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.”


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

Ides of March

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this movie features political wheeling, dealing, and backstabbing.  With a title that refers to the betrayal of Julius Ceaser, “Ides of March” is interesting, intelligent, and provocative.  While it is entirely fictional, it provides insight into the American political process, (and really reminded me of the book “Game Change,” because I came away from both thinking that all the decisions are really made by a select few, behind closed doors, bargaining over circumstances that the general public is never aware of.)  It is certainly worth watching, for mature audiences.

This is one of my favorite movie posters ever. At least for this year.

One of the perspectives that I took away from this movie was how incredibly difficult it is for politicians to remain uncorrupted, when they are surrounded by so many people willing to make crooked deals and blackmail them for their own gains.  Although, I think I can offer a pretty good hint to any would-be political aspirers out there—it is probably a lot harder for people to blackmail you with your indiscretions if you don’t have any. ***SPOILER ALERT*** Gov. Morris says he doesn’t want to “play those games,” but ultimately, he does, and it’s because he slept with a woman who was not his wife. To quote the Govenor himself, “Integrity matters.”  Yes, it does.  It matters even when you think no-one is watching. That’s the very definition of integrity. ***END SPOILER***

The story is centered around young and talented campaign aide Steven, (Ryan Gosling).  Steven says that he will do or say anything to win, “but I have to believe in it.”  He’s legitimately inspired by and excited about the idea of his candidate, Democrat Governor Morris, (George Clooney), as President.  He’s honestly convinced that it’s the best thing for the country.  But at a certain point, that ceases to be his primary motivation.  Oh, he still spouts it, maybe even in part to convince himself. But he’s clearly, clearly taking actions that are motivated by his own self-seeking desires.  The story may be told against a political backdrop, (so we get a lot of rhetoric spouted by Morris, some of it laughably simplistic, such as an assertion that terrorism will stop if America simply stops buying foreign oil,) but it’s really a story about one man’s descent into ever-murkier moral waters. Director George Clooney said as much himself:

”I don’t really find it to be a movie about politics,” says Clooney, who co-wrote the script — based on Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North — with producing partner Grant Heslov. ”It’s about a guy doing anything to win at the cost of his soul. Those are universal themes you could play with in any genre or in any workplace. It’s just that the political arena is so much fun to work in.” –EW

At one point, Steven dismisses a junior campaign staffer, and when the decision is questioned, he responds, “Because you f–ked up!  This is the big leagues, it’s mean.  When you make a mistake, you lose the right to play.”  But when Steven himself confesses that he “made a mistake,” he’s asking for himself to be given a chance, but is told, “No, Steven, you didn’t make a mistake, you made a choice.”  It’s a very clear theme throughout this film that choices, and actions, have consequences, and one person’s choices may drastically affect another person’s.

Steven describes their negative campainging strategy as "we do research, we feed it to the press and see if it sticks."

***HUGE SPOILER ALERT***  Steven discovers that Gov. Morris impregnated an intern, and she is now asking for money to help get an abortion.  He ‘helps’ her, in order to protect the Governor’s campaign, but he has no regard for her emotional needs.  She believes, (with good reason, because he is in fact willing to do it, and bartering to do it at the very moment she finds out,) that he is going to tell the press about her affair, pregnancy, and abortion, because she hears he has been fired and was proclaiming that he would “take everybody down with him.”  He doesn’t contact her, he doesn’t answer her calls, and she kills herself out of desperation.  Now I am not saying that he is totally responsible for her suicide, but I think that even he realizes his actions directly affected her decision. He f–ked up. Actions have consequences, see?  And although he is sobered by her death, instead of altering his course, he chooses to leverage her demise for his own gain, just like he is willing to manipulate everything and everyone else in his life if it can advance his own career.  It’s so tragic, both what she does to herself and what he does to his own soul.  It’s also very well-acted, and well-written!  When Steven discovers that he was played by the competing campaign just to take him out of play, he shouts in frustration, “this is my life that you’re talking about,” completely oblivious to the fact that his own selfish, manipulative games are literally devastating someone else’s life.  ***END HUGE SPOILER***

The Govenor at one point says, "Every time I draw a line in the sand and then move it...fundraisers, union deals, negative ads...I can't on this one." But will that prove to be a stance he can maintain?

This movie shows us almost exclusively behind-the-scenes campaign action, but it doesn’t really need to give us the view of how this is being portrayed to the everyday folk (through the newspapers and talking TV heads) because we’re already so familiar with this circus.  We’re seeing a version of it play out in real life right now.  It just makes you wonder about how much goes on behind the scenes in every other election, that most people may never hear about. Or if we do hear a scandal, is it some campaign manager like Steven or Duffy leaking it to the right sources, dredging dirt up by playing dirty, raising just enough doubts that the opponents can’t quite shake them, or purposefully sabotaging the other sides’ staff?  It’s not hard to imagine.  But it’s also hard not to believe the allegations after so many politicians before have turned out to be guilty.

This is ultimately a tragic movie–a terrifically well-written, well-acted movie, but a tragedy nonetheless—about a man who compromises. Everything. To “win.”  This film’s bleak ending echoes the wisdom of Jesus, who said, “what good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

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.

The Fighter

This movie features an amazing, true-life story brought to life by incredible acting performances across the board.  Christian Bale and Melissa Leo won Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars for their respective portrayals as the main character’s brother and mom.  It was nominated for several other awards as well, including Best Picture, and it definitely deserves the recognition that it got.

This film is based on the true story of boxer Mickey Ward, who trains with his older half-brother, Dicky Ecklund, himself once the boxing “pride of Lowell”, and who is managed by his very headstrong, controlling and somewhat delusional mother.  He also has a total of seven sisters and half sisters running around, appearing to all live with his mother still, and generally getting involved in his and everybody else’s business.  (They take after their mother).  Mickey O’Keefe, Mickey Ward’s mentor in real life, plays himself in this film.

Mickey's sisters. Look, the one on the far right is played by Conan O'Brien's sister!

This movie emphasizes the importance of family, but it also shows how hard it can be to have to be pressing on, trying to achieve something without the support of your family, or in fact despite their efforts to be involved.  Ignoring concerns for his well-being, Mickey’s mother guilts him into agreeing to an unfair fight against a much bigger guy by saying, “Don’t forget, you don’t fight, nobody gets paid,” and she are her posse of daughters are incredibly threatened and almost territorial when outsiders try to offer real help.  Mickey loves and relies on his family, but he’s also damaged by them.

Mickey’s mother is a portrait of denial.  She refuses to believe that her precious Dicky does anything untoward, even though she consistently has to go drag him away from the crack house.  Dicky aides her in ignoring the truth, but ultimately I think she would just rather not deal with it.   When she reacts in shock to an HBO special on crack addition featuring her eldest, Mickey says, “I don’t know what to tell ya.  You pretend like you don’t know what’s going on, he’s been doin’ this for years!”  After a brawl that she incited breaks out, she acts bewildered, saying “what’s going on?”  Is she really that oblivious, or is this just how she copes?  It’s clearly not healthy.  She also displays an obvious favoritism towards her children, leading an exasperated and hurt Mickey to shout, at one point, “I thought you were my mother too!’  Heartbreaking.

Dicky, too, is in denial for much of the movie about his own life.  But he, unlike his mother, is forced to face reality. The confrontation on the porch between himself and Charlene, (Mickey’s girlfriend), is one of the best parts of the movie.  Charlene admits, “I’ve ruined a lotta opportunities, but I’m tryin’ to do somethin’ better now, and so is Micky.”  Dicky replies, “And so am I.”  THAT’S why this is a great movie, because it doesn’t hold back from showing what a terrible mess Dicky has made of his life, but it also doesn’t end that way, with him wallowing in a drugged-out oblivion.  Once he recognizes the extent to which he’s messed everything up, he really tries hard to change and make amends.

As Christians, we are told:

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.  Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.  –Ephesians 5:3-4

Those are very high standards, (not even a hint of wrongdoing!), and for most of us it is probably a constant struggle just like an addict has a constant, daily battle to not return to their old ways.  And maybe sometimes we fall spectacularly short from that goal, and are even in denial about it, reminding ourselves and others that we’re somehow better than everyone else.  But, once the truth becomes clear, the course of action does, too.  We shouldn’t hesitate to correct our behavior when we realize we are wrong, even if coming back from all of our mistakes seems like an insurmountable task.  Take inspiration from Dicky Eklund.

"This is your time, Mickey!'

Mickey’s character and his struggles are plenty inspiring too, of course.  Look at all the crap with his family he has to work through, on top of the challenge of staying in prime boxing shape and winning fights.  It would be so easy for him to become bitter, give up, or remain cut off from his dysfunctional family.  But he doesn’t.

This is a fantastic movie all-around.  The R rating is because of the language, drug use, and violence.  It all fits with the story, and I don’t think any of the negative content is glorified.  I absolutely recommend it.

Horrible Bosses

I have to be honest–I thought this movie was hilarious.  I predict that quotes from it are going to become standard fare in some circles.  Yes, it’s definitely rated R, but they mostly steer towards really awful gags only to veer away at the last second.  There were a couple of parts, though, that made me very uncomfortable, and obviously, obviously, you shouldn’t kill or try to kill your boss, not matter how horrible they are.   (Do I really have to spell that out?)

If you couldn’t tell from the posters or previews, this comedy is based around three friends that are so frustrated with their horrible bosses they decide to kill them.  These bosses aren’t just Michael Scott bumbling idiot bad, they’re, like, morally bankrupt bad.  (That’s probably so we don’t have any pesky ethical reservations or sympathy getting in the way of our laughter.)  In a way their eventual downfalls do feel like justice, but again, you shouldn’t really try to kill your boss!

There were a lot of avenues the guys could have pursued instead, if they really thought their bosses were so bad.  Quit. Try to find a different job.  Put in the hard work to start your own business enterprise if you can’t find a job.  Maybe go to the board or the investors or the police or whoever and tattle on your horrible boss in the hopes he’ll be reprimanded or removed–I mean that’s no less risky than facing life in prison if you’re convicted for murder.

And while there may be times when a work situation is so toxic it’s untenable, and I do think workers deserve to be treated fairly and adequately reimbursed for their labors, Christians have been instructed “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,” (Colossians 3:23).  Your earthly boss isn’t the only one you’re working for–so what if he or she doesn’t appreciate you, are you still turning in a performance and displaying behavior that God would be proud of?  Maybe you didn’t get the promotion you thought you deserved, but when you die you’re going to get a “promotion” you definitely don’t deserve, so…tough it out.  Find joy in something else.  Like I said, of course there are times when it’s not worth it, but killing your boss is, I’m pretty sure, never the Christian thing to do.  I mean, there’s no “thou shalt not kill thy boss,” but, you know, there’s regular “thou shalt not kill.”

These guys don’t claim to be Christians, of course, and they are drunk when they first discuss their idea.  Jason Bateman’s character is even careful to point out, “We were just blowing off steam, none of us are actually gonna kill our bosses!”  And when things do get more “serious,” they prove to be pretty ineffectual murderers.  They turn to tools like NavGuide and Craigslist for help, and they can’t even coordinate pulling out of a parking lot smoothly.

The part that made me the most uncomfortable was Dale’s (Charlie Day) situation.  His boss (Jennifer Aniston) is sexually harassing him.  I mean really.  Not just inappropriate comments.  The same thing in reverse, (a male boss with a female subordinate), would be unthinkable in a comedy.  Because it’s not at all funny.  Why is it supposed to be funny this way?  It’s really not.  Dale’s mistreatment is worse than the other guys’, and he was my favorite, too, because he was the worst at being a would-be killer (and the best at being a decent human with a conscious).  I felt like his boss’s downfall was the least just, too.  In my mind her behavior was the worst and  **SPOILER ALERT** she suffered no physical or legal consequences, not even public humiliation.  And why would he want to keep working there, even if the behavior stopped?  It’s not like they can ever possibly have a good working relationship.  **END SPOILER**

The ultimate message of this movie: Blackmail is a great way to get what you want.  Just make sure you get a recording.  Not Biblical, not a good idea in real life.  But if you are okay with f-bombs and innuendos, this is not a horrible movie.

I love all three of these actors.

Repo Men

This film came out in 2010, and I thought it looked like a very interesting idea for a story, but I didn’t get a chance to see it in theaters.  That turned out to be no great loss, because it wasn’t all that good.  But it did have one line that I really, really liked.

The premise: in the future, medical science has advanced to the point where artificial body parts are reliably mass-produced.  So there’s almost no need for anyone to die, ever, because they could just keep replacing everything as it wears out or gets sick.  But capitalism doesn’t work that way, and in this story no one can truly benefit from the wondrous technology because the company that sells the organs won’t make a profit that way.  The procedures and equipment are all incredibly expensive, but who can refuse to sign the payment contracts to get a new liver, knowing it means death if they don’t?  “You owe it to your family.  You owe it to yourself,” repeats a smarmy salesmen (played by Liev Schreiber).

He also states, “we can’t make money if people pay.”  That’s where Remy (Jude Law) and Jake (Forest Whitaker) come in.  They are the Repo Men, and their job is to repossess artificial organs on which the purposefully too-high payments have fallen behind, by cutting them out of the receivers’ bodies.  This typically means the person dies, but Remy and Jake aren’t bothered.  It’s “just a job.”  And they always read a statement asking if the patient would like an ambulance to be on hand before they cut them open, but it’s clearly a legality as Remy is shown reading it after knocking his victim unconscious with a taser.

Then there’s the twist that you see coming a mile away: Remy suffers an accident and has to get an artificial heart himself.  Now he’s on the other side of the system.  Suddenly aware of his own mortality, he can’t bring himself to do any more repo jobs, and therefore can’t make the money to pay off his own heart.  After that it’s pretty much just an action movie, running around trying to escape and fighting various people off, and the entire third act kind of falls apart story-wise, and the ending is really stupid. It’s like somebody had this great idea, and then it just became an excuse for stereotypical fight scenes.

Part of the message here seems to be a critique of the American health care system.  It says that doctors don’t care about their patients, that profits are more important than people, that hospitals are evil corporations and everybody could really be perfectly healthy if only the people at the top weren’t so greedy and corrupt.  Of course it’s all hypothetical, and in the real world things are not so extreme or so black and white, but sometimes fiction provides a safe place to talk about controversial subjects.  Despite it’s descent into illogical sequences of gun fights, knife fights, and fire extinguisher axe fights, Repo Men could be a good way to start a conversation about the flaws in our health care (and health insurance) systems, and what we can do to prevent this kind of future scenario.

My favorite line was something Remy said when he finally decided to quit his line of work, no longer able to believe in the mantra “it’s just a job” that he himself had once repeated. “But it’s not just a job, is it?  It’s who you are.  If you want to change who you are, start by changing what you do.”  That is excellent advice!  I don’t know of any Bible verses that specifically support it.  But C.S. Lewis dedicated a section to it in his book Mere Christianity (Book 4, chapter 7).  Here is an excerpt:

There are two kinds of pretending.  There is a bad kind, where the pretense is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you.  But there is also a good kind, where the pretense leads up to the real thing.  When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are.  And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were.  Very often the only way to get a quality in real life is to start behaving as if you had it already.

So let’s practice living like Christ.  Let’s change our character by consciously deciding to act how God wants us to.  Then when the Reap-o Man comes for our souls, we’ll be ready.

Oh well, at least the first two thirds of the movie were good.

Ninja Assassin

I was not expecting this movie to have as much story as it did.  From the previews it seemed like it was made for the purpose of including as many ninja fight scenes as possible, because ninjas are such a cool and popular mythology right now.  Having seen the film, that’s probably still an accurate assessment, but it wasn’t completely ridiculous.  Bad dialogue, yes.  Way over-the-top violence and a plethora of fight scenes, absolutely.  But it did have a workable plot, that made it as plausible as possible for the story to be believable, to keep the myth alive.  (But if ninjas were real, wouldn’t we have seen or heard about them?  No, because they’re ninjas! You never see them!  They’re too awesome!)

Of course there is an incredible amount of violence and blood, but it’s cartoonish.  All the blood is super red, and there’s way too much of it.  I think some of it is even CGI.  I kind of doubt whether you can really cut off people’s extremities in a single slice with a little ninja knife.  But people can’t really literally blend into a shadow the way they do in the film, either.  So it’s all highly stylized and fantastical.  It’s like Kill Bill in that way.

Basically, the ninja clans exist (in secret) by kidnapping orphans and putting them through vigorous, relentless training until they are ninjas, then they hire them out as assassins.  What if a child doesn’t want to be a ninja?  Not a problem for the clans, since their law dictates that any traitor should be killed.  “Betrayal begets blood,” they say.  They also say, “weakness compels strength,” I guess meaning if someone else is weak, you have to beat/kill them, to show you’re stronger?  I’m not sure, but it’s not a system with any room for grace or mercy.

Of course there is a child, (Kiriko), who doesn’t fit into this harsh world she’s trapped in.  She can’t bear to watch the sufferings of others, so she secretly puts ointment on their wounds at night.  She refuses to cut another boy when she beats him in a fight, and as punishment she is cut across the face and locked in a bamboo cage for days.  Eventually she tries to escape, and is killed.  And our main character loved her, and basically he is now out to destroy the entire Ozunu clan to avenge her.  And also because if he doesn’t kill them all they will never stop hunting him down; he becomes a “traitor” himself when he refuses to kill another young captured runaway.  Raizo is “the name [our hero] was given.”

Raizo.  He. Was. Ripped!  Are you kidding me?!  How do you get a body like that?  I don’t know how many of the stunts might have used cables and harnesses and stuff, but I don’t care, it was impressive.  Especially the fight sequence in the street, when Raizo was being persued by his former Ozunu brothers, so they are all flat-out running against the flow of traffic and flipping over cars and stabbing at each other sideways in-between other cars and spinning out of the way at the last second.  I know, it sounds really cheesy.  But it was awesome.   See for yourself.

Kiriko’s story is the most positive message in this movie, I would say.  Raizo smuggles her water to drink when she is locked in the cage for taking another’s punishment upon herself.  He says, “Kiriko, why?” and she resolutely responds, “Why am I in here, or why are you out there?” I loved that; rather than break down, whine or complain, rather than giving some emotional response about how she couldn’t bring herself to hurt another human like that, her answer assumes a certainty that her course of action is right, and that’s enough reason to follow it, and why isn’t he?  Later, when she is making her escape, Raizo tries to talk her out of it, reminding her that their cruel clan leader will cut her heart out if she does.  But she insists, “I have to.”  Even knowing she will die, she cannot be swayed from doing what she is convinced is right.  She would rather die trying to do the right thing than make the compromises she would have to in order to continue living with the Ozunu clan.  It’s really inspiring.

Raizo’s quest to avenge her is brave, and his dedication and discipline in training is impressive.  But he could stand to learn a thing or two from his girlfriend.  The ultimate messages of this movie are that violence and killing can bring you peace, or that redemption is found through revenge.  That’s a very common theme, but not one that Charles Xavier or the Bible agree with.  Professor X says “killing…will not bring you peace” in X-Men: First Class, and Jesus says, “…do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. ” (Matthew 5:39).  That seems almost impossible, especially if the slap is coming from a deadly ninja star.  But Kiriko would have been brave enough to do it.

Many of the ninja’s Raizo kills are targeting an innocent victim.  That seems noble.  Is it justifiable to kill them, then?  This is a puzzle to which I don’t have the answer right now.  But I think it’s much, much harder to answer affirmatively as a Christian.  I like what one of the (real-life) missionaries in End of the Spear said, before he was killed by members of the Waodani tribe he was trying to reach with the gospel: “Son, we can’t shoot the Waodani. They’re not ready for heaven… we are.”  I hope I would be as brave as he and Kiriko were, if faced with a similar situation.

Raizo can heal himself, which, conviniently enough, allows for even more epic fight scenes

Bad Teacher

The title is very honest.  Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is indeed a very bad teacher.  And kind of a bad person in general.  This is a comedy that takes full advantage of the possibilities licensed by its R rating, whose soul purpose is to make people laugh.  That’s what a lot of comedies are designed to do; they’re not so concerned with character or even story development, they’re not really trying to be social commentaries or make a point or promote anything.  Bad Teacher can certainly be labeled as a so-called “mindless comedy”, but nonetheless it does have messages that it (perhaps unintentionally) conveys.

Ms. Halsey hadn’t planned to make a career out of teaching.  She thinks she’ll be able to retire after just one year because she’s marrying a wealthy man.  But when he realizes she’s a gold-digger and calls it off, she’s forced to continue doing the bare minimum at a job she hates.  (I know some people who would love to have her job, or any job, but that’s not funny so we’ll ignore it.)

Ms. Halsey states, “My full-time job is finding a guy who’s gonna take care of me.”  To that end, she decides she needs a boob job, and raising the money for it becomes her sole motivation to actually try to get her students to learn something, (so she can win the bonus for getting the highest scores on the state test).  But legitimate teaching takes too much effort.  So she steals the test answers, of course!  She also steals the school’s recycling and sells the contents of the lost and found tub to add a few bucks to her body modification fund.  And lies to parents about privately tutoring their kids to get them to pay her under the table.  And she wears terribly impractical shoes!  Who wears six inch heels every day to teach?!

It’s not like the movie reinforces that having a sugar daddy or thinking you need surgery to be attractive are good ideas.  She ends up with a fellow teacher-salary guy, (oh sorry, was that a spoiler? could you not guess that from the previews?) and in the end she doesn’t get the surgery.  And the scene when she first brings up the idea is so uncomfortable, because she’s talking to a fellow teacher played by Phyllis Smith, (Phyllis from The Office), and says “You don’t know how hard it is to compete with these Barbie types!”  Plump-bodied Phyllis looks down and mumbles “yeah…”  So it’s pretty obvious that Ms. Halsey is not only incredibly vain but also completely oblivious to the needs and feelings of anyone around her.

That changes a little bit, because there are two whole kids that she ends up giving half-assed “tough love” (but really just played for laughs) advice to.  So there’s that.

Meanwhile, there’s an ongoing rivalry between our Bad Teacher and the teacher across the hall, Ms. Squirrel, who is neurotic and tries to butt into everybody’s business and is maybe slightly paranoid and invades personal space and is definitely underhanded in some of her tactics, but who is actually dedicated to being a good teacher. She is actually right in everything she accuses Ms. Halsey of, but because she is annoying and because this is a comedy and because it’s simply called Bad Teacher and not Bad Teacher Learns Life Lesson, Changes For the Better, Ms. Squirrel is rewarded by being forced to transfer to another school.  So the inherent message is, people who care about rules, regulations, and proper protocol and who are dedicated to their jobs are losers, and people who are clever enough to cheat and lie and hide alcohol and pot in their work desks are super cool winners.  And they don’t need boob jobs, (if they already have a Cameron Diaz body.)

Yes, there were several parts that made me laugh, but there were just as many ‘oh gross/ew, awkward…’ moments, and in the end I was disapointed at the cosmic unfairness of Ms. Halsey’s character getting away consequence-free with so many terrible decisions and immoral/illegal/unwise/mean actions.  Maybe that is partly the Hufflepuff in me talking, but I prefer it when justice is served.  I was hopping for a comeuppance that never cameupped.

Ooo, your general irresponsibility and selfishness is so cool. Not.