Friday, December 30, 2016

The Elfs Control Hollywood

Skip the film, play the game.
The title to this post hit me like a brick while reading John C. Wright's The Swan Knight's Son. Given that elfs serve as the primary antagonists in a world where they represent the primary threat to Christendom, it's a throwaway line meant to serve as red meat for the faithful.  Yet it serves as a throwaway line that gives the reader's just plausible enough to make you wonder how fictional the book really is.

Case in point, the recent Hollywood version of Ben Hur.  There are all kinds of problems with this film.  The secular problems are easy:
  • They paid for Morgan Freeman to be in it, so of course they have to get their money's worth by having him narrate the opening scene.  It may be the most superfluous narration I've ever seen.  Freeman literally tells us what we are watching, right now.
  • The characters are unlikable. The mother is so obnoxious, I enjoyed seeing her arrested by the Romans and didn't care about her fate. The protagonist dooms his family for the sake of a stranger who never receives his comeuppance for all the trouble he causes.
  • The sister and love interest are pretty much indistinguishable. That makes for some really confusing make-out sessions.
  • The Roman empire is painted as a wonderfully diverse realm where everyone lives and works and trades together in peace and harmony.  Every single crowd scene was carefully crafted to show people of all races and colors and creeds and dress.  Okay, fine, but you're doing this to me right after telling me the Roman Empire was totes xenophobics, guys, 'cause the only reason Rome invaded her neighbors was because they were different.  Does. Not. Compute.
The religious problems were infinitely worse.
  • One of the two main leads responds to Hippy Jesus' call for love with the words, "How progressive of you."  Nice and subtle, Hollywood.
  • The jerk that caused Ben Hur's downfall and all the pain and suffering in Act One by failing to assassinate Pontius Pilate re-appears in Act Three. Instead of his just desserts, he is revealed to be the crucified thief Jesus promises will sit at his side in Heaven.  You can't paint a character that unsympathetically and then reward him at the end without some serious character growth or character beats.
  • The most unforgiveable deviation from scripture occurs when Pontius Pilate identifies Jesus as the real threat to Roman control over Israel. Apparently the writers aren't familiar with Pilate trying on multiple occasions to avoid crucifying Jesus.  Apparently, the writers are familiar with the fact that Christianity worked to preserve the Roman Empire (and the subsequent Eastern Empire in particular) for centuries.
The whole thing, top to bottom, was just dreadful.  You can give them some credit for a great galley-slave battle scene and a great chariot race scene, but without the emotional investment in the characters those are hollow stage-pieces.  Compare the weight of any arena scene in Gladiator.  The fact that Maximus is so much more heroic, wise, and likeable imbues those scenes with a deeper impact than the herky-jerky visuals could ever achieve on their own.

In short, Ben Hur, wins my award for 'worst movie I saw in 2016', right at the final turn.  Congratulations on butchering film-making and the story of Christ both, Hollywood.  You've made the elfs proud once more.

1 comment:

  1. This movie sounds so bad, I feel guilty for you having to endure it so that I don't make the mistake of ever watching it.

    Thank you?