into slavery?  Yet it was Joseph who later realized, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20).  There is a similarly cool moment in Immortals that illustrates how prayers might be answered in ways you weren’t even thinking about at the time, that end up being better than you could have known to ask for.

**SPOILER ALERT**  A character literally branded as a thief describes his disbelief in the gods by saying, “When I was just a boy I prayed to the gods, for a horse.  But the gods never answered me.  So I stole one instead.”   But at a crucial moment in their travels when they desperately need to race to their destination, Athena gifts the group with horses that take them to the gates just in time, then collapse.  The thief marvels, “it’s the horse I prayed for as a boy!”  Not given to him as a child when it was a frivolous request, but when he was an adult in desperate need.  **END SPOILER**

Other characters, including a council leader, dismiss the idea of the gods entirely, saying:

I understand there are many Hellenics who put faith in gods and legends, but we in the Hellenic Council do not.  They are metaphors, myths! We are a society of laws based on negotiation and reason.

Really, the spectrum of characters in their belief or disbelief in this movie mirror those in our society today.  There are some who believe devoutly, (like Theseus’ mother and the Virgin Oracle Phaedra), some who are ambivalent (like Theseus is initially), some who claim a lack of evidence that the gods exist (like the thief), some who angrily and bitterly reject God, blaming him for their painful experiences (like Hyperion), and some who claim science and logic as their god, (like the council members).

Hyperion is pretty purely evil. He reminds me of 1 Peter 5:8, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour," partly because he was literally devouring food in several scenes.

Hyperion goes on and on in this movie in disgusting detail about his “seed” and how he will create immortality for himself on earth by leaving an extensive physical legacy, (i.e. he will rape and impregnate as many women as possible).  He offers the same chance to Theseus, who responds, “My deeds will make me immortal.  Flesh is fleeting, deeds are eternal.” While I’m not certain how theologically accurate it is to say that “deeds” themselves are eternal, I do think the Bible is clear on the consequences of deeds being eternal.  Word choice aside, Theseus is displaying a perspective that is Biblical, the sense that there is something greater than this world and what the world defines as worthwhile or everlasting.  The Bible says:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. -Matthew 6:19-20

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary posits that “treasures in heaven” in this passage “refers to whatever is of good and eternal significance that comes out of what is done on earth.  Doing righteous deeds, suffering for Christ’s sake, forgiving one another–all these have the promise of ‘reward.'” (D. A. Carson, vol. 8).  Perhaps this is in line with what a disguised Zeus tells the young hero when he says, “It’s not living as such that’s important, Theseus, it’s living rightly.”

One example of the incredible amount of violence: in the scene above, Theseus kills 11 people within seconds of each other as he fights his way towards saving a loved one. I mean, it's pretty impressive...but very violent. (In a separate fight scene he uses a single spear to kill three people, breaking it off and using the leftovers to stab the next person. I totally understand if you are either repulsed or awed by that; for the record, I was awed.)

There are some incredible moments of ultimate devotion and loyalty in this movie.  They are another one of the reasons why it is rated R, since they involve people being tortured and maimed.  In one instance, Hyperion taunts a monk, saying he knows it is against the monk’s vows to kill either himself or another person, so he might as well give up his weapon and tell them the location of the Virgin Oracle already.  The monk’s response is to cut off his own tongue, in order not to break any of his vows, (including his vow to protect the Oracle).  It’s an incredible act, reminiscent of the passage where Jesus talks about cutting off body parts that cause you to sin, (Mark 9:43-47), and while I think it’s pretty obvious that Jesus was using hyperbole, it’s still an incredibly powerful visual.  Being that dedicated to a cause, that determined to avoid behaviors offensive to your beliefs.

**SPOILER-Y SIDETRACK**  The undying loyalty of the Virgin Oracle’s faithful protectors makes the way she so quickly sleeps with Theseus and tosses away her ability to see the future (which she can only do as long as she is “pure”) very disappointing.  Her reasoning sounds completely selfish, especially when contrasted against the actions of her followers who literally died for her, being cooked to death and each still refusing to stop murmuring “I am the oracle” to protect her identity.  “You were right, Theseus, my visions are a curse.  I want to see the world with my own eyes, feel with my own heart, touch with my own flesh.”  A lot of things about her plotline are disappointing, actually, like, what was the point of her leading Theseus to retrieve the Epirus bow? They lost it almost immediately, by knowingly walking into what they knew was a trap.  This is what I meant by scattered, seemingly pointless plot.  Also, why was it necessary for Theseus to be ‘leading’ this human army anyway?  I mean, the titans were unleashed!  So everyone kind of failed, didn’t they?  But I guess as Zeus says at the end, it’s not over yet, the battle wages on…maybe the point is, things don’t always work out the way either side planned?  **END SPOILER-Y SIDETRACK**

Theseus wields the magically powerful Epirus bow, "a weapon forged by Heracles."

Perhaps my favorite visual from this film was the triple-layered battle scene towards the end.  I think it is a fantastic depiction of the multiple levels of good versus evil that exist in our world daily.  We’re given few details about the way angels and demons interact with our world, (see Daniel 10 for one reference), but we do know that the forces of good and evil are at war, not always within our view, and just as Zeus says, “the fight against evil never ends.”

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. –Ephesians 6:12

Unseen to most humans, angels and demons struggle against each other in the spiritual realm, just as the gods and titans wage war in the film.  Meanwhile, mankind is at war with itself, just as humans are forever struggling as a society against our darker sections, against oppression, against poverty, against injustice, against inequality, against lies, against hatred.  (And yes, humans also go to literal war against each other all to often, unfortunately not always as a part of this struggle for the greater good).  Finally, the one-on-one fight between Theseus and Hyperion can represent the struggle of the individual, to not be swayed by dark temptations, to overcome the fight against evil in their own hearts even as they take part in the ongoing battles around them.  It really is a constant struggle, on all sides.

The ongoing battle between good and evil in the unseen spiritual realm.

Just before Hyperion desecrates a temple, a priest warns, “It’s not too late to end this madness.  Salvation can be yours if you wish it.”  As you can imagine, Hyperion doesn’t exactly take him up on his offer, but it is a true statement.  It is never too late, not even if you are the baddest bad guy.  It’s not too late to join the ongoing war against evil, starting with the battle in your own heart.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. –Romans 12:21


This was a really solid movie, and I enjoyed it immensely.  Great cast, good acting, good narrative that manages to be cohesive and captivating even though the main, unifying character is invisible.  “A virus is too small to be seen on video camera,” remarks one character, yet director Steven Soderbergh has proven that it can still star in a movie.

This cast was full of big-name stars, and they all delivered great performances.

It’s a thriller, but it’s not your typical “scary” movie.  The most frightening thing about it is how realistic it is, how close we all seem to be teetering on the edge of a worldwide plague, buffered only by random coincidences and chance encounters that so far have managed not to happen.  I became paranoid during and after this movie that I was touching my face too much (despite Kate Winslet’s character’s constant warnings!) and was hyper-aware of people coughing or sniffling around me in the theater, which definitely added to the experience.  If nothing else, I’ll always remember this movie as the place where I learned the word “epidemiologist.”

I don’t want to give away too much about how the virus starts, spreads, or is combated, because I think that’s a lot of the fun in watching this movie, getting caught up in the paranoia and fear and figuring out what happened and what is happening.  But I think there are two main illustrations of spiritual truths that can be taken away from this film, that won’t be too spoiler-y.

Is Jude Law's character a "prophet" for profit?

Firstly, there is a character (blogger Alan, played by Jude Law) who sees conspiracy and cover-up in every story, and who is determined to speak what he insists is “the truth”.  You’ll have to let me know, after you watch it, if you think he really believes the messages he spouts to his online followers or if he is profiting off people’s fears.  The interesting thing about Alan is that he is adamant about his beliefs, without having anything to really back them up.  No amount of evidence from officials or scientists can convince him, because he dismisses any findings he disagrees with as falsified.  In a very obvious way, Alan’s rantings run parallel to the deadly virus, infecting the world with dangerous and unfounded beliefs one person at a time.  Dr. Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) goes so far as to say that Alan’s lies are actually more dangerous than the disease itself.

“In order for a person to get sick they need to come into contact with a sick person or something they’ve touched.  In order to get scared all you need to come into contact with is a rumor, or the TV, or the internet.” –Dr. Cheever

For much of the movie the Centers for Disease Control are attempting to implement ways to stop people from coming into contact with the virus, but as Dr. Cheever states, in today’s world there is no way to stop people from coming into contact with the millions of lies in circulation.  How are we to know what is real and what is true?  What if all the governments and human authorities really are lying to us?

Fortunately Christians do have a reliable source of truth that is unchanging throughout time, in scripture.  Of course there are some earthly sources of information that are more trustworthy than others, and we can use reason and logic to deduce what may or may not be true for particular issues, but ultimately, God wants us to become adept at discerning his will, not governments’.

 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  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 12:1-2

In a situation such as the one presented in Contagion, where there is a devastating deadly global epidemic, maybe God’s will for an individual is that he help protect a weaker, more vulnerable person.  Maybe it’s that she help care for the infected.  Maybe it’s that they secure supplies for those who are not rich enough to afford to buy priority.  Those actions are things that a person could discern, regardless of the conflicting information on the internet and cable news regarding the source and prognosis of the disease, if they have a transformed mind and are seeking God’s will.  (This blog is one of the ways that I hope to help encourage nonconformity with the patterns of this world, by continually forcing myself to consider movies from a Biblical perspective.)

"What are you talking about?! What happened to her? WHAT HAPPENED TO HER?!"

The beginning of the passage in Romans is relevant, too, because you might say that one of the characters, Dr. Ally Hextall, (Jennifer Ehle), literally offers her body as a living sacrifice.  (Not to God, but it’s still good imagery).  Dr. Hextall is one of the many, many people involved in trying to come up with a cure.  I would say that’s the second theme that stuck out to me, similar to what I said about the last Harry Potter, that it is a good illustration of how the body of Christ functions, with everyone contributing in their own and very vital way.  A solution might not have been possible or might have taken much longer to discover or implement if any one of the people that worked towards it had not participated.  Some of them lost their lives, but their efforts still ended up helping save millions.

If we allow our minds to be transformed, as 1 Corinthians 12 instructs us to do, perhaps we will be better able to have this sort of big-picture perspective.  The big picture for us is not that we are fighting against a physical virus, but a spiritual one, a global infestation of sin in every human ever born that leads to destruction.  There is already a known cure.  It is our job to help spread the knowledge and example of Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice.  If spreading the gospel leads to hardships for us, even loss of life, it doesn’t mean those efforts won’t contribute to a larger result of more souls being saved from the wages of sin.  (It’s not a perfect analogy of course, sin isn’t really synonymous to a virus, and Jesus’ blood isn’t a vaccine.)

I’ll leave you with a less-than-inspiring, but rather humorous, quote from the film:

“Blogging isn’t writing, it’s graffiti with punctuation.”—Dr. Cheever

Ouch!  I certainly hope my readers don’t have such a low opinion of my little blog.

Attack the Block

I heard other movie reviewers and bloggers raving about this film all summer.  When it finally came to my theater, it was only here for a week.  It didn’t get marketed the same way many other films are, so a lot of people who probably would have loved it didn’t know about it.  Well, I’m glad I got the chance to see it, because I loved it!  It is not for everyone, because it’s rated R for some violent death scenes and for language, (but it’s cussing with an accent!  See my dialogue analysis here), but it was different from your typical hero-vs-alien story, and it had one of the best character arcs of the summer.

Fair warning, this review is pretty spoiler-y.  Stop reading now if you don’t want to know what happens.

In the beginning, we see Sam, a young nurse, walking home amidst sidewalk chaos and fireworks (because it’s Guy Fawkes Day).  She is accosted and mugged by a gang of juvenile delinquents, led by the toughest of the little tough guys, Moses.  (I don’t really think he’s comparable to the Biblical Moses figure, except that he leads the group.)  The mugging is interrupted by something falling from the sky and crash-landing into a nearby parked car.  It’s a creature, that claws Moses’ face when he investigates, and then runs off.  Filled with furious anger, Moses leads his gang after alien to exact a violent revenge.

And boy, is it violent.  The boys’ group kill was very reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, the way they all join in and chant around the dead body afterwards.  I was a little shocked by how violent they were, how they were so easily persuaded to join in a murderous act.  But it’s not that much of a stretch for them, growing up on the streets in this neighborhood where strength and violence rule, (as demonstrated by the drug-dealing Hi-Hatz, who perpetually pulls out a gun and spits “this is my block!”).  The boys are pretty proud of themselves, thinking they’ve somehow proven their manhood.  And Moses accepts an invitation by Hi-Hatz to become on of “his” boys and climb that social ladder.  Because that’s legitimately the path he sees as being the most successful.

But then, the boys see more capsules meteoring to earth.  And they rile themselves up to go “killin’ ’em straight up!”, only to find that these new creatures are bigger, fiercer, and more dangerous and deadly than their first extraterrestrial victim.  But before they can make it safely back indoors, Sam identifies the hoodlums and the police arrest Moses, locking him inside their van just before they are conveniently eaten by aliens.  The rest of the gang distract the aliens (with firecrakcers) and free Sam and Moses from the police van.

“Ain’t you gonna thank us for saving your life?” snaps Moses.  “My [effing] hero,” responds a still-angry-about-being-mugged Sam, yet she stays with the gang for the rest of the film (out of necessity).  At one point, a boy spouts logic that he probably learned from watching movies and concedes, well, yeah, we attacked her, but then we saved her, so everything was cool.  “We’re heroes,” he proclaims. Sam’s assessment of the situation is less romantic; “Five of you with knives against one woman?  [Eff] off.”  I liked that this story didn’t gloss over the boys’ faults, and didn’t add to the plethora of films that proclaim past errors can be negated by a noble deed or a grand gesture.

is it safer to stay in the elevator, or make a run for it down the hall?

It’s the same message that one of the characters has for Moses, when it becomes clear that the aliens are targeting him:

“You know that little one you killed before?  That was a mistake.  Actions have consequences, y’know?  Everywhere you go bad things happen.  Stay away from us, Moses.”

Eventually, accepting that he is responsible for all the destruction and casualties that the results of his actions led to, Moses prepares to embark on a last-ditch, suicidal solo mission to save what’s left of his friends, as well as the innocents in the neighborhood at large.  He has experienced and learned enough in the last hour to look back at that savage beating of the crash-landed alien in the beginning as a serious mistake;

“Wish I’d never chased after that thing….I killed that thing.  I brought dem in da block.  I’ve gotta finish what we started.”

In the aftermath of the planet-saving, alien-ending explosions, the police catch up with Moses again and re-arrest him.  The friends and neighbors that witnessed the earlier extraterrestrial terrors and Moses’ brave, self-sacrificing final stand and booing the police and chanting for their new hero, but the movie ends with Moses in handcuffs in a police van.  I love this ending, because it’s in keeping with everything else the story had said up to that point–actions have consequences, one good deed doesn’t outweigh a bad one.  And Moses did pull a knife on Sam and rob her, he was trafficking illegal substances, he fled the scene of a crime, etc.  And he still has to account for those actions.  He’s smiling, though, at the recognition from at least a segment of society, that he’s worth something, and it leaves me with a hopeful feeling that he won’t continue to look up to someone like Hi-Hatz as an example of manhood to aspire to.

Moses, the unlikely hero

It’s pretty obvious that another message in this movie is a social commentary on the way poor urban communities are overlooked or negatively stereotyped. It’s implied that Moses and his gang are at least in part products of their environment, neglected, underprivileged, and trapped.  The boys are on the front lines fighting the invading aliens, and their efforts are never overshadowed or overtaken by experienced military or SWAT teams (like you would expect from most alien invasion movies) in part because no-one believes them.  And I guess the chaos that they cause in the neighborhood just isn’t noticed as unusual or unexpected by the outside authorities.  So the old “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” adage applies here, I suppose; you might label someone as a no-good hooligan, but they might be saving your life..from aliens.  Maybe people just need to be given a chance, to show they are capable of rising to greatness, like  Moses.

Overall, this was just a tremendously fun movie to watch.  The storytelling was excellent, the pacing was great, it was alternately suspenseful, emotional, shocking, scary, heart-warming, fist-pumping, and hilarious.  Moses’ maturation in one bizarre night is thrilling and inspiring, and while it doesn’t directly correspond to any Biblical parallels that I can think of, I’d call this a must-watch.  If you’re old enough.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2

This one’s not quite like a normal review.  I’m not going to summarize everything or give you the background, because there’s too much of it, and I don’t know why you would have watched this final film if you hadn’t seen all the others and/or read all the books, anyway.  So I’m just going to go over some of my thoughts with regards to some of the themes, and how they line up with the Bible.

Firstly, there is a pretty excellent parallel that can be drawn between this film and the passage in 1Corinthians 12, on spiritual gifts.  Yes, yes, Harry’s the only one who can defeat Voldemort, (according to the prophecy), but he would never have succeeded without the help of all his allies!  Everyone has an essential role.  Everyone that fights to protect the castle and give him time to find the diadem horcrux, Ron and Hermione who destroy the cup horcrux, Neville who destroys the snake horcrux.  Dobby who saved them at the end of the last film.  Harry’s efforts would have been in vain, and he most likely would have failed anyway, without the help of every last person who fought.  And so, even though Harry is “The Chosen One,” his friends and supporters are every bit as important and heroic.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!”  And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensible.” -1 Cor. 12:21-22

That last bit really makes me think of Neville.  Go Neville!

"those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensible"

Harry is not my favorite character, and I like him a bit less in the movies than the books, (because the movies insist on making him even more foolishly reckless), but I do admire Harry’s bravery.  In this film he does willingly go into the woods like a lamb to slaughter fully intending to die for his friends, once he realizes that it is what needs to be done to end Voldemort’s reign of terror and save everyone else.  The Bible says,

Greater love has no man than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. -John 15:13

It is a selfless act, but let’s be clear, Harry is not a Christ figure.  He doesn’t promise to save people spiritually, only physically.  He isn’t a blameless sacrificial lamb.  The reason it must be him is in fact not because he’s so good, but because he has such a bit of evilness inside him, (his horcrux scar), that it must be destroyed.  And so, Harry is brave and selfless not to resist, to realize that however much he may want to preserve his own life, doing so would prolong the suffering and harm of others.  But he isn’t Christ.  And his coming “back to life” is not synonymous with Christ’s resurrection, because for one thing, it isn’t clear whether he was actually dead or merely unconscious during that interlude, (he certainly wasn’t pierced in the side and buried for three days), and secondly even if he did “die” and then come back to life, the explanation would be that it was because he possessed the three Deathly Hallows and was master of death through mystical relics, not his own power.  Christ’s resurrection allows us to say,

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

-1 Cor. 15:54

Harry’s “resurrection” only means a victory for him, but Christ’s victory over death is for all who believe and call him Lord.  (That verse comes from the same passage as the lines on Harry’s parents’ gravestone, by the way.)

"The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

Finally, there is Snape.  Oh, my beloved, tragic Snape.  My feelings about Snape are complicated; on the one hand, I want to defend him, (I wore a home-made shirt that read “I believe in Snape” to the midnight release of the final book, so confident was I that his true loyalties were with Dumbledore), and I want to praise his incredible bravery and selflessness.  But the truth is that much of his heartbreaking misery was of his own making.  Poor Snape, who cuts himself off from all supportive fellowship with everyone but Dumbledore, and then he is forced to kill the one person that knew and believed in the real him!  But he didn’t have to be so alone!  His insistence that Dumbledore never tell anyone of his love for Lily is motivated only by pride.  And he clings to his bitterness towards James, allowing it to poison his relationship with Harry as well, overshadowing the fact that Harry is Lily’s legacy, her own flesh and blood.  And yes, Snape sacrifices everything to protect Harry because he is Lily’s son, but what if he had been able to overcome his jealousy, hurt, and anger, and been an actual father figure towards Harry? It’s easily the largest part of Snape’s tragedy, that he misses out on what could have been such a meaningful relationship because he can’t let go of the past.  As my friend EBR pointed out to me, the image of Snape clinging to Lily’s lifeless body while ignoring her living, crying son in the background is a perfect illustration of how he chose to focus his energies for all those years.

Snape is without question a hero, but he’s not one that we can unquestionably emulate.  Be like Snape in the way he remains thanklessly devoted to his goal.  Be like Snape in the way his every choice and his every action is in service of the welfare of someone other than himself.  Be like Snape in the way the core of his being is defined by an everlasting, gut-wrenching love and devotion.  But don’t be like Snape in the way he clings to the dead and fails to engage with those living around him, how he chooses to exile himself from fellowship, how he chooses to live alone and bear a needlessly solitary burden of pain and bitterness instead of opening himself up to the healing possibilities of reconciliation and forgiveness.  (Snape is the eye that tried to say to the rest of the body, “I don’t need you!”).

Oh, and do try to be like Snape in the way he speaks so clearly, slowly, and deliberately.  “Ex………pelliarmus!”  Love it.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

This movie is very good.  The special effects are amazing, and the storytelling is top notch.  The story itself is quite moving, and although the plot is full of implausible aspects and unscientific elements, they’re not so distracting that you can’t pretend to accept the premise temporarily and enjoy the film.

There are several nods to the original "Planet of the Apes," including this image of the Statue of Liberty in pieces.

The marketing campaign for this film kept repeating it’s clever tagline, “Evolution becomes Revolution.”  But this story isn’t really about evolution.  (I mean for one, can a creature be said to have “evolved” if it was purposefully manipulated in a lab?  There are glow-in-the-dark-dogs now and nobody’s claiming they got that way through evolution.)  No, this is a film about some of the ways in which humanity is flawed, and how we don’t always act like the most intelligent, refined species on the planet.  We certainly don’t always act like the most civilized.  We often don’t always treat other creatures well.  And, normally, they can’t fight back or tell us how much we’ve hurt and wronged them, but what if they could?  Are we justified in the mistreatment of animals just because they can’t complain?

Franklin (center) the ape caretaker, says, "These are animals with personalities, with attachments!"

I don’t think so.  I don’t think the Bible supports that view, either.  Scripture clearly distinguishes humans as being more important than other animals, including in Psalm 8 which says,

“You [the Lord] made him [man] ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim in the paths of the sea.”

Matthew 10:29-31 also uses a comparison to other creatures to emphasize the importance of humans in God’s eyes:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  And even the very hairs of your head are numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

This passage is usually quoted or referenced to make humans feel better about ourselves, but we mustn’t overlook the part that says that God does care about the welfare of all creatures, even seemingly insignificant little birds.  I don’t think that means we all need to become vegetarians, but we should at least consider that animals do have feelings, they can experience both pain and pleasure, and we should make every effort to treat them humanely.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes does a terrific job of presenting Caesar’s (the ape, motion-capture-performed by Andy Serkis) point of view.  He loves the humans that he grows up with, he’s protective of them, he’s confused about his place in the world and worried that he’s less than human yet more than beast.  (Am I a pet?, he asks once.)  When he suddenly has to be locked in a cage at an ape reserve, he feels lonely, homesick, and betrayed.  He recognizes the injustice of his and his fellow primates’ situation and wants to change it, but he doesn’t want to kill the humans, he only wants to be allowed his own freedom.  It’s all the more impressive that his motives and emotions are all very clearly communicated to the audience with little to no dialogue.  I was really rooting for Caesar’s campaign to succeed by the end.

Caroline warns Will early on, "I love chimpanzees. But I'm also afraid of them. And it's appropriate the be afraid of them."

As I’ve said, it’s a fantastical story that couldn’t really happen, (probably…right?)  But there are companies like the ficticious Genesys featured in the film that recklessly pursue profits, and there are people like the scientist Will, (James Franco), that try to play God.  There isn’t any mention of theology in the movie, but Will’s girlfriend Caroline (Freida Pinto) warns him against putting all his hopes into (and ignoring ethics and safety procedures in order to try) curing his father’s Alzheimer’s disease, saying, “Some things aren’t meant to be changed.  You need to accept that.”  And there really have been primates that were raised in a human family, and later abandoned by their “family” and locked in a cage, like Gua or Nim.

And, there really was a time, recorded in the Bible, when an animal was gifted with language through extraordinary circumstances, and  used the newfound ability only to point out the injustice of her mistreatment at the hands of her master, Balaam.  (You can read the story in Numbers chapter 22, starting with verse 21.)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a highly entertaining film with a moving message that is supported by Biblical truth; that animals, while not actually human, still deserve to be treated kindly, like creatures that God created and cherishes.

"Go on, Caesar! Climb! Go higher!"

Cowboys and Aliens

Well, really, what should I have expected?  The movie is called Cowboys and Aliens, not Amazingness and Awesomeness.  Here’s a description from imdb.com:

A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys are all that stand in their way.

Yup.  That’s what this movie is about.  Why didn’t I prepare myself for the cheese?  (Because I thought Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford were fantastic enough by themselves to make it epic, probably).  I think this movie can be enjoyable.  There’s no question it’s better than Green Lantern.  But just…prepare yourself, don’t expect it to be amazing, embrace the cheesiness, campy theatrics and silly plot twists.  I didn’t and I was cringing three quarters through thinking I was going to have to say it wasn’t good, but the more that I thought about it afterwards the more I convinced myself it wasn’t as bad as I thought.  (Still, I shouldn’t have to work this hard to like a movie that has James Bond and Indiana Jones/Han Solo!)

The two stars were actually great.  They have earned their “movie star” titles, they look great, and they deliver excellent performances.  Daniel Craig especially looks very, very nice in his riding chaps, ducking his head down so you can’t see his smoldering eyes under his hat brim.  Reminds me of my old favorite, Jim Craig.  (Hey, same name, even!)

Cool guys don't look up from under their hat brim.

There were a lot of general “cowboy/western” elements, like dialects that allow double-modals (“might could”), shots of whiskey, the sizzling barrel of a recently fired gun being used as a weapon itself, and people making sure to go back and grab their hats even as they run away from a huge explosion.  Gotta have your hat.  One character is seen shooting a shotgun while being whisked through the air mid-abduction–that’s cowboy grit!  Oh, and even though it’s called Cowboys and Aliens, don’t worry, there are Indians, too.  (And apparently the filmmakers really tried to give them an authentic representation, which is great and not at all how that population has often been portrayed on screen in the past.  Their part is still pretty cheesy but at that point pretty much everything else is, too.)

There are also some scalps hanging from saddlebags, towards the beginning.  Is that so we don’t feel bad when those characters die moments later?  Similar to the way they made the lobby desk guy and the coke-head co-worker in Die Hard so annoying, so you weren’t bothered when the bad guys shot them?  Let’s not forget, no matter how annoying or vile or barbaric someone is, they are still a soul that God wants to redeem and we shouldn’t take anyone’s death lightly.  (I know, I know, it’s just a movie–but this is the part where I think critically about it.)

Mysterious rogue cowboy Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) is greedy, and it costs him terribly. I don’t know if he really learns his lesson, either.  He recognizes at one point that it’s his fault someone died, but he’s comforted when another character says “no it’s not.”  (Um, yes, it is!)  And later, he’s  lovingly fingering the gold in the midst of a shoot-out in the alien’s hideout.  (Because the aliens, too, are greedy for gold.  **SPOILER ALERT**  One of them even dies by molten gold!  Well if THAT isn’t some great imagery for the love of money being destructive to your life!   Anyway, Lonergan’s storyline isn’t really very satisfying.  He spends much of the movie not remembering what kind of man he was, and when he finds out he doesn’t seem to care or try to change.  The Preacher tells him, “God doesn’t care who you were, son, only who you are,” and that’s true to some extent, but only if you’ve repented from your past.  You don’t get to skip from bad guy to good guy in God’s book just because you help rescue some people from Aliens, but you can get a fresh start and become a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17)  **END SPOILER**

Meanwhile, Col. Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) is a crotchety, mean, old man.  We’re told through dialogue that he “despise[s] battle, but…would never run from it.”  Some of his actions paint a much more ruthlessly violent picture.  One of his faithful hired hands defends his gruff boss by saying “He means well,” but is that really an excuse?  Dolarhyde’s storyline is less than compelling as well, because although Paul Dano, (the guy from Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood), does a terrific job portraying his immature, spoiled son, not enough of their father-son relationship is developed to make their semi-redemption at the end very moving.

**SPOILER ALERT** What I mean is, if it had been established that the reason Percy Dolarhyde was such an annoying little bully was because he was frustrated from being treated like a child and babysat by hired hands all day and never allowed to participate in his dad’s cattle-driving business, then it would have made more sense for Mr. Dolarhyde senior to start giving him more responsibility at the end.  But instead, Percy doesn’t ever prove himself in any way, (he’s unconscious most of the movie), and the Col.’s decision at the end to include Percy in his business is unmotivated.  Maybe he’s just deciding to start treating his son differently and hoping that Percy can earn the responsibilities he’s extending, but I don’t anticipate that will go very well as it appears he’s never had any responsibility before in his life.  He hasn’t shown he can be entrusted with little.  **END SPOILER**

The obligatory Preacher figure seems like he genuinely cares about helping people, but he espouses some questionable theology.  I’ve captured the majority of his dialogue here, (but be warned it’s very spoiler-y).  My biggest argument would probably be with what he tells poor sympathetic Doc, who is desperately trying to save his abducted wife but doesn’t posses the necessary skills.  (He can’t hit a target for beans).  A frustrated Doc says that either God “ain’t up there, or he don’t like me.”  The Preacher tells him he has to “earn [God’s] presence, and then you gotta learn to recognize it, and then you gotta act on it. ”  I like the bit about having to learn to recognize how God is working in your life, (maybe in Doc’s case by having Lonergan’s skills and Dolarhyde’s resources dedicated to the same goal as his), but I’m not so sure about the accuracy of having to “earn” God’s presence.  I’m not sure what he means by that.  It could be he’s trying to not give a cliche answer to Doc’s question, which is essentially “If God is good why are these bad things happening”, never an easy one to grapple with.  The Preacher didn’t seem all that orthodox, but in any case the Doc later said that he “made me feel better,” although Doc remained a skeptic.

Oh good, I've still got my hat!

Final verdict: not terrible, gloriously cheesy in the last quarter.  Maybe go to a matinee or wait for it on DVD.  Unless you are the kind of person that will be excited to see an alien getting lassoed or speared.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Well, it was pretty much what i expected.  The highest compliment I can give this movie is to say that it isn’t terrible.  It’s mindless summer entertainment, built around explosions and cool mid-air CGI transformations, (some of them inserted into recycled footage), rather than any sort of plot or character development.  You could totally go to the bathroom at any point during this movie and not miss anything important. My husband remarked that a lot of the dialogue sounded like video game blurbs; somewhat random, generic “let’s go fight!” or “here’s what we need to do next” instructions.  (To see my raw notes, including a lot of bad lines, click here.)

Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is a whiny college grad looking for a job.  Maybe some of us can relate to the job-hunting part.  And maybe some of us were incredibly irritated at having to watch him complain for the first twenty minutes about how he doesn’t have an awesome job or car, being jealous and angry with his girlfriend (I’m just going to go ahead and refer to her as Sex Symbol, which is an accurate description of her role), and not appreciating that she is supportive.  He feels like he deserves so much more than he has. He keeps trying to remind people that he’s a hero, and he has a presidential medal to prove it.

He’s ungrateful and unwilling to humble himself.  And even though he ends up taking a less-than-desirable job for about a day, he doesn’t ever exemplify the Biblical work ethic, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,” (Colossians 3:23).  He could also stand to take a lesson from a true hero that will be exemplified on the big screen in a week, when Deathly Hallows comes out.  If you’ve read the books, you know who I’m talking about.  A hero that is never thanked or praised, and who remains silently steadfast anyway.  (I can’t wait!)

Anyway, this movie has really, really, bad writing.  That makes it harder to analyze, because it doesn’t really have much of a purposeful message or any consistency.  It doesn’t even stick with the themes it brings up at the beginning; many of them aren’t resolved.  Does Sam end up getting the recognition and job he feels like he deserves, or does he learn to accept his position and stop being so annoying?  I couldn’t tell you.  But that isn’t the only thing that’s unclear at the end.  **SPOILER ALERT**  So when their planet goes away, do the Decepticons just give up, or die?  It appears to be resolved, but is it? How? I thought they still outnumbered the Autobots, because they beamed a whole bunch of them in, and if the destruction of the home planet destroyed them why don’t the Autobots also die?  Whatever. Explosions! Something vague about America and freedom! **END SPOILER**

I would say the worst thing about this movie message-wise is the sexism. The camera consistently ogles Sex Symbol, (it doesn’t even pan up to her face until she’s been onscreen almost a full minute, lingering instead on her pantless legs and backside.)  She’s perpetually dressed in tiny tight clothing and heels, while Power Woman (head of National Security, I think) is an ice queen who hates to be addressed respectfully as ma’am, (because, like, how can a woman be in such a powerful position if she’s actually, you know, womanly?)  Also, Sam’s mom is a complete idiot.  So there are your choices for female representation in this film.  Thank you, director Michael Bay.  To be fair, a lot of the male characters are also flat and stereotypical. I mean, I didn’t even like Sam!  He’s just whiny and arrogant.  This is a terrible movie character-wise in general!  My husband said, “Well, it’s about the Transformers, primarily. The people are just to set the story up,” but I didn’t feel like Optimus, Sentinel or Megatron were fleshed out (haha) any better than their human counterparts.  Their relationships are told through dialogue rather than shown.

I guess Optimus is kind of a good role model, because he is committed to defending the humans and their planet when he doesn’t have to be, just because his mentor “taught me that all creatures deserve to be free,” but I didn’t find him compelling.  His motivation isn’t really clear, he doesn’t get any character development, he’s just the good guy so he does expected good guy things. **SPOILER ALERT** Except for the part where he just flat-out kills Sentinel, his supposed mentor and beloved long-lost leader, who admittedly turned bad but is now literally begging “Optimus, no!”  I think, again, it’s just poor writing.  It’s easier to kill him and end the scene than introduce complexity, compassion, a discussion about how he could be rehabilitated or what a just punishment should be.  I guess he did betray the Autobots, but still…it seemed like a cruel moment for Optimus.  **END SPOILER**

So, to sum up, this movie is about entertainment, and not story.  Oh, I almost forgot; it’s also about revisionist history lessons, and Transformer-related conspiracy theories regarding the Apollo 11 moon mission and the Chernobyl disaster.  Real-life astronaut Buzz Aldrin makes an appearance as himself, so apparently he is not as offended by this fictionalized version of history as the ones who say he never went to the moon.  (He once punched a guy for saying that).

I can’t even think of a clever line to end this with.  That’s how little content is actually in this movie.

Does anybody see a decent script lying around? Anyone?