EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is the second in a five-part special series by movie reviewer Phil Boatwright examining the coarse content of movies.
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–The Apocalypse is upon us. At least at the local cineplex and video store. Wars and rumors of wars, along with the possible demise of the American dream, have caused an anxiety throughout the land, and Hollywood is cashing in end-time action adventures: “District 9,” “2012,” “The Road,” “9,” “Battle For Terra,” “Terminator Salvation,” “Zombieland,” “Daybreakers,” “The Book of Eli.” Even religious film companies are following suit: “In the Blink of an Eye” and “Six: The Mark Unleashed” to name two.
In part two of a series concerning the lackadaisical acceptance of irreverence for Scriptural matters in movies, let’s delve into Hollywood’s perception of things to come.
“The Book of Eli” (rated R) tells the story of maniacal warlord who wants the last copy of a sacred book (which turns out to be the King James version of the Bible), because he thinks he can enslave the world by being the soul possessor of its knowledge. The film is an action-fueled parable and there is an ethereal cherry on top: It might cause some non-churchgoers to investigate what the Bible has to say about mankind’s future. Along with the recitation of the 23rd Psalm, and a simple prayer that is passed down from a Believer to a younger generation, the film also contains another valuable lesson — a reminder to appreciate what is truly precious: the day, our blessings and those we love.
Alas, Warner Brothers wants us to endure R-rated material in order to get to the profundity. The film’s content consists of around twenty obscenities, mostly the f-word; one profanity (God’s name used in vain); several brutal battles, including martial arts skirmishes; weapons such as machetes, pistols, automatic rifles and explosives are used to kill people and destroy armored vehicles; and a couple of scenes have men trying to rape a young woman. Does that sound like they are really trying to court Christians? Or does it sound like moviemakers don’t understand what’s offensive to us?
That brings up the central theme of part two in this series: What are we willing to put up with in the name of entertainment? Wouldn’t you say that anything the Bible proclaims to be wrong should be steered clear of by His children? How is it, then, that we get around the following verses when we choose a movie?
— “I will set before my eyes no vile thing” (Psalm 101:3).
— “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
— “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
Recently I viewed a war film made in 1949. “Battleground” was star-studded with a powerful script that revealed a division of American troops under fire at the Battle of the Bulge. It unnerved me, it moved me and it enlightened me. “Battleground” entertained while reminding viewers of the horrors of war. Now, because this was 1949, actors had to find other ways of expressing fear and frustration than by profaning God’s name. Today’s argument: “Today, we are more realistic. Men in battle swear.” True. But movies are an art form. Or so we’re told over and over each award show season.
The art of storytelling is most effective not just when it shows who we are, but when it suggests what we can become. An art form should aim up, not just humor our baser instincts. Though this concept has nearly been forgotten in Tinseltown, dialogue should be a salute to a use of language, not an abuse of it.
While there was no cussing, “Battleground” didn’t disappoint. Who in the middle of a film goes, “Where’s the cussing?” If the story is well told, you will be affected by the narrative.
We can’t walk through a mall or stand in line at McDonald’s without hearing some curse word, and all too often it is a profanity. We’ve gotten to where we shrug it off. But listening to obscenity in a movie you paid for is a different matter. Why pay to be offended? That doesn’t make sense to me.
I picked out language to make my point. Our culture seems to embrace other excesses in order to be amused. Perhaps we have evolved into beings capable of processing any amount of abuse Hollywood puts before our eyes, but is that what our Creator intended for us? The Bible is God’s guideline for living, and it applies to every part of our lives, including how we entertain ourselves.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective and is the author of “Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad.” Read his film reviews at previewonline.org. To read other columns in the “Christians & movies” special series click here.