‘Lincoln’ is Cinema at its Finest

The following is the first draft of a critique of the film Lincoln which I wrote for a cinema class at Regent University. 

Steven Spielberg has fashioned a film of tremendous historical import and timeless, masterful artistry. The film envelopes the viewer in the story with its density of pertinent plot points, meaningful imagery, emotional performances, and incredible attention to detail as a legitimate period piece depicting the final months of the life President Lincoln and his political battle to both end slavery and end the Civil War. 

Lincoln has been well-received by critics, scoring a positive review from 145 critics, a 91 percent rate, according to the website Rotten Tomatoes. Claudia Puig of the USA Today gave it three and a half stars out of four, calling it “an absorbing intellectual look at the political machinations involved in abolishing slavery,” adding that Tony Kushner’s script is “perfectly-calibrated.”

The film begins with the sounds and images of a brutal battle in the American Civil War. Soldiers from the North and South are depicted in hand-to-hand combat on a mud-soaked battlefield. Within seconds, Spielberg has captured the ugliness that is war, particularly a Civil War that pits fellow countrymen against each other. The first image we see of President Abraham Lincoln himself is an over-the-shoulder shot that captures his slumping figure, looking out upon a Union camp. Immediately we see that this man of impressive physical and historical stature has become weary and frail yet still seems to tower above it all like a mythic figure.

Lincoln narrates a dream sequence in which the sixteenth President is upon a ship racing at high speeds to an unknown destination. Mrs. Lincoln suggests that this has something to do with his pursuit of the Thirteenth Amendment, but one wonders if it doesn’t have more to do with Lincoln’s impending death and reaching the shores of Heaven; or, perhaps it is suggesting that Lincoln is leader of a nation that was racing quickly toward the shore of freedom and equality for all.

The lighting in the film seems realistic yet strangely surreal, with dim light in several interior scenes where the only lighting would have been fire-related, like candles and oil lamps. Often, the frame contains smoke imagery from the cigars of politicians and bureaucrats, recalling the smoke-filled battlefields of the Cvil War with its cannons and gunfire.

As Anthony Lane writes in The New Yorker, Janusz Kaminski, Spielberg’s cinematographer, veils events in such a rarefied and sifted haze that they seem already poised halfway to myth. Just look at the President, haloed and framed against a window, in semi-silhouette, as he sits in a rocking chair reading to his young son Tad . They could be in a picture book themselves.”

Lincoln’s son studies photographs of slaves by flickering orange firelight, recalling images of the Holocaust. Other than the orange glows from candles and fires, muted and cool greens, grays and blues seem to dominate the picture, contributing to the cold atmosphere of nineteenth century winters in Washington. Lincoln is often shown with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. His top hat aptly becomes a character of its own in the movie, often garnering close-ups.

Equality becomes a central theme in the movie, as it is traditionally understood (equality in terms of personhood). Thaddeus Stevens asserts before Congress that he holds all men be “equal before the law.” The very first scene with Lincoln depicts him speaking with a pair of African-American Union officers, one of which is boiling over with the frustration of slow progress in attaining economic equality in the eyes of white men. The man’s frustration is righteous, but Lincoln could do little about the prejudice in the hearts of men, and he says as much: “I suppose that they will learn to tolerate each other.” Spielberg’s Lincoln acknowledges that with time and limited government action, the nation could be united wherein men of all skin colors could enjoy equal liberties as well as associate with each other without reservation or prejudice.

In another scene, Lincoln tells two men that he used to read a lot as a young man, and he brings up Euclid’s rule that “Things which equal the same thing also equal one another.” Lincoln seems to be saying that if both a black man and a white man are human, then they are equal. Thaddeus Stevens later makes the argument that he may look at another man and think him an idiot or full of corruption, but that does not make him any less human. Lincoln therefore makes both moral and logical arguments for the Thirteenth Amendment and irrationality of slavery built on racial prejudice.

It is Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance as Lincoln, though, that truly mesmerizes the viewer. Lou Lumenick of The New York Post explains: “Adopting an odd, high-pitched voice, Day-Lewis thoroughly inhabits the part of a war-weary president who’s fond of telling long and folksy autobiographical stories.” Daniel Day-Lewis is so convincing and riveting as the most beloved political figure in American history, that it is hard not to be completely enraptured by his authentic, layered, and moving portrayal of the often melancholy, introspective, self-deprecating, somewhat peculiar, thoroughly human, yet passionate and attention-commanding figure.

In an interview Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who plays Lincoln’s older son Robert, even remarked that he did not actually meet the actor Day-Lewis until after filming for the movie had wrapped; apparently, the Academy Award-winning actor never broke character during production of the film. Daniel Day-Lewis may have been the only actor on the planet who could have delivered the gravitas to the character of Abraham Lincoln in such a thoroughly engrossing way.

Another accomplished actor receiving Oscar buzz is Tommy Lee Jones, who is witty, cantankerous, and sincere as the passionate abolitionist Representative Thaddeus Stevens. However, there were no weak links in the entire massive cast; every actor seemed to realize the importance of the film, however small his or her role might be.

The subtle parallels drawn between the final months of Abraham Lincoln and the final days of Jesus Christ are striking. The character of General Ulysses S. Grant tells Lincoln that he looks to have aged ten years in the past year. Throughout the film, Lincoln is depicted as a man under incredible stress and suffering, as if he bears the pains of a nation in Civil War; as if he bears the weight of every fallen American and the tortuous life of every black man still in slavery—as if he were carrying a cross. Even his family life is anything but ideal.

Like the story of Job in the Bible, Lincoln’s wife is represented as unsupportive, divisive, and angry, if not mentally unstable as some historians suggest. We learn that the child they lost still weighs heavy on his heart. His older son is portrayed as constantly pestering Lincoln to allow him to join the army, and Lincoln faces the prospect of both losing another child as well as inviting his wife’s further rage. This suffering is similar to the turmoil that was apparently going on with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as his physical and spiritual torture leading up to and including his crucifixion.

Just as Mrs. Lincoln says, “No one has ever been so loved by the people;” but perhaps no one had ever been so hated by those among the Confederates. This is yet another similarity with Christ, because Jesus was and is to this day loved and worshipped by His followers, yet was hated enough that he was brutally tortured and killed and is still hated to this day.

In the scene directly preceding Lincoln’s assassination, he says, “I guess it’s time to go, though I’d rather stay.” This obvious double meaning is then followed by his discarding of his gloves, which the black butler retrieves. The black butler then watches as Lincoln and his famous hat are framed in silhouette by a window, as he descends down a staircase out of sight. There seems to be a good deal of symbolism going on in this brief sequence. Lincoln is both leaving this life behind, descending into the grave, a mysterious and legendary man. Historically, Lincoln is known for his dislike of wearing gloves, but there seems to be more to the moment, as if Lincoln was passing the torch to black men and women. Perhaps the moment is indicating that Lincoln’s fight is over, and he is leaving those that he freed to now possess the power to continue the fight themselves. Indeed, the film suggests that the fight to come will be difficult for black people, a likely allusion to the persecution leading up until and through the Civil Rights Movement. Again, this seems to be yet another parallel with Christ, recalling His charge to the disciples, that they might further His mission though they would be persecuted for His sake.

The visual image of Lincoln being cloaked in black from head to toe, except for his hands, also seems to be an allusion to Christ in which He took on the sins of the world so that the world might live and be free. Likewise, Lincoln figuratively took on the sins of a nation—the sins of slavery and violence—by giving his life, both literally and figuratively, so that the slaves might live; so that the words of the Declaration of Independence might be fulfilled: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Just as Christ was killed on a cross, the last image of the film is a shot depicting Lincoln’s second inaugural address in which he is holding his arms out, palms outward, for an extended moment, recalling Christ hanging on the cross before a multitude of onlookers.

Lincoln is truly masterful filmmaking, thick with rich imagery and themes that remain relevant even until today and will likely remain relevant for generations to come. Steven Spielberg celebrates and honors a legendary and heroic man who is loved and revered, perhaps more than any other American historical figure. Indeed, the film is worthy of the man it depicts. As the film transitions from Lincoln’s deathbed to his inaugural address, the man is framed in the flame of a candle, perhaps signifying that the words and work of Abraham Lincoln will continue to burn on as an eternal flame, a light that shines for our nation and nations around the world.

 

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Bain vs Bane: The Politics of The Dark Knight Rises

*WARNING: This article contains some plot details of The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises is the must-see event of the summer. Its overarching themes, thrilling action, and gripping suspense transcend the superhero genre and extend to ancient myths, classic literature, and altogether high quality storytelling. So why has this blockbuster been politicized, taking some of the joy out what is otherwise a wildly entertaining epic about the Caped Crusader otherwise known as Batman?

Well, donchya know? It’s an election year! It’s Democratic President Barack Obama in one corner and the Republican nominee Governor Mitt Romney in the other. It’s liberalism versus conservatism, fairness versus freedom, and blue versus red, and they’re always looking to one-up each other by latching on to current events and news. However, most of the political attacks leveled against Romney in relation to The Dark Knight Rises occurred before the movie actually came out. I was privileged enough to see the movie at its midnight showing, and I’ll break down its messages and politics.

 

In the midst of the Obama campaign’s charges against Romney, Democrats have been especially critical regarding details of his time as CEO of Bain Capital, an investment firm that attempted to turn around struggling businesses or invest in startups. Given that the villain in the new Batman film is called “Bane,” Democrats latched onto the homonym. They saw an uncanny connection between Bane, the merciless mercenary bent on destruction, and Bain Capital, which often closed down factories and cut jobs in order to save a company from complete ruin. (To be fair, Bain Capital has far more success stories of creating profit–and thus jobs–than failures). The Obama campaign is hoping to highlight what they call the “vulture capitalism” of Bain Capital, thereby disqualifying Romney as an elitist who cares little for the people, only for his own financial and political gain.

Christopher Nolan, the writer/director of The Dark Knight trilogy, is a smart filmmaker. According to a consensus of critics and moviegoers, every one of his eight movies are excellent moviemaking (just check out rottentomatoes.com for a list of reviews). Nolan is my favorite filmmaker. The complexity and depth of his movies is on the highest level, with masterpieces like the psychological thrillers Memento and The Prestige, not to mention the mind-bending sci-fi heist movie Inception. Therefore, I do not doubt that Nolan is aware of current events. In fact, he even admitted in an interview that, regarding The Dark Knight Rises, “We were trying to honestly reflect the world we live in.”

Having seen The Dark Knight Rises, I can vouch for its storytelling integrity and greatness as a modern legend. Politics is not at the forefront of the movie. In fact, politics is nowhere to be found, unless you’re really looking for it. Having said that, there are several moments and lines in the movie that speak to the very issues we are debating in this election year. But let me begin with Bain versus Bane.

It’s not just Democrats who have linked Bain to Bane. Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh claimed that the comic book creators or Bane meant it as a criticism of Bain Capital. Nolan called this a “peculiar” notion, in his soft-spoken British-American accent. And in a recent interview with the creators of Bane, both men say they are conservatives who had not heard of Mitt Romney or Bain Capital when they were creating Bane in the early 1990s.

But did Nolan make the connection? Let’s examine the character Bane. He is a foreign mercenary bent on the total destruction of Gotham. He is merciless, he is cold. He hates the world, and he cares for almost no one. In his quest to overthrow the government of Gotham, he destroys the infrastructure as well as roads, bridges, stadiums, tunnels, etc. Having just killed the mayor and imprisoned most of the city’s police force, he tells a stadium full of people and those watching on television to take control of their city, to essentially do as they pleased. There are essentially no rules and no authority. He doesn’t care about money, profits, or people. Only destruction.

Here, I pause. Does Bane sound like anyone that you know? Yeah, didn’t think so. Nor does he sound like an institution founded to turn around failing companies. It appears that Nolan does not compromise the nature of Bane for any political message. I actually doubt that Nolan knew anything at all about Bain Capital either when he and his brother Jonathan were writing the script in 2009 and 2010 or when they were filming it in 2011.  Therefore, I have to conclude that connections between Bane and Bain are ridiculous.

However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any political messages at all in the film. There very well may be, but you have to listen very closely. In one of the opening scenes, the cat burglar Selina Kyle tells billionaire Bruce Wayne, “You and your friends better batten down the hatches, because when it hits, you’re going to wonder why you lived so large and left so little for the rest of us.” Selina Kyle lives in near-poverty, and she steals to provide for herself and those she cares about. Selina Kyle ends up aiding Bane, looking forward to a time where the playing field is even (when Bane eliminates the currency and typical justice).

Clearly, Selina Kyle holds a Robin Hood-like mentality that is similar to that of President Obama. He often speaks of the rich paying their fair share, paying more taxes, etc. Early on in the movie, it’s established that Bruce Wayne had been helping to fund an orphanage. When his company stopped being profitable, the money stopped going to that orphanage. One character in particular confronts Wayne on “paying attention” and “apathy,” regarding his charitable giving. It’s an interesting few moments, but does it indicate the liberal ideology of redistribution of wealth, or voluntary charity? I suppose it’s up to the viewer to decide that.

Later on in the movie, once anarchy has taken control of Gotham, Selina Kyle has a moment in the house of a rich family where she is looking at a picture in a broken frame. “Somebody lived here,” she says introspectively. The moment she had strived for her whole life, when the playing field would finally be leveled, was not as triumphant as she thought it would be. Selina Kyle realizes thats what she considered to be “good” for everyone else, was a tragedy for another family. Her character goes through a long journey of selfishness which is confronted by Batman’s sacrifices. After betraying Batman, she becomes more compassionate and wants to help save Gotham.

In a few scenes that echo A Tale of Two Cities, Dr. Crane (or Scarecrow from Batman Begins) is a judge. Anyone who is brought before his court is either rich or a policeman, and he sentences all of them to death without due process or proper evidence. To be fair, many of the rich are displayed as corrupt, and some of them employ Bane, thinking he will deliver a fortune to them.

In the epic climax, Bane and his mercenaries/convicted felons confront Batman and the police force. This scene was made famous during production, because it was filmed during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s popularity. There was speculation that Bane’s minions could represent the Occupy crowd. It is worth noting that the film would have been written around the time of the Tea Party, however, there had also been several riots in Europe during that time. It seems to me, however, that the fact Bane utilizes a sort of anarchy that leveled the playing field with mass poverty is not a great argument for the Occupy message.

Finally, we come to Bruce Wayne. Billionaire owner of a large company who wants to save his city. If anything, this sounds somewhat like Mitt Romney, who is worth at least $250 million and owned Bain Capital for several years as its co-founder. He often speaks of “saving the soul of America” in his speeches.

I have touched on various aspects of the film in regards to possible political undertones, but I don’t have a definitive answer, only to say that I don’t believe the franchise or this film in particular is motivated by politics, but by story and characters. Connections made between Bane and Bain are ridiculous, but there are echoes of certain themes regarding class warfare.

The theme of the movie is rising. Bruce Wayne rising above his own psychological turmoil, the villains rising out of Hell on earth, orphans rising from poverty, Gotham rising from the ashes. Along the way, there are several places where Bruce Wayne or other characters are helping the needy. Wayne tosses a rope to some prisoners. He donates to orphanages. He helps Gotham’s citizens, which are mostly portrayed as helpless. Selina Kyle helps those closest to her. Alfred helped Bruce as a child. This list goes on.

There is a scene in a dark prison at the bottom of a large hole in the earth wherein it is revealed that only one person has ever climbed to the top, a child. This symbolism would seem to indicate that those in society who rise to the top have a responsibility to help those who don’t. Liberals believe this is accomplished by higher taxes on the rich and more entitlement spending. Obama calls it “giving back.” Conservatives believe in helping the needy, the disabled, the old, and the young as well, but mostly through charitable giving. Or perhaps it is only meant as a metaphorical parallel for the mythological Phoenix, who rises out of the ashes.

I cannot know for sure what the Nolan brothers meant when they wrote it, but I suppose people will read into it what they wish to. Other people can obsess over it, but I just love the movie. It is truly a rare piece of cinema that carries with it a triumphant and inspiring message in these dark, perilous times of economic and political uncertainty.

Check out my review for The Dark Knight Rises.

The Dark Knight Rises: A Modern Legend for Today’s America

Okay. I’ll admit it. I was one of the ones who walked out of a theater on July 17, 2008, and said The Dark Knight would never be topped. I was one of the ones who doubted, when Anne Hathaway was cast as Catwoman. I was one of the ones who was frustrated, when Bane was announced as the villain, and not the Riddler. I was one of the ones who raised eyebrows at the 165-minute running time.

Once again, Christopher Nolan was right, and I was wrong.

The Dark Knight Rises is not just the best film of the year, but one of historical import. Brazen, brutal, and breath-stealing, the final chapter of Christopher Nolan’s genre-busting saga is as enlightening as it is electrifying.

The world wondered how Nolan and his team could ever one-up the cultural phenomenon that was The Dark Knight, which was bolstered by Heath Ledger’s otherworldly performance as the anarchist serial killer known as the Joker.

Four years later, we have our answer. Whereas The Dark Knight was a thrilling, chaotic crime drama, this film is an epic tale of a legendary hero. The Dark Knight Rises ties the first two parts of the trilogy to the finale in seamless fashion, and it makes elements of Batman Begins especially important, recalling the oft-repeated line of that movie: “Why do we fall?”

Tom Hardy is ferocious and terrorizing as Bane, who has both the brains and the brawn to match Batman, pound-for-pound, and then some. As a merciless anarchist bent on Gotham’s total destruction, Bane pulls no punches and spares no one if he can help it. When he and Batman finally face off, the combat and violence are escalated to bone-rattling levels.

Every scene sizzles with suspense and uncertainty. Everything we fear about terrorism and anarchy are on full display. The violence pushes the envelope of PG-13, as The Dark Knight did. Many questioned why that movie wasn’t rated R, and this film is probably just as violent and equally disturbing. As one critic put it, “This movie makes The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man look childish and silly.” Make no mistake, The Dark Knight Rises is occasionally fun, but it is primarily an epic story of a hero and a city being pushed to the brink by forces of pure evil, and Nolan isn’t afraid to stretch the PG-13 rating to its limit.

For all the skepticism surrounding Anne Hathaway’s character, she makes a convincing turn as femme fatale Selina Kyle, the cat burglar. Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon delivers his best performance of the series, Morgan Freeman returns as Lucius Fox, while Michael Caine gives a surprisingly gripping and important portrayal as Alfred. Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers the emotional credibility to his character, and Marion Cotillard, always a mesmerizing actress, rounds out an amazing ensemble cast. Every character has specific motivations and histories that the Nolan brothers bring to the forefront and tie into a fast-moving, complicated whirlwind plot.

But it’s Christian Bale’s reprisal as Bruce Wayne/Batman that is so engrossing. While Batman was overshadowed by The Joker in The Dark Knight, Nolan makes this movie about Bruce Wayne’s physical and personal journey, delving into the psychological toll of the events of the last two movies. Bruce Wayne is realized as a man who is truly alone, charged with snapping out of apathy, and overcoming the impossible. The problem is that he sees only one end to his journey, and that’s what his journey has been marked by: tragedy and death.

Even if people believe that this movie isn’t as good as The Dark Knight, there is no denying that it is a truly great movie in its own right, independent of its predecessor. Its epic themes, immersive performances, and mind-bending plot turns are on the same level as The Dark Knight and, in my opinion, go beyond that movie. The Dark Knight was a crime drama, but this movie takes that to the next level as an epic, echoing A Tale of Two Cities as well as Greek and Roman mythology. Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan, (who helped write Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight), wrote the first 400-page screenplay for the movie and deserves tremendous credit for the risks he takes and for the scope he brought to the table.

Critics are calling it the best post-9/11 film, because of its real-world atmosphere and themes that are grounded in today’s defining issues. It forces the viewer to confront questions concerning terrorism and class warfare, but it doesn’t alienate with specific political messages. Christopher Nolan said that he merely wanted to “honestly reflect the world we live in,” and it does just that, but it goes a step beyond that: it issues a challenge. It’s a challenge for America and perhaps the world. It’s a challenge to fight, to believe, to rise. A challenge to be a hero to ourselves, to our friends and family, and to our world.

Early box office returns indicate that The Dark Knight Rises will far exceed The Avengers $19 million midnight showing with a record $31 million. The film has a legitimate chance at topping the single day $80 million mark set by The Avengers, but analysts are unsure of whether it can claim the top spot of $91 million which was set by the last Harry Potter. Both of those films box office numbers are inflated by 3D ticket prices. Warner Brothers estimates it will make about $175 million on the weekend, short of the $207 million record set by The Avengers. However, speculation is growing that The Dark Knight Rises may indeed squeak out a box office win over The Avengers, despite its disadvantages. The excitement of the final installment of Nolan’s epic trilogy may have been weakened by news reports of a tragic shooting at a midnight screening in Colorado.

To whoever is hired to reboot the Batman franchise in a few years, I can only wish them luck. They’re going to need Divine intervention to surpass what Christopher Nolan accomplished with his Dark Knight trilogy. This movie, along with its hero, is legendary. In today’s world, where so many movies are cheap reboots and sequels and adaptations, Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy stands as a beacon of integrity, vision, and originality. Its themes transcend modern moviemaking, elevating it to the level of the highest quality mythological storytelling. To borrow a line from The Dark Knight: perhaps this is the movie that we need, not the one we deserve.

This is a film that defines the times in which we live. And, like its hero, it does not compromise. It’s bleaker and blacker than anything you’ll see this summer, but it holds on to a simple but powerful hope. It’s grand ambition to make a modern myth is fully realized in emotional, intelligent, and riveting ways.

The movie is worth multiple viewings for its complex story, fascinating character development, and even a handful of plot twists. See it, see it in IMAX to experience the best possible picture and sound. Films like this one are an endangered species, and it’s not every day that you can witness something as culturally-defining and poignant as The Dark Knight Rises.

5 stars out of 5

Prometheus: The Movie and Questions of Origins

“A king has his reign. And then he dies.”

When I first learned that director Ridley Scott was revisiting his Alien series with a prequel, I immediately introduced myself to the series. I’m glad that I did. Alien was a visionary piece of film, and its sequels would launch the careers of James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) and David Fincher (The Social Network, Fight Club) respectively. Prometheus promised to give context to the original trilogy.

It doesn’t disappoint. Elevated by brilliant cinematography and awe-inspiring visuals, Prometheus is a masterpiece of spectacle and terror. It is the anti-Avatar with its barren landscapes and cynical tone. It is as thought-provoking as it is horrifying. In other words, it’s everything it’s meant to be and more.

When Doctors Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover several ancient cave paintings from diverse civilizations, all indicating visitors who came from space, the Weyland Corporation agrees to fund a mission to discover the solar system portrayed in the paintings.

As you might have guessed, what they find is not the friendly “gods” they imagined. What follows is arguably the most shocking experience I’ve had in the cinema. I saw things I’ve never seen before, and isn’t that why we still go to the theater? Those hoping for answers regarding the Alien series will have many more questions by the end credits, and that is the film’s one glaring flaw, if you can call it that.

Noomi Rapace gives a completely engrossing performance as Doctor Shaw, the film’s heroine, and Michael Fassbender nearly steals the show as a devilishly enigmatic android named David. Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce lend star credence to the cast, offering haunting portrayals of their own. Through its first ten days in wide release, Prometheus has collected about $90 million in the United States and another $130 million in the foreign box office on a $130 million budget.

But what struck me, even more than the plot of the movie and the new possibilities it opened, was the questions the film posed, as well as the mythological and spiritual undertones. The name of the central spaceship, and of the movie itself, has deep mythological roots. In Greek lore, Prometheus formed mankind from clay and then introduced humans to the power of fire. As punishment for giving mere mortals this power, Zeus had Prometheus chained to a cliff. Once a day, a large bird would come to pick at Prometheus’ liver as a perpetual torture.

There are striking similarities to the Biblical account of creation in which God formed mankind out of the dust of the earth. But it also recalls non-canonical writings like the Book of Enoch, which is of unknown origin. In the Book of Enoch, demons assume superhuman form and share their knowledge with humans. Sound familiar? The account of Prometheus’ punishment even mirrors the prophecies in the book of Revelation, which says Satan will be released from the bottomless pit only to be later chained in Hades forever. The god Prometheus has ties to both God and Satan of the Bible, as do the “Engineers” in the film Prometheus. Whether the accounts be from the Bible, Greek mythology, scientists, or a hit movie, they all pose fundamental questions: Where do we come from, and why were we made?

Ridley Scott, who recently converted from Atheism to Agnosticism, says that nearly half of the scientists that he has interacted with or read, say that there must be something more than Darwinian Evolution. According to Scott, a growing number of scientists are increasingly finding the theory ridiculous. In his mind, there almost must have been some creative intelligence behind the existence of mankind. When you study the complexity and the miracle that is life, it’s difficult to think otherwise. A growing number of people, including renowned atheist Richard Dawkins, posture that life must have been “seeded” on earth, which Prometheus certainly gives credence to. Whether Ridley Scott believes this is unclear, but the movie acknowledges that even if extraterrestrial beings did seed life on earth, it only moves the questions of origins to another race and another planet. In other words, where did the aliens who created us come from? It still allows for the possibility of a God.

It is therefore only fitting that the two scientists in the movie are Atheist and Christian respectively. When it appears early on in the movie that the “Engineers” have all died, the Atheist is devastated, even though he has made the greatest discovery in the history of mankind. His questions will never be answered. In his mind, there is no meaning, no purpose. But the Christian scientist didn’t need those answers. Though she thirsts for knowledge, she is satisfied by her own faith.

Faith is a recurring theme in the movie, starting with a flashback of the Christian scientist when she was very young, interacting with her father. When she asks him about the afterlife and how he can know he will see his loved ones again one day, he simply replies, “I don’t know. But it’s what I choose to believe.”

It’s not exactly the pat answer of a fundamentalist Christian, but it does speak to mankind’s basic needs, though Prometheus seems to be saying that none of us can know for sure; we can only choose our beliefs. Everyone wants truth. Everyone asks the questions. Where did I come from? Why am I here? Is there more than this short, brutal life on earth? Am I alone? Is there a life after death? Where do I get my answers? Can any of us really know?

Regardless of what you believe, this movie will make you think. What do you believe? Do you have your answers? Are your answers reliable? A film that poses these questions in such a powerful way is a very good film indeed.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Note: This movie is rated R for strong violence, disturbing images, and some language.


Warrior Poets

“In words are seen the state of mind and character and disposition of the speaker.” -Plutarch

I’ve been thinking about communication lately. It’s a great gift, to be able to communicate. It’s what makes us human, in many ways. It represents influence and power. I believe we were given the gift of Communication in order to speak truth and love into one another’s lives. But in a world of such diverse thought, those who stand for what is true are often ridiculed and condemned.

“Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.” -Pythagorus

It happened to Ghandi and to Martin Luther King Jr., to Galileo and Einstein, and even to Jesus Christ. The greatest communicators often had no home, only a message. Maybe that’s why Odin was not only the Norse god of communication but also of wandering. He was an outcast among the gods. He was a poet without a home, a warrior without refuge, and a hunter of wisdom. He led men into battle with a spear that never missed its target.

“False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.” -Socrates

In a world where we are constantly being bombarded by communication, with all the social media, the 24 hour news cycles, the advertisements, television and music and movies, it seems everyone has something to say. Everyone has a spear to throw. But who, or what, are you throwing your spear at? And does your spear hit its target?

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” -Robin Williams

This blog is a place where I aim to share some of my words, and the words of others, whether the subject be movies, politics, or samples from my  own fiction. I hope you’ll join in the conversation so we can help each other be better communicators.