Posts Tagged 'Movies'

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3

We saw Iron Man 3 a couple weekends ago now, and I loved it!  I wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over. I think Robert Downey, Jr. is just about perfect as Iron Man.  As one reviewer put it, he can somehow make Tony Stark lovable, even as he’s being a total jerk. His comic timing is perfect as well.I loved the new abilities of the suit, too. And I liked the reversal in the story, where Tony had to spend some time all on his own, with nothing but his ingenuity and a newfound friend. Kinda like in the first Iron Man.

The villains, of course, are always horrible. But this time, I kept thinking the guy was familar, and where had I seen him before?Not until the credits rolled did I figure it out: Guy Pearce. Of course. How could I not have recognized him? I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched The Count of Monte Cristo — of course, I’m admittedly paying more attention to Jim Caviezel when I’m watching, but still…

What’s interesting to me is that even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I’m finding I don’t have a lot to say about it. Which echoes what I read in another review — it was like taking a really cool, really long ride at Universal Studios.  Fun, exciting, thrilling, visually captivating, but when you’re done… well, it’s over.

And no annoying theme song to haunt you for months after as happens if one rides Disneyland’s It’s a Small, Small World, too many times.  (I know whereof I speak. When my son was very young and we were homeschooling, we went to Disneyland in the off season. Star Wars was closed but Small World was not. In fact, there were so few people on it, that when my son asked to do it again, the operator let us. And then again. And again… And again…

Advertisements

An Eternal Weight of Glory

Eric Liddell as played by Ian Charleson in Chariots of Fire

At the end of my last post I embedded the beginning sequence from the movie Chariots of Fire, a 1981  Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, Screenplay, Score and Costume Design. It was a period piece about two British athletes in the 1924 Paris Olympics, one of whom was Eric Liddell, a runner and a Scotsman born in China of missionary parents (and later a missionary to the Chinese, himself).

A major part of the movie’s plot concerned Liddell’s refusal to enter the 100 meter race in the Olympics, an event in which he was likely to win gold seeing as he’d won the 1923 AAA championships in that distance in record-breaking time.

In the film, he’s portrayed as learning upon arrival in Paris that the qualifying heats for the Olympics 100 meter race would be conducted on a Sunday, and he, being a devout Christian, refused to break the Sabbath in order to race. In 1980, when I first saw this movie, I remember thinking he was being legalistic, that Sabbath-keeping is not commanded for church age believers and that he was unnecessarily letting his teammates down.

Yes, it was played for maximum conflict that way in the movie, with various teammates/coaches seeking to change his mind, and lamenting of the team losing out on a medal. He held firm, and did not compete in the 100, though he did run in the 400 meter race, a later race whose heats were not held on Sunday and which he was not expected to win.

He won that one anyway, in spectacular fashion and record time.

It worked for the story. But it wasn’t quite accurate. In reality, he’d learned of the 100 meter race’s Sunday qualifying meets months earlier and had decided long before he went that he would not be participating. So it wasn’t a big shock, and he wasn’t letting his teammates down at the last minute. Everyone knew what he intended from the start.  Even so, it still caused a stir.

Over the weekend, a reader sent me an email regarding my Olympics post, reminding me of Liddell’s subsequent missionary work and death in China in 1945, I got curious and looked him up in Wikipedia. (Eric Liddell)

He was an impressive man — giving, humble, compassionate, completely devoted to the faith and the Gospel, and really not a legalist at all. In fact one of his three daughters, Patricia, now 77, was recently quoted as saying her father “was not a stiff, rigid Sabbatarian. He was fun, probably liberal in a sense, and not to run on a Sunday was his choice.”

Having read of his life, and seeing the importance he placed on the Gospel and on ministry, my thinking shifted on the Sabbath business, especially in light of what I saw and experienced in watching the most recent Olympics. I can see now that in the big picture for Liddell, even had he won a gold medal in that 1924 100 meter race it wouldn’t have meant that much. But his having abstained from running did. It interjected into all the hooplah and worldly mystique of The Olympics, not that he was some pious and “holy” guy, but that winning a gold medal didn’t matter to him nearly much as honoring God. And there is something very significant about that, in a setting where everyone gets to thinking that winning a medal is IT, the ultimate achievement, the top of the heap, the epitome of glory. When it’s really nothing.

As my reader reminded me, sic transit gloria mundi: “the glory of the world passes away…” All flesh is as grass, here today, flowering, beautiful, then dried and gone tomorrow.  And in the end, all the medals will be destroyed along with all the rest of this fallen world.

What Liddell did later on in China was of far more significance than the 9.7 or less seconds of running a race and having a bunch of people cheer you. And in China, he did a lot. Who knows how many were brought to a saving knowledge of Christ through his efforts?

When the Japanese invaded in 1943, and foreign nationals were advised to leave, he stayed. He went to help his brother who was running a medical mission and needed all the help he could get; in fact his brother was ailing from overwork and badly in need of furlough. So Eric took his place and sent him home.

Not long after that he and many others were rounded up and put into a prison camp by the Japanese. There he directed the kids in various sports and games, taught their Bible classes, and helped out the elderly. A fellow internee recalled him thus:

“Often in an evening I would see him bent over a chessboard or a model boat, or directing some sort of square dance – absorbed, weary and interested, pouring all of himself into this effort to capture the imagination of these penned-up youths. He was overflowing with good humour and love for life, and with enthusiasm and charm. It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known.”

Eric Liddell died in that camp of what turned out to be an inoperable brain tumor. His last letter to his wife was written the day that he died.

But here’s the coolest thing, something unknown even to his family until 2008. That was when the Chinese revealed that well before his death, he had been offered the chance to go home as part of a deal between the Japanese and the British. He turned the offer down, giving his place to a pregnant young woman instead. When you consider that act of sacrifice alone, winning a gold medal for running a 10-second race seems startlingly insignificant.

The real Eric Liddell in the 1924 Paris Olympics

***

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  ~ 2 Corinthians 4:17,18 NASV

The Adjustment Bureau

Last Friday we watched the new Matt Damon movie, The Adjustment Bureau, which I thought was going to be much more like Inception than it turned out to be.

Briefly, David Norris (Damon) is on track to become New York’s youngest senator, when he has a chance meeting with the woman of his dreams. As he seeks to find her again, he discovers the Adjustment Bureau, a behind the scenes organization of non-human operatives who keep track of everyone — making sure they all proceed in accordance with their “Chairman’s” plan.  Unfortunately for Norris, the Chairman’s plan doesn’t include him and the mystery woman ever getting together and the story is about how he fights that plan in going after her, essentially attempting to write his own destiny. Ultimately this is the “message” the film leaves us with: that we must fight for what we want to do, to achieve our own destiny in order to really be free.

At least… I think that’s what the message was.

At first it seems that this is a movie about destiny, about God’s plan for our lives, about how unseen agents are moving and shaping us along the tracks we’re supposed to follow. The AB guys have a book which they consult to keep them on track with respect to the actions their charges take — whether such actions are part of the plan or not. And there is that Chairman up there (at the top of a New York skyscraper apparently), who has many names, one of which is “God”.  There are special doors that lead into another world and back to ours, and the caseworkers have special powers that enable them to manipulate the environment of their charges, all of which could be taken for angelic ministers, shepherding us on our way.

Except of course… Jesus doesn’t figure into any of this. His name is only mentioned in the usual way it’s mentioned in Hollywood movies…as an expletive. And the Plan changes each time someone does something outside it, so that the agents are constantly playing catch up, trying to “clean up this mess,” and get things back on the track they’re supposed to be on. Not exactly the way God does things.

So, on the one hand, it’s cool that the film is going to cause some people to think about God and His plan, about free will, about their decisions, etc… But on the other, it’s annoying that they make God and his agents so inept. And weird because it when you get down to it, the movie’s set up and even resolution really implies we have no free will at all — only what the agents allow us to have. Like unwitting cattle we are moved about as they desire, oblivious to their manipulation. The exceptions are a few, stubborn, passionate individuals  (like Norris) who manage to break out of the track that has been laid for them and follow their own plan…

Ick.

We’ve spent the last month studying the Divine Decrees in Bible Class. Thinking about God’s awesome power. Reflecting on how He knew simultaneously all the plans there ever could be and all their courses, successions, outworkings in every detail. Every detail. He knows every decision every one of us has ever made and ever will, and every decision we would have made, had circumstances been different. And out of all of those options, He chose the best, the one that will provide our highest blessing and His glory. It buries the Keystone Cops stuff that’s put forth in The Adjustment Bureau.

Moreover, as I said, the real plan all hinges on Jesus: “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is He?”

God has shut all of us up in sin so He can have mercy on us all. And His mercy is the fact that He sent His son to die for the sins of every one of us, believers and unbelievers alike. All we have to do is choose to believe. Or to reject. In the end those who have rejected Christ, the only sin He couldn’t die for, will stand before the Great White Throne and give an account for why they rejected the work of Christ, and provide whatever they think they have to offer God that could possibly compare with what He’s done.

Of course none of that was in the movie.

Because really, the movie wasn’t about God, in my view.  Early on my take in watching it was that the Adjustment Bureau couldn’t be God’s organization — there was no grace, for one. No, I think it’s a great illustration of Satan’s organization.  The Adjustment Bureau is the kingdom of darkness, the rulers and principalities mentioned in Ephesians. The agents going about trying to make sure people don’t find out what God’s plan for their life is, and seeking to impose the plan their Chairman has written. Yes, they are presented in some cases as appealing, nice, trying to be helpful, etc,  even as they have no idea what they’re doing. One is guilt ridden for some of the things he’s had to do to Norris’s parents. And many of them even wonder if what they are doing is right.

But the strength of a counterfeit lies in its closeness of form to the thing it is counterfeiting. And Satan’s many systems always incorporate ministers of light, and deception and confusion.

I cannot imagine any of God’s elect angels  wondering if what they are doing is right. Or feeling guilty. Or going against His directive will. Or any of that.  The agents in the film spend much of the time blundering around. They threaten and intimidate and lie…

But God is not the author of confusion. God is not taken by surprise. He’s not up there going, “Oh no, Norris got off track! I didn’t foresee that! He must not kiss that woman or disaster will ensue! You guys get down there and clean that up!” He’s not up there going, “Oh, gee, I had a plan for you, David Norris, but I see now that your plan is far better than what I came up with and since you are sooo insistent… I’m going to give you what you want.

Paul was insistent. He was going to Jerusalem to see his people and never mind that God told him not to go three times in a row. He was going. So he went. And ended up imprisoned in Rome for years as discipline because of it. Granted, God used that to allow him to witness to the Praetorium Guardsmen he was chained to, and to write half the New Testament, but that only shows how God can take our messes and make blessing out of them, not that we have any business writing our own destinies.

Avatar

Our son was here over the holidays and he and his fiancee went to see Avatar, the new 3D Sf flick that is all the rage these days. Already it’s grossed over a billion dollars worldwide and is expected to exceed the amount its director made with Titannic, which is so far the highest grossing film ever.

I read a few initial reviews, saw the trailer and decided I probably wouldn’t see it because I didn’t expect to like it. As I emailed to a friend, “Since the story’s supposed to be like Disney’s Pochahontas and I didn’t like what I read of their rendition — evil white European Christian males attempt to invade, despoil and exploit the good, pure, nice native cultures but the lovely female native saves the day — I don’t expect to like (Avatar).” Not only that but it really looked like it was very anti-military, anti-business, pro-environmentalist and typical Hollywood.

My son and I discussed it before he saw the film and afterward he said my assessment was correct in that those elements were definitely part of the story. He enjoyed it, primarily because of the world, which was apparently very well done, not only in the quality of the technology but in the wondrous way it was presented. It was just fun to be in, he said. Because it was so different from anything we have here — which has long been a staple of science fiction and fantasy, ie., the attempt to create worlds of wonder that will fascinate and live on in reader’s minds. Lord of the Rings was exactly that.  I guess Avatar’s Pandora is too…

In fact, so compelling is it that, according to an article on Drudge thousands of fans are depressed and suffering from withdrawal from Pandora after seeing it.  Some of them talk of suicide. The real earth is just so dull and dreary. We have destroyed it! Ruined it! They are banding together on forums to console each other and try to find their way back to purpose in life.  (And the  accompanying picture of all those blue-tinted, glasses-wearing, enrapt audience members is really kinda creepy)

Another article reports on the opinions of a Chicago alderman who is also a war veteran. He charges the movie with making “marines look like lunatics,”  and is not pleased.

My favorite, though, was the review from The Weekly Standard’s movie critic John Podhoretz, who said the film was “blitheringly stupid” and “among the dumbest movies” he’d ever seen.

Avatar is an undigested mass of clichés nearly three hours in length taken directly from the revisionist westerns of the 1960s-the ones in which the Indians became the good guys and the Americans the bad guys. Only here the West is a planet called Pandora, the time is the 22nd century rather than the 19th, and the Indians have blue skin and tails, and are 10 feet tall.

…the natives are wonderful in every possible way. They are so green it’s too bad their skin has to be blue. They’re hunters and they kill animals, but after they do so, they cry and say it’s sad. Which only demonstrates their superiority..”

It’s a very funny review,  one that pretty much confirms everything I’d concluded about  the movie. In fact, I was struck by Podhoretz’s reference above to the revisionist westerns because I’d already thought that it seemed kind of like a sci fi version of Dances With Wolves

According to him Avatar unquestionably promotes a green/environ-theistic religion  while eventually asking its audience to root for the destruction of American soldiers at the hands of a native insurgency… even so, he doesn’t think it’s a big political statement, just the result of such values being so entrenched in Hollywood that writers think nothing of putting them forward in their quest to please as many people as they can. The question Podhoretz raises is, would the movie be anywhere near as interesting without the snazzy special effects? My question as well.


Categories

My Online Church

Visit my Old Blog Here:

Music I’m Writing To

Transformers (Revenge of the Fallen) Soundtrack - Steve Jablonsky

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: