Monday, June 27, 2005


God is in control.

In Bewitched, Isabel Bigelow (Nicole Kidman) is the new version of Samantha (from the orginal television series) and an actual witch who is cast to play the new version of Samantha (as a revival of the original television series)... wrap your head around that one!

What this allows the movie to do is have Isabel/Samantha have anything she wants at the snap of a finger (or, in the movie, at the pulling of her ear). As we see throughout the film, what she wants is a normal, non-warlock actor named Jack Wyatt (the Darrin character played by Will Ferrell). So she tries every trick in her book (of spells, that is). The dream house, the love spell, the tricks with the dog on the set... none of these truly accomplishes what she dreams of.

But when Samantha discovers that she must let go of her powers, tricks, and spells, and allow love to work "naturally" (or as I see it, to let God be in control), dreams come true.

Too often in our lives, while we don't have magic spells, we do try every trick up our sleeve to make things work our way. More often than not, the more we try, the less things work out for the best.

Letting go and letting God. It sounds so simple, but it is so difficult for many of us to grasp. I find myself wanting to control every moment of every day, every situation, and especially every dream I have. I find myself living too often by the phrase "If you want it done right, do it yourself." But Bewitched reminds us that letting go is letting God take control, and when that happens, great things do start to happen.

It's a risk, letting go. We need reminders every now and then to do that, even when we're sitting in an air-conditioned movie theatre this summer watching a remake like Bewitched.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Batman Begins

"Fear nothing. For nothing is concealed that will be revealed, nor secret what will be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in light. What you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops." Matthew 10:26-27

There is a scene in Batman Begins, when Bruce Wayne (played by Christian Bale) is walking around in a cave below his mansion and hears the sounds of bats all about him, echoing on the walls in the darkness. Bruce Wayne, we learn, is very afraid of bats (originating in a childhood experience which scarred him for life). When the bats in this cave start flying over his head, he ducks in fear. But then he remembers, "Fear nothing," and slowly stands while hundreds of bats fly around him, circling him and screaching.

In this scene, Bruce Wayne not only faces his fear, he embraces it. After a life running from his fears, he now lives the command of Christ in the Gospels: "Fear nothing."

The real story of Batman Begins is the confrontation and conquering of our inner fears.

On a simple, surface level, Bruce Wayne has a fear of bats. However, on a deeper level, he is afraid of deeper things. He fears his own inner guilt, his violent temper, and his family's reputation in the city. When the story begins, he is also haunted by the night when he lost his parents so much so that he has fled from Gotham half-way across the world to China.

Underneath the vigor and violence we see in him, Bruce Wayne is the walking embodiment of fear. Like in the Star Wars saga, this film employs the philosophy that fear leads to anger, anger to hate, and hate to suffering. With all his fear and supressed feelings, Bruce Wayne lets his life's goal become a search for revenge against those who made him feel this way.

The Scriptures speak about this foolish desire for vengence: "Do not look for revenge...for it is written, 'Vengence is mine, says the Lord.'" (Romans 12:19)

About a quarter through this movie, Bruce is put to the test by Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe) and his mentor Ducard (Liam Neeson) to enact justice of a common criminal through capital punishment. He refuses to put him to death, citing that, above all, we must have compassion for one another. This is the first glimer of hope that Bruce Wayne is clearing his mind of fear, vengence, and hatred, and that he knows the Gospel call to love one another.

Slowly (but surely), as Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, he rids himself of fear, guilt, and anger. By no means is Batman the purest, most moral superhero; he is truly a dark knight and is very human underneath that pointy-eared mask. Revenge, fear, and anger continue to haunt him, but as he learns what true justice is all about (i.e., protecting the weak and vulnerable rather than fighting only for ourselves), those human shadows are cleansed away.

In the Gospels, Christ challenges us to rid ourselves of fear, guilt, and vengence. These are emotions of our dark side. They are not of God. Therefore, to give into them is to push ourselves further from God. When we find ourselves overwhelmed with guilt and fear, we must confront them, even embrace them like bats in a batcave. Batman Begins reminds us of the Biblical answer to facing our fears: that is to see goodness in all things, to act justly for love of others, and to walk humbly and selflessly with our God (cf. Micah 16:8).

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

"Have you not read from the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must seperate." Matthew 19:4-6

It's been awhile since I've seen a movie that honored the sacramentality of marriage like Mr. & Mrs. Smith with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

I hate to give away the ending, but that's what made the movie for me. (skip this review if you don't want it all spoiled for you). In the end, marriage wins out. In the end, what God joined together, no one seperated (and, quite unbelievably in the final battle scene, neither did any handguns, rifles, shotguns, or bazookas).

The Smiths begin this movie like many married couples whose careers have eclipsed their intimacy. They seem to have buried themselves in secrecy and mostly from each other. One of the major plot holes is also one of the most telling signs of a marriage in trouble: It seems John Smith has never visited his wife at work in five or six years of marriage, nor does either spouse seem even curious about the details of each other's job.

Secrecy and a lack of concern all add up to a marriage without real intimacy. But as the Scriptures say, "the truth shall set you free." Once the two become aware of their secrets and once they fully concern themselves with each other's life in the movie, the truth sets them free to discover they not only have a career in common (albiet a very non-Christian job) but also a passion and intensity for their work and for their outlook on life.

One thing leads to another, and this discovery eventually (a few gunshots later) leads to a rekindling of intimacy and a reminder of the sacrament of married life.

What does this have to do with us, non-contract killers? While we may not share the Smiths' job choices, God has graced us with relationships that need nurturing and attention. With trust, there can be no secrecy. With love, there can be no lie. In this world where God made us for each other, we cannot afford to ruin that gift by ignoring the problem signs. When God calls us to marriage, it is our duty to give it all we have with all the passion He has created within us.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith reminds us of that gift. A must-see for all couples.

Friday, June 03, 2005


"Some friends bring ruin on us, but a true friend is more loyal than a brother." Proverbs 18:24

Although there is nothing too special about Madagascar that hasn't been seen in animated and children's movies before, it does bring back the theme of friendship in the best and the worst of times.

See if you can follow this: Alex the Lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) and Marty the Zebra (voiced by Chris Rock) begin this film as good friends at the zoo; then become estranged when they land on Madagascar; then come back together when a tribe of lemurs bring them to their home; then become predator-and-prey when Alex sees all his friends as food; then finally become friends again when Marty won't give up on a ten-year friendship. It's back and forth and back and forth, but the basic theme comes out in the end: friendship knows no limits or boundaries when it's really real.

Perhaps there might be a bright spot to the fact that this theme has been tried so many times on the silver screen: true friendship is a real gift of God. In such an individualistic age, I believe God wants us to rediscover the priceless value of community and friendship.

The hero of Madagascar? It's Marty, who choose to rekindle friendship despite the odds. He shows us it may be easy to be a friend in the good times, but it's much harder to keep it intact when the going gets rough (and when you might be "eaten" if you get to close).

In John 15, Jesus speaks a lot about real friendship. To Christ, friendship is "to lay down one's life for another." (v. 13). Marty the Zebra is a friend in the spirit of Christ in this film, and an example for all of us to follow.

The friendship theme might be an old movie formula, but it's a theme worth the repeat.