Trailer Tuesday 9.18.12

So many trailers today!  There are 5 movies coming out this week, four of which I want to see.  And we’ve been promised a new trailer for The Hobbit this week, which I will most likely post about on my pagelady blog, so look for that sometime tomorrow.

The movie that comes out this week which I will most likely not watch is House At The End Of The Street, a horror film staring Jennifer Lawrence.  I love that girl but I can’t stomach horror, so I’ll pass.

For those that like their movies with a lot of action and explosions are not so much story, this week offers Dredd 3D.  I guess it’s kind of a remake or a re-imagining of Judge Dredd, (which I have never seen).  Set in a dystopian future, the title character is appointed by whatever government exists to fill the roles of “judge, jury, and executioner.”  So, kind of like a vigilante, except that he’s not outside the law because that is the law for them.  I’m not anticipating it will actually have much plot.  But I could be surprised.

Next up, in the sentimental sports-drama category, is Trouble with the Curve Starring Clint Eastwood and not, as far as I know, an empty chair, it looks like it will be about struggling to cope with aging, struggling to repair dysfunctional family dynamics, getting Amy Adams’ character together with Justin Timberlake’s, and glorifying that all-American passtime of baseball.  It looks ok, I just can’t really get excited about this trailer for some reason.  It might be because I’m so annoyed with the cliche guy-jumps-into-water-while-girl-shrieks-and-laughs-on-date-symbolizing-he-is-impulsive-and-they-are-in-love bit, or because the song that accompanies this trailer was also over-used for the American women’s gymnastic blurbs during this years Olympics.

End of Watch is another drama debuting this week, but it looks a lot more intense than Trouble with the Curve.  It’s about two newbie cops who are enthusiastic about playing by the rules and bringing in bad guys, while the more experienced officers seem jaded and cynical.  Then, it looks like the rookies make a bust that interferes with some powerful cartels, and that’s when things get crazy.  Maybe they start to doubt themselves, or the right thing isn’t so clear?  I’m very excited for this movie.  Although, I’m afraid that one of them will die before the end.  Doesn’t it seem to foreshadow a bleak outcome?

Finally, The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes out this weekend as well.  I’ve been waiting for it for months, having read the book (of the same name, written by Stephen Chbosky who also directed this film) this summer.  It’s very well written and I felt like I could relate to a lot of the feelings of isolation and unpopularity that so many teenagers go through, the struggle to force yourself to participate in life and not just observe everyone else, and the joy of finding a circle of friends who accept you.  However, there are also a lot of really heavy topics woven into main character Charlie’s story–abuse, (both physical and sexual), drugs and alcohol, bullying and suicide are either witnessed or experienced by Charlie.  It’s very depressing at times, but I liked the book partly because it was just so beautifully written and at times uplifting.  I’m very interested to see how the movie adapts the story to film, and also I can’t wait to see Emma Watson in one of her firs significant non-Hermione roles.

I talked about this weeks’ movies in ascending order of how much I want to see them, so I’ll be voting for Perks, but what about you?  Which of these movies are you most excited to watch?

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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.

loki

“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.

Trailer Tuesday 8.28.12

I feel habitual shame about the lack of consistent updates on this blog.  My failure is a combination of lack of discipline and overabundance of  expectations, (meaning I feel like I shouldn’t post anything unless it is well thought-out and researched, with clear and appropriate scripture references.)  While thinking about what to say in this post earlier today, I had decided to revise the purpose of this blog and make it okay for me to post less-polished reactions or reviews that don’t always discuss explicitly what the message is and whether or not it is Biblical.  But then as I sat down to type I wondered if that approach would be actually be antithetical to the original purpose of Digest Movies, which was to not only provide movie reviews from a Christian perspective, but also to force myself to have to analyze movies I put in my brain through a scriptural filter so I don’t unthinkingly absorb flawed theology.  My tagline is “consumption shouldn’t end with intake.”  If I only analyze the script, acting, or tone of a movie, but not the message, is that a failure, or are there some movies that really don’t have much of a message?  Even if it doesn’t have a clear or strong message, should I analyze the worldview it displays?  I would appreciate feedback on this, either in the comments (or in real life/twitter/facebook/phone if you’re one of the followers that knows me.)  The problem is not really that I am not analyzing the movies I watch, it’s in organizing my thoughts into a review that I feel fits this page.  So I either need to change the format of the blog, or try harder to sit down and write and quit making excuses.

But today is Tuesday, so let’s watch some trailers.  The only new movie that comes out this week that I want to see is Lawless, a period piece set in the American prohibition era, based on real-life bootlegging brothers.  It stars a lot of big-name actors that I like and looks like it will be a good (but violent) drama.

Pitch Perfect, coming out later this fall, (October 5), is a movie that I totally want to see in a guilty-pleasure sort of way. (How good can a movie with a line like “let’s remix this business!” in the trailer be?)  But I’m a sucker for musicals.  And I love Anna Kendrick.  I hope that it is at least better than Rock of Ages.

A few weeks ago we got the first trailer for Oz, The Great And Powerful, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz that doesn’t come out until March 2013.  I’m definitely into it so far.  (How could I be a Kansas girl not like Oz?)

Rock of Ages

I don’t know what I was thinking.  I actually thought I would like this movie.  But it’s a rock opera, with a clumsy script whose only purpose is to cram in as many ‘Rock and Roll’ songs as possible, and it’s theme can pretty much be summed up with the old saying, “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll!”  (Although there really weren’t any drugs, but plenty of alcohol.)

The singing and acting was meh.  The storyline, as mentioned, was weak.  The songs weren’t as inspiring to me as much as they might be to people who grew up with them.

Drew (Diego Boneta) bursts into song, as people in musicals do, but a second later in dialogue claims he can’t sing in front of people because he gets stage fright.  He sings about buying a guitar even though he didn’t know how to play, and that it felt so right in his arms.  Then he proceeds to hold guitars as props and not play them for the rest of the movie, with exactly one strumming exception.

Sherrie (Julianne Hough) smiles like a Cheshire cat in place of having a personality.  She headbangs along to air-guitar players.  She’s pursuing her dreams with the blessing of her grandmother, who “didn’t want [her] to end up stuck in Oklahoma like she was.”  Life anywhere outside LA must be a terrible fate, you guys.

Please explain to me what the actual difference is between Sherrie’s job as an exotic pole-dancer, which she is so ashamed of, and her dancing and booty-shaking on stage in a skimpy outfit at a rock concert in the end.  Am I supposed to be tricked into thinking she’s “made it” now and has escaped being demeaned by sexual objectification?  Or am I supposed to cheer that she is on the road to becoming a rock star like Stacee Jaxx, (Tom Cruise), who laments to a reporter that he can never escape from the lusty expectation of his fans that he forever symbolize sex, right before he has sex with the reporter, (Malin Ackerman).  (I’m sorry I’m not marking the *spoiler warnings*, but I’d rather not encourage people to see this one.)

The mayor’s wife, Patricia, (Catherine Zeta-Jones), is a caricature of a political manipulator masquerading as a moral crusader.  Ha ha, she’s so unlikeable her own husband is having an affair with his secretary!  And then her campaign to shut down the Rock bar and “clean up the streets” is completely undermined when her ulterior motive is revealed to be revenge, because she slept with Stacee Jaxx and then he left her (like he did to pretty much everyone, it seems).  And she clearly still has the hots for Stacee, but he re-rejcts her at the end after squeezing her boob, (which is also how he greets Sherrie earlier.  This man is a pig.)  But she’s a hypocrite, so we’re not supposed to care, and we can dismiss her and all her supporters with a laugh.  Oh, those idiots thinking this Rock culture is unhealthy for young people!  They’re just uptight and/or don’t know what they’re talking about!  (See above boob -squeezing, stripping, and alcohol imbibing.  It’s wholesome.)

I mean, if everything is ridiculous and every character absurd, the audience doesn’t have to actually think about the moral implications or the point of the story or the quality of the characters.  They’re just expected to sing along.

Stacee Jaxx invites you to join the mindless screaming crowd and replace critical thought with Rock lyrics. It’s the only way you’ll enjoy this movie.

I suppose you could say the movie teaches you should follow your dreams, (both Drew and Sherrie leave home and travel to LA hoping to become singers) and not compromise, (Drew sells out for a recording deal and changes his image into that of a boy-band popster before reneging on his contract and rebelling back to his rock roots.  We are supposed to applaud him for this even though he screws over his bandmates and manager–but they’re not “cool”, so who cares, right?)  Are these Biblical values?

Well, not compromising on your convictions certainly is. (CITATION NEEDED verse/s).  And Jesus did say (get rid of stuff even family to follow him).  But notice that is to follow God and seek his will, not our own dreams of selfish ambition.  As Christians we are called to be selfless.  That doesn’t mean that if you want to be a singer, you should abandon that pursuit and become a nun instead.  God gives us passions and abilities and wants us to use them.  Think of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire, (a much better movie that I would totally recommend you watch instead of Rock of Ages,) when he explains to his sister that he intends to become a missionary but will first run in the Olympics;

I believe God made me for a purpose.  But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.

The only goal we should be 100% dedicated to, above all else, is glorifying God and serving his will.  In fact, Liddell demonstrates this excellently in the aforementioned movie, (based on real-life events), when he refuses to run on Sunday.  It’s not that he doesn’t care about competing; it’s just that he cares more about maintaining his convictions to honor God than himself.  (The Bible is peppered with verses about standing firm and not compromising; here’s one.)  In Rock of Ages, Sherrie and Drew don’t really seem motivated by a desire to sing or “rock” as much as “be famous!”  I’m positive that singing or playing rock music can be done in service of the Kingdom of God, but as you pursue whatever you’re into, remember that your focus shouldn’t be on promoting yourself:

 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. –Phillipians 2:3-4

In summary, if you wanted to watch this movie for the music, I would recommend just buying the soundtrack instead.  You’ll be spared the movie’s worthless messages that way.

Trailer Tuesday 6.19.12

Lots of movies coming out this week!  The one I’m most excited for is Brave, Pixar’s latest film (and their first to feature a female protagonist).  I love archery, I love girl power, I love Pixar films and I love listening to regional accents, (Scottish in this case), so I think it’s safe to assume I will love this film.

Also debuting this week, with a very different tone from Brave, is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.  Based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, (who also penned Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,) it’s a mix of historical fact and fanciful fiction, in this case the blood-sucking kind. It’s going to be very violent, and Lincoln is going to be a badass hero, just in a slightly different way than he was in real life.

If you want something a little lighter than a Civil War with the undead, how about an apocalyptic comedy?  Steve Carrell and Kiera Knightly star in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.  I like both of those actors but for some reason I’m just not very excited about this film.  Maybe it’s because its a comedy, my second-to-least favorite genre.

To Rome With Love debuts this week as well, but it’s a Woody Allen film and I usually hate them, so I’ll show you instead the trailer for a film near and dear to my heart that is being newly released on DVD and Blu-Ray for its 20th anniversary: Newsies.  I don’t care how good the new Batman movie is, this will always be my favorite Christian Bale movie.  Carryin’ the banner!

Prometheus

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.

**update**

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.

Trailer Tuesday 6.12.12

I was hoping to have a preliminary Prometheus review up yesterday, but one of my sisters called and I ended up talking to her for an hour instead.  So, hopefully I will post it last today, and then come back and edit it after I’ve seen the movie again.  It’s very thought-provoking.

This week in theaters Rock of Ages debuts.  I love musicals and I think this movie looks like a lot of fun, although I’m not sure what the message will be (and there’s no doubt that even if the overall message is positive, this won’t be a “wholesome” film).

Also new this week is That’s My Boy starring Adam Sandler as yet another goofy and irresponsible moron.  I haven’t liked an Adam Sandler movie since 2004’s Spanglish, and I’m not planning on seeing this one.  I can already tell I won’t like it.

Last week the first trailer forWreck-It Ralph was released.  It’s kind of like Toy Story but with video games, and a theme about redemption and choices, perhaps, or becoming a “new creation”.  It looks fantastic!

Advance tickets went on sale this week for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, the conclusion to his epic Batman trilogy.  (The movie comes out July 20).   At this point my only question is, how awesome will this movie be?  More awesome than Avengers?  More awesome than The Dark Knight?  Because there’s no question it’s going to be awesome, I’m just waiting to find out how much.  Of the three trailers released so far, this one is my favorite.

Trailer Tuesday 6.5.12

The big movie hitting theaters this week is Prometheus, a sci-fi story involving space flight, androids, and potential aliens.  The title refers to the name of the spaceship, but it is also the name of a character in Greek mythology that stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humans, for which he was punished.  According to Wikipedia, “Prometheus became a figure who represented human striving, particularly the quest for scientific knowledge, and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences.” (source).  The trailer certainly does seem to be setting up a story about human arrogance and the consequences of a quest for knowledge, and I hope the film provides some good discussion questions, (besides living up to its nerd-hype).

Also opening this week is Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.  I haven’t seen either of the previous Madagascar movies, but I know a lot of people enjoy them, and I have to admit that the “circus afro” song makes me laugh every time.

Earlier this week we got our first look at the trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, an adaptation of the book by the same name.  This book has been on my to-read list, and seeing this trailer has definitely made me more interested in reading it soon. I would have been interested in this movie anyway, because it features Emma Watson in one of her first post-Potter roles.

New movies on DVD today include John Carter and Safe House, both of which I enjoyed, and Act of Valor and Machine Gun Preacher, neither of which I have seen yet, although I would like to.

Battleship

Considering that this movie is inspired by the board game of the same name, it’s not half bad!  It’s a summer action flick, entertaining but predictable and not very deep, exactly as advertised.  It’s fun to watch and there were actually a couple of great lesson moments in between the gunfire and explosions.

The story centers around Alex Hopper, (Taylor Kitsch), an impulsive and immature individual who doesn’t seem interested in putting his considerable skills to good use.  We are introduced to a drunken Alex getting in trouble with the law over shenanigans involving a chicken burrito, after which his brother (Commander Stone Hopper, played by Alexander Skarsgård) insists that Alex join the navy and straighten out his life.

The relationship between the Hopper brothers is truly loving, in that Stone recognizes that the best thing for Alex is not always what the younger brother wants.  When Alex gets into trouble and comes to his brother hoping to escape the consequences, saying, “You’ve gotta make some calls,” Stone replies, “Who do I call to teach you humility?  I’m sorry, man, I just don’t have that number.”

Alex’s commanding officer, Admiral Shane, (played by Liam Neeson), is equally blunt in his assessment of the brash young lieutenant, telling him, “You’re a very smart individual, with a very weak character and poor decision-making skills.”  I love the inclusion of these lines of dialogue, because while we often see movies with “heroes” that are similarly immature, their reckless and selfish actions are sometimes celebrated or downplayed.  It’s nice to see Alex’s character accurately distilled within the film itself.

**SPOILER ALERT** At the end of the film Alex, having helped averted potential global catastrophe, feels entitled to a blessing from the Admiral to marry his daughter.  To my delight, the response is, “No…Saving the world is one thing, Hopper.  My daughter is quite another.”  This is terrific, because Alex didn’t really demonstrate much change in his major character flaws throughout the drama.  He learned to be less selfish and rely more on teamwork, and he used creative tactical strategies, but he didn’t act less brashly or control his temper.  At one point he had to be reminded three times by inferior officers that there were sailors in the water and the ship’s duty was to prioritize rescuing them rather than pursuing a vengeful and reckless enemy attack.

The Admiral’s response to Alex’s assumption of deserved respect because he “saved the world” reminded me of Galatians 6:3, which says

If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

As well as 1 Samuel 16:7, when God sends Samuel to anoint a new king and the prophet assumes it should be one of David’s older, brawnier brothers, but God says,

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

I don’t think that the character of Alex is completely without good inner qualities, but I think God would agree with the Admiral’s viewpoint that acts of bravery and heroism are not a substitute for character and integrity.  And, the Admiral does invite Alex to join him for lunch, and it’s implied that he will agree to let him marry his daughter.  But not because he “saved the world,” and not without some scrutiny.  **END SPOILER**

Rihanna made her acting debut in this movie as a soldier who fired a lot of guns. I thought her performance was, meh, okay, one of my least favorite things about the movie. Just because it was distracting to keep seeing Rihanna swagger around trying to act tough.

This film also features several characters who are veterans, one of who has lost limbs and is struggling to regain a sense of purpose, and others who were actual navy veterans, as this quote from an interview with Skarsgård highlights:

Several Navy veterans are also featured as extras in the film. At the “Battleship” premiere, Skarsgard said, “Those veterans that are on the ship that my character referred to they’re real vets and they served on the [USS] Missouri.”

“Some of them going back to the second World War and it’s just a very humbling experience to be there with them on that ship,” he added. “The stories those guys told us were just amazing and I’ll never forget it.” (source)

All of these veterans, as well as the diverse personalities on the ships, end up having to work together, and their success demonstrates the truth of 1 Corinthians 12:21-22 on how there are no non-essential parts to the body of Christ.

Another time, (perhaps on my pagelady blog), I would like to discuss the treatment of the aliens in this film, because I found it strange that not a single character seemed to question whether or not the right course of action was to automatically try to destroy them all rather than attempt diplomacy or reconciliation, but on the whole I would say that this film, though little more than mindless action, had pleasantly surprising, mostly positive messages.

The Vow

This movie is loosely based on the book The Vow, by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, about the real-life events they suffered together when a brain injury wiped all of Krickitt’s memories of ever having met Kim, and she found herself married to a stranger.  I say “loosely based” because the accident and memory loss is just about the only thing in the movie that accurately reflects the events in the true story.

The Carpenters are devout Christians, and have credited their faith with being the reason their relationship was able to survive the trauma.

“Once I accepted that I was married to [Kim] and I had been in an accident, I just kind of went with it,” explained Krickitt Carpenter to The Christian Post. “I trusted what my parents said and I had wedding pictures and videos, and I turned to the Lord.” (source)

In the movie’s version of events, Paige (the memory-suffering wife, played by Rachel McAdams) can’t rely on her parents’ assertion that she is married to Leo (played by Channing Tatum) because she hasn’t spoken to them in years, and they have never met her husband.  This, as well as the eventual reason that comes to light for the estrangement, struck me as an unnecessary over-dramatization of a situation that is already difficult.  What screenplay writer thought that a woman having no memory of her husband wasn’t dramatic enough, and needed more family dysfunction added in?

There is also no mention of God or faith in the film, but instead an implication that Paige and Leo are somehow fated to be together and a lot of talk about life’s significant events being “moments of impact.”  But the most egregious omission is that there is no mention of commitment in this entire movie!  They don’t even mention that perhaps they should stay together because that is what they vowed.  The vows from their wedding are repeated three times throughout the movie, (twice in voice-over), but never discussed, never mentioned by a single character.  Is that not ridiculous, for a movie calling itself The Vow?!

Leo’s vows state:

“I vow to fiercely love you, in all your forms, now and forever.  I promise to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love and always know in the deepest part of my soul, no matter what challenges might carry us apart, that we’ll always find our way back to each other.”

When Paige wakes up after her accident, she reverts to an earlier form of her personality.  She has different tastes in clothes, food, and music.  She has different relationship dynamics with her friends and family.  But she is still herself.  And it would have been perfect for Leo to have said, well, you’re different now but I promised to love you in all of your forms, but he doesn’t.  Not that he isn’t obviously still in love with her, but his motivation is to try to make her fall back in love with him, remind her or convince her of their romance, and never in that attempt does his promise factor in.

“I gotta make my wife fall in love with me again.”

**SPOILER ALERT** In fact, when his attempts to win his wife over again fail, he divorces her.  That is the very, very opposite of keeping marriage vows!  Even in a normal marriage when one partner doesn’t suffer extreme amnesia, the key to staying married is not staying “in love.”  It’s deciding to keep your commitment, even when you may not like your spouse, even when things are difficult, or when you’re tempted by a person or situation that seems more appealing than your own.  You make a decision, and you stick to it.  That doesn’t mean marriage isn’t romantic, it’s just realistic sometimes too.  And it doesn’t happen by chance or by accumulation of cutesy romantic moments–a long-lasting marriage is achieved deliberately.

Ironically, in this movie the only mention of choosing to stick with a marriage through difficulty is from Paige’s mother, after it is revealed that her father had an affair.  Paige is incredulous that her mother didn’t get a divorce, and her mother’s response is,

“I chose to stay with him for all the things that he had done right, and not to leave him for the one thing he had done wrong.  I chose to forgive him.”

That’s admirable.  It’s scriptural to forgive.  (But scripture also allows for divorce in the case of adultery, so this shouldn’t be taken as an example that everyone must follow.) **END SPOILER**

Paige attempts to fill in the gaps of her memory by sorting through old photos.

This wasn’t a bad movie–I actually really enjoyed watching it.  I love both lead actors and it’s full of cute, romantic little moments as well as emotional, heart-tugging scenes.  But it has no business being called “The Vow,” and it’s a shame because it would have been so much more powerful and meaningful if they had just stuck to the source material.