Posts Tagged ‘Star wars’

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

May 5, 2009

What Is It?

This is the final segment of the culture shaping saga that began 28 years ago. Here we have the linking of the past to the future. We also have an experience that has brought families together as kids discover what was one of the biggest events of there parents own childhood. Now all of us can once again take time out of our busy lives for important things.. Like saying your sentences backwards in a Muppet voice, trying to speak like James Earl Jones in need of an inhaler, or more to the point, perfecting our Wookee call…

How Was It?

First – Jar Jar is only seen once, for a moment, and does not even open his mouth!

10pts right there!

Laying aside the fact that since the 1970’s we have known how this film will end, and just focusing on the idea that getting there is half the fun…. This is the best of the three. The effects are slick and keep moving, though some of the planet “sets” seem just too busy. Lucas still can not write dialog, but here is more cunning in his writing. We often only need to hear plot points and the last ten minutes he lets us see all the characters and wisely drowns out any talking with John Williams’ stellar music.

The opening battles and sequences with R2-D2 are some of the most fun you can have with these films. (Though in the next three films he has to be hoisted into his X-wing. Are his jets on the blink?)

The end adds some paired up scenes with similar battles and similar struggles matched up. (Though I still keep the “half the fun” thing in my head… they spent far too long on two simultaneous “light saber battles to the death” when we know that all 4 participants are still alive in the next film.)

Unfortunately the rise of the Darth Vader we all know and impersonate is rendered very cheesy with a shtick right out of Frankenstein followed by the standard Hollywood, discover your loved one is dead and howl NOOO as the camera pans up and away. Still for a huge budget amusement park ride of a film, with pounds and pounds of our culture’s mythology, this film will still deliver most far far away.. (And I find it an odd triumph that James Earl Jones goes uncredited here once again)

When all is said and done, in some small way, I too want to join with Yoda as he tries to cram all the emotion of Casablanca’s air plane scene into the touching epitaph “Chewbacca, Miss you I will.”

Is It Good For Kids?

This will depend greatly on your child. There are a lot of deaths here, though most of them are not totally shown. There are the same level of weird creatures as there are in the other films. (Though not as bad as Return of the JEDI)

The biggest disturbance here, (SPOILER) The Sith Lord sends Anakin, now christened with his famous pseudonym, in to kill the JEDI children that Yoda had been training. We only see him come in and menacingly ignite his light saber to the horror of the children, but it is talked about a lot, and we see other JEDI examining the children’s bodies. You can check www.ScreenIt.com for a complete break down of elements shown on the screen.

How about Spiritual Issues?

There are plenty of good lessons here, most notably that your actions accumulate and make you who you are. If you build on evil you will be consumed by it. We also hear the difference of living selflessly for others contrasted to the evil of only serving self. We see the allure of evil does not give you what it promises, and the promise comes in much the same package that the serpent in Eden used to present his offer…. and with that the worthwhile messages are done.

First these movies have been hailed as moral triumphs for there clear portrayal of good veers evil with its night and day distinction. If we go a little deeper into what it is saying, good and evil simply two sides of the same coin. It is personal strength and opinion that puts you on one side of the other.

Though many will compare “The Force” to the Holy Spirit, they are drastically different. The Spirit is not an “It” but a “He.” and He can not be “used.” He has his own personality and power. He grants power to those who are willing to come in line with His plan. “The Force” is better compared to Electricity. It is huge and powerful, but has no will and can be used at the handler’s discretion to what ever end. In God’s economy the power lies with God. Here the power is all on self.

Death is also a major theme in this film. Yoda gives a speech as he consoles Anakin who thinks his wife will die in child birth. He tells him (in his Yoda way) that we must not hold on to that which we are afraid to lose. Death is just a part of life. When people die they just become part of “The Force.” If we hold on to them, we only hurt ourselves with the attachment. This is classic Buddhism. Later on it becomes the “High Land” form of Buddhism when (SPOILER) Obi-Wan is told that Qui-Gon Jinn has learned to speak from the other side. Of course, both these views of death are very popular in our culture and many will latch on to them. Like wise they are both in direct opposition to the Bible’s teaching.

This leads us to Anakin. Anakin is called the chosen one. As we discovered inEpisode Ihe was born from a virgin; implying a very strong resemblance to the Messiah of the Bible. Here, as Obi-Wan is attacking his former pupil, the man now called Darth Vader says “If you are not with me, you are my enemy.” This is almost an exact quote from Jesus who said in Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.”

This line of reasoning is thwarted by the hero, Obi-Wan as he scolds “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” (So why have you been talking about Dark Side / Light Side the entire film?)

It seems that Anakin’s belief in absolutes – this is never right, this is always wrong – is part of what leads him to the Dark Side. Thus, on some level unknowingly to the writer/director/produce, his hero has uttered the single most sinister line in the entire film.

Bible scholars will also recognize a reference to Mark 15:31 and note Darth Vadors “Death” and “Resurection”.

What Is Your Recommendation?

Though the other films (Episodes IV, V , and VI) proclaimed a philosophy counter to Christianity. This set has gone on the offensive. Lucas created and owns who many consider to be the supreme bad guy. He had studied multiple cultures images of the Devil to create Darth Maul, but now he has used the same power to make Darth Vader into a substitute Jesus. You can label me a “Sith” if you like (God know’s I have been called worse) but when Jesus lays down the absolutes, I want to be “For Him.”

proclaimed a philosophy counter to Christianity. This set has gone on the offensive. Lucas created and owns who many consider to be the supreme bad guy. He had studied multiple cultures images of the Devil to create Darth Maul, but now he has used the same power to make Darth Vader into a substitute Jesus. You can label me a “Sith” if you like (God know’s I have been called worse) but when Jesus lays down the absolutes, I want to be “For Him.”

If Lucas had put this much effort into linking a positive character to Jesus, this film would be heralded as an evangelical masterpiece. As it stands, it gives us a philosophy that doesn’t work in the spiritual or physical realms. He then puts them in a context that will help most people just let themselves be amused and not think about the words that they are letting into there heads. How ever you plan to handle this cultural phenomenon in your household, Be aware that the following the hero of the film, in the real world, would be more equivalent to falling for the deception of the dark side in there world.

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What Should My Family and I Watch During Holy Week?

April 6, 2009

Easter is coming in a few short weeks! As the non-Christian world grabs onto parts of our traditions, they still come up rather bunny-centric. Still, if you check your local listings, the Bible seems to be dusted off and handed to the network scheduling department this time of year. From the looks of some of their productions, it seems most just flipped through and looked at the pictures, where others seem to do a decent job of portraying the messages in an accurate way.

Now the first thing to realize is that movies are a different medium than a book. Things will have to be changed just to make the jump. On top of that, the Bible is not usually stories, but histories. Thus, to make a film, the story must be extracted from the history. With this in mind, a fun family night might be reading the Bible account and then watching the movie. (Sometimes we would do the Bible account over morning devotions beforehand .) Then we discussed what was changed and why. Most changes are made for dramatic interest, to simplify for a modern culture (like Moses’ 2 brothers in  Prince of Egypt: ). If there is going to be a problem with the changes, it’s often that they try to remove the supernatural from the story (“Peter and Paul” with Anthony Hopkins) or try to make God into the universal force for good in all men (“The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston).

I am always up for a well done Bible story, (I recommend Testament: The Bible in Animation) but moving toward the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead, you may want to focus on Jesus himself!

There are some very good films with Jesus; there are also some awful ones.

Of course The Passion of the Christ” is the obvious front runner. Picking up the story of Jesus in the Garden as he prays for the cup to be taken away, this is the struggle between the ultimate powers in the universe. Casting Jesus in the mode of sacrificial superhero, he battles to give up his life for the world, as Satan tries to stop the sacrifice. This is intermingled with flashbacks from Jesus’ life that become much more poignant when put in the framework of his death.

Then there is the Campus Crusade funded “Jesus Film” that goes almost word for word from the gospel of Luke. This is not as well done a film. It’s more a well done book on tape with nice pictures. (You can see the movie on line.)

Friends of mine who are now going to work for the “Jesus Film” ministry have just told me about the next development. The “Visual Translation” of the Jesus film will use the vocal tracks and then add all new music and sound effects for an anime version of the film. This new version is being headed up by director Barry Cook and you can see animatics of two of the scenes on their web pagehttp://whoishe.org/animationproject

I personally love The Miracle Maker“. This is the story of Jesus done by an amazing Russian Claymation team and an English group doing traditional animation used for flashbacks and whenever something spiritual (like the casting out of demons) happens. The story is sewn together by the struggles of a religious leader and his sick daughter. Will he let her suffer, or will he bring her to Jesus to be healed? This film spent months in the theaters in England . Here, it was shown once on ABC family before going to DVD; how sad.

You can now watch the Miracle Maker on line at Hulu.com

This may also be a good time to introduce your family to “Godspell: A Musical Based on the Gospel of St. Matthew .” This very quirky (read – “Weird”) offering from the 70’s has a group of thrift shop sheik hippies called out of the world of New York to act out the parables through the streets and monuments of the city that doesn’t sleep. They often move events to offer thematic continuity and artistic comment. At one point Jesus faces the “Pharisee Monster” who hits him with all the questions that are sprinkled throughout the gospels. This confrontation ends with an artistic representation of the cleansing of the temple. In the stage show the Resurrection is incorporated into the curtain call. Here we are told it will happen in the closing songs and then see New York go back to its life without taking notice of the gift it has been given. (There is also the unintentional irony of the song “All For The Best” and it’s big finial on the twin towers.)

Of course if 70’s hippy rock is not your thing; The Jesus story is narrated and serenaded by the Man in Black himself in Johnny Cash’s Gospel Road.

Taking one step away you have “Ben Hur”. Tied for having received the most Oscars ever, this swashbuckling Charlton Heston classic shows a man’s spiritual journey to forgiveness set against the backdrop of the Gospel story. This is a great movie for people who know the story of Jesus. You will see more of the story by filling in the blanks.

In “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe, ” we have Jesus interjected into a fantasy world . Here we see the sacrifice of Jesus illustrated in thematically graphic and personal terms. We can all relate to selling out all we should love for brief personal pleasure or “sweeties”. It is wonderful to see Jesus as Lord of everything, even the imagination of man, in the character of Aslan.

Finally , we can look at movies that offer us “types o f Christ.”A “ type” is a character that has their own story but , when you stand back from the details, you see the story of Jesus. In the Bible, characters like Joseph ( who is sacrificed by his family, and then goes on to become ruler and savior) and Jonah ( sent with a message to a foreign land, sacrificed, “resurrected” 3 days later to offer repentance) are types of Christ. Jesus even references Jonah as a type in Matthew 12:38-41 Matthew 16:4, and Luke 11:29-32 .

Fiction writers have also used the “type of Christ” to allow their story to point to Jesus. This is very popular with film makers. Just check out the trailer for the recent  “Superman Returns”.

In the film (or film series, depending on your point of view) “Lord of the Rings”, there are three characters that point to Jesus. In “Fellowship of the Rings” you see Frodo and the Ring. The Ring is the force of evil in the world. Frodo, though it is not his to deal with, takes the evil of the ring on himself and bares it in order to destroy it. In “The Two Towers” we re-visit the sacrifice of Gandalf. We are reminded that he gave himself to save his friends from a demon (another symbol of evil) and was then sent back to be with them in the battle. Thirdly in “Return of the King” (as if that title isn’t a dead giveaway) we see Aragorn enter into the realm of those living in death because they refused to follow the king. He enters death to give the people an offer : You may follow me and I will set you free from this death. His later rule as king is a nod to the second coming of Christ.

In the 1954 Marlon Brando /Karl Malden classic, “On The Waterfront”, a local priest realizes that Jesus would not stand by and let mob bosses and crime ruin the people he is supposed to be serving. In a wonderful speech we are told that when people are killed for doing what is right, it is a crucifixion. This sets us up for a “ type of Christ” I call “the freedom bringer.” (SPOILER) At the end of the movie, Marlon Brando’s character has decided to stand up to the mob. The result is that they take him out back, with all the waterfront workers standing helplessly aside, and beat him within an inch of his life. This is where we see an illustration of the resurrection and the people set free. This is also the movie with the famous “Could have been a contender” speech.

Will Smith‘s “I Am Legend” is a dark film about zombie/vampires. It is being released on DVD in time for Easter. This may seem like an oversight, but it may have been a part of a marketing plan. By the end of the film you realize that the Zombies are symbolism for a people infected with evil who need the blood from a sacrificial savior to release them from there torment. (You can read my full review here.) I have heard that the DVD has two versions of the film. I have seen the theatrical version and can not comment on the alternate version.

You can also see acts that artistically bring to mind Jesus ’ sacrifice in movies like “To End All Wars” , “Man On Fire” , “Meet John Doe” , and “I Robot” . “I Robot” has the entire trinity, but unfortunately also has weirdly pro-cussing messages.

Unfortunately, some films will use the connection to Jesus to bring a “new” message or to suggest Christianity to be wrong. Where The Matrix’s Neo, Star Wars’ Anakin , and “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” all have used the character of Jesus and even some of his words, they are not there to point you to Jesus , but away — or beyond — him ( as some of the film makers may tell you) .

What Is Your Recommendation?

As part of your family time this season, it would be great to find one of  these films that would be appropriate for your entire family. Then, do not just watch it together. Afterward, talk about what the film was saying about Jesus. Who in the film emulated the person of Jesus? What characteristics did the character share with Jesus and what was different? And what do I notice about Jesus that I may not have seen before or have not though t about in a while?

This is just another fun way to have film watching do more than just fill a couple of hours.

For more – Check out the Q&E Extra – The 6 Jesuses of Film and Literature