Recommended. A great little story about a small group of Allied soldiers behind enemy lines in WWII. It is a very realistic exploration of a character who is a Christian of some kind, who struggles with having unintentionally killed 2 women and 4 children in a military raid. He is haunted by his guilt as his small company of men try to make it through enemy lines to deliver important intell to the Allied side. It was a refreshingly honest spiritual rip-off of Saving Private Ryan, even sporting Ryan rip-off music. But I loved it. I heard that it was made by Mormons, but I did not notice anything in the movie that indicated this kid was a Mormon, at least not to us normal people who do know any code words of Mormonism. The kid is called “Deacon” but that is biblical, and I have heard it used of Christians. Also, he was a “missionary” in Berlin. I’ve heard Mormons have to go on missions, but hey, that is a Christian concept FIRST, so it is not distinctly Mormon. So I don’t think Mormonism really holds sway if it is in there. One of the things about the authenticity of this film is that is was not black and white in it’s theme. On the one hand, it seemed to indicate that a religious conscience cannot work in war because there are too many accidents and innocents killed, but on the other hand, the kid is like the sharpshooter in Ryan (another rip-off, but I didn’t care), in that he is a good shot and kills enemy soldiers efficiently. AND YET, he has the ability to love and connect with an enemy soldier, he just happened to have befriended in Berlin before the War. So the sticky issue of spiritual brothers on opposing sides and how their allegiance to God’s Kingdom is higher than to man’s kingdoms was a very unique and welcomed challenge to this viewer. I am reminded of another great WWII movie that does this, but I don’t want to toot my own horn ☺ Anyway, I thought this film was thoughtful and had real heart. Awesome job for a low budget film. See it. Support meaningful thoughtful spiritual movies.
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.
Not really recommended. Ridley Scott is one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood. He is really quite brilliant with the look of all his films from Alien on up to Gladiator. But this movie turns out to be another Troy, a humanistic dismissal of religion. It deals with the Crusade of 1184 and focuses on a young Blacksmith, Balian, who becomes a knight and make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to insure his dead wife’s forgiveness for committing suicide, a decidedly non-Christian motive. His estranged father, encourages him to go to Jerusalem because all can be forgiven there in the Holy City, “a better world, a kingdom of conscience,” now presided over by a good Christian king who allows Christians, Jews and Muslims to live together in peace. Balian’s theme is pretty much spelled out in the plaque he has over his blacksmith shop: “What man is a man who does not make the world better.” (by the end of this movie, this saying ends up meaning, “be good without God, cause being good matters more than religion”) Okay, there are some good qualities in this movie that I have to give credit to: It does show good knights and bad knights. At least they are not all marauding pillagers of infidels, which is the typical mischaracterization. Yes, there was much that was wrong in the Crusades. The Roman Catholic Church here was diabolical in its treatments at times of non-christians. But not all of it was evil. There were a lot of stories from the Crusades, and the one that is picked by the storytellers is the one that reflects their particular viewpoint. For instance, they did not show the Muslims raping and pillaging the Holy Land and stealing Jerusalem in the first place that started the whole mess. No, that would be politically incorrect. So, this is not the first Crusade. Along the lines of this, it is important to note the things that are chosen to be shown and those that are chosen to be left out. For instance, there is a strange lack of the word and concept of jihad in this movie, yet plenty of “crusade” language – Hmmmm. It is interesting that they show some kooky Catholic Priests or Christian “fanatics” preaching on street corners, “To kill an infidel is not murder, it is the path to heaven,” But they do not show the fact that MOST ALL Muslims believed and preached this very “kill the infidel” idea at the time. They show a city controlled by Christians who allow Muslims to pray to Allah if they pay a tax. Yet, they do not show the fact that it is Islam that is famous for this very notion of dhimmitude, that is, of allowing Christians to live if they pay a tax. Bat Ye’Or has written extensively on the slavery of Christians under dhimmitude in books like “The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam” and “Islam and Dhimmitude.” In these books she catalogs the cruelty experienced by Jews and Christians under Islamic rule. But the movie also shows a good side to both the Christian king Baldwin, and the Muslim leader Saladin, by showing Baldwin hanging Templar knights for murdering Muslims and showing Saladin put a fallen crucifix back up in its place after it had fallen in battle. Even though this movie is balanced in showing good and bad knights, good kings and bad kings, it is not so balanced when it comes to Islam. There are no real fanatics shown on the Islamic side, something that is painfully foolishly fallacious. This is especially grievous in the light of modern day fanaticism that is almost exclusively engaged in by Muslims. Saladin was famous for his evenhandedness in dealing with his enemies sometimes, but come on, there were just as many fanatical Muslims to match the ridiculous warmongering of Catholic Guy de Lusignan and his General, Reynald portrayed in the picture as cartoon villains who loved to kill. But no, the Muslims are portrayed as mere enemies, not as the fanatics that they were, even under Saladin. I guess Ridley Scott just doesn’t want to have a fatwah on his head, (that is, to be killed by Muslim fanatics) so he plays it safe by avoiding the full truth and makes the Muslims look less fanatical. One good side is that the filmmakers DO show both sides claiming that “God wills it” of their actions. That is, both sides claim God’s favor or direction. So who is right? In this story, it is neither, it is Humanistic peace and brotherhood that is preached. A perspective that completely misses the truth. This is basically the story of a humanist, Balian, who experiences the ravages of religion, and decides it is all destructive. Here is how it is done. Every religious claim, is countered by our hero with an individualistic self-righteous appeal to “goodness” without God as the source of that goodness. A chess game illustrates that “none of us choose our ends,” to which our hero replies, “the king may move a man, but the soul of a man belongs to the man.” Balian demands that the kingdom of heaven is a “kingdom of conscience or nothing.” That is, the individual and his own conscience against the mean cruel “institutionalized religion.” The ultimacy of the individual as opposed to the collective in this movie is pure humanism. As if evil comes from the collective, but not the individual. And whay, pray tell is the collective, save a group of individuals who agree on their individual consciences? Humanism leads the terror of collective oppression, but it does so under the guise of no absolutes. At least religions can be wrong in their understanding of absolutes and CHANGE. But with humanism, there is no absolute, just the Will to Power in the name of some undefinable unjustifiable “good” (a “good” they have already denied by denying absolutes). There is a great saying by one of the heroic knights. He spurns “religion,” “Religion is full of fanatics. Holiness is right action. Goodness is what God desires in the mind and in the heart.” There is a sense in which this is true, but in the context of the film it basically means, “All that matters is being good, which of course, can be done individually without God.” (The storytellers seem to have missed Jesus’ enforcement of the Old Testament Law, that the most important commands are TO LOVE GOD with all your heart and mind and love your neighbor. So loving God rightly IS THE FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GOD, loving people according to HIS dictates is second, but an important second – Matthew 22:35-40.) Balian, the man without God, who claims throughout the film that God is not with him, cause he cannot feel him and cannot feel forgiveness even on the place of Christ’s crucifixion, this humanistic man is portrayed as having the highest ethic of all those religious believers around him. “God’s will” is always used as an obvious rationalization for personal gain throughout the movie. Balian is told that Jerusalem is great because once you are there, people “are not what they were born into, but what they have inside themselves to be.” This of course, is the humanistic FALSE supposition that all these religious believers are only their religion because that is what they were born into. Humanism presents itself as the great individualizer that allows people to be what THEY want to be. Of course, being born into religions or atheism or humanism IS OFTEN influential on a person’s beliefs, but the problem is that the world is full of hundreds of millions of converts that became NOT what they were raised to be. So it is simply a fallacy to suggest that we only believe what we were taught to believe. The question is NOT why we believe something, the question is whether what we believe is TRUE OR NOT. Truth is not determined by genetic origin within our psychologies, another humanistic ignorance. When Balian must gather his forces in Jerusalem to fight Saladin in an impossible battle, he says to them, “Your Muslim places of worship lie over Christian places of worship that lie over Jewish places of worship that were taken over by the Romans. Which is more holy? Who has claim? No one has claim. All have claim. We will defend Jerusalem for the people within its walls.” This typical contradictory proposition that all have claim and none have claim may sound wise in a pithy way, but it actually means nothing. If no one has claim, then “all” cannot have claim. What it really means is that the storytellers are telling us, your religious beliefs are irrelevant, my humanism is superior because I care about the people, not some religious claims, which are unprovable. This is the arrogance of humanism. It considers itself so superior to religions that it is above it all and better – as if it is its own god. But there is a problem here. Without the living transcendent God, people have no value, only the arbitrary value that those in power give them. So, ironically, if you take away Christianity, YOU DO NOT HAVE the love of people, you have the tyranny and manipulation of people. The fact of the matter is that the Roman Catholic Crusaders WERE NOT ACTING IN ACCORD WITH THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS. They were wrong NOT because they were religious, but because they did not follow their religion consistently or biblically. But the French Revolution and Communist Russia, now that is what you get of so-called, “liberty, equality, fraternity” the brotherhood of man without God. Humanists just want to get rid of religion and keep the ethics of religion, but the problem is that when they get rid of Christianity, they get rid of the ONLY THING that can give true and absolute value to the dignity and life of human beings. And they get rid of the absolutes that are the only foundation of ethics. They want to have Christian ethics without Christianity. This is patently absurd. Without an absolute Christian foundation of ethics, you are left with arbitrary rule of power. This will always end in tyranny and despotism, whether of the majority, the elite or of a dictator. May I remind the reader once again that yes, several million were killed in the name of religion over the 20 centuries, but HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS were murdered in but ONE CENTURY, the century of modernism without God. So, misguided religion is bad, but consistent humanism is one hundred times worse. The 20th century proved that modernism/humanism is more evil than all the worst of religions added together. So stop your belly aching. When Balian must burn the dead soldiers in the walls to keep from spreading disease, he is chastised by a priest for desecration, to which he replies, “God will understand. And if he does not, then he is not God, and it doesn’t matter.” Another pithy line that shows the arrogance of humanistic (and I might add, Thomistic Classical apologetics) that if God does not meet MY understanding of logic, then he is just not God. In other words, if God bows down and fits into MY (faulty) logical understanding, then I will allow him to be God, Which obviously means he wouldn’t be God if he had to do that. The real problem here was not that Christianity was absurd, but that the priests were prohibiting something (desecration) THAT WAS NOT PROHIBITED BY GOD (Matthew 15:2-9). Big difference, folks. Too much of Romanism was simply NOT BIBLICAL. So it is not Christianity that is absurd, it is Romanism, with it’s humanistic traditions that violated Scripture. At the end, Balian looks upon Jerusalem and says, “If this is the Kingdom of Heaven, let God do with it what he wills.” In other words, Balian is done with religion. He goes back to his home town to be a blacksmith again and have a wife. And when King Richard the Lionheart comes to town looking for Balian, the hero, Balian denies he is the man, and simply says he is a blacksmith. In other words, “I have had enough of religion and Christianity, I believe in just living my good life as a husband and worker, rather than the useless squabbles of religion.” So in this film, religion is tried and found wanting in favor of humanism. Unfortunately, it is humanism that ACTUALLY takes away the value and dignity of life, so the filmmakers are engaging in the classical Van Tillian parable of sitting on their Father’s knees in order to be able to slap the Father that gave them life. They deny the only warranted foundation of ethics, Christianity, and then try to have Christian morality without Christianity. But if there is no foundation of the Triune God, then THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS “GOOD” OR “FAIR” OR EVEN “EVIL.” There is simply opposing wills in conflict, without moral value attached to any act whatsoever.. How dare any humanist claim THEY know what is right or good, when there are millions who disagree with them. These humanists would impose their religion (and that is what it ultimately is, is religion) upon the rest of the world, all in the name of their definition of the “absolute good,” as they see it, a good, that they have already denied exists. And if there is no absolute good as defined by God, then who are they to impose their version of right or good on everybody else? There is no higher transcendence in this movie, just the disparagement of transcendence, which makes this movie an unsatisfying weak story without soul.
Not Recommended. My brother-in-law recently did a detailed analysis of this movie to point up how it is an anti-christian movie. I thought it was very helpful, so here it is:
I guess my main concern was with the underlying message of the film. Yes, you are correct that it was a good portrayal of being bound by legalistic ways, but unfortunately the answer to the problem was not freedom through Christ (or anything to do with His attributes or character). Freedom was found through self expression. Or as the director stated in the bonus materials, “This is a story about temptation and not denying yourself the good things in life.” In other words, the age-old, “If it feels good, do it.” What could have been a good morality tale ended up being yet another manifesto of existentialism and humanism. (BTW, the director—Lasse Hahlstrom—also directed “Cider House Rules” which was more of the same.)
Every drama has a hero or messianic figure, and Vianne (Juliet Binoche) was the “savior” of this movie. She is presented as sweet and kind and all-embracing, but has obvious disdain for anything to do with the church or the people’s chosen attempts to be more godly (lent, fasting, etc.). Anything coming close to self-denial or self-discipline is represented as bondage. Vianne is the standard “against-the-rules” type along with Armaund (Judi Dench), the other character who is presented in a positive light. Between the two of them, their godless ways are flaunted instead of being presented as shameful, sinful or unwise. Worse, they teach their rebellious ways to others. Consider…
• Armaund shares a story with Vianne about sneaking out at night as a youth and swimming naked with her boyfriend. They both laugh with glee that she didn’t get caught by her mother.
• Armaund slams her daughter Caroline for not allowing her to see her grandson Luc because Caroline feels Armaund is a bad influence. Armaund frequently denigrates Caroline’s choices and modes of parenting, while Vianne empathizes with Armaund instead of supporting Caroline’s wishes and parental authority with the child. Worse, Vianne goes on to lure Luc into visiting (even after he tells her his mother has forbidden it) by asking him to draw a portrait of Armaund. He does this deceptively behind his mother’s back while she is at the hair salon.
• During one of Luc’s visits to the chocolate shop, he is offered some cake. “I’m not supposed to,” he says (because of lent). Armaund replies, “Don’t worry so much about ‘not supposed to’.” The boy eats it. Armaund says, “Live a little.”
• When the inevitable confrontation happens with Caroline finding out what’s been going on, Armaund sarcastically tells her, “Blame me for corrupting him with cocoa.” Caroline replies, “How dare you, Mother?” Armaund says, “Look at him, he’s fine.” Caroline turns to Luc and says, “Come with me.” Luc says, “I don’t want to.” Another character chimes in and says, “He’s happy here. It’s good for him.” Thankfully, Caroline responds, “I will decide what is good for my son.” Yet the whole scene paints Caroline as cruel and stifling, as if Luc is in some kind of abusive situation.
• The boy continues his deceptive ways by sneaking out for his grandmother’s birthday party. No consequence is portrayed for any of his deliberate disobedience.
• Armaund states proudly, “I swear. I read dirty books. And I won’t go to church.” She gives Luc a poetry book with poems that read, “Dead bodies, skin rotting, worms in my armpits and in my hair.” Yet she doesn’t seem to think she is a bad influence on her grandson. She dies after what she terms “a perfectly decadent evening” but is another “positive” character in the film.
• When Anouk (Vianne’s daughter) is teased at school for not having a father, she responds, “I have a father. We just don’t know who he is.” As if this is something the child, or anyone else, should consider normal.
• Vianne visits a woman who says, “He thinks you’re a bad influence.” The woman is speaking of Reynaud (Alfred Molina), but Vianne thinks she is talking about her husband and says, “You don’t have to listen to a word your husband has to say.” The woman also asks Vianne, “Does my husband know you’re here?” Vianne replies, “Does it matter?”
Another major concern I had was the way the church was portrayed. I know that Reynaud was the villain, but since the church was in his back pocket, it was also vilified. And we’re not talking about a “cultic” church like LDS or something else like Islam. This was Catholicism, basically the only other major faith in the world that adheres to the main tenets of Christianity. Anything to do with the church was usually presented irreverently or as something stifling. Consider…
• During the sex scene between Vianne’s parents, the voiceover said, “Now George had been raised a good Catholic. But in his romance with Cheetza (sp?), he was willing to slightly bend the rules of Christian courtship.”
• An abusive husband says, “We are still married in the eyes of God.” His wife replies, “Then He must be blind.”
• After an attempt at rehabilitation, the abusive husband said, “God has made me a new man.” But the man hadn’t really changed, so does that mean God is powerless? Although change can indeed occur through accountability at a Christ-centered church, the church was portrayed as weak and having no influence.
• Anouk asks her mother, “Why can’t we go to church.” Vianne replies, “You can if you want. But it won’t make things easier.” Once again, ‘do whatever is right for you’ followed by another slam against the church.
• When Reynaud finally appeals to God for help, he seemingly appears very contrite, crying out, “Tell me what to do.” But then he immediately looks up at Jesus on the cross and then down at the letter opener in his hand, then heads off to the chocolate shop with a somewhat manic look upon his face. So what was that supposed to mean? God told him to kill? He violently stabs at the chocolate, but then submits to its pleasure, gobbling it like an animal, eventually literally writhing around in it. He tries to “kill” his enemy, as represented by the pleasures of chocolate, but gives in to its allure. Again, this would seem to represent that following God is useless because one will always be powerless to innate sinful urges.
• Probably the most disturbing moment was the sermon on Easter Sunday, which followed the movie’s climax and summed up the whole film. The priest said, “Do I want to speak of the miracle of our Lord’s divine transformation? Not really, no. I don’t want to talk about his divinity. I’d rather talk about his humanity—how He lived His life here on earth, His kindness, His tolerance. I think we can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, by what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.” The blatant humanism here is appalling. To downplay Christ’s divinity in light of His humanity is chilling. And the irony of it all is that it was Christ’s divinity that allowed Him to be all-embracing and loving and all these other things the movie is saying we’re supposed to enact through our humanity. Furthermore, goodness is not measured by our actions or deeds; it is measured solely by the Word of God. Even if we were able to achieve all this “goodness” in our own strength and flesh, it would still be as filthy rags apart from the righteousness of Jesus.
• Immediately following the sermon, the final voiceover says, “It was certainly not the most fiery or eloquent sermon. But the parishoners felt a new sensation that day—a lightening of the spirit, a freedom from the old tradition.” A sermon that told them not to focus on the divinity of Jesus Christ is what lightened their spirits and brought freedom. Go figure.
Recommended with qualifications. Constantine is a mixed bag of good and bad theology with high production values, proving once again that secular movie makers make movies about Christian concepts better than Christians do. But everyone suffers because of it. This is basically a secular interpretation of spiritual warfare that a movie of Frank Peretti’s novel, This Present Darkness should have been. But this is a topic I am sore about, because it seems that the world does better movies about Christian themes than Christians do. Okay, The Omen or Left Behind? Which is better, Hmmmm? I wonder. By the way, The Omen still stands strong as a movie 30 years later. Scary as hell. I don’t even agree with its theology but I still think it’s the best Antichrist movie ever. (That is, until they make Hank Hannegraaf’s book The Last Disciple into an epic). The Exorcist or Raging Angels? Heck, even the Seventh Sign was better than the slew of Christian end times movies, and that was a pretty bad movie. I wrote a review of Constantine for Christian Research Journal, so I have to write something different here. Okay, so Constantine is an exorcist who has a special talent of seeing the spiritual world. He committed suicide in the past, but came back to life, so he is condemned to hell by Roman Catholic theology for a mortal sin. Therefore he seeks to work his way back to heaven by casting demons out of people and sending them to hell, thinking that his good deeds will outweigh his bad. Okay, here are the good things I liked about the movie: 1) you have to realize that in our postmodern society that denies evil as a cultural construct, a movie about good angels and evil demons battling over souls of men, with a REAL hell where people suffer for their sins, is A GOOD BEGINNING. No, an excellent beginning. After all, in our world, there is a growing number of people who actually believe that one God’s “terrorist” is another Satan’s “freedom fighter,” as if Satan has a legitimate perspective. As if evil is relative. Well, this movie dispels that ignorance pretty well and I like it for that. 2) It shows angels, not just demons, 3) it communicates a rudimentary notion of salvation through faith when Gabriel tells Constantine that he can’t earn his way to heaven because of the sin he’s committed. That’s a powerful truth that is certainly politically incorrect to communicate. Constantine begins the story with a grudge against God, and he thinks God is a “kid who’s not planning anything,” but ends up asking God for a little help at the climax and concludes that God does have “a plan for all of us.” Before I talk about what I didn’t like, I want to establish that a movie DOES NOT HAVE TO be theologically correct to be a legitimate story. Much like Jesus’ parables, the important point is the overall worldview or overall theme of the movie. I have a movie coming out about demon possession (The Visitation) that takes creative liberties with the concept of demon possession and healing. But the whole point of the story is how people can be religious and miss the truth if they don’t have it right to begin with. But having said that, I still must give my complaints of elements that bugged me about Constantine: 1) The entire scenario of the movie is based on a Dualistic worldview where God and the devil make a bet to win the souls of men, but only through influence, not direct contact. It makes them look more like equal powers fighting “to see who would win.” Constantine is an Arminian Free Will nightmare of dualism where God and the devil are near equal beings of power…” Think about it, If our salvation is all up to our will and God can’t change our hearts he can only persuade us—as the Arminian believes—then God really is no stronger than Satan in the battle for men. Satan really does have a chance to win if he can convince more men to his side. In this view, God is thought of as the most powerful being in the universe, but not truly all-powerful. And technically, he isn’t even the most powerful. Man’s will is the most powerful being in the universe and gosh, I sure hope God is good enough to convince man. You get the point. This is on the level of the light and dark sides of the Force baloney. Some may point to Job as an example of the wager, but that is a specific instance of one man’s life and God is always in control the entire time, which he makes very clear in the final chapters: “Job 42:2 “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” In Constantine, it is the ultimate picture of the universe, a worldview. But if one looks at the Bible, there may be a bet in Job, but the whole story has already been written from beginning to end, or Genesis to Revelation, and God’s battles with Satan are predestined to failure for Satan. So, yes, there is struggle in Biblical spiritual warfare, but from God’s perspective, he is still in control of every thing that happens and has it all planned out. 2) Another thing is that they set up the “Spear of Destiny” that pierced Christ’s side as the McGuffin that the demons are trying to get a hold of. They say that Christ didn’t die on the cross, the spear killed him, so whoever has the spear will rule the world. Well, GOD SAYS that Jesus gave up his spirit and the spear merely proved he was already dead by illustrating the division of his blood and water flowing from his side. This is a typical occult Gnostic view that uses talismans as objects of power in the spirit world. I’m not against using these as cinematic symbols of spiritual powers all together, but it’s just the whole context makes it seem that even GOD can’t stop them. I am reminded of the famous line in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they say that whoever has the ark is unstoppable, as if God can’t even do so. But when they open the Ark, God does kill them cause they did not anticipate God’s power. 3) Another thing, Even though hell is real in this story, the depiction of demons ruling over hell is more like a Roman Catholic medieval picture out of Dante than the Bible. The Bible says that the devil and his angels will THEMSELVES be tormented forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). So, hell is not a party or realm of power for demons, it is a place of punishment for them as well as humans. 4) Also, the goal of the demons is to bring forth the “Son of the devil” by human birth, in the same was as Jesus was the “Son of God.” Well, this is a common movie convention, but it is terribly unbiblical. There is not a single Scripture that indicates Satan can have the same kind of incarnation that God had. Here is another of my censored sentences from the Journal article: “This may fit the fanciful theology of Left-Behinders whose blessed hope is the coming of an incarnate “Antichrist,” but it has no place in a biblical theology of incarnation.” 5) There is a voodoo witchdoctor who is portrayed as “neutral” in this battle between God and Satan. Which is a joke, because God says that witchcraft is detestable in his sight and that there is no neutrality, you are either for Him or against Him (Deut. 18:9-14, Matt 12:30). Neutrality is, as they say, a lie of the devil. Ain’t no purgatory, folks. And there ain’t no sin, like Constantine’s suicide for instance, that cannot be forgiven. 6) An interesting thing that they had in the movie was that they used the term, “half-breeds” of angels or demons who were suspended between heaven and hell or something like that. Well, that seemed to me to be a pretty racist language in today’s politically correct fascist fashion. But all in all, considering our anti-supernatural Darwinian society, I consider the spiritual breakthrough of Constantine more good than bad, and quite frankly, I’m glad Christians didn’t make it cause they probably would have screwed up even worse. (Unless it were me, of course ☺)
Partially recommended. Very thoughtful and poetic. This movie does for black Gospel culture what The Apostle did for Pentecostal culture, it breaks the negative stereotypes while showing both good and bad of that subculture. It’s supposedly based on a composite of true stories of abused women, while remaining a fictional story. Basic plot: little girl is abused by single mom’s boyfriend and turns to drugs, stripping and hooking and eventually lands in jail. She then grows up and tries to reform but ends up killing her molester out of vengeance. But it is not exploitative in any of these sins. It deals with them in a very realistic yet tasteful way. The fact that it is R rated is because it is dealing with such subject matter, not because it is exploiting it. The dialogue was rather poetic at times, and they did a cool occasional insert of various characters “interviewing” with the camera as if it were a documentary. I liked this about it. Gave great insight into motives, and was very true and real to the way people think who justify their lack of action, their hypocrisy, their self-deception. The single mother who justifies living in sin with a lowlife because she doesn’t think she can get better, the lowlife who justifies his laziness with an appeal to how hard it is and his own counterfeit conversion. I loved how this movie did not degenerate into Spike Lee type propaganda or multicultural victim accusations and claims of entitlement. It showed people as RESPONSIBLE for their choices in life, and did not blame it on “the man.” It showed how the Gospel culture is abused by many who use Jesus as a cover for falsehood, but it showed true Christians trying to be real with their Christianity too. Some who say “Praise Jesus” in black culture really mean it. Very balanced. Very odd, though, the movie ends on an almost hopeless ironic swapping of heroine and villain. Right at the point where the villain, the molester, seems to have true and genuine repentance at the altar of a revival, and is in the process of approaching the heroine to ask for forgiveness, to actually fess up to what he had denied and lied about for so long, the heroine, cannot take it and pulls out a gun and shoots him dead. So she ends up on death row. Interesting irony, that maybe is supposed to make us realize that those we think are heros can become villains, just as much as those who are villains can become heros, because in Christianity, we are all villainous at heart, and even the vilest sinner can truly repent. Then we see a most powerful moment when the molester, Reggie, has his interview with the audience and speaks about “just needing a little more time.” The perennial excuse or regret from those who wait too long to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the preacher who visits the heroine in jail, pushing for a reprieve (in an unbiblical moment), has a chance to challenge the heroine, but he doesn’t. She tells him to pray for her, and he says he will, “You gonna make it. I know you will.” Whereas, he should have said, “you need to do some yourself.” Favorite line of the movie, when the heroine, now in jail ready to die faces her own truth: “You can never really get even. What I did was wrong, no matter what he did to me.” You can never really get even. WHOA. What a repentant revelation. What a true repentance. You don’t see that too often in movies. An honest dealing with the worst of being wronged and yet an affirmation of responsibility. At the start, she is building a little model house without a door on it which symbolizes her own hopelessness and trapped feelings. But by the end, after the preacher talks to her, we see her little house has a door on it now. Hope for escape from her cycle of violence. WHAT I DID NOT LIKE ABOUT THE MOVIE: What really bothered me the most, and it’s one of the reasons why I don’t whole heartedly recommend the film is that it is a “glory piece” for an anti-Trinitarian heretic named T. D. Jakes. It’s one thing to have a marginalized theology, but a man who teaches outright heresy is the worst thing for the black community. (GO HERE to read an article about Jakes by CRI Journal: http://www.equip.org/free/DJ900.htm) He plays the preacher/wise man in the movie, and he plays himself, which is way too self-important in my opinion. Way too long scenes of the revival in the movie, too. Made it look way too much like a Black Billy Graham movie with its cliché stadium crusade in every movie.
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.
Kinda recommended for it’s interesting take on an epic legend, but not really recommended because of its paganism. Trying to be a pagan Braveheart. Doesn’t work. Paganism simply does not provide the necessary preconditions of a world that gives things like courage, love, honor and nobility meangingfulness or validity. Okay, this was a cool concept of trying to “get to the true historical figure” behind the Arthur legends. The problem I have with it is that the actual historical information available is so scarce as to render this theory of Arthur as a 6th century Roman Briton named Artorius, to be basically a new legend replacing the conventional legend. Of course, I’m not against such speculation. It makes for interesting fodder and theory. The problem is that modernist storytellers like David Franzoni, the writer of this movie, are so awash in their own modernist “realist” mythology that they actually think their Demythology mythology is somehow the true and “objective” perspective of reality and history. Ahh, ignorance must be bliss. Couple that with the fact that so much of this story is actually made up that it is all quite dishonest to bill it as the real historical Arthur. These people must have no clue that they are in fact simply replacing one mythology for another. Modernist naturalistic realism for romantic idealism. One prejudice for another. Again, there may be some truth to it, but let us not fool ourselves into such prejudicial imperialism of history. One of the deliberate fabrications of this story is Arthur’s connection to the arch-heretic Pelagius. Very relevant that Franzoni picked this guy. Keep in mind, that Franzoni wrote Gladiator with the deliberate desire to downplay Christianity and exalt paganism, the opposite of what most sword and sandal epics used to do (and, I might add, the opposite of historical reality, as Christianity was one of the primary downfalls of the Roman Empire according to Gibbon, but alas, I digress). I quoted him saying as much in my book, Hollywood Worldviews. The guy knows what he is doing and he does it well. And this movie is no exception to Franzoni’s hate affair with Christianity. Unfortunately, since the movie takes place around the 5th century, when the Roman papacy was still not established, but getting there, then Franzoni is not merely criticizing Roman Catholicism, but Christianity itself. In this story, there are “uncivilized” pagans of the woods, who end up allying with Arthur and are good guys, and there are the barbaric Saxons, but the worst monsters are the Christians, who hold up torture chambers to torture people in the name of God like a Pre-Inquisition Inquisition. It always leads to Inquisition for these bigots of Hollywood. Rome is basically the center of the Faith and is described as “those who take what does not belong to them.” Well, the coagulation of Christianity with pagan Rome certainly did create monumental problems, but in this story, the “True” picture of Christianity is painted in the heretic Pelagius. Pelagius was the teacher who Augustine rightly condemned as negating the sovereign glory of God and elevating man’s autonomy to an idolatrous equality with God. Pelagius denied that man was born into sin and asserted that man’s will was entirely autonomous from God’s effect. Therefore, man, does, by his own autonomous power, do all that he does, both good and bad. Mankind has no sinful nature. Funny, but the Living God I worship says, “there is no one who is good, not even one,” (Romans 3) and that humans are by nature, evil (Ephesians 2:3; Matthew 7:11), and are slaves of sin (Romans 6:16-19), and that man is responsible for his actions, but is not free from the control of God in any way (Job 12:16-25; Ephesians 1:11; Acts 4:27-28). But IN THIS story, Pelagius is a hero championing individual rights, personal freedom and the like. Arthur believes in Pelagius’ teachings because he teaches that all men are free to choose their own destinies and are free by right from the control of others, such as the institutional church of course. It’s a very clever coupling with the theme of political and theological freedom that Franzoni creates, though ultimately philosophically invalid. Unfortunately, the freedom Pelagius espoused was humanistic self-idolatry, not true freedom. Man is the ultimate power in his own life, not God, man is the creator of his own destiny, or as Arthur chimes in, “The home we seek is not in some distant land (read: heaven) but in our hearts. As free men, we choose to make it so.” With the emphasis on WE CHOOSE TO MAKE IT SO. (Ahem – as in “not God” or anyone else) Okay, I can dig the whole free from the tyranny of other men thing, but so-called Free Will of man, which is actually the “autonomy of the human will from God” has lead only to the gulags and killing fields and cultural purges and gas chambers of the twentieth century. 100s of millions dead in the name of autonomous human will. And they complain about Inquisitions and Crusades? Sheesh. Religious intolerance is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the evils done in the name of man’s absolute freedom from God. Anyway, the whole point of the story is that Arthur begins as a loyal Christian man of integrity, who obeys his orders from the bishop in Rome, even when they are foolish. The Cardinal tells him to do one last quest before he and his knights are free from their Roman military duty. And that quest is a rather indulgent meaningless one, to rescue an important and utterly selfish Roman leader simply because his son is in line for leadership. But Arthur obeys authority. But the progress of the story step by step shows that this Christianity Arthur is committed to is cruel and despotic. It’s rulers are cowards, they throw away people and lands who have been loyal to them for years and years at a whim, when the Saxon’s invade. They leave those poor people to their deaths. But not Arthur, who tries to save a whole village from the Saxons. This Faith tortures people in the name of God, abuses people’s freedom, basically CONTROLS people. And that is the metaphor for the film, CONTROL VERSUS FREEDOM. Arthur starts out thinking Rome Is where “the greatest minds in all the world come together in one place to help make mankind free.” But by the end of the story, concludes that “The home we seek is not in some distant land (read: heaven) but in our hearts. As free men, we choose to make it so.”And ends up giving up that Faith of his fathers to marry a pagan wench, okay, one of the hottest pagan wenches in movies ever, in a pagan ceremony in the midst of a mini-Stonehenge (another pagan reference to the Druids) Ah, shades of Spinal Tap—mini-Stonehenge. That is the power of subversive drama. Make the hero be a committed loyal member of the worldview you want to discredit, a worldview that many in this world believe, so that by the end of the story, when the hero reluctantly changes his view about the world, it gives the audience the affirming encouragement to do so as well. After all, the hero is the good guy, right? And we want to cheer on the good guy, right? So, before you know it, you are cheering on leaving the Christian faith because of how cruel it is – or rather how cruel it has been portrayed. Interesting, this Pelagianism. Pelagius considers each human born to be an entirely innocent and autonomously free chooser. They create their own destinies by their own choices. God has no control in their lives at all. Therefore, man ultimately saves himself by his own power of doing good over doing evil. People do not need Christ to redeem them, because it is all up to their own choices and power. This is salvation by works, not “free will.” That is why Pelagianism is heresy, because it damns those to hell who believe in it because they do not place faith in Christ, but in their own “free will.” It is all up to them. As a matter of fact, this “salvation by works” is really what every other religion and worldview reduces to EXCEPT Christianity. Which is no surprise why pagan Franzoni chose Pelagius as a hero. Because his own humanism negates God and places man’s destiny in his own hands. Man is his own god. [If you want to read more on this issue of Free Will and God’s Sovereignty, click here for my very long article: “Whatsoever Comes to Pass: A Personal Journey Toward the Sovereignty of God”] ALSO, here is some sweet irony: Arthur praises Pelagius’s theology of the absolute free will of man, and yet, he prays this mighty prayer to God to help him in this last task of duty. As if God can do anything according to this man’s theology? He posits that man is absolutely free and then asks God to do something when all the events of history are accomplished by free acts of autonomous men. Dude! You just preached that man is free from God’s control! What the heck are you asking God to do anything in history for? But then, heresy and false doctrine is never very consistent anyway. And neither is the secular humanism that Franzoni writes into his otherwise interesting historical epics. Here is what I wrote about his movie Gladiator in my book:
The 2000 Academy Award winner Gladiator marks an achievement of respectability for paganism in modern filmmaking. Writer David Franzoni has said that he deliberately wanted to offer a contrast with the sword-and-sandal epics of yesteryear:
The film is about a hero who has morality, but that morality is a secular morality that transcends conventional religious morality. In other words, I believe there is room in our mythology for a character who is deeply moral, but who’s not traditionally religious: I loved that he was a pagan, not Christian or any other traditional/established religion. All those Roman Empire movies from the ’50s and ’60s were religious morality plays, and had to maintain the Christian status quo, it’s all very conventional. You would never have been able to portray a pagan afterlife back then, either. Maximus is a man who will die for his family, and he will die for what’s right. (1)
Apparently, the contradiction of a “secular morality” derived from Roman paganism does not bother Franzoni. Maximus does “what is right” as his religion conventionally defines it for him. (2) So Franzoni has replaced the Christian convention of morality with another religious convention, that of Roman paganism, thinking that this somehow points to a secular morality that transcends them both. (3) Be that as it may, Maximus’s pagan heaven was depicted as real, which is extremely rare in a mainstream movie of such prominence, and it marks the cinematic postmodern openness to religiosity that is decidedly non-Christian.[(1)Quoted in John Soriano, “WGA.ORG’s Exclusive Interview with David Franzoni,” WGA
(2)There was nothing more conventional in Rome than the religious belief in Elysium and in strength and honor.
(3)“Transcendent secular morality” is an oxymoron. Secularity cannot be transcendent, because by definition it is immanent, that is, of the world rather than of the transcendent spiritual realm. From Aristotle to Wittgenstein, if there is one thing that the history of the secular philosophy of ethics illustrates, it is that when people reason “secularly” (from themselves), rather than from the transcendent God, they can only end in subjectivism (each person decides for himself or herself), and that is certainly not transcendent. Without a transcendent absolute standard, this secular moral relativity reduces to the will to power—whoever is in power (the majority) defines what is right and wrong for the rest (the minority). This will to power is the essence of Rome, and it is the same will to power that was embodied in the German Nazi state of the 1930s and 1940s. The director Ridley Scott understood this, and that is why he modeled the look of the Roman cult in Gladiator after the fascist imagery of Leni Riefenstahl’s Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will.]
Not recommended. I liked the idea of this movie, that Van Helsing, the infamous vampire hunter from the novel Dracula, was actually a monster hunter who tracked down vampires, werewolves and monsters of all sorts. But the execution was just a motley concoction of absurd action sequences and rambling expositional details. It seemed that there were so many special rules in this world that had to be explained, that it bogged the story down. Before every action sequence we are treated to quickly spoken dialogue by an indigent who explains all the special rules so we can make sense of the behavior that is about to follow. When Van Helsing tries to get the Frankenstein monster out of Transilvania because he is the key to Dracula’s diabolical plan, we are told that he used Transilvania horses on the carriage because they are the fastest on earth and can outrun werewolves. We hear this because we have seen how easily the Wolfman runs, jumps, and catches people. But then the vampires and Wolfman catch up with them halfway anyway! Whatever. One interesting twist was that the Frankenstein monster turned out to be very human, indeed humane. They show him having read a Bible and he quotes the 23rd Psalm when captured by the vampires for their elaborate plan. We see that he has a faith relationship to God, which makes us very sympathetic toward the monster. Unfortunately, this idea is never explored which wasted the potential transcendence of the story. It was all rather silly.
Not recommended. Another thriller that is so mediocre that I really don’t have anything to say about it. Except it’s moral implications. The story is about parents who clone their dead child in order to replace their lost love with a child who would be exactly the same. This is a fine premise, one that rings true and is worthy of exploration. The worldview behind the story is physicalism: there is no such thing as human transcendence, and everything is reducible to physical properties, even memories and soul. Physical cells in our bodies contain the memories of our abstract experience. So cloning our cells will create a complete replica of our old selves, not merely physical twins, but a full replica, complete with the same memories. Talk about silly medieval superstition. So what happens if you mix some DNA of an evil boy with the DNA of a good boy? You get a split personality boy who is alternately good and evil. And that’s what happens. This is just irresponsibility if you ask me. There are no “evil genes,” and this entire physicalist naturalist movement is a gargantuan shift of blame away from the human will onto genes. Don’t these people realize that when you negate morality and human responsibility, you create a society of monsters and cruelty? This is not a game, folks. Kids are raping and shooting other kids in schools because they’ve been taught there is no morality, everything is reducible to physics and chemistry and everything is relative; they are merely evolved machines. Well, evolved machines in an amoral universe destroy other evolved machines that get in their way. If morality, soul and even ideas are reducible to physical and chemical properties of the brain or body, then no behavior is ultimately “wrong” or “evil,” just statistical variation. This is Nietzsche’s “beyond good and evil.” Well, if kids (indeed everyone) are being taught they are Terminators, then why do we wonder why they are acting like a bunch of Terminators? Duh. So the movie, when deconstructed, becomes a conflicting contradiction. It is a moral tale about how morally wrong it is to apply science to amoral physical machines called humans. I like the moral part, but the movie undercuts itself with the physicalist worldview. And plotwise, it is just totally stupid that the doctor who helps the couple clone their son, secretly adds the DNA of his own dead son I order to reproduce him. The problem is that this doctor’s dead son was a monster himself who killed his own mother and burned down the house. But the doctor is not portrayed as malevolent himself, but misguided. So why in the world would he want to reproduce his evil son if he is not himself with evil intentions? It just doesn’t make believable sense.