Not Recommended. I wanted to see this movie because of the fact that it was shelved and redone by Renny Harlin. Well, I wanted to see why they studio felt they would lose so much money that they would need to remake it. And now I see why. Boy, Studios are not always stupid. This is a version done by Paul Shrader, who may never direct again. And he has a Christian past, which would make you think he would deal with spiritual things well, but think again. This is supposed to be the story of Father Merrin BEFORE the Exorcist movie, that is, his past. This movie was really bad. Bad acting by the melodramatic young priest, and female lead. Bad writing, bad directing. First mistake was the first scene, which was supposed to be Merrin’s past of having to chose which Jews to kill by the Nazis, which is what causes him to lose his faith but remain an archeologist. Well, the lead Nazi starts with a slight German accent and then loses it entirely. This was terrible. And the scene was boringly edited and acted. This was a sign of the rest of the movie. A couple good things about the movie: One theme of evil, “No one wanted to believe the atrocities of Hitler were going on. It’s easier to believe evil is random rather than the fact that it is in everyone and everyone is capable of it.” Another thoughtful idea spoken by a priest, “Faith’s ultimate strength lies in its ability to strengthen men, not conquer evil.” That’s cool. Many times, the faithful are martyred or do not in fact experience worldy victory, because God has something else he is teaching them. Winning in losing. Some ridiculous elements. Okay, sometimes you can make something eerie and evil by doing the opposite, by showing something that is normally mundane as an expression of evil. Irony helps surprise the audience and see things a new way. However, in this movie, it is done in such a poor way that it is really quite laughable. One of the “evil ironies” is that they have some cattle kill a herd of hyenas. Of course, we don’t see it, we just see the after effects of a few cows in a field around a bunch of dead hyena bodies. And then they show a bad CG shot of a cattle chewing on hyena remains. It was something out of Attack of the Killer Tomatos. Of course, there are the cliché characters, like the stupid priest who thinks the spirit of our Savior is in a demon possessed kid. The big showdown between the faithless priest and the demon possessed child was almost purely metaphysical and not even interesting. The big Showdown was the priest quoting Roman rites of exorcism as the demon possessed man cowered with each phrase. But it lacked entirely any real drama to it. No stakes. Okay a couple cool things: The demon possessed man came to look very much like an Eastern Buddha or avatar figure, which I like. Also, a couple of great lines from the demon that show us the truth in its opposite form, “ You hate God and why not? He gives you guilt.” The big temptation was telling the priest that he could “cease to care” which would protect himself. And when the priest finally faces this demon, he gets on his knees at home and asks God to forgive him for his unbelief. Very cool repentance. But silly special effects, like stuff out of the 70s or 80s. Overall, this film is a waste of time, but on the other hand, it’s good to see movies illustrating that there is real personal evil in the world, and you can’t brush that away with your pomo relativism. But alas, a failed poor quality attempt to do so.
Recommended with Caution. A thought-provoking postmodern film that uses the questioning of reality and dreaming as a vehicle to face our mortality and make the best out of life. But it is a dark thriller, with a couple inappropriate flashes of nudity in it. Adrien Brody plays a good guy Gulf War vet who is picked up hitchhiking and has a near fatal head injury when the driver kills a cop. Brody’s character, Jack Starks, has amnesia and is framed for the shooting, and because of his amnesia and bad Gulf War experience he is labeled criminally insane and ends in an insane asylum. While there, he undergoes some rather controversial “therapy” called “the jacket” that is likened to sensory deprivation by a behavioral psychologist, Dr. Beck, played by Kris Kristofferson. But the jacket experiences in some bizarre twist of reality, enable Jack to time travel into the future, where he meets and falls in love with a girl from his past who has grown up, played with swanky hardness by Kiera Knightley. Jack’s search to discover the cause of his death in the past by researching the facts while in the future has a very fatalistic edge to it at first, but ends up with a hopeful worldview of freedom to change behavior. What I liked about this film was how it portrayed Dr. Becker, the behaviorist and physicalist, who believes that our problems are the result of chemical imbalances. This whole worldview is shown to be the darkness that it really is, and it shows the toll even on the doctor as we see him always taking drugs himself to calm himself down. In other words, behaviorism and sociobiology are slave systems for worldviews, and they deny the strength and responsibility of the human will. And guess what? They are still creeping around the halls of our institutions. I met a sociobiologist when I did research at a hospital for the criminally insane. These social engineers, these “world controllers” are nothing more than Monsters in white lab coats. Or as C.S. Lewis said, they are torturers in the name of compassion because of their worldview that defines our beliefs or behavior as resulting from our chemicals. Therefore, they must experiment with our chemicals “for our own good” to get us “better.” I just read in a Wired article about a sociobiologist criticizing 12 step programs as destructive while he offered his instant gratification chemical solution to solving addiction, entirely ignorant of the human dimension of who we are. These Nazis actually think they are helping us. As Becker says in the film to Jack that he puts him in a bizarre torture device that it is “with every intention of helping you.” Jack replies, “That justifies it?” I guess you’d call modern psychology “Compassionate Fascism.” Another thing I liked about this film was its postmodern use of questioning our notions of reality. A doctor tells Jack, that “his mind doesn’t have the ability to distinguish between reality and delusion” and yet, the reality is that THESE scientists, these modernist social engineers are the ones who are deluded in their understanding of reality. I consider that to be a profound truth about our society that worships science and it’s high priests. I also like movies like this that make us face our death because it wakes us up to what is really important in life and whether we are using our time wisely. One of the inmates says, “I’m in here because of a nervous condition. Who wouldn’t be nervous to look at themselves?” In other words, this isn’t about crazy people, it’s using crazy people as a metaphor for ourselves. After all, we are all a bit screwed up, if we are really honest with ourselves, eh? At the end, Jack says a string of things, some of which sounded like gobbledy gook, some of which I caught and appreciated. He says, “Life can only begin with the knowledge of death. When you die, there’s only one thing you want to happen. You want to come back.” Very true. As the clock ticks down to Jack’s death that he knows will happen soon, he seeks to help several others in a way that changes their lives forever for the better. And that’s what makes this otherwise dark movie into a hopefully realistic movie. Jack discovers a woman’s life is going to be lost through her own negligence and he seeks to convince her that “things are not as bad awake as they are asleep” (Another obvious metaphor to the woman’s addicted lifestyle and hardness of life). And then the very end of the movie is the phrase spoken by Jack’s love interest, “How much time do we have?” In other words, we don’t have much time, our deaths are imminent, so make the most out of this life, live it, and love others, don’t squander it. Because Jack’s interactions with people bring redemption into their lives, this movie transcends the desulatory nihilism of fate that other time travel movies sometimes promote (such as 12 Monkeys). One thing I did not like about the movie was its negative view of God that they just had to force into the dialogue. Out of the blue, this sociobiologist, Becker tells Jack, “I’ll say a prayer for you, Jack. Maybe God will pick up where medicine left off.” And Jack replies, (that is, the hero of the story), “Sure you know where to find him?” This of course is the traditional nihilism that sees the suffering universe as without God. Later, Jack finds Becker at church. He tells him, “How does that help? God doesn’t remember?” Well, this is a great line of conviction upon a man who does evil to people and tries to escape his guilt, but considering the fact that they are linking it with a bad guy, that makes it a negative indictment of Christianity, not merely abused religion. Especially since the hero manifested his negative attitude toward God. If you don’t portray good religion in a story, just bad religion, then you are saying there is no good religion. The irony is that it should have been the other way around. The hero should have had some kind of religious faith in the dignity and freedom of man – because THIS IS THE ONLY LEGITIMATE OPPOSING BELIEF SYSTEM to the secular humanistic vision of behaviorism. Christianity is the only worldview that gives humanity dignity and value. It was not consistent with Becker’s belief system to go to church because sociobiology has no place for religious beliefs as truth. To them, it is a chemical abberation. The only way that would have worked would be to make the hero a man of faith somehow, so that the villain’s hypocritical pursuit of religious atonement becomes a validation of the truth of the opposing viewpoint, rather than just another jab at religion in general. But alas, you can only write from what you believe and if the filmmakers do not have redeeming faith, they would certainly not understand the true answer. So, it results in a humanistic work your way to heaven redemption of loving your neighbor. So, I guess it’s half true. But of course, a half-truth is still ultimately a LIE.
Kind of Recommended. A spooky thriller about a father, Robert DeNiro whose daughter meets an “imaginary friend” who might be a ghost or a something else, and this friend, named “Charlie” starts to wreak havoc on DeNiro’s life with some violent intentions. Very spooky, excellent first 2/3 of the movie. Very subtle spookiness played brilliantly by Dakota Fanning as the little girl. It’s subtle enough so you don’t know if it’s a ghost or what. But the final third isn’t quite as good when the revelation occurs of just who this friend, “Charlie” really is. All right. If you have any inclination to see this thriller, then don’t read any further, because I am going to totally ruin the story for you by revealing the plot twist. This is a Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde story, where the main character, DeNiro discovers that he has multiple personalities and HE is the friend, “Charlie.” Well, even though this story wasn’t a great version of it, I still think this is a genre of movie that is a very powerful pointer to the Christian truth of our evil nature. The essence of Jekyl/Hide stories is that we have an evil side to us that we suppress and deceive ourselves into disbelieving. We think WE are not evil at all, So the discovery of the dark half is a discovery that we have deceived ourselves and we are evil. I like this genre in a postmodern world that negates evil and certainly denies that we are evil, preferring instead to belief in the inherent goodness of man or some such lie. There is this unsatisfied feeling one has when discovering that the hero is actually the villain, and he is evil and not really a hero at all. It leaves us groping and grasping for a foothold. Our whole picture of reality is shaken up and we don’t like it. It bothers us. Heros aren’t supposed to be the villains. But the moral thrust of this genre is precisely to upset that viewpoint to remind us that there really are no absolute heros (outside of God), we are all “villains,” that is, we are inherently evil and need to be redeemed ourselves. This is a case where I think the turning upside of the traditional hero story is acceptable. It is to tell us the audience, as Nathan the prophet did to David, “YOU are that man.”
Recommended with caution. This is a great moral tale about guilt and consequences of sin. It does have a dark “arthouse” edge but it has an ultimately redeeming moral to it. My mantra is that thrillers like this are among the strongest lights of morality in a postmodern world that denies absolute morality and guilt. Christian Bale wins the award for the most extreme commitment to acting because he let his body shrink to a concentration camp victim skeleton of malnutrition in depicting a man whose guilt over his past consumes him and breaks his life apart. Not only does it break apart his own life, but hurts others as well. He can’t eat, hasn’t slept in a year, and can only buy sex from a prostitute because he cannot achieve true intimacy with anyone. He becomes paranoid that people are out to get him and has confusing perceptions of reality. He is haunted by his conscience in the form of a guy who no one else sees, and the machinist tries to kill – He’s trying to kill his conscience. His crime lies in not accepting responsibility or consequences of his own mistake in an accident that led to a death. It could be argued that this is a bit weak because the hero’s ghost is not a deliberate evil on his part, but an accident. But on the other hand, it can be more universal because he is still avoiding his responsibility for hurting others, he is running not from a crime, but his responsibility in an accident – which becomes a crime. That makes him more of an Everyman that we can all relate to. He’s not a deliberate criminal, but a normal guy with a criminal spirit. Hmmmm. Sounds to me like Total Depravity. Brad Anderson also wrote and directed Session 9, which is another EXCELLENT SCARY thriller about self-deception and suppression of evil in the soul. The Machinist is a great moral fable on par with Se7en, The Addiction, Phone Booth and Collateral. I find it not coincidental that the movie poster has the artistic shadow of a crucifix over the main character. I only pray it comes from the writer’s own worldview reflecting the origin of this notion of conscience and guilt.
Not recommended. It was a very creative approach with a story that takes place mostly in a single room, with lots of good twists and very good visuals. But it fails on a moral level. It’s the story of two guys who have been chained into a room and can only get out by killing the other guy or dying in the process, as the place is boobytrapped. And then we discover that the people who this is done to, have dark secrets. It’s in a genre of killer movies where the killer makes a moral point to the audience. Now, I like that as a genre. Movies like Seven and Collateral (morality without God leads to evil) and Phone Booth (the true nature of sins and repentance) are great moral fables, but this movie falls short in that it fails to portray the victims as truly worthy of their suffering. Oh, it tries to make them worthy, but it doesn’t work. First of all, the hero is supposed to be a doctor who is too busy for his family and addresses sick people as objects with diseases. Well, okay, this is a slight character flaw, but certainly not deserving of being tortured so, as the killer says, he should stop taking life for granted. What kind of a stupid motive is that for a killer? I want you to appreciate life more in the face of death. Well, that is a good artistic motive, but it doesn’t work for a killer. Okay, then the photographer who follows the doctor is supposed to be bad cause he is snooping on the doctor. So that’s supposed to be worthy of death? And then, the other people who were killed, one was a drug addict, and another, a couch potato. Se7en did this theme right because the people killed were extremes of the seven deadly sins, which DID make the point that sin is serious. And Phone Booth worked because the revelation of the hero was that he really was a lying conniving cheater and manipulator that successfully hid his true personality from others and the audience. So the revelation of his character may not have deserved death (like a twisted serial killer believes), but it illustrated the true seriousness of his sins. That effect simply does not occur in Saw because the victims seem too average and their sins are not explored to show the true negative effects on other’s people’s lives. This is true especially of the hero, who is tempted to engage in adultery, but when he gets to the hotel room, he doesn’t do it! That moral triumph makes the hero look good, not bad, and therefore unworthy of the “punishment” that the killer puts him through. Fatal Attraction did it right because it had the hero follow through on his adultery from a character flaw, but then he rises over that flaw through love and a wife who is a good shot with a gun. The power of the movies like Fatal Attraction, Phone Booth, and Se7en is that they reveal true guilt in the hero that requires redemption, and that’s what makes the morality of those movies so good, true and beautiful. When the killer “wins” at the end of Se7en, we think that we should fight evil in the world, and that we should not ignore the religious idea of sin and guilt or society will become more evil. When the killer gets away at the end of Phone Booth, we conclude that Satan is always out there prowling like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, so we had better get our lives together and stop deceiving ourselves about our own goodness and repent from our sin. When the killer gets away in the end of Saw it is not to make a moral point, but rather to show that evil wins and average people die without purpose. Like I said, nihilistic trash.
Partially recommended for postmoderns. I’ve said it before. The reason why I like the horror and thriller genres is because of the great potential they have to evoke a visceral gut feeling of the reality of real genuine evil in a postmodern world that denies absolutes and is increasingly deluded into thinking that evil is a relative cultural construction. (Read my article, “A Theology of Horror Films” click here) This movie does that very well. It’s not for the feint of heart though. It’s the story of a serial killer who is killing other serial killers, and he uses “remote viewing” to track them down (psychic seeing from a distance, developed by who else? The military and the CIA, then FBI). Well, there is something certainly emotionally satisfying at seeing a vigilante justice with these scumbags getting a taste of their own medicine. But of course, this is ultimately not morally acceptable and the movie communicates this in having the “good guy” killer pay for his crimes as well. Unfortunately, the very concept of a “suspect zero,” as a guy who criss-crosses the country, being responsible for most serial killings and missing persons is all rather trivializing of real evil serial murders, and therefore unbelievable and unsatisfying. However it is somewhat redeemed at the end when the hero FBI guy faces the good guy killer at the end, after killing the “suspect zero,” and tells him, “You can’t see everything. You don’t decide what’s justice. You’re not God. You think we did something mythical. We just killed a deviant. There’s thousands more out there. There is no suspect zero.” It was a good conclusion that evil is real and it lives on. We’re not heroes vanquishing evil like gods, we are humans struggling with it and always will. Evil is so thoroughly ingrained into human nature, that we don’t “get rid of it” or vanquish it, we can merely fight evil people. While the movie looked real creative and well shot with grainy nonlinear scratchy images of pain and evil intruding onto the normal visuals, it never quite entered the supreme quality realm of Se7en or Silence of the Lambs, which are the obvious goals of the film.
Partially recommended, but mostly for postmoderns and materialists. Okay, This is a pretty well done supernatural thriller for the first two acts of the movie. Rather subtle, scary build up. Not over the top at all. All rather well done. But the last act, when the ex-priest who rediscovers his faith must face off with the demon possessed woman, looking very much like Linda Blair in her ugly face make-up, the special effects were all a bit unbelievable, and unfortunately work against the truth of the story by making it more unrealistic. The reason why the original Exorcist is THE SCARIEST MOVIE EVER MADE is because it was more realistic. Okay, pea soup and 360 degree head turns might be a bit over the top, but the context was much more realistic and that movie broke through to many materialists and atheists in a way this movie never will. They should stop with the sequels already. So this one just wasn’t as realistically scary. I’m sorry, but shaking beds, upturned eyes and shadows in the night in the first half are a lot scarier than poorly done CGI hyenas and a demon possessed person who can crawl on walls like a spider in the second half. Why? Because the unseen is scarier than the seen. And that’s the merit in this film, it tries to bring some reality to the unseen world of the spirit that modern materialist man denies. For me, that makes this movie contextually valuable even if it’s not perfect in its theology. But I was also pleasantly surprised that the storytellers did not really imbibe in too much Roman Catholic exorcist rituals, which are patently unbiblical and more pagan in their Gnostic formula magic. Say this prayer, say that prayer, say it this many times, etc. In the movie they have the exorcist ritual book, but they never really use it. When the priest faces the demon woman, he loses the exorcism book and pretty much has nothing but Scripture to quote at her, and all of it spoken out of a faith in Christ as the weapon of warfare. Yes, you heard me, he stands against her and fights her with “mere” faith. Couldn’t be anything more truthful than that. At the end, the priest ultimately casts the demon out of the woman rather than exorcising her. This is all much more biblical than the original and I was surprised yet pleased to see this kind of true faith, the Word of God and the Spirit of God as the only sword against the demonic realm. In the Bible, demons are never exorcised with ritual, they are cast out or rebuked in the name and power of Jesus (Acts 16:16-18; Luke 9:49; 11:18-20; Mark 16:17; 6:13), or the more difficult ones by prayer and fasting, but not ritual (Matthew 17:17-21) In fact, the only place that does mention exorcists, they are pretty much useless because ritual is no replacement for true faith. But that is what this movie says as well. Here is the passage in the Bible about exorcists:
Acts 19:13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
There is also an interesting subplot of the hero’s fall from faith being based on Nazi’s forcing him to choose who will die of a group of arbitrary people on the street (the movie takes place shortly after WWII). This is a rather good expression of the struggle of evil and the existence of God. It’s the most universal psychological issue we humans have with God and so I think this film deals with that honestly and fairly.
No recommended. Not much to this sci-fi action cat and mouse film. It’s more of the same, though done well with a very clever setting and new twist on the the two movies coming together. The idea of predators hunting down the aliens as rites of manly passage, a rather war society type value. Prove your manliness by killing. The “Aliens” are really the meaningless killing machines and the “Predators” are more human. The theme is basically, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” which is mentioned a few times in the film, and is embodied in the lead actress ultimately teaming up with one of the predators to stop the last of the aliens before they escape and ravage the earth with their parasitic destruction of human species. Well,on the one hand, this is a rather relevent theme in such action movies and tends to underscore, with mythological force, the justification of entering into wars with enemies against greater enemies. Like teaming up with Russia to defeat Nazi Germany, or with Iraq to get Iran, or with Afghanistan to get the Soviets. Now, this notion has some merit, but look at the results: in all these situations, our “friendly enemies” against a greater enemy almost always grows to become our new enemy with more powerful weapons that we trained them on. Look at Stalin’s Soviet Russia and the Cold War, look at the Taliban in Afghanistan, and of course, Saddam Hussein. All of these became worse monsters than those we fought against and we helped them. I am not very convinced that this idea is a correct one. Couple things bothered me: 1) They employ the “Chariots of the Gods” thesis from the 1970s and revived in today’s pseudo-scientific culture and movies (Stargate and Contact) that religion is simply the worship of ancient aliens as gods who gave us the wonderous knowledge to build the pyramids. I am reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s comment, that when people give up belief in God, it’s not that they do not believe in anything, but that they will believe in anything. There is no end to the absurdity that will be embraced by an atheist or skeptic. Witness the Copenhagen Quantum Theorists who believe that chance is the foundation of order, and we create the universe, Atheistic Evolutionism that believes something comes from nothing, order comes from disorder, laws come from chance, and life comes from non-life (talk about Dark Ages pre-scientific superstition!), and postmodernism that denies logic while using logic, and believe that we create reality. And they call themselves “free thinkers.” Or as the Bible calls them, “Fools” (Psalm 14:1). As ridiculous as this idea is, and there are many respectable people who actually believe this nonsense, it unintentionally admits something about ancient cultures that defies evolutionary theory, namely that they were NOT “primitive” in all their understanding of knowledge and reality. They were actually highly advanced, even technologically. We still don’t know how they built the pyramids and are astonished at it. They have found circumnavigated global maps 1000s of years old. Well, if these evolutionists admit that ancient cultures were not so primitive, then their theory of evolving culture is WRONG. Cultures don’t evolve, they devolve. Ancient cultures have an incredible knowledge, but their beliefs and depravity and worship of idols cause them to self-destruct. Another truth revealed by the Creator:
Why should the nations say, “Where, now, is their God?”
But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands.
They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;
They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;
They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
They cannot make a sound with their throat.
Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trusts in them.
Folks, we become like the gods we worship. Idolatry leads to self-destruction.
2) The other thing I didn’t like was that these kill-or-be-killed movies can in some ways reinforce a survival of the fittest ethical worldview. It breeds an attitude that we are like animals merely fighting to survive, rather than subduing creation for a higher kingdom of spiritual transcendence. Don’t get me wrong. Self-defense is morally right, even to the extent of killing someone who is trying to kill you. And that is why I am not entirely against this film. I am just talking about caution, and big picture worldview thinking.
Recommended. DO NOT READ THIS BLOG IF YOU HAVE ANY DESIRE TO SEE THE MOVIE. Because the plot twist is very very important and will ruin the movie for you to know. Warning, Will Robinson! Go back! GO back! Okay, you’ve been warned. I love Shyamalan’s movies because they are so unpredictable and so unlike any other movies being made – and all rated a safe PG-13. Just for that alone, I applaud him. This story of a village somewhere in the early 1900s that is surrounded by forest monsters that keep them from adventuring out into the wild plays as an obvious metaphor. I mean, come on, you have to wear certain safe colors and avoid the unsafe color red that seems to draw “those whom we don’t speak about,” unseen monsters in the woods. And the town elders have black locked boxes of their past that no one can look inside. Well that’s fine. I like it, but I must admit about half way through I started thinking, just show us what it’s all a metaphor for. If you don’t know there’s a twist, you’re absorbed in the story (like Sixth Sense), but this one obviously has some explanation and you just want to find out too quickly. The plot twist is that this little town is actually an attempt by a modern billionaire to start his own old fashioned society away from the pain and evils of modern 21st century society. The “elders” of the city are all people at a counseling center who lost their loved ones to violent crime, so billionaire William Hurt convinces them to live in this enclave and raise new families in a huge forest preserve he owns. So the other townsfolk never realize they are living anachronisms. And we don’t know it either until the very end. Anyway, the blind girl who has fallen in love with a Joaquin Phoenix must venture out through the woods to get medicine for her lover, knifed by a crazy local. She is not only in danger from the monsters of the woods who may not let her pass, but the wild nature of “the towns” where she is going. But as Joaquin says, “The world moves for love.” So off she goes. Well, I reckon this movie can be interpreted two different ways. First, one may see it as an attack on traditional values. You know, the view that says, “Back in the good old days, people were more moral and if we could only turn back the clock, things would be better.” The town is ruled by elders, and they have created fear of monsters to keep the locals in line with their idyllic values of community. This is very much like the secular humanistic social theory about religion. Secularism has faith in naturalism and presupposes the death of God. Therefore, since religion CAN’T be true in their little myopic worldview, then religion MUST be the “creation” by clergy or elders of the supernatural to explain what they don’t understand of the natural, and fear of ethereal punishment to control the people to do what they say and avoid “progressive” society which will lead them astray into its accompanying wickedness and immorality (read: “free them from our control”). The problem is that this rejection of modern progress and society is a two-edged sword. The big city or “the towns” as they call them, are full of wickedness and evil, but they also have created the good advancement of medicine and technology that will help and heal man. So the very progress that brought increasing evil also brought increasing good. So if we try to avoid the bad, we will also be missing out on the good. Well, I am not entirely sure that this is the intent of the story. The reason I think this is because I know that Shyamalan has a spiritual worldview. He seems to be positive toward religion because of his background. Now, He does have a New Age spiritualism type view, but it is nonetheless positive toward the supernatural. So it is difficult to believe he would be attacking religion here, unless his New Age spirituality is the predictable “individual spirituality” that disdains “organized religion” in favor of unorganized so-called personal spirituality. Basically the religion of Individualism and relativism. Anyway, that is why I thought maybe another view may be more appropriate. That is 2) He may be attacking the secular humanistic “noble savage” theory of Rousseau. This is the belief that man is inherently good and his problem is civilization corrupts this goodness, so if he went back to a state of primitive nature, without modern civilization, he would find redemption. Okay, think of it, religion is conspicuously absent. The monsters in the wood are not considered angels or spirits but mutant physical beasts (evolution?). This is more akin to secular mythology than religious. Secondly, the whole flaw of the elders is shown in that they tried to get away from the evil that they experienced in the big city society, as if man is inherently good and society is bad. But the problem is that man is not inherently good, but inherently evil. So he will take his evil with him WHEREVER he goes. You cannot escape it. Society does not create evil, evil resides in the individual. And so crime comes to the small town in the form of the attempted murder that they tried to escape from in the big city. In other words, there is no such thing as a Utopia and cannot be because of man’s inherent nature. The problem with this take is that the small town is really not an attempt to be in nature without the rules of society, but rather another society, but just one that is more controlled by the elders. So, that would contradict the theory. But because of today’s postmodern eclecticism that likes to pick and choose beliefs that contradict one another, I suspect that this movie may be a little bit of both of what I suggest. The inconsistencies being a mere trifle to a New Age postmodern like Shyamalan. But no matter what, it really makes you think, and I like that.
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.