Recommended, but not highly. There is just something magical about Tom Hanks to me that makes everything he does so appealing as the everyman. Which is why, if this was some other star in the movie, I would have considered it somewhat plodding. This is a story, about a traveler, Viktor Navorsky, from a small Eastern European country who is stranded at JFK airport because his country erupts in civil war which makes it cease to have national status, and therefore places Viktor unable to enter the United States or to fly home because of legal technicalities with international passport laws. He is a man without a country. He then ends up living in the Terminal for almost a year, while the head of security, played by Stanley Tucci relentlessly hounds him as the antagonist. And of course, Viktor falls in love with a stewardess, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones. Viktor’s cute little anecdotal experiences with some of the airport personal make for some humorous, if not very believable, episodes. The themes behind this film center around waiting for life to happen versus making your life through your choices. Not bad. The stewardess is a woman who can’t extricate herself from an adulterous relationship with a married man, because she keeps foolishly hoping against hope that he will divorce his wife. Men can be pigs – but boy, women can be stupid. Of course, he won’t leave his wife, and she wastes her life waiting. Until she meets Viktor, who loves her for who she is and treats her with the respect she needs. One of the cool things I liked about this film was its unusual point about character. The stewardess never can give up her hope for the married man. She keeps going back to him, and therefore loses Viktor in the end. Viktor moves on when his country is back together. It is a bittersweet ending, but a good one. Viktor is too good for this woman, and we see that the romantic emotions of love are not the highest value, but character is. Very unusual for a romantic comedy for the boy NOT to get the girl. But another cool thread carries the film, that of grace, and loving the unlovable. Of course, the airport personnel are quirky characters. Anyway, when the security head discovers that several of the airport personnel are good friends of Viktor, and that they each have reasons to be fired, he uses this against Viktor to try to get him to go home rather than stay in New York and achieve his ambition of fulfilling his father’s dream of getting a famous Jazz singer’s autograph. If Viktor does not go home on the next plane, the security head will fire these guys and deport one of them back to India where he awaits charges of assault and battery. The Indian guy, with the name Gupta, was a fugitive from his own country. And Viktor became one of his only friends. Viktor sacrifices his dream to protect his friends. But when Gupta finds out about this, he basically turns himself in to the police with a diversion and allows Viktor to go and get his father’s dream autograph. Gupta gets himself deported. Now the security man cannot stop Viktor cause he has nothing over him. It’s a perfect picture of grace. Gupta is shown grace by Viktor’s sacrifice, the innocent for the guilty, so Gupta responds with repentance and accepts his own responsibility for his past actions. Very powerful grace and atonement theme. Those who respond to grace (Gupta) find redemption, and those who do not (Stewardess) continue on in miserable lives.
Very Highly Recommended. Possibly one of the best films ever made. Okay, I wrote the screenplay so I might have a tiny conflict of interest here ☺. Here is what Gene Edward Veith said of it in World Magazine:
COMING SOON TO A THEATER near you: a World War II drama featuring Kiefer Sutherland, one of the movie industry’s hottest stars. It is rated R. It is a product of Hollywood. And it is one of the powerful cinematic expositions of the Christian faith.
To End All Wars might have been pitched to the mainline filmmakers as Chariots of Fire meets Saving Private Ryan. Fans of the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire, the true story of an athlete who refused to run in the Olympics on the Sabbath, will note the same Scottish accents, a similar soon-to-be church worker positively portrayed, and comparably high production values. But whereas Chariots of Fire, for all of its virtues, never got around to mentioning the gospel, To End All Wars amounts to a sustained meditation on the core of Christianity: Christ dying for sinners, and what that means in the most extreme trials of life.
To End All Wars is based on the true story of Ernest Gordon, the long-time chaplain at Princeton University. Mr. Gordon, who died just a few months before the film was completed, was a captain in a Scottish Highland regiment in World War II. When the Japanese took Singapore—in those early days of the war when Japan was sweeping away all opposition—Mr. Gordon was captured. He spent the next three years in a Japanese POW camp, enduring hardships, brutality, and spiritual challenges that became for him a crucible of faith.
The film, based on Mr. Gordon’s autobiography Through the Valley of the Kwai, does not shrink away from the torture, degradation, and cruelty of the Japanese camp. It also dramatizes how evil breeds evil, even in its victims: Allied prisoners, struggling to survive in this dog-eat-dog environment, start adopting the values and behavior of their captors.
But then, to hold on to whatever shreds of their humanity are left, a number of prisoners remember their old vocations and decide to exercise their callings in the teeth of the most hostile surroundings. A former university instructor organizes a philosophy seminar, and prisoners get together, in the mud and squalor of the camp, to discuss Plato’s philosophy of justice.
Another prisoner had been an actor. He forms a troupe to perform plays by Shakespeare (which he had thankfully learned by heart). A group with musical talents carves recorders out of bamboo, making themselves into an orchestra that plays Bach.
They also form relationships with their guards, some of whom are transfigured from stereotyped villains into genuine human beings.
But the brutality reasserts itself. Prisoners are punished and pushed into betrayals, compromises, and impossible moral dilemmas.
The issues they had been learning about in their “Jungle University” are tested. What is justice and can it really be achieved in a sinful world? What does it mean to love one’s enemies? How could Christ take other people’s sins upon Himself? What does it mean that Christ died for sinners, atoning for them and granting them free forgiveness?
The movie climaxes in a shocking, yet unforgettable scene of redemption.
You can buy the movie at Amazon.com by clicking here.
Not really recommended. This was a movie with potential. A potential that was wasted on agenda. It coulda been more balanced with some good insights, but unfortunately… It’s the story of a feminist woman, played by Nicole Kidman who makes TV shows for a woman’s network, shows that elevate women over men and make men look foolish. Even destroys one man’s life in a reality show. When that guy shows up at the annual sweeps week presentation trying to kill her, the network fires her and she has a nervous breakdown. Her loving husband, played by Matthew Broderick, quits his job at the network in sympathy with her and they move to the country, trying to start a new life away from the insanity. They move to Stepford, a small out of the way town saturated with women who look like incarnations of housewives from the Fifties, happy to always look pretty, and to please their husbands at all times. And that’s what this movie is, an attempted attack on 50s traditional values, very much like the movie, Pleasantville. Hollywood has a hate affair with the 50s. Just the idea of women staying at home, raising the family, supporting their husbands, has just got to be fraudulent to these people, because they cannot conceive that a patriarchal society can have anything good in it. It is intrinsically evil to them. The movie starts out with a flurry of TV commercials from the 50s with women dancing around in dresses and displaying kitchen appliances with wonder over the credits. This sets the stage that this era is the one being attacked. This is the absurdly unreal worldview to them. Of course, how real are commercials anyway? Even the acting of that era looks overdone and melodramatic. Does anyone really think current commercials represent real life NOW? People have always and continue to look silly and stupid in commercials because they are by nature circus acts. Even 10 year old commercials look outdated and funny. So this is a definite poisoning of the well. But it is a clever poisoning I must admit. Anyway, the Stepford wives exist solely to please their husbands in looks (They’re all blonde and busty), service (They caddy for their husbands in sun dresses) and uplift them (constant compliments), in short, they are robotic, soulless and controlled by their husbands, the ultimate adolescent male fantasy, which is why the men are cleverly shown in their “men’s club” playing with remote control cars. This is all very clever and a witty, thoughtful commentary on control in marriages. The problem comes in with the political agenda. This evil control is linked to religious faith in yet another attack on Christianity. The Stepford women are shown patronizing a Jew played by Bette Midler while mentioning “their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Also a Homosexual becomes a Stepford wife for his partner and turns into a “gay Republican with a bad haircut.” He also mentions his Christian faith in Jesus, and is patriotic. And of course, special mention is made of the fact that there are no multiethnic people in the town. All cliché stereotypes of conservative Christian culture. There is no way on heaven or earth that a Hollywood movie could ever get made actually mentioning the phrase “my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ” in a positive context. This is a known fact by Hollywood filmmakers. But if you link the person saying that phrase to evil, then you can have that phrase as clear as day (as illustrated also in Saved). Why? Anti-Christian bigotry is alive and well in Hollywood. Also, traditional values, like those espoused by one of the robots, “my priorities are my husband, my family, my home,” are also the evil enemy to these people. Let’s face it, this movie is not about the wrongness of control in marriage, that could have been a great universal theme that Christians would agree with, but it really is an attack against biblical Christian marriage roles. The filmmakers are not trying to say that control is wrong, they are saying that men as heads of families is intrinsically controlling and wrong. At the end, when it is revealed that the real villain is not the head of the men’s club, played by Christopher Walken, but is actually his wife, played by Glen Close. Turns out Walken is a robot himself, and Close is not. She is actually a throwback from the Fifties who is trying to turn things back to those days. In other words, the worst villain is not so much the men who try to force women into this role of submission, but the WOMEN who believe in and support patriarchy values themselves! So, be aware, Christian women, this movie is ultimately an attack piece on YOU, not merely men. The fact that you would choose traditional values and stay at home to raise your children and support your husband, makes you as evil as the monstrous men you support. Now, there is a tiny attempt at balance at the end, but it fails because of its weakness: Broderick ends up not turning Kidman into a robot, and they reconcile and we see Kidman on Larry King, but she now has blonde hair like Broderick liked, but its still short, like how she wanted it, so that is a compromise. And she has a bit more color in her wardrobe, unlike the black that she always wore and Broderick hated. This was good, but not strong enough in my opinion. The essence of good marriage is compromise on BOTH SIDES. And that’s what could have been a great theme in this movie.
And that leads to one of TWO MAJOR PLOT HOLES that could have been fixed and made the movie better. FIRST: When the heroine, Kidman is confronted by Broderick and the other men to turn her into a robot, they argue with her. This is the classic “confrontation scene.” She appeals to Broderick that if she was a robot, then she wouldn’t love him from her will. This is great, but she fails a greater opportunity. This confrontation with the heroine and villain, in a good story, will have the heroine recognizing that though she thought she was different from the villain, she really is not so different, and in fact is guilty of the same kind of evil that the villain is. Then she makes the choice to change in order to not be like the villain. But the writer or director never followed this path. When she argues that what Stepford is doing in controlling women and ruling over them is bad, they should have pointed out to her that what she did on her TV network is the same thing. She attacked men, made them less than women and ruled over them. Ironically, the film sets it up this way in the beginning, but it never took the opportunity to pay it off at this most crucial moment. If they had, it would have been a more balanced movie with worthy, less agenda driven lopsidedness. It would have been saying that feminist control is just as bad as male control. But alas, they could not possibly make that actual connection that the story structure demanded, because that would violate their religion. But here is a perfect example where following story structure would have challenged their own extreme views. Therefore, when Kidman decides to submit to the “treatment” and be robotized, it comes out of nowhere in the movie. She gives in out of being forced, not out of a self revelation of her own evil. It doesn’t jive with her character as created. There is no way she would just give in because that is not how she is ñ unless that revelation would have hit her to the soul that she was no different than the men in her attempt to control. Then her choice to submit would have been met with her husband’s decision not to turn her into a robot and the perfect balance would have been achieved: woman submits, but man loves her with Christ’s love (Ephesians 5:22-29). Ah, so close and yet so far. ALSO, they build up this whole thing as women being made into robots. One robot woman spits out money like an ATM machine, all the women move like robots when controlled by a remote control, and then the heroine sees the robot body that will replace her on a table. So the movie sets it up that they are going to be killed and replaced with a robot. But then, Walken shows an entirely unnecessary commercial that shows the process is actually placing computer chips to control the thought process of the brain. So it’s mind control, not a robot. Then what in the world is the robot body for??!! This is an unforgivable cheat on the part of the filmmakers. They set it up as one thing and then just turn it into another with no reason whatsoever. Unforgivable. A movie that had great potential squandered on the altar of feminist agenda.
Not Recommended. Boy, Action movies with heros who are fearless, invulnerable and seem to exist for the sole purpose of looking cool and spouting witty retorts in the face of certain doom are just plain boring. That’s what this movie is. I don’t have a problem with the coolness and the retorts, but when that stuff is everything to the movie then forget it. As soon as Riddick walks, just willingly walks, right into an encampment of the enemy (which he does a couple times) and without an iota of fear, knowing that he’s going to just waltz right out of there when he wants, they lost me and I’m never coming back. This is star glory at its worst. Making gods of celebrity actors. I ain’t gonna worship. David Thowy, who wrote and directed the original excellent Riddick movie, Pitch Black, as well as this one is a good writer-director. But I can’t help but think that this movie is just another example of what happens when big money gets involved in trying to make a sequel to a great little independent movie. The Independent movie is often great because they are forced to be creative with less money, focus on the story, and usually maintain creative control in the hands of those who should have it, the filmmakers, not the marketers and executives. That is the case with Pitch Black. It was a very good sci-fi flick. Riddick is not. Of course, the special effects are good, though I am tired of movies with big sweeping panoramic energy surges or Ghostbusters/Matrix type global explosive devastation. It drains the human interest out of the story. And this one is a very confusing story. The Necromongers are Knights of Nee, I mean Knights of death who are “crusading” to convert or kill whole planets. Problem is, they do not explain the faith with any real substance. They just use the language of faith, like “faith” “doubt” “believe.” Now, obviously in today’s context it is highly ironic and indeed stupid to make a movie about “Crusaders” who are obviously made to look like Catholic knights when they should be looking like Jihad warriors. News flash, people, Crusading Christians are not a problem in this world. Haven’t been for a 1000 years. Another Anti-Christian allusion against the politically acceptable villains of today, Christians. I mean it certainly isn’t the “Religion of Peace” and submission that we have to worry about in today’s world, who are attacking and killing millions of infidels in places like the Sudan, Nigeria, Iraq and on and on, no. It’s those bloodthirsty “convert or die” Christians. Okaaaaay. Ironically, I can’t help but think that if they were to make this movie relevant by making these Necromongers more like Jihadists than the outdated anachronistic Crusaders, why, that might actually put the lives of the filmmakers in danger from “religion of peace” reprisals. Better to reinforce bigotry against the peacemakers of the world than give up the criminals. After all, it’s only a movie, certainly not something worth dying for. And certainly not worth paying eight dollars for.
Not Recommended. Boring. Stupid. The heros are so soulless and uninteresting, you actually start to have sympathies for the muggles, who really can be more interesting. Who’s the muggle now? Oh, one cool thing, the Hippogriff FX, that was cool.
Highly Recommended. Great antidote to the communist agitprop fake-umentary of Fahrenheit 9/11. A true documentary that shows stories of Americans across this great and diverse land, from a Cowboy in Wyoming to a Black Jazz musician in New Orleans to a polio victim who runs the Marathan in New York, and others. Just literally showing the heart and soul of America. Not political or agenda driven, just capturing the diversity of hard working individualists, entrepreneurs and average Joes. Fascinating. One criticism was that the diversity focused mostly on blue collar, lower income, rural, or small business types. There’s gotta be some white collar, big business, Wall Street, or upper class Americans that aren’t reducible to greed, power, and privilege, don’t ya think? After all they are just as much a part of the diversity that is the heart and soul of our beautiful country. Oh yeah, more on the community too. Individualism may have wrought much good in this land, but it has also wreaked much havoc. We’ve lost much community but we need to see and elevate the pockets of it where it exist because therein lies some hope.
Not Recommended. This movie is bitter bigoted hate speech against Christians. Hysterical witch-hunting for “Christian witches.” But in the interest of not succumbing to the same imbalanced criticism against the movie that the movie propogates against evangelical Christianity, I will first note the positive. Every criminal has some good traits. The story is about a young girl, Mary, at a Christian school who tries to “save” her boyfriend from turning gay by sleeping with him. When she gets pregnant, she has to hide her shame and deal with the “queen Christian” in the school, self-righteous Hilary Faye (An obvious reference to Tammy Faye Bakker) played by Mandy Moore. Mary hangs out with the rebels, a crippled non-Christian, and the lone Jewish girl at the school who is there only because her other choice was homeschooling. She eventually gives up her evangelical faith for a humanistic faith in herself and her feelings. These filmmakers have clearly had some experience either in the Evangelical subculture or know some who are in it, because it captures some of the bad side of it rather well: prayer as a weapon of gossip, “God told me” baloney, Jesus as a cover for every kind of selfish pursuit, Jesus marketing, frauds, hypocrites etc. I actually agree in part with the critique that Evangelical subculture has become a fraudulent marketed substitute for secular culture with the same selfishness covered over in platitudes and rationalizations. The Christian subculture with it’s Christian versions of everything; Christian schools, Christian books, Christian music, Christian T-Shirts, and even Christian vices has become a pathetic pseudo-reality that too often fails to address the real evils of society. The panacea for all problems is “Accept Jesus into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior.” Well I agree with the filmmakers here. There is a form of this kind of subculture that exists and it is wrong. However, that subculture is not necessarily real Christianity and aye, there’s the rub. In this movie, all Christians are portrayed as hypocrites, losers, liars, and frauds. There is not a single authentic biblical Christian in the entire movie against which such exploitation is measured. Someone who lives out the teachings of Jesus with compassion yet a hatred for sin; loving, but righteous. Therefore, the filmmakers are not critiquing the abuse of Christianity, they think that twisted version IS Christianity. That is how you sniff out bigotry and propaganda in a film like this. And in the end, the homosexual, the handicapped kid, the Jew, the pregnant girl are all aligned against, the “Christian” lead, a self-righteous Fem played by Mandy Moore. Of course, there are no black people there because Christianity is, according to these filmmakers, not for them either. In other words, cast the Christian as against these special interests and “diversity” so they will hate Christians too. It appears that Christians are one of the few acceptable people groups to hate and attack in this country. Imagine a movie that focused on the homosexual community that showed all the homosexuals as either hypocrites, losers, liars or frauds. They’d be attacked by the ACLU and GLAAD and branded as sexist hate-mongers. Imagine a movie that focused on a school of African Americans that showed all the blacks as either hypocrites, losers, liars or frauds. They’d be attacked by the ACLU, and the NAACP and branded as racist hate-mongers. Imagine a movie that focused on a Jewish school that showed all Jews as either hypocrites, losers, liars or frauds. They’d be attacked by the ACLU and the ADL and branded as Anti-Semitic hate-mongers. But I guess it’s okay to make a movie that shows all Christians as either hypocrites, losers, liars or frauds. The movie mocks good things as if they were bad. It paints gun owners as gun nuts, it mocks secondary virginity, recovery from destructive behavior, clean lifestyles, prayer, faithfulness in marriage, worship music, interventions, etc. The irony is that this movie is so bitter and unfunny that it will probably do terrible business. It rings with bitterness and hatred, not truth. I gotta say, how ironic it is for Mandy Moore, to act in a movie that mocks Christians, after starring in A Walk To Remember, that elevates Christian teens in a similar context of high school. Of course, authentic Christians would not endorse the silly and false Christianity presented in the movie. They would mock it as well. But the problem lies in the propaganda, the poisoning of the well, the special pleading. The answer the story gives for false Christianity is not true Christianity, but HUMANISTIC FEELINGS. Pretty much standard fare for Hollywood. Follow your heart, your feelings and that’s truth. I wrote an entire chapter on this in my book, Hollywood Worldviews. As an adulterous woman tells her preacher partner (of course, gotta have the sexually fallen preacher, another typical cliché of Antichristian agitprop), “Why would God give us these feelings if what we are doing is wrong?” The heroine at the end of the film says, “Life is perfect. There has to be a God out there – or in us. You just have to feel it.” Of course, the god that the humanist proposes to substitute for the Biblical God is a god called ME. God is in us, which really means “we are god.” The gay struggling with his homosexuality is affirmed in his feelings, the adulterers are affirmed in their feelings, the fornicators are affirmed in their feelings. Rebels are affirmed in their feelings. (Everyone is affirmed in their feelings EXCEPT the Christian. THEIR feelings are not legitimate). Sorry, folks, but I got a news flash. If your answer to an alleged self-righteous morality of restraint is “feelings,” without a moral standard to judge and restrain those feelings (since you’ve just denied moral restraint), then you’ve just disallowed any criticism of racists, child molesters, rapists and serial killers. They have feelings too. And their feelings tell them what they’re doing is okay, and who are you to judge? When you take away that standard of moral restraint, then stop griping about a society saturated with drug addicted kids, kids killing kids, pregnant kids, kid monsters without moral restraint. That’s all the result of your “feelings” oriented morality – or lack thereof. Here’s another whopping irony: The goal of the movie is to show the Christian subculture as homogenous, comformist, and the rebels are the heros, the ones who defy such conformity. The heroine asks, “Why would Jesus have made us all so different if he wanted us to all be the same?” Funny, last time I looked, this pluralistic culture we live in is the comformist homogeneity. Relative “gray” ethics is the hegemony. Christianity is not welcomed in the public square. Christians are the true counter-cultural force, the true rebels. I mean come on, normalization of sexual perversion on every level, abortion on demand, God out of government and schools. This is a post-Christian world, folks, and inmates have taken over the asylum. Think about it for a second, the “rebels” in this movie aren’t non-conformists, they are clichés of conformity carted in from what is the true homogenous society of dominant public schools. Christian schools are the anomaly. Christian schools and homschoolers are the true non-conformists in our world. TEEN REBELS are the real conformists, not the Christian. The Christian is the true rebel in this world, yet like usual, humanistic relativist filmmakers turn the truth literally upside down and try to make the victims guilty of the crime. Morality is the problem, not immorality. It is moral people that somehow are guilty of the consequences of the immoral behavior of immoral people. Christians cause teen pregnancy, abortions, sexual diseases and criminal behavior, not the true moral criminals. Such reverse logic actually prefers promiscuity, teen pregnancy, rebellion, adultery, as good and considers abstinent clean obedient kids to be the real evil. Can there BE anything more backward?
Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
(Now, the anti-Christian would consider quoting a Bible verse to be self-righteous. But think again. Who is self-righteous – the person who points to God to define righteousness or the person who points to themself [their feelings] to define righteousness?)
Recommended for adults. Funny. Very funny. A good sequel, which is hard to do. It revisits the original movie’s theme that beauty and love is in the eye of the beholder, and trying to be someone you are not or measure up to society’s definitions of beauty and fashion is harmful. The problem I had with it is that it attempted to add to this theme the idea that cross-dressers and transvestites, and other perversities are part of the “goodness” of being yourself. Pinnochio wears women’s underwear and Cinderella’s wicked stepsister is actually a male cross-dresser or transvestite who owns a bar. The whole point is that, though given the magical opportunity to change herself and Shrek into beautiful “Royal Family” looking people rather than ogres, Princess Fiona chooses not to because that’s not who she married. It would be untrue to Shrek and herself. Well, the logical extension is to show other characters in the story who are victims of such social standards of “imposed” identities and fashion. These characters, then, by extension, are also reflections of the heroine’s own redemption (ala the Pinnochio and the wicked stepsister). It’s easy to see how the filmmakers considered bizarre perversions to be part and parcel of that redemption. Without an absolute moral standard to define good and bad social norms, ALL variety of human identity becomes legitimate. They just don’t realize the Frankenstein monster they’ve created.
Recommended mostly for the Special Effects. Standard disaster movie fare. A pretty good subplot of a father and son loving relationship between the lead characters, Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal. Good self sacrifice ethics. The mother/wife of the lead characters stays at a hospital with a terminally ill boy at the risk of her life — great anti-euthanasia ethic. A friend cuts himself loose from a hanging rope to save the other guys from dying with him. Jake going back to rescue the girl at risk to his life a couple times. You know, that’s what really makes a good disaster movie are precisely the self sacrificial acts of heroism. And that makes a movie like this good on a mythological level for reinforcing the kind of values that civilization is built upon.
I gotta say though that the idea that this movie is somehow a “warning” to our exploitation of natural resources is really rather laughable. Although I believe in responsible stewardship of the earth’s recources, there is really no evidence that man can do the kind of damage that extreme environmentalists claim. In the beginning of the story it is explained that the same thing is happening now that happened 10,000 years ago, with global climate change. The ice caps are melting causing worldwide distruptions, etc. etc. And then at the end of the movie, the US President says on a speech that if we aren’t more careful with our resource consumption, we’ll destroy ourselves. Well, let’s see, which industrial smoke stacks, SUVs and aerosal sprays brought on the previous Ice Age 10,000 years ago? HUH?? They undercut their own message with a non-sequitir. In the movie itself, they illustrated that global climate change has nothing to do with Man. It’s part of the natural processes. Volcanos destroy more ozone in one eruption than 100 years of man’s industrial activity. Ex-radical environmentalist, Bjorn Lomborg wrote a massive documented tome, The Skeptical Environmentalist, systematically dismantling the fear claims of pollution, chemicals, greenhouse effect etc. There just is no such extreme danger. There is a moment in the film when the President of the US says, “How come nobody told us about this, where are the scientific facts?” The scientist says, “We did, but you didn’t listen to our science.” People in the audience laughed. The fact is, if we had listened to all these other fanatical junk science claims over the years, we’d be bankrupted. If only we’d listened to the population bomb experts that told us the 30 years ago that the earth would be uninhabitable right now because of population explosion and the 1980s AIDS scaremongers who said one half the population would have AIDS right now. Junk science may make for good movies, but not for real science.
Excellent production values, but hard to recommend. A hollow epic. This movie was well-written. It had all the necessary elements of a good epic: a strong warrior lead in Brad Pitt as Achilles, superb acting, superior supporting cast that fit their roles perfectly, excellent and profound dialogue, good slimmed down battle scenes, a focus on the individuals over the masses, bigger than life issues of honor, courage, love, nobility, revenge, greed, gods and country. The problem is that it lacked the most important ingredient that gives true meaning to everything else: transcendence. Oh, it tried to have transcendence, don’t get me wrong. But it quintessentially could not achieve transcendence because it appears that the storytellers (ie: the writer and director) did not themselves believe in transcendence so they fundamentally could not manufacture it no matter how hard they tried. Let me explain. Epics like Lord of the Rings, Braveheart, Patriot Games, Last of the Mohicans, Rob Roy, all achieve a profound moving of the heart that lingers in our souls because of the transcendence of the worldview in the story. The characters are fighting for things like freedom, love and honor because they are rooted in a higher reality, a higher law, a higher existence than mortal experience. Now, the truth is that only the triune God of Christianity can provide the necessary philosophical foundation of our belief in such things as human rights, universal freedom, and these things. These movies may reveal that truth to varying greater or lesser degrees, but they point to it nonetheless. And since we are created in the image of God, these truths, no matter how incompletely expressed, resonate in our souls. In Braveheart, we know that king Edward Longshanks is evil and the people of Scotland have a right to freedom because there is a higher king, a higher reality (ie: God and His law) upon which our belief in human rights is founded. But you see, if there is no higher reality, no transcendent law or God, then there is no such thing as evil, and one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter as they say. Without the idea of God, human rights, absolute wrongs are all illusions and reality reduces to the will to power (there goes Nietzsche again). There is no “right” there is only might. So within a worldview that negates transcendence, Longshanks would really be a hero (an “Overman”) because he rejects moral absolutes and creates his own values (As Nietzsche would have it). Longshanks would be beyond good and evil, and beyond criticism. As the Overman, he does not bow to the prejudices of tradition and society, etc.
My point is that this modern/postmodern belief of today, that morality and truth is relative is not workable and does not ring true to us if we play it out in our stories, and no matter how much they protesteth, no matter how much modernists and pomos try to persuade us that there is no objective truth, no absolute right and wrong, no transcendence, it does not resonate with our souls because we are created in the image of God. We know better. And epics are the profound expression of this transcendence. Now, the problem with Troy is not the paganism so much as the humanism. Of course, the paganism is silly superstition, and I concur with the filmmakers’ critique of it. The problem is that the critique comes out of a humanist immanence that ultimately rejects true transcendence and tries to replace it with an Existential appeal to living bravado. The two main warriors, Achilles and Hektor, are both humanists who mock the gods subtley (Hektor with his comments about how many battalions does Apollo command for Troy) or outright (Achilles defiantly cuts off the head of the Apollo statue, a blasphemous act, even to his fellow soldiers). They don’t believe in gods, only the peons and masses of mindless soldiers do. Of course, King Agamemnon doesn’t believe in gods either, but he uses them for his own selfish gain. The point is that through the protagonist and antagonist of Troy we see the storytellers’ contempt for religion. Achilles retorts to his lover that “The gods envy us because we are mortal” rather than the other way around. To him, this life and mortality is of more value than the next life and deity. This is also expressed when he seeks revenge for his cousin’s death because “there is nothing higher” than personal vengeance. In other words, there is no vengeance in the next world. There are no higher things than man’s own existence, than the natural world. There is no supernatural. Achilles is an Existentialist, “Everything is more beautiful because we are doomed.” As if we could not appreciate this life if we are concerned about the next. Achilles is a western individualist as he is the lone warrior who defies King Agamemnon, doesn’t follow orders, is captain of his own fate and master of his own destiny, does what he wants, sleeps with several women at once, parties hardy and cares not for politics and politicians, princes and royalty. Achilles in this film is the American hero, the cowboy of the ancient world, a Greek James Dean. He is the Nietzschean Overman. So because of this nihilistic worldview that there is nothing higher than “this life,” he seeks greatness though glory, through being remembered. That is the dominant theme of this film, that immortality is not spiritual, but mortal. It is through being remembered and not forgotten in this world that we receive glory, not through spiritual transcendence in the next world or after life. It is this world that counts, not the next. The movie ends with the narration that “these names will never die. Men will say “I lived in the time of Hektor, I lived in the time of Achilles.” Okay, that is why the story is ultimately empty and we walk away without really caring about it. Because if there is no higher reality, no transcendence that roots our beliefs in eternity, then all of life is vain, no matter how full you think you may live it. Nothing is of ultimate value, not even personal gratification of the senses. The highest experience of life is but a blink of nothingness in the vast sea of time. All meaning and value is illusion, created by us to soothe us to the truth. Honor, nobility, courage are foolish delusions and are of equal moral value with dishonor, ignobility and cowardice.
Do you see what I mean? The story undercuts it’s own epic values. And this is why it is hard to recommend the film. It has some really great appeals to courage, honor, love, consequences of sin, love of country and loyalty. In the story, Achilles, finds a certain redemption from his selfishness when he realizes his pride and vegeance as wrong and allows the King of Troy to bury his son, rather than desecrating him. Achilles apologizes to his closest officer for his temper tantrum, and seeks true love with a captured priestess of Apollo. Paris starts out a cowardly child and redeems himself as a patriotic warrior willing to die and even fight Achilles. The loyalty of friends and family is seen in Achilles and his cousin and fellow warriors. Servant-like leadership is exalted in the king of Troy versus the power warmonger Agamemnon. These are all good epic values, I won’t deny that. And they were somewhat touching. But you see, all these revelations are empty and especially Achilles’ redemption is a delusion if there is no next life, no transcendence, no God. There is not one whit of a value difference between Achilles repenting or Achilles killing if there is no transcendent reality. There is no redemption and there is no meaning if there is no transcendent reality. So the movie rejects transcendence but then tries to rescue it by maintaining the transcendent values of courage, honor, love and valor that it has already negated. This rational/irrational dialectic makes it a very dissatisfying myth.
Another thing that makes Troy dissatisfying is the modern/postmodern negation of good and evil apparent in the story. There is no good guy or evil guy. Everyone is a mixture of both, with mostly evil. Now, this may satisfy the politically correct pomo agenda that there is no such thing as good and evil sides in any war (and I’m not against a certain amount of it within a bigger context of good and evil), but it makes for bad storytelling in this case because there is no one to root for. There is no good and evil, only the will to power of men and nations. You see? When you try to incarnate postmodernism, it results in empty storytelling. Hollow epics, delusionary love. That is another reason why we leave the theater not caring at all for anyone because they were all just tragically messed up. The closest it comes to good guys are the king of Troy and Hektor. But the king is a relic of an era past and is rather incidental. And Hektor, the most honorable one, good guy Hektor’s goodness and honorableness just leads to his death. So his goodness is his tragic weakness that we know will lead to his downfall in this world of will to power. Well, if you don’t really root for anyone, you’re not going to care at the end how it all turns out because you’re not going to really care for anyone. In short, contrary to the film’s thematic proposition, all of these characters and their story will be easily forgotten because there is no transcendence to the story or to their lives. Here’s what King Solomon said about remembrance:
Ecclesiastes 2:16 For there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man as with the fool, inasmuch as in the coming days all will be forgotten. And how the wise man and the fool alike die!… 24 There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?… 12:13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
NOW THAT’S WORTH REMEMBERING.