If you are like me, you probably skipped this film when it opened, thinking it was just a
silly little kid’s movie about dancing penguins. Well, it is that. But it’s also more than
that. Every fantasy must be allegorical on some level in order to hold an audience’s
attention. Any movie with talking animals is obviously about the animal nature of
humans – so we then identify with the animal characters as having needs and desires
similar to our own.
March of the Penguins, released in 2005, was one of the most popular
documentaries in history because it demonstrated that all of us animals are hard-
wired with the same mandate: survive the elements, mate, reproduce, nourish our
young, and thus perpetuate our species. In fact, March of the Penguins was
advertised as a “story of love overcoming all odds.” The narration was written in such
a way as to anthropomorphize the penguins, and the folksy voice of Morgan Freeman
added a warm and fuzzy feeling to this universal and inspirational story.
When Happy Feet opened, I had assumed it was just a spoof of March of the
Penguins, and it was Bobbie Kirkhart who brought to my attention that such was not
the case. When I began researching the film, I was surprised to learn that Happy Feet
was already in production when March of the Penguins was released. And as Bobbie
pointed out, Happy Feet has a more complex message than March of the Penguins:
It tells the story from a humanistic point of view. As one reviewer said, “Australian
writer/director George Miller is aiming for something more than a charming children’s
cartoon. Miller is unafraid to go for what can only be described as a neo-biblical epic.”
(That’s “neo” as in “humanistic.”) “In his depiction of a plague and a pilgrimage, a
God-like penguin in the sky (called the “Great Guin”), the portrayal of the story’s hero
as a prophet rejected by his own kind and even the gospel orientation of several
songs, Miller boldly reaches for ‘spiritual’ [or philosophical] themes.”
The plot is about a penguin named Memphis (voiced by Hugh Jackman) who attracts
Norma Jean (played by Nichole Kidman) with his imitation of Elvis Presley’s singing
style. They mate and Norma Jean produces her single egg, which she must leave with
Memphis to take care of while she goes on her annual two month fishing trip. There is
an accident with the egg, and when it hatches, little Mumble is born with a slight
handicap: he can’t sing, but he can dance. When Norma Jean comes back, she thinks
Mumble’s unusual talent is charming, but Memphis is ashamed to have such an un-
Leader of the flock is an elder named Noah (a reference to the Old Testament prophet
of doom), voiced by Hugo Weaving (who played the man in the Guy Fawkes mask in
the movie, Vendetta). When Mumble develops into an adolescent, he is voiced by
Elijah Wood (who played Frodo the Hobbit in Lord of the Rings). Robin Williams plays
three different characters: He is the narrator, in an obvious imitation of Morgan
Freeman. He plays Ramon, leader of a Latino gang of Adelie penguins, called the
Amigos. And he plays the part of Lovelace, a phony black preacher who claims to
know everything. Mumble’s childhood friend is Gloria, who is played and sung by
All the factual elements of the film seem to be accurate, except for a topknot on the
heads of some of the Adelie penguins. I couldn’t find any pictures or references to
such a topknot – unless it was supposed to be the result of molting – which can make
some feathers seem scruffy.
It is true that Emperor penguins make a 50 mile trek to the mating grounds every
winter – which takes about 20 days – and the parents share the chick-rearing
responsibilities. It is true that mates are chosen, and recognize each other, by a
distinctive “heart song.” It’s reasonable that the Adelie Amigos would have Latino
accents, because they are found as far away as the tip of South America. And male
Adelies do attract females by building nests out of pebbles. The extravagant plumage
on the Robin Williams’ character of Lovelace is an accurate depiction of the
Rockhopper penguin. As shown in the film, major predators of penguins are leopard
seals, orcas, and sharks, while chicks are most threatened by the arctic giant petrel.
The elaborate dance sequences are accomplished by the new technique called
“motion capture.” In this case, the world’s greatest tap dancer, Savion Glover danced
the part of Mumble. Glover was fitted with a special suit containing hundreds of
markers at various points on his body. As he dances to the music, the suit transmits
the exact placement of each marker point, frame by frame. All movements are thus
recorded as animation data points, or stick figures. Computer animators can then
map penguin skeletons over these data points to get very realistic images. Glover
was also choreographer for the sequences in which many penguins are dancing
together. These scenes were also shot with motion capture technology, using real
dancers – who were actually fitted with long beaks and taught how to dance like
I’m playing the film with sub-titles so that you can catch all the dialogue and lyrics,
which would otherwise be rather difficult to understand – since there are no lips to
Here now for your enjoyment is “Happy Feet.”
Evan Almighty is an interesting study in perception. On the heels of the wildly popular
Bruce Almighty, the same production team went to work on this spin-off, with
surprisingly different results. In Bruce Almighty, Jim Carrey had been a reporter at a
local TV station, who developed an unhealthy “personal relationship” with his god –
Yahweh in this case – played by a cuddly Morgan Freeman – who allowed Carrey to
take over his job temporarily as Ruler of the Universe. Since the whole idea of one
person controlling every aspect of life is inherently absurd, the results were predictably
hilarious. In that film, the pompous anchorman at the station was Evan Baxter, played
by the redoubtable Steve Carell.
After proving that he could carry a picture on his own, in The 40 Year Old Virgin, Carell
in this outing is allowed to trade in his anchor chair for a seat in the US Congress. He
loads up his ridiculously overpowered Hummer with his two sons and his wife Joan (as
in Joan of Ark, get it?) and moves them into a new housing development in Virginia. No
sooner has Baxter settled into his duties in the House of Representatives, and is being
pressured by the villainous John Goodman to co-sponsor a bill which would allow a
major commercial development in a national park, than Morgan Freeman mysteriously
shows up again. This time he has a change of plans for Evan. He tells the
congressman to drop everything he is doing and build an ark. Evan tries to ignore the
goofy old man. But Yahweh will not be denied. He pulls out his whole bag of magic
tricks and forces Evan to wear a white beard, a robe, and memorize Ark Building for
Dummies. Meanwhile, lumber is being unloaded in the front yard, delivered by a
company called “Go-4-Wood.” Well, the Bible does say that it must be made of
“gopher wood,” whatever that means, so... The production crew actually built an ark
according to biblical specifications – which would be big enough to hold the animals in
a small petting zoo, but too big to actually float, since there is a size limit to wooden
ships. Even so, one man and his two boys could never build a ship of that size within a
few weeks. So the animals help out. Elephants carry lumber and lift heavy beams.
Chimps nail on the planking, etc. The CGI animals are amazingly lifelike, and the
production seemed to have employed every special effects company on the planet; the
credits were nearly as long as the movie.
The script follows the Genesis story fairly closely, but placed in a contemporary setting,
we can clearly see just how ridiculously funny the yarn really is. I assumed that the
production team was using the metaphor of the supernatural in order to satirize the
concept of supernaturalism, as had been done in several other films I have
recommended. But most reviewers didn’t think it was nearly as funny as I did.
Presumably, being fuzzy-headed theists of one stripe or another, they generally sniffed
that the jokes were “cheap shots,” the dialogue “lame,” and the special effects were
“cheesy.” They went on to complain that this film was just an attempt to pander to the
religious right by presenting Bible stories with an acceptable environmental message.
The San Francisco Chronicle called it “...an innocuous comedy, full of false sentiment,
false crises, false family values, false jokes and false emotion, not to mention false
The magazine Answers in Genesis is the only one that seemed to perceive the movie
as ridiculing the story. And that reviewer moans that the producers should have spent
that prodigious amount of money on the “True Story of Noah.”
All these reviewer reactions are perfectly understandable. But the surprising thing
about this release is that the director claims to be a devout Catholic. So that raises an
interesting question: Were the filmmakers really trying to make Christianity more
palatable by modernizing the ancient story? Was the intended premise that Yahweh
should always be obeyed, as some reviewers alleged? Or was the director, Tom
Shadyac, really an atheist who was ridiculing the story, and only lied about being a
devout Christian in order to get away with it? One reviewer speculated that Shadyac
and his writers may have created a whole new franchise, in which all the Bible stories
are, one by one, turned into comedies in this fashion. If so, I say more power to them. I
have always thought the Bible was a treasure trove of comedic material. In fact, I would
like to see it adapted into comic book format by Mad Magazine.
MOVIE REVIEWS BY MILT
Konstantinos Gavras was born in Greece the same year that Adolf Hitler was inaugurated
Chancellor of Germany. He studied literature and Cinema in Paris, then directing under
the name of Costa-Gavras he received international acclaim for his 1969 film “Z,” a
suspenseful docu-drama about a military seizure of the Greek government which had
occurred only three years earlier. Since then, his most successful films have followed the
same formula of political thrillers – mostly based on real events.
His latest film, “Amen,” is no exception. It is the true story of how Pope Pius XII refused to
speak out against the genocide of Jews, even though he was fully aware of it. The plot
revolves around a real German SS officer named Kurt Gerstein, who was in charge of
developing Zyklon B as a purification system for drinking water. As a devout Christian he
is horrified to discover that it is being used, instead, as a method of mass extermination.
To make matters worse, he is even forced to oversee the manufacture and distribution of
the chemical to gas chambers. He risks his life repeatedly to sabotage the system, and
to alert the world to what is going on. But everyone already knew. And no one was willing
to do anything about it. Neither the Protestants nor the Catholics would risk losing the
special privileges granted them by the Nazi party through the Concordat of 1933,
negotiated between Hitler and the Pope.
“Amen” is loosely based on a play by Rolf Hochhuth, called “The Deputy,” first produced,
amid great controversy, in 1963. Costa-Gavras expands on the play in this devastating
indictment of religious hypocrisy – all the more powerful because of the director’s
Seventy-two percent of all critics have given highly favorable ratings for the film. The only
two sources to issue scathing reviews were the Christian Science Monitor, which
complained of “simplistic psychology” as well as “lack of philosophical insight,” and the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which assigned it a classification of “O” for
Jim Carrey’s latest comedy was suggested by an 1889 short story written by the
outspoken atheist H.G. Wells, which dramatized the absurdity of miracles. That story,
called “The Man Who Could Work Miracles,” was later expanded into a screenplay by
Wells and produced in 1934. The original story had no explanation for why the
protagonist was suddenly able to perform miracles, but the movie version introduced
several Greek gods who are speculating about what human beings would do if given
unlimited powers. They decide to experiment with just one man, a mousey little store
clerk, named George Fatheringay, who lives in an English country village. The sub-plot
of a love interest is also introduced. As Fatheringay begins to realize the enormous
potential of his powers, he becomes a megalomaniac who sets himself up as emperor
of the world. But when he attempts to emulate Joshua’s feat of causing the sun to stand
still he doesn’t reckon on the consequences of stopping the rotation of the earth. All
civilization is destroyed as mountains topple over and a tsunami of unimaginable scale
There are too many differences between Carrey’s version and the original for it to be
considered a re-make, and I think it is actually an improvement over the 1934 production
anyway – in that it plays the concept of miracles strictly for laughs, and it points out the
relationship between miracles and answered prayers – which are equally ridiculous.
In the present incarnation, Morgan Freeman plays Yahweh, a.k.a. “God,” who has
become annoyed by the constant complaining of a second rate TV reporter in Buffalo,
N.Y., named Bruce Noland, played by Carrey. Yahweh decides he needs a vacation
anyhow, so he temporarily turns his duties over to Nolan. Bruce first uses his new power
for a series of amusing and harmless stunts, until he brings the moon down closer in
order to create a romantic setting for his girlfriend. Only the next morning does he realize
that this change in the moon’s orbit has generated tidal waves which have wiped out
whole cities. At another point, Bruce is driven to distraction by the cacophony of voices
in his head from people praying for various favors, so he organizes all the prayers into a
computer database and then tries to answer them one at a time. With a planet of six
billion souls, this also proves impossible, but wanting to be a benevolent god, he grants
them all what they want, en masse. This also turns out to be a disaster, since different
people have conflicting desires. The only example that is treated, however, is the state
lottery of New York: Since everybody wins it, that means that everybody wins only a few
dollars each, which sets off a riot.
In the end, the message of the film is a Humanistic one: The whole concept of
supernaturalism is silly; true spirituality consists in making the best of our lives, here and
now. In this respect, the movie is probably closest to the George Burns classics “Oh,
God!” and “Oh God, You Devil!” – using the metaphor of the supernatural to debunk the
idea of the supernatural.
Surprisingly, I haven’t heard of any churches raising a fuss about it, and it set a new
record for opening week-end box office. Kids probably aren’t aware of what they are
laughing at, but it’s a start.
This delicious little fable pits a charming and good hearted atheist against the
repressiveness of a small town dominated by puritanical religion. With the story set in
rural France during the mid 20th century, Juliette Binoche plays the part of a freethinking
unwed mother who has spent her life wandering the world. Her secret to survival has
been a recipe for chocolate that apparently has certain tranquilizing and aphrodisiacal
When she and her young daughter not only have the audacity to open a candy store
during Lent, but also refuse to attend Mass, the ultra-pious mayor resolves to drive her
out of business.
Allying themselves with her in the battle against asceticism are Judi Dench as a dying
grandmother, Lena Olin as an abused wife who has left her husband, and Johnny Depp
as an Irish musician.
Most satisfying of all, however, is the sound of audience laughter at the absurdities of
In interviews with the press, Writer/Director Kevin Smith says he is a practicing
Catholic, but such statements are probably prerequisite to getting his movie released.
In the closing credits of the film he refers to himself as a highly spiritual agnostic.
Perhaps he intended to strengthen Christian doctrines by putting them into
contemporary context, but it is hard to imagine how anyone could take traditional
dogmas seriously after viewing this hilarious send up. Based on Judeo-Christian
folklore of the early church, Smith concocts an action/adventure farce about two
homicidal angels who have been kicked out of heaven, but who are determined to find
a loophole in canon law – even if it means destroying the entire universe in the process.
The over elaborate plot sometimes bogs down in arcane mythology, but there are
enough laughs and bizarre twists to make this a most satisfying comedy. The extreme
pressure exerted by the Catholic Church to prevent the Disney Corporation from
distributing this film should be recommendation enough.
“The Contender” is a political melodrama with plot twists that push the limits of
credibility, but excellent acting and brisk pacing drive the picture on to a sentimental
ending that would have gladdened the hearts of Frank Capra and D.W. Griffith.
The story involves a Democratic president, played by Jeff Bridges, whose vice president
has suddenly died. His most urgent business, therefore, is to appoint a new V.P. His
first choice is a woman senator, played by the elegant Joan Allen. But any appointment
must be ratified by a congressional committee, chaired by a right wing Republican,
played by Gary Oldman. Oldman’s character is determined to block the appointment for
several reasons. First of all, she is a woman; she is pro-choice; she supports separation
of church and state; she had originally been a Republican, but changed parties, which
Olman regards as traitorous; and finally, she is non-religious. In order to sabotage her
confirmation, Oldman dredges up some salacious photographs allegedly taken of Allen
when she was a college freshman at a fraternity party.
The main point of interest to us, however, is that in her closing statement to the
congressional committee the senator proudly announces that she is indeed an atheist,
and the only document she regards as holy is the U.S. Constitution.
In real life, Gary Oldman the actor has publicly complained that the liberal owners of
Dreamworks Studios re-edited the picture to turn the original script into an infomercial
for the Democratic Party – just in time for the election.
Be that as it may, the movie raises a number of points that most of us would applaud,
and I think any film which dares to elevate an atheist to heroic status deserves our
Crime of Father Amoro, The
(aka El Crimen del Padre Amoro)
This film has infuriated the Catholic Church, both in Mexico and the U.S. The director is
being sued for “violating the rights of Catholics”; some Church groups have tried to ban,
or censor, the film; massive mailings have been sent to Catholics, denouncing it; and
demonstrations have been staged at theaters where it was playing.
Why all the vitriol? Because it demonstrates the hypocrisy of the Church as it
desperately tries to cling to power in the face of its obsolete policies.
The plot involves a handsome young priest named Father Amoro, fresh from seminary,
who has been assigned to a small town in Mexico. There he discovers that his
immediate superior has been living with a mistress for many years, and that a Catholic
hospital is being constructed with money from a major drug dealer. The only
sympathetic character is a priest who preaches “liberation theology” and is ministering
to a group of impoverished peasants, far back in the mountains. The bishop, who has
no use for such heretical doctrines, claims that he is aiding guerrillas, and orders him to
leave. He refuses and is excommunicated. Father Amoro, in the meantime, has fallen
in love with a pretty young communicant, but since priests are bound to celibacy, the
results are predictable. The girl gets pregnant but the priest refuses to resign from the
ministry in order to marry her, so he helps her get an abortion instead. Because the
operation is illegal in Mexico, the abortion is botched by a quack and the girl bleeds to
death. Amoro’s immediate superior knows everything, but the crime is covered up by
announcing that her ex-boyfriend, far away in Mexico City, was the culprit.
The script was based on a novel from the 19th century but, says the director, nothing has
really changed in the last century and a half, so very few modifications were necessary,
and every plot point was substantiated by current headlines. The story has struck a
resonant chord among the Latino community, ringing up the largest grosses of any
Mexican film in history.
It is not an atheist film, however. As the director says, he is not questioning any basic
Christian doctrines, but only the political policies of the Catholic Church.
In Spanish, with English subtitles.
Gods and Generals
If Aeschylus or Euripides had ever written a screenplay, this is what it might have
looked like. Unfortunately, the ancient style of delivering one long peroration after
another, using very flowery and formal language, delivered without contractions, does
not make for gripping cinema. I thought that since the film was produced by Ted Turner
that it would have some pungent things to say about religion – which it does: Both
sides spend a great deal of time delivering long prayers, on the assumption that God is
on their side – until they kill each other. But having seen this literary device used once,
it also gets boring.
When this trilogy is completed and broadcast as a mini-series on the History Channel,
as I’m sure it will be, supported by narration and broken up every 15 minutes with
commercials, it will make for very good television. But as a feature film it is a major
flop, because the dramatic structure is very weak. As in The Lord of the Rings series,
there is no genuine climax, because this is only the first episode in a three part series
that has yet to be completed. The denouement is simply a title card that says, “To be
continued with the battle of Gettysburg.”
Another structural problem is that the protagonist is a Confederate general, with whom
a modern audience cannot identify, since he had dedicated his life to defending a way
of life that is based on slavery. The film tries to downplay the whole issue of slavery,
claiming that the Southerners were only defending their homes and families. But no
one today can swallow that argument.
Save your money and wait for the TV series.
Just in time for Halloween comes the scariest movie of the year. It’s called “Jesus
Camp,” a documentary about a Pentecostal summer camp for mostly pre-teen
children, located at Devil Lake, North Dakota. The director of this Christian Madrasa is
an imposingly large woman named Becky Fischer, who runs her little boot camp like a
Marine drill sergeant. She calls the operation “Kids on Fire,” where the goal is to
create well disciplined little soldiers for “God’s Army,” in their relentless quest to “take
back America for Christ.”
The film was produced and directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who have
previously won prizes for other documentaries and features. They take a neutral
stance, with no narration or negatively slanted editing, letting the principal characters
speak for themselves – who mainly consist of Pastor Becky and three home-schooled
children from Missouri. We focus on the lives and activities of twelve-year old Levi, ten-
year-old Tory, and nine-year-old Rachel, as they voice their beliefs and ambitions to
become missionaries of one sort or another. At times, however, we intercut with clips
from radio commentator Mike Papantonio and a church service conducted by Ted
Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, meets with President
Bush every week and claims to represent more than thirty million believers. He boasts
that his evangelicals can control any election.
Papantonio is a liberal Christian on the Air America radio network, and his critical
comments about the operation of “Kids on Fire” are intended to provide some kind of
political balance to the presentation.
The film opens with a group of children, some as young as six, who are performing a
dance routine for their beaming parents. With their faces painted in camouflage make-
up, and wearing battle fatigues, they pantomime military drills with poles instead of real
After that musical sequence, Mullet-haired Levi is seen “witnessing his faith” before a
small gathering at the camp, then privately explains to us that he dreams of eventually
preaching before thousands at a mega-church. Rachel tells us that she plans to
become a missionary in far-flung places, as we see her accosting startled people on
the street to give them the “good news about salvation.” Tory is adept at glossolalia, or
“speaking in the tongues of angels,” and regards this as a talent for “prophesy.” She
also “dances for Christ” and expresses her disgust for the heathenish gyrations of
Britney Spears. She feels that God has called her to speak out against abortion.
There is a lot of hysterical crying and waving of arms among the children as Becky
lambastes all the principles that liberals generally support, such as science,
democracy, pluralism, and separation of church and state. She says that Muslim
children are taught to lay down their lives for their religion; but they are dying for
nothing, whereas “we have the truth.” Are you willing to do as much? To fight and die
for Christ? “Oh yes, Lord, yes!” they fervently respond. And to further reinforce their
militancy, we see them playing violent video games in which they are encouraged to
blow away all the “godless enemies of Christ.”
Perhaps the most disturbing scene shows the children raising their arms to heaven
while praying to a cardboard cutout of President George Bush, whom they are taught to
regard as America’s best hope for salvation. The scene is eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s
Becky had invited the producers to film all the activities of the camp, and declared that
she was quite pleased with the final results. In fact, she is hoping to recruit more
children by distributing the film to thousands of churches around the country. Haggard,
however, was less than thrilled. He is reported to have said afterwards that it made
them all look like lunatics. In fact, at one point in the film, after he had just said
something particularly outrageous, he turns to the camera and says that if the
producers use that shot, he would sue them. We shall see.
I think this film should be required viewing for all agnostics and religious liberals who
claim that atheists continually exaggerate the threats posed by fundamentalism. If these
children are truly representative of the generation now being cultivated by the political
majority then the Republic is in serious jeopardy.
Chronicles of Narnia, The:
The Lion, the Witch, and the
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was produced by
Mark Johnson and Philip Steuer in association with the Walt Disney Corporation and
directed by Andrew Adamson; it is based on a series of children’s books by C.S.
Lewis (published between 1950 and 1956).
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was an Irish author and scholar who spent most of his life
teaching Medieval Literature at Oxford and Cambridge. He was a close friend of J.R.R.
Tolkien, famous for his Lord of the Rings series. Over his lifetime, Lewis wrote 45
books of both fiction and non-fiction, plus four books of poetry. From childhood on, he
was fascinated by Irish folklore, and almost all of his books deal with mythology.
After losing his mother at age eight, Lewis became disillusioned with Christianity and
declared himself an atheist. However, after years of association with his devoutly
Catholic colleague and mentor, J.R.R. Tolkien, he reverted back to his childhood beliefs
and at age 40 joined the Church of England. With the zeal of a reformed sinner, he
devoted the rest of his life to proselytizing for his favorite mythology: Christianism. In
fact, most of his later non-fiction books were polemics in support of his version of
The seven volume Chronicles of Narnia, however, were Lewis’ most popular books –
within which he wantonly indulges all his favorite tropes from Greek, Roman, Egyptian,
Norse, Germanic, Hebrew, and Christian legends. In this movie there are satyrs and
centaurs, dragons and unicorns, minotaurs and dwarfs, wicked witches, magical
potions, prophesies, curses, and monsters of all descriptions.
The basic plot is that four British children, during the Blitz of 1940, are sent to a country
estate for their own safety. While playing hide and seek in the old house they discover
a mysterious wardrobe which leads them to the magical land of Narnia. One of the
children is captured by the Wicked Witch, who happens to rule the land, and the other
three siblings then ally themselves with various talking animals to rescue their brother
from the Ice Castle. Leader of the opposition forces is a lion named Aslan, who
presumably represents Christ, king of righteousness. The animals always refer to the
boys as the Sons of Adam, and the girls as Daughters of Eve.
There is a confrontation between the lion and the witch, where the witch says that the
boy she captured is guilty of some unforgivable sin, so according to the metaphysical
rules laid down at the beginning of time, the boy must die for his crime. (That would be
the laws of the Old Testament... get it?) The lion says he helped write those rules, and
he knows of a loophole; then he has a private conference with the witch. Afterwards,
the boy is permitted to rejoin his family, amid great joy. Shockingly, however, the lion
allows himself to be led away in chains, mocked, humiliated, and beaten (Mt 27:28; Mk
15:17). He is taken to an altar and stabbed in the side with a spear by the Wicked
Witch (Jn 19:34). The two sisters are left weeping over the lion’s body (Mt 27:61; Lk 23:
In the meantime, the evil army of the Ice Queen lines up on one side of a valley, and the
righteous animals line up in opposition. There is a bloody battle between the Good
Guys and the Bad Guys (as in the Battle of Armageddon: Rev 16:16). The Axis of Evil
seems to be winning. But wait! Back at the scene of the sacrifice, the girls start to walk
away... when... Behold! There is an earthquake! (Mt 28:2) The girls turn around...
and... Aslan has been resurrected!! (Mt 28; Mk16; Lk 24; Jn 20.) Aslan explains that he
had understood the Scriptures more deeply than the witch had (meaning that, according
to the revised laws of Yahweh, it’s now OK for a demigod to die for some mortal’s
crime – since that death is only temporary anyway). Aslan then places the girls on his
back and goes galloping away to turn the tide of battle. When the resurrected King of
the Jungle appears on a mountaintop (heralded by an angelic choir), the Forces of Evil
magically fade away and peace is restored to the land (i.e., the Second Coming of
Christ – described frequently throughout the apocryphal literature). During the
denouement, there is a great pageant in which the four children all receive golden
crowns, as they become the royal family, chosen by the people to rule over them happily
ever after. (Receiving golden crowns in heaven by the righteous is a common literary
device throughout the apocryphal New Testament stories.)
Since Lewis was so enthralled with mythology, it’s understandable why he would be
attracted to Christianity, since it is the grand synthesis of all previous mythologies, and
since it lends itself so readily to the proliferation of further tales of the supernatural.
But was it a good movie? Well, I think it will make a bundle of money. It was well
produced and the special effects are spectacular. The four children are appealing, and
the story is universal. As Joseph Campbell said, all fairy tales are variations on the
same theme: It is an odyssey of leaving home, venturing into a strange land, showing
courage and heroism in the face of danger, sacrificing one’s own life for others,
followed by death and resurrection – in one fashion or another. It is the model life to
which everyone presumably aspires.
The allusions to the Christian mythos are not heavy handed, and only those who are
very familiar with biblical literature are likely to notice the symbolism I cited. The same
children who loved Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings will undoubtedly like this one
too. I think atheist parents should probably take their children to see this film, and
discuss it with them afterwards, pointing out how the Jesus story fits into the overall
sweep of world mythology.
A Film that Only an Atheist Can Love?
This was my introduction to the film before showing it at an AU meeting.