Birdman: Profound Search for Transcendence, Finds None.

A washed up Hollywood action film star on the verge of opening a Broadway play wrestles with family and career problems while facing his own lack of significance and a meaningful life — and a mental breakdown.

Michael Keaton may very well win the Oscar for this one. He plays Riggin, an old ex-action movie star, made famous for playing the movie superhero Birdman. Now over the hill, he seeks to do something “legitimate” by producing and starring in a serious minded Broadway play. As he prepares for opening day, we follow him through the mess of a life he has made with his ex-wife, daughter, agent, and various other minor players in his entertainment celebrity life.

This movie is captivating and thought-provoking on several levels. From a visual or cinematic perspective, it manages to maintain a high paced energy and intimate point of view through an amazing artistic technique of appearing to be one continuous camera take following Riggin and others in their frenetic preparation and interaction preparing for the opening. I remember watching the old Hitchcock movie, Rope, that shot the entire movie in three blended takes. But that movie was shot in one room. This movie follows Riggin and others around the theater and even on a superhero flying sequence through New York.

That’s right. You heard, “a superhero flying sequence through New York.” Because one of the other brilliant elements of this story is its depiction of the mental breakdown of a celebrity actor who is facing his own existential angst of meaninglessness through loss of adoring fan worship. His alter ego, a figment of himself as Birdman, taunts him in his mind with a confusing mixture of stark honesty and muttered self-delusion that pushes him to the edge of his sanity. Keaton’s past as the original star of Batman, makes this intensely personal tragedy all the more authentic and perfectly casted.

But this is all just a microcosm of the world of entertainment that seeks its significance in being loved and in the praise of others, which is really a microcosm of humanity. As the Edward Norton character says, “popularity is the slutty cousin of prestige.” And the irony is that neither popularity with the masses nor prestige with the elite brings ultimate satisfaction or significance in this endless pursuit of acceptance.

Ad300x250-PoMoMoviesWhich leads us to the next profound aspect of the film: It’s rich exploration of the philosophical debates of populism vs. the elite, Hollywood movies vs. Broadway plays, art vs. commerce, artist vs. critic, low brow entertainment vs. high brow “art,” creator vs. audience, and real life vs. fantasy. The movie manages to navigate all these issues with a fluid finesse and honesty that rings both true and ironic, as the movie itself is a Hollywood movie about Broadway that is pretentious yet entertaining, and has actors playing actors musing about their plays within plays being “real” instead of pretentious acting. Norton’s turn as the famous actor seeking authenticity and “truth” in their acting is another Oscar worthy performance. But this is not merely an abstract philosophical debate, it is rather a thoughtful depiction of what we live and breathe in as a culture of entertainment.

In what was for me, one of two of the best scenes of the movie, Michael Keaton argues with a New York Times play critic who tells him in advance she is going to destroy him in her review sight unseen. She does so, because despite the fact that he is trying to do something of significance, she despises his past as a vapid movie star of action movies. In this moment of irony, we can see that her venomous contempt for the actor’s popularity, her pride of elite status, and her reckless disregard for authenticity, place her in less a position of meaning and significance than the desperate man she attacks. In fact, Riggin has the last word in the argument when he declares out of his own broken transparency, “It costs you nothing [to destroy]. I risk everything [to create].”

SPOILER ALERT

Riggin’s mental breakdown leads him to a drastic solution of trying to kill himself with a real gunshot onstage in the play, the ultimate twisted satisfaction for an audience that both sucks his blood and gives him his life. He fails, and ends up in the hospital having plastic surgery on his nose that makes him look strangely like Birdman. And of course, the audience loved it. Ah, he is becoming Birdman in his delusions and his audience is helping him.

END OF SPOILER ALERT

In what was the second fantastic scene of the movie for me (really, there are more than two), Emma Stone, in another Oscar worthy performance as Riggin’s daughter, Sam, launches into a emotionally moving psychoanalytic rant that her father cannot handle the fact that he is insignificant and his life has no meaning.

And here is where the movie breaks down and ends in an unsatisfying conclusion. I have great respect for the filmmaker’s journey and attempt to explore the search for significance and transcendence that we all embark on. The problem is that from its own secular worldview, there can be no significance or meaning because there is no transcendence to life in this view. All there is at the end is death and the void of non-existence. Our self-made meaning is the cruelest self delusion of all because there is no true meaning. Self-made meaning is a fairy tale fantasy that is false. And we are all fools.

At least in the secular worldview without a transcendent God.

So the movie ends with Riggin taking an existential leap of faith into the void, having fully embraced the Birdman delusion. But his daughter’s positive reaction to his fate is much like the well meaning destructive attitude of an enabler to mental illness. She smiles that he is “flying” in what to me as a viewer is a very false happy ending. For in that very “happy ending,” all the authenticity, all the transparent honesty of the film completely falls flat and fails to honestly face the consequences of its own ideas. It fails to satisfy because of its own self-delusion. I felt as if I watched a ninety-minute profound critique of self-delusion that ends up embracing a delusion that invalidates the previous ninety minutes. Unsatisfying to say the least.

Birdman is a profound search for significance that fails to achieve the transcendence that the storyteller and audience are dying for.

But I did enjoy the conversation.

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American Sniper: Mature Patriotism for a Cynical America.

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The true story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American military history.

Liberals and Leftists are gonna hate this movie because it’s pro-American, pro-military, depicts radical Islam accurately, makes a hero out of a gun-toting sniper, and does not judge the Iraq War as wrong. But putting such knee-jerk bigotry and simplistic politicization aside, this movie is morally good, profoundly true, and aesthetically beautiful.

Yes, killing evil people who deserve to die is good, true and beautiful.

In a decade of anti-American cynical Hollywood movies about the war against radical Islam, Clint Eastwood rises above the crowd again with a complex and nuanced portrayal of a quintessential American cowboy (complete with Southern drawl and superb performance by Bradley Cooper) who embodies the core values of middle America and becomes a humble patriotic hero for our cynical times.

That means it won’t win any Oscars for sure.

There are three kinds of people in this world; sheep who just live their lives without much awareness of the danger around them, wolves who seek to hurt those sheep, and sheepdogs who protect the sheep. This is the metaphor told to a very young Chris as a child by his strict father, who proceeds to demand his sons be sheepdogs. He concludes that if either of them turns out to be a wolf, he is gonna kick their ass.

Ad300x250-TEAWscriptThis kind of manly patriarchal firmness is deplored by today’s wimpy metrosexual egalitarian culture as “child abuse,” but it embodies America’s traditional cultural values of a firm but loving righteousness—the kind of righteousness that protects our world from totalitarian evil. And it sets up a profound context and understanding not merely for Kyle’s life that follows, but for America as the world’s sheepdog—not perfect or without fault, not without damage, but true and good.

Ironically, that very egalitarian liberalism that also detests Kyle’s dad for “clinging to God and guns” has encouraged our culture of mobs, child violence and school shootings because of its coddling of criminals, moral lawlessness and girlie boy indoctrination. In fact, the movie even makes the point that Kyle’s lack of zeal for his spiritual upbringing with the Bible may be part of his own personal troubles. Some goodness and truth actually does get through the Hollywood censors.

Chris is quite literally an American cowboy who receives the call to join the military when he learns about the attacks of radical Islam on American facilities around the world. He tells his future wife when he meets her that he is a Marine because he believes America is the greatest nation on the earth and he wants to fight to protect freedom.

Such sentiments these days are portrayed with cynical irony in most movies, but in the hands of Eastwood, it becomes the profound nuanced motivation of a young naïve man that will be tested and matured through his experience. As a citizen protected from the evil, he can only be driven by a higher cause, but he will learn the precious personal value of his fellow sheepdogs and the sheep he protects.

Most war movies these days, with the possible exception of Fury, seek to subvert the motivation of “higher cause” and “freedom” with a standard predictable theme that “it’s not about fighting for country or cause, it’s about the guy right next to you.” In fact, you will virtually hear that kind of statement at some point in most war movies.

This naïve liberal attempt to discredit “country and cause” as dangerous nationalism or some other simplistic politicized rhetoric, and to reduce transcendent morality to mere personal group identity has no place in Eastwood’s complex exploration of justice. Kyle begins his journey with a higher cause, but he ends it with a ministry to those men who suffer physically from their protection of freedom in VA hospitals.

Kyle visits a psychiatrist when he returns from the war for the last time. The doctor assumes he is suffering PTSD and asks him the shallow cliché line about whether he regrets some of the things he did in the war. Kyle says absolutely not. That he is ready to answer before God for every shot he made. Those people deserved to die and he was proud to protect Marines from them and to fight for freedom. What he was being bothered about was all the guys he could not save. In fact, in the story, Kyle even gets down from his sniper’s perch and joins the men on the ground because he felt too removed from the action.

Kyle remains devoted to the higher cause, but he now cares for the individuals who are the participants in that cause. It was not Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome that this good man suffered from, but Post-Evil Sheepdog Syndrome. He finds his redemption in realizing he can be of help to wounded vets, the men who weren’t saved.

Ad300x250-TEAWcommentaryThrough this positive portrayal of fighting for a just cause, Kyle’s journey is not without self reflection, and Eastwood does not capitulate to simplistic or narrow-minded jingoism. His is a mature patriotism that acknowledges the damage that fighting such deeply violent evil can bring upon a righteous soul.

Kyle wrestles with various sniper situations, such as whether or not to shoot a small child who is about to use a grenade launcher against a group of Marines. Even in a moment of such righteous killing, Kyle does not want to shoot a child (or a revolutionary mother for that matter). He values their lives even as they are seeking to end his.

The Hurt Locker, this is not.

No matter how just a war is, no matter how righteous you are in killing evil people who deserve to die, no one is undamaged by the effects of totalitarian evil like Islam and its radical wings. Which is why we cannot leave such evil alone or deny it exists, as much of the media and America’s current administration is doing.

The sheepdog bears the damage of these wolves with grace and honor. Because someone must bear the effects of evil for the sheep who cannot. And that is why only sheepdogs can understand and fully embrace their duty for freedom, God and country.

Can Atheists Make Good Bible Movies?

“The biggest source of evil is of course religion.”
Ridley Scott, Esquire Magazine

With the release of Exodus: Gods and Kings by atheist director Ridley Scott, the attacks on Christian viewers has begun again. Bigoted secular film reviewers, manipulable Millennials who try to be cool and other naïve Christians who want to be accepted by the culture are launching their fiery arrows at those who voice criticism of the movie and it’s atheist spin on the Biblical God.

Can’t an atheist retell a good sacred story with fresh insight or even fidelity to the original? Isn’t it bigoted of “believers” to demand that they alone are allowed to tell their own stories? Who says Jews, Christians and Muslims own their stories anyway?

As a professional storyteller on screen and in print, I can explain why those complaining religious viewers are not “nuts,” “bigots,” or as “petty” as their critics think they are.

Ad300x250-HollywoodWorldviewsFirst off, it’s not just about fidelity to petty historic or descriptive details. It’s about fidelity to the meaning of the story and its God. The monumentally successful The Passion of the Christ added a lot of creative license to the Biblical text. The difference between it and the abysmal failure, The Last Temptation of Christ, was that The Passion did not depict Jesus as a crazy delusionary lunatic. Duh.

Sacred stories require a higher value of fidelity to their original meaning by their very nature. “Sacred” means devotion to the divine or dedicated reverence. Yes, atheists, agnostics and other secularists can logically be consistent with a sacred story’s original intent and reproduce it accurately — if they want to.

The problem is that in actual practice, “non-believers” by definition do not believe in the sacred story. Therefore, they will by necessity rewrite the story through their own non-believing paradigm, whether more subtly (Exodus) or more explicitly (Noah). Most people know this as “spin.” News flash: Every storyteller spins according to their paradigm or worldview.

Think about it: Even if an atheist would want to be fair to a Biblical story, he will ultimately spin it through his worldview of atheism. Why wouldn’t he? If he believes the God of the story is a delusion, why in the world would you think he would do anything but spin that God story in a way that he understands its ultimate reality?

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Hotel Rwanda, The Pursuit of Happyness, Hardball, Pocahontas, Walk the Line, and now Unbroken. These are not Bible stories, but all of these movies are about people whose religious faith was central to their stories, yet it was left out or ignored. Why? Because non-believers don’t believe God is important to their meaning, so of course they pull it out, or spin it to their own humanistic understanding of religion as some kind of benevolent (at best) delusion that meets a need for saving ourselves. I’m not even suggesting this is malicious. It may be, but it doesn’t have to be.

To the Christian, this kind of humanistic self-salvation paradigm is precisely the Original Sin that is most offensive to them. And to spin God as merely a religious experience or vision (even a positive one) is to reduce an existent relational Creator into the creation of man’s imagination. This is more than offensive to Christianity, it is blasphemy, the subversion of the Biblical God.

I explain how atheists Aronofsky and Scott subverted God in their Biblical epics Noah and Exodus here (Aronofsky and Noah) and here (Scott and Exodus).

You wouldn’t want a homophobe telling the story of Harvey Milk, or a racist telling the story of Martin Luther King, would you? So why is it acceptable for an atheist to tell a sacred story about the God they hate or don’t believe exists?

I am not talking about anybody’s rights here. In our free society, anyone can tell any story they want and spin it any way they want. But if a studio wants to make a lot of money by appealing to the audience of a sacred story, why would they want to hire someone who hates or disbelieves the God of that sacred story, and will spin that deity as petty, vindictive and capricious?

Ad300x250-ScreenwrtgChristiansAssuming they also have qualifying skills of excellence in the craft, “believers” of a sacred story have the experience and understanding of the meaning and the God of that story to connect to that audience in a way that a secular or atheist storyteller will never want to do —as evidenced by Scott’s and Aronofsky’s contempt for their viewers.

Thus, the successes of The Passion, Heaven is For Real, Son of God, and yes, even all those poorly made Christian genre movies that make a ton of money.

Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings could have made three times what they made at the box office if they had been made by someone who actually believed the God of those stories was not the distant, cruel, unloving, impersonal, delusionary religious experience that they depicted him to be.

I was quoted in this article about this topic here at Hollywood in Toto.

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Unbroken: Broken Storytelling. Read the Book. See the Movie To End All Wars.

The true story of Louis Zamperini, a steel-willed Italian American who survived atrocities of WWII, including a plane crash, being adrift at sea for 45 days, and unspeakable brutality at the hands of Japanese captors in a POW camp.

Read the book. I will start with my punchline. I will give away my conclusion. I cannot be more emphatic. Read the book.

This is not to say that the movie, Unbroken is a bad movie. It is not. It is only half a movie. It is a set up without a pay off. It is a well-written, well-directed and well-acted half-story that views like an exciting build up to a powerful third act, and like a tease, is cut off before it can end, leaving you unsatisfied. It is a story about survival and the triumph of the human will without any real soul to it.

The story begins with a young Louis in his bombardier position on a WWII plane running missions. Act One flashes back to his youth, where we see Louis comes from a religious Italian family. He is a troublemaker, whose brother finds an outlet for Louis’ restlessness in running. This running ultimately takes him to the 1932 Olympics in Berlin, where Louis runs an impressive, though not winning race.

The War however, stops Louis’ dreams, and he finds himself on a bombing squad that crash lands in the ocean and sets him and two other survivors adrift for a record setting 45 days before capture by the Japanese.

The last half of the movie is then about his will to survive the brutality of a particular Japanese POW guard nicknamed, “The Bird.” We see Louis’ will standing strong against a truly barbaric and evil Bird, who seeks to break him by beating him into the ground.

The theme of the movie is about the unbeatable human will to survive the evil men do to one another. Early on, Louis’ brother gives him a slogan that is reiterated later, “If you can take it, you can make it.” Another phrase shows up, “A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory.” And of course there are some amazing moments of pain indeed in this festival of suffering, that will bring you to tears, as Louis defies his captors in will if not in actual behavior.

The problem with it is that survival is as deep as it keeps. Mere survival and the power of the will. This is a shallow and unsatisfying story that lacks real transcendence of meaning. Which is such a shame because it sets up for a powerful redemption of the hero, and it even points in that direction, but we are left starving for that redemption, because it is “off-screen” and after the movie is over in a mere title card.

Jolie sets us up for the redemption that Louis is to have when in his life as a young child, we hear a sermon of a pastor preaching that “God sent his son, Jesus Christ not to wage war, but to forgive. To love thine enemy.” The midpoint transformation of the hero even occurs, when on the open sea, about to die, Louis says a prayer to God, “If you see me through this, I swear I’ll dedicate my whole life to you.”

Jolie does a fantastic job of setting up the feel of the first half of the story of Unbroken the book. But the absolute POWER of Unbroken is not in the will to survive, but in the will to forgive. That is the second half of the story she cut out. Zamperini went home to America and began to plot how to go back to Japan and kill The Bird. But when he became a Christian at a Billy Graham Crusade, he transformed and went back to forgive the Bird and the others. It was not until Zamperini was broken by God that he found his redemption. Jolie puts this on a title card at the end, “Louis did make good on his promise to serve God. He found that the way forward was not revenge, but forgiveness.” And it tells us he went back to forgive his captors.

Sadly, the very heart of what makes Unbroken so powerful a story of redemption is to Jolie, a mere postscript.

There is even a scene in the film where Louis takes on himself a beating in order to protect a fellow prisoner from being beaten. And this is a beautiful moving example of self sacrifice. But in the end, the only spirituality that is understood comes from the mouth of the praying religious pilot who, when asked by Louis whether there is some kind of grand plan by God, replies, “You just go on living, the best you can, have some fun along the way. And when you die, you meet an angel who tells you all the answers to your questions about life.” This seems more like the uneducated lack of understanding spirituality by the writers and director than anything an actual Christian would say or believe.

Look, I know how impossible it is to make a movie of a whole book. You have to cut a lot out and you can’t get it all on the screen. And I know that Zamperini, before his death, gave his blessing on the movie because he wanted it to reach a wider audience. But from a strictly professional storytelling perspective, Jolie and her writers (otherwise very competent screenwriters) set up a spiritual story that they didn’t pay off with redemption. They left it at mere survival and the will, a rather shallow and empty story without transcendence. And in that sense, I don’t expect secular screenwriters to care about transcendence. They don’t believe in true transcendence. They believe that survival is the strongest human urge, because they themselves do not understand the power and beauty of spiritual redemption and sin atonement. They are like Louis before his redemption. They are unbroken – and unforgiven.

Ad300x250-WordPicturesI wrote about this sad phenomenon of secular storytellers eviscerating the faith and spiritual element of movies about Christians. In my book, Word Pictures, I list off nine popular movies made by secular filmmakers, who either ignored, or cut out the faith of the heroes whose stories were intimately driven by their spiritual faith. Hotel Rwanda, The Pursuit of Happyness, Becoming Jane, Anna and the King, Pocahontas, The New World, Walk the Line, Hardball, and Valkerie. Some of them, like Unbroken, may have at best hinted at the faith.

I won’t attack or accuse these filmmakers of malicious motives. They may have had them, they may have not. But I certainly understand why they would subvert those stories and spin them to communicate their own humanistic worldview of self-salvation through good works or other. Secular storytellers do not believe in transcendence, so when they see the faith of these people, they simply are blind to its power. They must of necessity reinterpret that spiritual transcendence through their own paradigm of humanistic immanence.

They have no transcendence in their lives, so their stories communicate no transcendence.

Unbroken, the movie? Good, but falling way short of great storytelling. I would rather you read the book Unbroken. It will change your life.

TEAWposterDirectorCutAnd if you want to watch a true story about spiritual transcendence, and the power of forgiveness in a Japanese POW camp, watch To End All Wars, starring Kiefer Sutherland, on Amazon Movies On Demand. It’s got everything the movie Unbroken has about survival in suffering injustice. But it also has on-screen what Unbroken doesn’t: redemption, atonement, transcendence.

Intelligent Discussion of Exodus: Gods and Kings – Godawa on Dead Reckoning TV

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If you remember, Mattson’s blog posts and my blog posts on Noah were the viral “go to” posts for deconstructing the Noah movie for its hideous gnostic earth worship and other subversive atheist storytelling elements.

Now, we discuss the latest monstrosity of atheist movie subversions of Biblical stories, Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Check it out here on YouTube.

The Only Movie Villains Left: Republicans, Christians, Jews & God

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Dang. With the Sony hack, no more North Korean villains in movies.

China is funding our movies now, so no Chinese villains.

Castro is now a hero, so no Communist villains of any stripe.

Muslims will fatwa, riot or bomb, so no Islamic villains.

Liberals still rule Hollywood, so still no Left Wing villains.

Looks like we’re gonna see more movies with Russians, Republicans, Christians, Jews and the Biblical God seeking to destroy the world.

I guess they’re the only villains left who turn the other cheek.

 

Exodus: Gods & Kings: Thank God it Ain’t Noah. But Please DO NOT do King David.

The story of Moses retold through the eyes of secular humanists, atheists and agnostics. Okay, in some ways it wasn’t as explicitly subversive as Noah, and I liked it somewhat, but it wasn’t a great movie, it was only a good movie. Is it offensive to the Biblical worldview? Yes, though I suspect some Christians will enjoy this movie, even with its failings, than they did the horribly-done and anti-Biblical Noah movie.

But in other ways, it is more explicitly subversive of God and the Bible than Noah.

For those familiar with the Biblical story, there are some moving moments of emotion such as every scene with Ben Kingsley as Nun, a patriarch of Israel. But also Moses’ final acceptance of his people. And of course, the plagues are quite spectacular.

The story opens with Moses as an adult and a general in the Egyptian army. The Bible doesn’t say what Moses was in the service of Egypt, so this is a logical choice for an action movie, and it will come into play later as a powerful display of man’s failure to achieve through his strength what only God himself can achieve in the Exodus.

We see Moses as beloved of the Emperor over his true son Commodus — Er, wait, was this Gladiator? Oh no, I mean Moses was beloved of the Pharoah over his true son Ramses. When Moses discovers who he is, and then Ramses discovers who he is, Moses is exiled.

Oh, all the details are trivial, let’s get to the plagues!

The point is, the story is about the rivalry between two men brought up almost as brothers and how their religious identities tear them apart. Pretty cool idea, but it didn’t engage me. I didn’t believe it. Joel Edgerton is much more believable than the terribly weak cuts they used of him in the trailer. But Christian Bale seems distant, even in his romance with his wife Zipporah. He is a great actor for cold, alienating or removed characters (like American Psycho) but Moses is a man of passionate extremes. This makes it hard to care much for the human drama of the story, especially his unromantic romance with Zipporah.

Could this be because Bale was trying to play his Moses as a “schizophrenic barbarian”? The Moses in this movie does struggle with faith in God, which is Biblically fair, and he becomes more ragged and crazy looking over time, but he never crosses that border into madness that is so typical of secular interpretations of prophets. So maybe that was just Bale’s own madness in his pursuit of some kind of method acting technique. A caveat here is that it’s a great technique to make a prophet appear to be mad to the populace, when he is actually right. That kind of irony is standard storytelling technique. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Scott actually does consider Moses a crazy leader, considering his portrayal of God as well.

The problem is that Bale’s Moses never really emotionally connects with anyone, not even God. But then, God isn’t very engaging either. And maybe this is where it starts to feel off. There is a lot of intimate and engaging relationship between Moses and Yahweh in the Bible, but in this story, Moses doesn’t talk much to God and he never seems to know if he is in fact talking to God, since he alone can see him.

And God appears as a temperamental ten year old child.

A word to all you Hollywood kiss-ass Christians who want to be accepted by the “cool” secular community: It is not merely “Fundamentalist Phariseeism” to critique the God of the movie. (One could even say defending Hollywood without discernment would be like Sadducees. Pharisees aren’t too fair, you see, but Sadducees are quite sad, you see). After all is said and done, God is everything. So, yes, we care how our God is portrayed.

Now we all know that you can’t put everything in the Bible in the movie and you have to make some changes for the sake of the movie story. But the problem with this god is not merely that it does not follow the relationship as depicted in the Bible, but for mere storytelling as well, it is an alienating unfulfilling relationship. Yes, Moses had his times of arguing with Yahweh in the Scriptures, but he also communed with him. In this movie, he does not. Even apart from the Biblical text, this simply isn’t a fulfilling relationship. It is cold and distant. But then again, I would expect that atheists, agnostics and secular humanist storytellers do not understand how to portray such communing relationship because they have no experience to go by. After all, they don’t even believe it exists.

The Depiction of God’s Presence

Okay, everyone knows how difficult it is to depict God’s presence in a film, and Ridley Scott has my sympathies. We all acknowledge that the Old Hollywood way of having a disembodied voice is visually less engaging. God did appear as the “Angel of Yahweh” in many instances in the Bible, so showing him as a human figure is Biblical and works (The name of the character in the credits is “Malak” which is the Hebrew word for Angel. The Angel of Yahweh in the Bible is “Malak Yahweh” in Hebrew). Scott has said he liked the idea of a child being innocent and pure. But in contrast, the child in his movie is quite precocious and temperamental, so I think he is not being entirely forthright with us. I think he is trying to sell us.

Ad300x250-ScreenwrtgChristiansAgain, the Bible definitely shows God getting angry, so I wouldn’t complain about that. And a child is certainly a creative choice that defies expectations, which is not inherently bad either. But watching this, you can’t help but see this impetuous child as being the incarnation of what secular humanists, agnostics and atheists like Scott and the others who wrote the movie think about the Biblical God: A tantrum throwing childish deity. This is even what many village atheists have accused the Biblical God of being in an attempt to ridicule or mock him. So I think Hollywood suck-up Christians who try to accept this incarnation as “thought-provoking,” “unique,” “conversation-starting” are just fooling themselves. The atheist and agnostic secular filmmakers are deconstructing the God of the Bible.

The Naturalism of the Story

Scott has indicated he doesn’t believe in the miracles of the Bible and wanted to depict them with some naturalistic explanations. Well, I’m going to surprise you here, but I am not entirely against depicting miracles in a way that they can be disbelieved. After all, this is exactly what happened. The Israelites would see such things and then slip right back into worshipping Ba’al or Asherah. The Egyptians and Pharaoh did not repent. The Jewish leaders concocted a theory that the disciples stole the body of the resurrected Jesus. I like the idea of showing miracles in a way that unbelievers can justify their foolishness. To be fair to Scott, during the plagues, he shows the “scientists” of Pharaoh’s court giving their pompous natural explanations for what was happening. And they clearly looked foolish, so that supported the miraculous nature of the plagues.

But here is where the story becomes confusing. Scott withdraws God so much from the story that he never communicates anything to us. The plagues just occur, one after the other without any introduction or explanation from God or Moses to anyone. To be quite frank, I would think that unless you are familiar with the story, you wouldn’t really know what was going on. And nowadays I do not think it is correct to assume that everyone knows the story. In the Bible of course, Yahweh announces through Moses each step what he is doing and why. He makes it clear. Okay, some artistic ambiguity is fine, but one can clearly see Scott’s intent is to strip God out of the picture as much as he can get away with. To make the story as human as possible. Remember, Scott does not believe Yahweh is real anyway, so he is just a metaphor for some other interpretation of human need. The more human, the less God, the better.

As a side note, the ultimate love in this story is the love that ends the picture and is a repetitive series of sayings between Moses and his wife Zipporah. “Who makes you happy? (you do). What is the most important thing in your life? (you are). When will I leave you? (never).” On a human level, these are understandable expressions of love between husband and wife. But it points out the idolatry of all humanistic stories like this. In all secular stories, the ultimate love relationship that gives meaning to life is NOT a love relationship with God, but with another human being. Again, this is understandable coming from a humanistic storyteller, that human love would become a God replacement because after all, that is the highest kind of love that they know. What secularists do not understand is that all those sayings above are what believers say of God. God is our joy, God is the most important thing in our life, and God will never leave us or forsake us. Just a little deconstruction of atheist, agnostic and secular idolatry for you.

Back to the miracles. Here is where I may surprise you. I actually liked the parting of the Red Sea as a tsunami (and the crocodile attacks turning the river to blood). It doesn’t make it less of a miracle. Kinda coincidental timing, don’t ya think? And so what if it gives unbelievers a chance to reject it. They wouldn’t believe if someone returned from the dead anyway. Now, I am not a theologian, but the term used for “dividing” the Sea in Hebrew means “to cleave, break open or break through,” (BDB lexicon), all of which can be literary or poetic expressions of what happened with that tsunami. The way the Sea was parted in the classic The Ten Commandments was just as much an interpretation and no more Biblical.

The problem with it is the same problem throughout the story. In the Bible God announces what he is going to do and challenges Moses to step out in faith and do things like pronounce the Nile will turn to blood, or in this case, hold out his staff and the waters would part. In the movie, Moses throws his sword into the water in anger that God has left them to die. Then he wakes up to see the sword sticking in the mud with the waters pulled back. So, every step is surprising to Moses. Sure, God surprises us, but I can see how Scott and his agnostic, atheist and secular storytellers want God to be unclear so that it all comes down to interpretation. In a way, it seems like making this movie for them is like the unbeliever explaining away all the miracles just like the Egyptian “scientists.”

Update: Interestingly, the most important miracle of all is the Ten Commandments written by the very “finger of God.” In the film, Moses is the one carving the tablets, not God, thus again, reducing the very foundation of morality to man’s creation, not God’s. This is far more important than you may know. What atheists, agnostics and other seculars and humanists do not realize is that without God as the foundation of morality, there is no authority above man’s arbitrary will to power. The one with the most power determines right and wrong. Period. Blather all you want about your subjective feelings, social contracts or even natural selection of morals, at the end of it all, there is no objectively real right and wrong, there is only personal feelings in conflict — the will to power.

But I deconstruct again.

The Politics of the Movie

All period pieces are stories of the past retold in light of our present situation. We tend to see through our eyes, but also seek to make lessons for the present out of the past. And movies do not exist in a vacuum. They often reflect the zeitgeist of an era. Thus the Noah movie becomes an environmentalist parable.

Ad300x250-IncarnSubverSo, Exodus is infected by modern Hollywood leftist anti-Israel politics. In the Bible, Moses never uses force or violence against the Egyptians. The point is to show that Yahweh is the one who delivers, not horses and chariots or man’s strength. The movie makes a similar point, but through a different path. When the movie Moses thinks he is to deliver his people, since that annoyingly precocious and distant God doesn’t explain himself, Moses concludes that he can do the only thing you can do when you are an oppressed minority: terrorist guerilla tactics of hit and run “bombings.” And God is portrayed as accepting it, and only deciding to take over with his plagues when he concludes it will take too long for terrorist tactics to work (“Maybe a generation”). So God is a revolutionary Marxist here. Or at least an Alinskyite. Oppressed workers of the World, unite and rise up! (The conquest of Canaan is a different story with a very different justification that doesn’t apply to this story).

Do you see where this is leading? Ah yes, the Jews, were terrorists themselves. The connection to today is obvious. The dominant media and most of Hollywood are Israel haters who claim Israel is the oppressor today, when they are the ones who are being attacked. Some even claim Israel is doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to them (As some professors at Oxford have claimed in a recent debate with Dennis Prager). This of course is a monstrous lie. The Palestinians, who are actually Nazi-like in their ideology (dedicated to genocide) have been able to spin the liberal media and entertainment so that the Nazis are accusing their victims of being Nazis. Reprehensible. Insane. Evil. But fashionable in Hollywood. And truly postmodern. What next, accuse the Jews of being genocidal as Islamic regimes like Iran engage in genocide against them?

This is why I cannot help but have a little bit of schadenfreude when I see Scott having to squirm against the accusations of racism because his casting was white for all the leads. It’s nice to see that leftist political correctness come back on liberals. Liberals must eventually become victims of their own oppressive politics. Sweet. I would think this would show Scott that maybe he should not be part of that liberal insanity. Of course, Scott is actually in the right, on this one. It is the world market (and the money is based on the world) that wants those white people as leads. The world that is full of all kinds of non-white people will not pay for movies unless they have those evil white crackers in the lead. So, really, by liberal standards, if you are against casting Exodus to please a world of multicolored people, then YOU are the racist.

Bottom Line: Gimme Some Truth

One cannot help but compare it to the classic The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston. Yes, that movie didn’t follow the Bible perfectly. Yes, it has flaws of its own, and this is a different new and modern take with a different audience with different needs and desires. But if you can just put aside all the modernist prejudice against the old classic, if you can hold off the elitist snobbery accusations of corniness, if you can suspend your modern intolerance of lesser acting and production quality of older movies, you can see something that made that old movie the massive beloved classic it is. And that something is what seems to lack in this slick special effects, cold, distant and modern version of Moses: heart and soul.

I have read liberal scholarship on King David. I know the fashionable subversion of writers like Halpern who seek to deconstruct David as a serial killer terrorist who did the opposite of everything the Bible says he did. For God’s sake, Liberal Hollywood, please DO NOT make a King David movie. Instead, I dare you to make a movie about the Islamic god, Allah, like you do about the Biblical God Yahweh. Oh no, wait, you won’t DO THAT, because THAT would get you murdered. Yahweh, Christians and Jews are safer targets for bigotry and hate speech.

One of the powerful moments of truth came from Pharaoh’s words, “Men who crave power are best fit to acquire it, and least fit to exercise it.” Maybe that’s true of Bible movies as well.

If you want an engaging and entertaining sequel to Exodus: Gods and Kings, then buy the novels, Joshua Valiant and Caleb Vigilant from the series Chronicles of the Nephilim. They will give you back that heart and soul with a love for the Biblical God so often vacant from Hollywood Biblical movies.

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