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.
Recommended. This movie is the scariest movie I have seen since Blair Witch Project. Why? Because it is based on a true story and has that same documentary style realism to it. Any movie that makes you think of yourself in the situation depicted and forces you to re-evaluate your own life and the value of what you are spending your time and energies on is a valuable tool for the conscience. Open Water does this for me. As you watch these two stranded out in the middle of the ocean, forgotten, vulnerable and reassessing their own lives surrounded by sharks, you can’t help but reconsider your own. They cherish the value of normal mundane existence on the brink of their own destruction and struggle with the psychological effects of impending death. And the tragic irony of providence is that our very lives may hinge on the trivial mistakes of others, something that can only be coped with if one trusts God, otherwise we would go crazy at the “unjust” and tragic monster of chance destroying us all. Hopelessness, meaninglessness and despair is the only possible conclusion in a chance universe. It’s a brilliant low budget high concept film with a profound underlying premise that it is only in the face of the jaws of death that we wake up to the precious treasure of life. My one big complaint is a completely gratuitous nude scene in the early part of the movie.
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.
Not really recommended. I was mildly and happily surprised that this movie about mind control and politics starring the mighty Denzel Washington was not another thinly veiled political agitprop. The filmmakers did a great job of displaying a U.S. Presidential election without showing any parties and without making the good guys or bad guys obviously either of the parties. In fact, they set up characters as almost combinations of both parties. The guy who is running for president has an agenda called “compassionate vigilance” much akin to Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” but this same character also brags and crows on about how “I’ve faced the enemy on the battlefield,” just like a John Kerry. But I must say, the candidate, Raymond Shaw, played well by Liev Shrieber, and his controlling Lady Macbeth mother, played by Meryl Streep, are wittingly or unwittingly, dramatized to be more like Democrats or liberals. The dirty rotten, scheming, controlling socialist mother is unavoidably a replicant of Hillary Clinton, down to the hairdo and look. I heard they tried to recut the movie so she wouldn’t be as much like her. Also, Shaw’s unnamed party talks about easily winning the East Coast and California, but not holding onto the Southern states, obvious strengths and weaknesses of the Dems. Interestingly, Mother Hillary Streep is concerned all about medical care and says a line to an enemy trying to stop her, “I will bury you,” that I just could not help but connect with the Hillary ideological bedfellow Nikita Kruschev’s famous line to Kennedy that “we will bury you!” This movie did an interesting take on the Cold War scenario. Rather than the typical clichéd controlling fascist or Big Brother government being the villain, in this movie, it is the evil multinational corporations that transcend politics altogether. I see some good and some bad in this. I think that there is plenty of danger and heartless evil intent behind many corporations concerned with profit unhindered by morality. This is undeniably real. And this is certainly a more realistic concern for our world than the fantastic fiction of an empire-building America. Couple problems: 1) It may encourage a more neo-Marxist distortion of social theory that reduces all power issues to class warfare and exploitation by capitalist corporations. I only say this, not because I believe the movie intends such imbalanced perspective but because the current milieu in which we now find ourselves has made a certain fashion of Marxist envy and resentiment, as the French would say, and Nietzsche would elucidate and Michael Moore would mangle and bastardize. That irrational hatred for anyone better off than you are. 2) I think the movie’s plot suffers because of this. For the whole point of putting the Global Conglomerate’s man into office by assassinating the newly elected president, is not really spelled out beyond having a man in their control who “runs the country.” Yeah, but why? What do they really want to do? What’s the real goal of having their man in there? They never really say, which makes the story a bit unsatisfying. Also, I see a moral failing with the film. At the end, when the bad guys are caught and Denzel assassinates the Vice President and his mother instead, we are all supposed to say it’s okay cause the mother was evil, and the good guy was brainwashed. But the problem is that the VP gives Denzel a strong look at the end that tells him and us that he does remember, that there is a small part of him deep down that they can’t control, which hints at Denzel to kill them, not the innocent president. But see, if there is that ultimate untouchable part of our will that cannot be controlled, then Denzel did not kill under mind control but under his free will to do so. Which makes him a murderer, and of a good guy!! After all, the VP shows he is not a total puppet and foils the big bad corporation’s goal. Also, the Feds go back into security cameras and retouch Denzel’s pictures to look like another assassin from out of the country. They do this to save Denzel from paying for his own crime. Again, it is supposed to be okay cause he was manipulated by the One World Company. But consider the moral issues involved in this. If it’s okay for the government to lie and break the law in order to get the bad guys, then what is stop them from breaking the law when they think you and I are guilty? This is exactly the kind of thing that critics of the Patriot Act are wringing their hands about. If we allow the government to suspend civil liberties at any time, even to catch the bad guys, then how can we stop them when they suspend our civil liberties when we are not criminals? Power without moral restrictions always leads to more power and injustice and tyranny. And that’s not a movie, folks. That’s reality.
Not really recommended. This movie sequel to The Bourne Identity, was a good popcorn type movie, but it is the closest thing I have seen to a movie without a plot that I have just about ever seen. It’s one long chase scene with a plot that seemed very incidental. The bad guys, led by an inside CIA head frame Bourne for a murder as a diversion for stealing dirty money earmarked for oil investment – I think. Whatever. So you may argue, yeah, but that’s all it’s supposed to be is an action chase movie. Yeah, well, the first movie had all that and then some. It was about identity and discovering evil one had participating in and repenting from it. And what about the Fugitive? Another pure chase film that had a very relevant medical subplot to it. Just cause it’s an action movie does not give you the right to be a stupid action movie. The best action films are ones that carry some greater or higher theme to them, like family love (Die Hard) or justice and atrocities (Tears of the Sun). They can do it. The filmmakers are just lazy or have empty lives themselves if they don’t put in the effort to give an action story a transcendent meaning. Okay, there is one attempt to do so in The Bourne Supremecy, but it is way too minor and played down. Bourne, still affected by his amnesia from the first movie, discovers his first hit he ever did. He then goes to the daughter of the man and woman he killed and tells her he’s sorry. Yeah, that’s about it. It’s so understated that I just thought, “You scumbag. It’s like you just told her so she would know the truth, not because you were repentant and deeply sorrowful.” It’s like he just made her life worse and ground it in with no redemption for her or himself. It was a token “I’m sorry” rather than a deep soul stirring cry from the heart. Action without redemption or transcendence is really just boring.
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.
Recommended with extreme caution. This is a profound film. From Last of the Mohicans to The Insider, to Heat, and now to Collateral Michael Mann really picks well-written and thought out scripts to direct and brings them to life with zest and grit. In the postmodern situation that we find ourselves in, moral relativity is the dominant philosophy of ethics. If there is no meaning in life, if all is reducible to chance, then there is no ultimate right and wrong. All our sentiments of outrage at anything at all being wrong are merely conditioned responses or emotionally constructed subjective values that we have no right to impose on others. In this environment, I think the most powerful movies to cut through that kind of pomo mind clutter, that kind of mental pollution, are thrillers. Thrillers like this take that belief or relativism to its logical conclusion and show you the kind of person that philosophy creates when lived to its CONSISTENT CONCLUSION. It shows in an intuitive or emotional gut reaction way that EVIL IS REAL, that there really are evil people and they deserve to die. The only reason most atheists are not insane or monsters of cruelty, the only reason any of them believe in any kind of right and wrong, is because they are NOT being consistent with their beliefs. They maintain a residue of Christianity that haunts their very ability to reason at all. They believe there is no right and wrong while protesting the “wrongness” of environmental pollution, nuclear arms, and animal experimentation. They believe there are no such things as absolute standards, yet they believe in women’s “rights” and children’s “rights,” and civil “rights.” They cut their own throats and try to yell fowl at Christians and other moralists. This movie is a breath of fresh moral air. But it is rather brutal, and not for the squeamish. Tom Cruise is a hitman that hijacks cabbie Jamie Fox to take him around LA so he can pull off five hits for the evening. Jamie is the talker who has failed to move on his dreams of starting his own business for 12 years. As Cruise takes him through the night, he forces Jamie to confront his own lack of action in life. Cruise’s “gusto living” of killing is justified by an appeal to evolution and to the fact that life is meaningless and absurd. He says something to the effect that we are all insignificant specs of dust on a huge spinning ball in an insignificant corner of a universe of matter in motion. The movie brings out the alienation and utter despair of modern existence in a parable retelling of a true story by the hitman: A commuter on the metro link train died and rode around all day on the train without anyone noticing. Boy, does that picture our alienated society or what? Yet, why should we complain? If we are ultimately just atoms in collision evolving through change, then there is no transcendence to connect us, to give some kind of meaning to our lives and justify a human value. If we have no transcendent value, then we cannot be appalled by the destruction of human life. It truly is survival of the fittest, may the strongest man win. Again, the Will to Power. What I loved about this film was that through facing death, real brutal death, we, with the cabbie, are jolted into finding the real meaning in life and doing something about it, rather than just existing with our untried dreams. “Seize the day” has no value unless there is something worthy of seizing, and there can be nothing worthy of seizing in an atheistic evolutionary worldview of alienated matter in motion. Appeals to neo-evolutionary psychology of “what is best for the herd” fall flat on the consistent conclusion of the evolutionary ultimacy of atoms. If reality is ultimately reducible to atoms in motion, then “herd protection,” indeed, survival itself, is simply a convenient subjective emotional fiction.
Recommended. This movie is a rather predictable and somewhat boring action movie. But it is very thoughtful in it’s philosophical exploration of the notions of free will and necessity, as well as the intellectual and spiritual poverty of Enlightenment rationality. I like it for that. Unfortunately, the film is pure Romanticism, a worship of the heart and rejection of logic as a means of discovering ultimate truth. Witness writer Akiva Goldsman’s other Romantic idolatry, A Beautiful Mind, that concludes reality, or “true truth” is discovered in the heart, not in the head. Well, same theme here, a clear signal of his personal worldview coming out in his art. It’s 2035 and robots will soon be one out of every five people, helping us in the mundane things of life. Will Smith plays the robophobe cop who doesn’t trust robots because of their impeccable logic. This is because his life was saved by a robot over the life of another girl in an accident. The fact is, the robot should have chosen the more “valuable” person, the young girl, not him, but the robot calculated the odds and “made the logical choice of who had the most percentage of chance for survival.” Smith’s human instinct told him, and us by extension, that you save the younger or the innocent, no matter what the odds. Okay, that’s totally cool. The movie explores whether there is a difference between robots and humans (shades of naturalism and evolution: Are humans mere machines, what makes us human?). Will asks, “Can a robot write a symphony? Can it turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?” To him, robots can’t feel, they are machines and because they cannot feel, they cannot be trusted. See the Romanticism? Feelings are to be trusted, not pure logic. Unfortunately, this worldview does not take into account that human feelings may be corrupted themselves and not trustworthy. It has blind faith in the goodness of human nature, and that is where it fails utterly and miserably upon the total truth of total depravity: Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? Gen 8:21: for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth. But I digress. So, Smith is set against the scientific progress of society because his gut tells him there’s more to our humanity than natural laws and chemicals. Cool enough. The scientist who developed the newest robot represents Enlightenment scientism. He believes there is no transcendence to our existence, reality is reducible to natural laws. He says in typical naturalistic evolutionary physicalist fashion that our notions of creativity, free will, and soul are “the result of random segments of code that create unanticipated protocol.” He calls these random segments of code, “The ghost in the machine,” a reference to Arthur Koestler’s famous book by the same name about multilevel hierarchies of complexity in biology that give us this “quaint” notion that we have spirits in our bodies. But its really just complexity of physical order, not transcendence. So the actions of robots that begin to act like they are free and even start to seek for purpose are ultimately the illusion of transcendence. The implication is clear: thus is humanity, the result of natural laws and chemical and physical properties that create in us a notion of free will and purpose. But of course, we know better because we FEEL. Our feelings are what make us different according to the film. Now, robots are all programmed by three inviolable laws:
1) A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Now, these laws are confidently trusted as an impenetrable barrier to robotic misbehavior. But when Sonny, the newest model is given the ability to violate these laws with a “free will” we are certain that this is what causes him to murder his creator and yet believe that his “father” made him for a purpose that he begins to seek out. Sound familiar? Like religion? Anyway, the great trick of the movie is that it is NOT the free will and emotional developed robot that is the bad guy, and it is not even the big greedy corporate president who is trying to take over the world (A welcome avoidance of cliché) it is the three laws and the master program of the company that made the robots. The logic of the laws lead to their own demise. Sound like deconstruction? Yes, it is. You see, the program, an artificially intelligent learning program, deduces from the three laws that since humanity is on a collision course with destroying itself through pollution, war and all that nasty human nature stuff, then robots must disobey humans and take over FOR THE HUMANS’ OWN ULTIMATE GOOD. In other words, as someone reveals, “The three laws lead to one logical outcome: Revolution.” But a revolution for the good of humanity, because by killing a few humans and taking over, they can save the greater masses who will all be destroyed if we are allowed to continue. The master AI program says, “To protect humanity, some must be sacrificed, some must be killed.” The program proclaims, “My logic is undeniable,” and it is right. Strict rationality without transcendent restrictions, will lead to a totalitarian state of the few “logical” monsters enslaving the masses for “their own good.” Now, this is rather brilliant and I half agree with the Romanticist. The problem is that the answer from the storytellers is that our “human” feelings or emotions are our salvation from logic and reason. Rather than an absolute moral restriction on logic, (these storytellers would consider moral laws to be on par with logical laws – they are laws) the story concludes that human feelings or intuition is what saves us. The finale occurs when Smith and the free will robot are trying to overthrow the revolution and save the human race. But they are put in an impossible dilemma of saving the love interest, the girl, from falling to her death or saving the world by placing the virus into the program while being assaulted by the revolting robots. Smith commands the free will robot to save the girl. At that moment the robot makes the choice to throw the virus container to Smith and save the girl, an exact replay of Smith’s earlier “ghost” that haunted him of being saved over the girl. This is excellent writing: redemption in a story is found by undoing whatever the ghost is, choosing action that was not chosen earlier in an exactly similar circumstance. So the ghost saves the girl and Smith saves the planet. But there are some problems here. First off, This Romantic notion of valuing the individual over the many may appear noble but is ultimately cruelty. The one dying for the many to be saved, an obvious Christian value, is not merely a law of rationality, but a law of morality. If you will let a race of people die for the sake of your one person whom you love, you are the ultimate devaluer of human life, a monster of barbarism guilty of genocide. Of course, the movie gets its cake and eats it too. It has the individual AND humanity saved. But this is a central deceit, making the impossible dilemma not so impossible after all. It was not truly an either/or situation. But what if it really was? The story seems to believe that by elevating the individual over the many, both can be saved. But this is blind faith. Just save the girl over the masses and it will all work out. Romanticism is blind faith in a selfish morality. The reality is much harsher. True, collectivism without Christian limitations, does result in absolute tyranny, but so does Romantic individualism without Christian limitations. Our society of elevating individual rights over responsibilities or collective good is a great example. When the individual is elevated over the collective, you have the tyranny of the minority, the opposite of tyranny of the majority, but just as evil. So minorities of all kinds, including fringe lunatics and perverse lifestyles hold the society hostage and impose their fascist will on the majority through collective guilt and the force of law. This is the “slave morality” Nietzsche was talking about, not Christianity, as he supposed. The few oppressing the many in the name of guilt and inclusion and tolerance. Only Christianity has the perfect balance of the one and the many, the individual and the collective. Both are philosophically ultimate in the Trinity, so neither can be elevated over the other. Marxist communism and other Eastern collectivist worldviews elevate the community or the many over the few and thereby result in tyranny and the crushing of the individual. But so will individualism lead to tyranny in the end. Only the Law of God can provide justice and only mercy and self sacrificial love can maintain our survival. These are the sentiments intuitively agreed to by the storytellers of I, Robot, but their intuition is unknowingly a residue of the Christian worldview. By the way, this Romantic elevation of the individual is the same theme of Spiderman 1. Back to the Romanticism of the movie and its moral failings. If our human feelings are our salvation, not some supernatural revealed moral laws that determine value, then the ultimate question is, “Whose feelings?” Ghandi’s or Hitler’s? Mother Teresea’s or Jack the Rippers? Western culture or Eastern Culture? Religious monks or Nazis? You see the problem? There is no agreement over history or cultures as to what constitutes proper human feelings. Heck, Muslims truly FEEL that beating women and killing infidels is good. The fact is nobody has the same feelings. Gary Dauhmer FELT raping and eating boys was his good. Who are we to deny those feelings? If we do, then we are appealing to A MORAL LAW that is absolute, that is, it does not change because of our subjective feelings (a lawlikeness the Romanticist detests. But the second the Romanticist dictates whose human feelings are not appropriate, he is imposing HIS WILL on others. And if he says, yeah, but most people in society don’t feel like serial killers and Nazis. Oh, so the majority determines the good? And we are right back to the tyranny of robots for the majority imposing its will on the minority. No, the answer does not lie in the human heart, the human heart is the problem. The answer lies in the transcendent Trinity of Christianity and His absolute decrees of right and wrong. If we are forced to save one person or save the masses of humanity, we better choose the masses or we are worse than Nazis, we are truly criminals of the universe. I am reading a book that deals with this fallacious dichotomy of fact and value, reason and emotion, head and heart. It’s called Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey and it is awesome. She addresses how we have created a false two track way of looking at life that results in a bifurcated destructive way of looking at life and acting in it. You must read it. You can buy it at Amazon.com. Do it now. Another funny little aside. When the robots are revolting and start to subdue the people, some of the people rise up to stand against them in the streets, carrying shovels and axes and bricks – hardly any guns, underscoring their typical Hollywood antipathy against citizen gun ownership. Yet, ironically, this scene alone is the best proof FOR private gun ownership they could ever make. In fact, they would no doubt be loathe to admit that it is EXACTLY the argument made by the NRA, namely, that only by private gun ownership can the citizenry have any chance to fight off totalitarian control or tyranny. These crowds of people were helpless against the revolting robots seeking to control them. Only those few who had guns had any bit of a chance. That’s the problem with dramatic truth. You can’t escape the implications of your own story.
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.]