Romantic epic. Actually, the story of a high class call girl who finds love. A Japanese version of Pretty Woman? An interesting film, a very sad and tragic story. As I watched this story, I could not help but think how riled up multiculturalists would be at this injustice of slavery of women. And yet, what a major hypocrisy and how imperialistic it would be (according to their own standards) to criticize the Japanese culture for how they organize their male female relationships differently than we do in the West. Who are we to criticize another culture they say – unless of course, it is THEY who are criticizing a culture that THEY do not like – then it is all of a sudden okay to criticize what is otherwise sacred. Such hypocrisy betrays the truth that there is an absolute morality that is NOT a social construct that is relative to cultures. Sure, applications of morality may be relative, like what constitutes modesty, but things like murder or slavery are not justifiable on any cultural paradigm because there is an absolute standard that judges all our little standards. Of course, by Christian standards Geisha lifestyle is immoral objectification and prostitution of women, but one would have to confess Christianity to have the only valid means of criticizing it. Try as they may to justify it, the Japanese culture reveals its reduction of women to objects of male gratification when they say, “Geisha means artist. And to be a Geisha is to be judged as a moving work of art,” or “We sell our skills, not our bodies.” “With those eyes, you must be a great commodity.” “You must be able to stop a man with a single look.” I couldn’t help but think of the statement that a man must have made high heels for women because they hurt so much, when they would show the Geishas wearing their ridiculously high block sandals, an Eastern version of the high heels. And the “eel in the cave” story about sex for the young girls says it all, when the older woman explains to the young, that “every once in a while, a man’s eel likes to explore the woman’s cave.” Every once in a while? It’s really more like “all the time,” if we are honest, and of course that is the point, when they try to cover up the Geisha world as art and companionship and “not courtesanship” they are self-deceiving. The line “I want a life that is mine,” that the heroine expresses because she has fallen in love with someone other than her paying customers, and the response of her mentor, “We become Geishas because we have no choice” is no doubt the feminist egalitarian heart of the story, but feminists and egalitarians should still be angry because of this: The end of the story is the girl fulfilling her dreams of being the “long term” prostitute of a particular man (I don’t remember the fancy euphemism in Japanese that they use). This was a man who gave her a moment of grace in the midst of her miserable life. A man who gave her a snow cone when she was crying in the street as a little girl. This man would be the one she would do everything in her life to be with, “until I am his,” as she says, “Every step I have taken has been to be near you.” Well, that’s romantic and all, but then she explains as they walk away in the Eastern sunset that she is his long term Geisha, which isn’t as much as being a wife, but hey, it’s what she strove for etc. Well, this is still slavery to multiculturalists, but who are THEY to criticize another person’s choices or culture? Well, I would say that biblically, it is very unsatisfying in the story precisely because IT IS NOT MARRIAGE. Only marriage can satisfy the longing for human love in this life, not mere sexual relationship, and that’s the truthful power of Western fairy tales and Romances. Marriage is the “ever after” because it rings with truth. Of course, because of our narcissistic humanism, we have destroyed marriage, but the ideal is still real even if we only experience varying shades of that reality because of our falleness. And you know, I actually appreciated the statements of the beauty of a woman as a work of art, because I think it is both true and natural that a woman is an object of beauty. I absolutely spend hours adoring my wife’s beauty. BUT I don’t believe that woman should be reduced to a mere object for the sheer convenience of men. THAT kind of reductionism is wrong. We are BOTH object AND person, not either/or. I would like to take a moment though to say that I think the Western fairy tale that makes a love between two people the redemption of life is also seriously untruthful. Another human person can be a contact point with transcendence, a human is touching the eternal, but even that is a shadow if it is not rooted in the eternal transcendent of the Living God. Many Western Romances are also forms of idolatry because they ignore the transcendent, they are salvations of immanence. But this world is not eternal, it is not infinite, only God is, so it is folly to suggest that human love is the ultimate. Human love is a self-deception of meaninglessness without the Love of God, the living God of love who gives meaning to our human love.
Epic Action adventure. The remake of the famous story about the huge ape who falls in love with a woman. All right, I loved it. The first hour was 2x too long, cheesy acting, poorly written with very unbelievable obstacles in each scene that made it feel inauthentic. And Adrien Brody as the “human” love interest and Jack Black as the greedy movie producer were serious miscasts in my mind. They cheapened the class of the film. But once Kong enters, the exciting story begins. The middle hour may well be the most amazing CGI dinosaur and creature feature movie ever. And I am a huge fan of the original. It inspired my love for movies when I was a kid. So despite its flaws this remake is a worthy remake in my mind that brings the story to a whole new generation in a legitimate way, unlike remakes of Psycho and others. Okay, the power of this story is in the mythic nature of Beauty and the Beast. The reason it rings so true is its metaphoric analogy to how beauty tames or “kills” the beast in the hearts of men. This theme is particularly meaningful to me because I absolutely love the beautiful. Kong is of course the absolute extreme of the “animal” nature in men, but as such, I really relate to him, with how my wife’s presence in my life tames the negative wild side of me in some ways. God, however is the ultimate tamer of my sin nature, but the beauty of my wife (and not merely her outward, but also her inward beauty) is a means of grace for me. This is the power of beauty for affecting us. And this understanding I think is neglected by many in a world of modernity with its rationalism and obsession with logic and science. Beauty can be just as much a carrier of truth as logic or reason. But our modern minds have been raped by Enlightenment Rationality and as the Romantics suggested, we reduce everything to machines and mathematics and chemicals, thus losing beauty, and with it, truth. Anyway, in this story, the point about beauty is made very clearly when Kong sits on his ledge overlooking Skull Island and the vast ocean and he just looks out and Ann Darrow, his captive, motions to him with her hand to her chest, a gesture that means “Beautiful” obviously a reference to touching the heart. Later, on the Empire State Building, Kong looks out over the vast sea of New York and does the gesture for beauty to her. A very touching and powerful moment of grace. The weakness of this incarnation of Beauty and the Beast as compared to the original, however, is that at the end of the story, Kong is still just an ape, an animal, and as such is not created in God’s image, and cannot make true spiritual human connection – which is why Jackson has a human love interest for Naomi Watts (Ann) in Adrien Brody, who overcomes his “male” animal-like inadequacy of not communicating, and runs into her arms after Kong dies. It is in the realm of the human where eternal transcendence is achieved. HOWEVER, seeing this as myth or metaphor lightens the load a bit. It is not realism. I just prefer the original Beauty and the Beast in its humanity.
Mythological fantasy. A phenomenal adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic. In fact, I would say that this is one of the few movies that are better than the book. I was not impressed with the book, but I teared up throughout the film because of its deep magic, that is, its mythological incarnation. Lucy is adorable. One of my favorite moments is when she smiles at her shocked unbelieving siblings, now in Narnia for the first time and quips satirically, “Don’t worry, it’s just your imagination.” The Ice Queen is wickedly well performed, and Aslan was not safe, but good. What struck me in the film was its positive Medieval culture of chivalry. In this, the filmmakers were true to Lewis’ own English background, as well as his degrees in Medieval Romance. It was so refreshing to see honor, courage, and duty in fighting against evil as the means to freedom and justice. Aslan allowing Peter to kill the evil wolf with his sword is a rite of his manhood and becoming a knight of honor. Boy is that politically incorrect – and truthful. And before this event, earlier in the story, Susan had tried to get Peter NOT to fight the big bad wolves as they surrounded them, but rather to “listen to them,” because, “just because you have a sword, doesn’t make you a hero.” Does that sound like the kind of politics that is going on in this world right now as fools seek to reason with terrorists and understand them and bow to their demands rather than kill them. In one of the beautiful key moments of the film, the White Witch appeals to the Deep Magic that is “more powerful than any of us, that rules over all destinies, yours and mine,” and claims that the law demands blood for true justice. This is certainly abhorred as primitive barbarism by those in our society who would blame victims, (unless it’s racism), seek to understand evildoers (like Islamofascists), rather than render justice, and think that letting criminals go because they “feel” sorry or have been good boys in prison is somehow justice. This movie shows that the Law’s requirements are eye for eye, and eye for eye is NOT unjust or unfair, but truly the ONLY fairness, otherwise evil reigns. It is the rejection of eye for eye which is barbaric and destroys civilization because lex talionis is simply a way of saying as we do that “the punishment should fit the crime.” Lex talionis is NOT a justification of revenge, it was meant to keep sinful people from extracting too much in punishment than what was deserved. Which leads us to the Christian mythology in the film. It was not strangled. Of course, the most primary essence of Christianity is the substitutionary atonement of Christ for his people. We are forgiven not because God just waved a hand and let criminals of the universe go – that would be cruelty to the victims. Rather, Jesus took upon himself the death penalty for all believers. In this and this alone is the philosophical and theological conundrum of love and justice perfectly united. God’s Law of justice requires the penalty is paid (justice), but his love is displayed in suffering that penalty on behalf of his people (Romans 5:6-10). This is called the Law and Gospel that is required for redemption to be sufficiently communicated. Like a mirror, God’s Law shows us we are guilty of sin, criminals of the universe (Romans 3:19-20). But the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus paid that penalty to free us (Romans 6:23). As Aslan explains, “when a willing victim who committed no treachery would take the place of a traitor,” then the “Deep magic” is fulfilled, that is, the Law is fulfilled in the sacrificial atonement of Christ. Some of the most powerful analogies to the Gospel are in this film. Of course, the Stone Table of sacrifice is a pagan symbol of appeasement to the gods, just like the crucifix was a Roman pagan mode of punishment. Aslan says nothing and is shaven before killed, just like Christ said nothing and was beat and bruised before being killed (Isaiah 53:5-7), The White Witch, before killing Aslan, says mockingly, “Behold, the Great Lion,” just like Christ’s persecutors mocked him saying, “Hail, the king of the Jews.” (John 19:3) There is an earthquake when Aslan raises from the dead, just like there was one at Jesus’s tomb when he was resurrected (Matthew 28:2). Oh, and it was two girls there when Aslan raised, just as it was the women who saw Christ raised (Matthew 28:1). When Aslan kills the White Witch, he says, “It is finished,” the final words of Jesus on the cross when salvation was secured and he destroyed the power of death and the devil (John 19:30; Hebrews 2:14). Aslan breathes on the statues to bring them to life, just like Jesus breathed on his disciples to give them the Holy Spirit that raises them spiritually from the dead (John 20:22). They left the phrases, “daughters of Eve,” and “sons of Adam,” which are references to our Genesis and Original Sin (Romans 5), but also the glory of man in the image of God as children of Adam and Eve (Acts 17:26). I loved a little tidbit they put in to mock the modernist demythologizing of religion. In Narnia, the “land of myth,” Lucy looks at some books, and one of them is titled, “The Myth of Man.” What a great jab. Two tiny disappointments: They mangled the classic phrase of Aslan, “Is he safe?” “Oh no, but he is good,” into “He’s not a tame lion, but he is good.” And also they only mentioned the phrase of Narnia, “It’s always winter but never Christmas” only once. Yet it should have been a repeated phrase because of course it is symbolic of how godless man seeks to take God out of society. Anyway, Lewis and Tolkien are two of the most potent forces against modernity in making it safe to “believe” again by showing the mythology of modernity as ultimately evil and destructive. I’ll have a booklet or a book out this year if you want to read more about the idea of using mythology or pagan mythological elements in Christian storytelling. It will be called, “Word Pictures.”
Family melodrama. A brilliant mathematician (Gwenyth Paltrow) must take care of her brilliant mathematician father (Anthony Hopkins) who is losing his mind with Alzheimers. This is a very touching story that also includes the ubiquitous Jake Gyllenhall as the love interest. Well, it started out like the play it was based on, a lot of talk that sounded staged and was redundant. We hear Gwenyth recount her entire last evening events with her sister that we already saw. And it is a bit difficult to believe Paltrow as a genius, but that is the genius of this movie because the dramatic question is Did she write the brilliant notebook full of breakthrough mathematics during her father’s brief remission or did he? Once the plot kicked in, the play-likeness faded and I was able to enjoy it more. And of course, the whole idea of how can she prove she wrote the proof is a reflection of the difficulty of modernity in which we live. What is proof? Her appeal to Jake is to trust her. Just as she has learned to trust him. A faint echo of the truth that all reason is based on a faith commitment or trust in the underlying uniformity of nature, something we assume but simply cannot prove. In other words, in order to our Reason to be legitimate, certain preconditions of reality must exist or our reasoning is unintelligible. And one of those is the law-likeness or regularity of nature. If nature is not uniform, that is, lawlike then we cannot use reason because in fact one moment the law of logic we appeal to may be valid, one moment it may not. Only if we assume that logic is always true can we even use it to prove anything. But it can only be a proof if nature is law-like, that is, the same everywhere at all times, past, present and future. But since we are finite and cannot be everywhere in the universe at all times to see or know that logic works, then we are ASSUMING or presupposing that it does outside of our little ignorant tiny corner of knowledge in a vast universe beyond our comprehension. In a non-Christian worldview we simply cannot know that the future will be like the past, therefore we cannot know that nature is uniform and will continue to operate the same in the future in a way that we can reliably count on it in our reasoning. The appeal to inductive reasoning of science as being valid because “that’s how it has always operated in the past” is begging the question. So our entire edifice of Reason and science is in fact founded on faith – faith in the uniformity of nature—just as Augustine said, “I believe in order to understand.” And I think that the Hopkins character is a great incarnation of the insanity which is the ultimate end of a modern Enlightenment metaphysic that reduces reality or truth to mathematical theorem.