Everyone is talking about the new Noah movie, wondering if its better described as anti-Christian or pure entertainment. The movie collector of critical ratings Rotten Tomatoes has it in the mid 70 percent for critics and in the 40 percent for viewers. The box office has mixed audience result with a respectable showing of over $40 million during the opening weekend. Movies might give promise with such high earnings, but they live or die in the second and following runs. If word of mouth continues to be negative among the most interested possible viewers (Christians), then curiosity and lack of competition gave it the first boost of money. There is far from any guarantee it won’t turn out a bomb. Muslim nations have already given it the banned treatment.
What is supposed to be so bad about the Noah movie for those who don’t like it? For starters, it is considered way too off story from the Bible. Noah is in it, an ark with animals is present, and a flood happens. Besides that, according to negative critics, nothing else is close to correct or even the spirit of the account. He ends up a jumble of crazy, environmentalist, near abortionist, murdering anti-hero. Not even believers would protest an intervention to have him committed. The bad guys are morally questionable, but mostly a bunch of industrialists who like to hunt and eat meat. A critic from the science fiction blog io9 tried to make a case for its spiritual pedigree, but made things unintentionally worse for those Christians who would be the most unconvinced. They would see too much para-Biblical references over the very short Bible narrative.
This brings up the question of what the Noah story really is in the Biblical account. At first I was going to do a bunch of quotes and then solemnly explicate the text. That would be the traditional way of writing a blog argument. An equal concern is if there is enough in the Bible to make a story worthy of a two hour night at the movies. This is as much about creativity and imagination as bad exegesis. Those who support the Noah treatment point to The Ten Commandments for an example of making things up that aren’t found in the text. True enough, as I have my own criticisms about how Moses was portrayed in rather white washed fashion after his conversion. There is a difference because much of what is in the text became part of the film. Not so much, apparently, the Noah movie.
I am going to write a story outline using what can be known from the Bible, Book of Moses and other JST, Book of Jubilee, Book of Enoch, and a small amount of commentary. The end of the story will have a reference list for those who want to check sources and decide for themselves. The intended outcome should evidence that there is enough in the text to make a great film without complete distortion. Obviously it will be from what an equally controversial Mormon point of view. Those who have watched the Hollywood version can decide how close this is to what they saw on screen. Continue reading →
Forgive me for indulging in a subject not directly related to Mormonism or Politics, but there are some thoughts about movies that I wanted to put down. My love of movies started when I first saw Star Wars as a small kid. There were others I had seen before it in the theaters such as a double feature of Pinocchio and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for children, and at another time a King Kong remake that is both better than and worse than the original (don’t get me started on the overlong and pretentious Peter Jackson version). However, it was the space epic that inspired me with the power and potential of the silver screen. It was such a wonderment to me that watching what is considered the boring original Star Trek: Movie was fantastical and exciting to me at a young age. I was hooked, and the later Stephen Spielberg films sealed the deal. As you can see, it also locked me into what genre I would like the most. Science Fiction is my thing.
Having established a baseline on what I wanted to talk about, I now want to compare two movies recently seen from this past year. One of them was loved by critics for the most part while the other generally panned. The movie going public wasn’t impressed by either of them. I can see why and want to explain the reasons. Both have ties to Stephen Spielberg, one of them directly and the other tentatively. The first is Super 8 and the other Cowboys and Aliens, both billed as science fiction blockbusters turned relative duds. why these two instead of the myriad Superhero movies? Because they are essentially the same movie about aliens invading small towns in past American history.
Be warned, I am not afraid of giving out spoilers in my reviews. Having seen so many movies and read so many books in my life, I don’t find spoilers threatening personally. Tell me the twist and I will be more interested in how they come to it than that it has one. Endings? There are only so many ways a story can conclude and a synopsis often gives the hint. Warning finished. Continue reading →
I judge movies not just by production quality, but moral quality as well. I ask myself, “Does this film or book make me want to be a better person?” In a recent post, I presented cartesian chart as a conceptual tool to help others who feel the same way that I do. My point was not to position myself as any way superior to others, or to condemn or judge those who feel differently. I simply wished to present my personal approach to entertainment, with a tacit invitation to others to consider its merits. I hope to strike the same tone in this post as well.
In response to my previous post, some people asked, “How do you measure moral quality? Isn’t that pretty subjective?” The answer is yes, there is a lot of subjectivity in evaluating moral quality. However, as I was exploring the history of the MPAA rating system, I discovered something quite remarkable: a standard for evaluating movies that expressed almost precisely my personal feelings on what makes a movie morally good. I won’t claim that this is by any means perfect, but I think it covers some of my most common complaints about contemporary movies and TV shows. Let me see if I can explain this clearly. Continue reading →
A few years ago a film came out that my wife and I had wanted to see, but we didn’t get around to seeing it in the theatre. So when it came out on DVD, I stopped by a local video rental and picked it up. In our family, we don’t watch R-rated films. Since I knew that this particular film had been rated PG-13, I hadn’t bothered looking at the rating on the DVD when I rented it, I just hurriedly found the title and picked it up.
Even though we both wanted to see it, my wife ended up watching the movie without me while I was at work. She called me, shocked, because the film contained a scene full of gratuitous nudity and explicit sexual activity. Embarrassed, I double checked that the film had been PG-13 using an Internet search. A closer look at the DVD container showed that the DVD contained an “Unrated” version of the movie. We had fallen for a bait-and-switch! The theatrical version had been rated PG-13, but it was not available to be rented on DVD. You could only rent the “Unrated” version.
I have sometimes contemplated what a Mormon movie that depicts how divine or angelic beings interact with mortals would look like. How would such a movie be different from Highway to Heaven or Touched by an Angel? There are a number of movies that follow or satirize a Catholic vision. Last year I watched Inception and found myself drawing parallels between the concepts presented there and my speculation on how inspiration from the Holy Ghost might be received and processed (or resisted) on a semi-conscious level.
In this essay, I will contrast The Adjustment Bureau to what a hypothetical Mormon movie that treats some of the same themes might look like. Some good background is provided in Eric Snider’s review. The Snide one remarks “The film wisely avoids specific talk of God or religion, speaking in terms that allow viewers to apply the ideas to their own beliefs, whatever they may be.”