15 December 2008

The day the Gospel stood still?

by Dan Phillips

Kenneth Chan of the Christian Post not only saw, liked and recommends the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" — but he sees an inspiring and Biblical message in it. Titled 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' mirrors days of Noah, Chan's review both (mistakenly) "finds" and (lamentably) misses essential elements.

Admitting that this is not a Christian movie, Chan opines, "so obvious are the biblical allusions that it will likely be embraced by believers." Um... not by me; but you already knew that.

Chan sees it as "a great modern day retelling of the Noah's ark story." He further asserts that "seeing the destructive nature of mankind in the movie really helps believers and non-believers understand more clearly why God – or any deity or powerful entity – would end the lives of so many."

Chan's conclusion, at length:
The sudden conclusion of the movie, however, may leave moviegoers feeling like an entire third act is missing and may put a damper on whatever suspense or thrills the action-packed film may have built up – which is a shame because the movie has so much going for it.

Knowing this, is the movie still worth seeing? I would say so. The movie is still better in many ways than the cherished original and the message that the movie presents is such an important one for every person in this world. Especially, with the word “Change” on everyone’s mind – particularly in the US – the movie will resonate with many.

And as we are living in a post-9/11 age, more movies with messages like this one are surely needed – as are the people who work for change.

Hopefully, moviegoers will leave this flick not just entertained, but inspired and changed themselves.

For starters, I disagree with every word, as my review indicates.

But let's focus on the attempted Biblical linkage. I'm sure the remake's little global animal-traps are meant to call Noah's ark to mind. But —
  1. Chan's simply mistaken about the film's core message. The green emphasis is explicit, preachy, and heavy-handed. Everything else is incidental.
  2. Genesis depicts a sovereign, infinite-personal God who created, owns, and thus is moral judge of the earth and everything else (Genesis 1—2). Yahweh has every right to assess it and judge the universe. By contrast, the aliens have no stake in what the earth does, except as arrogant meddlers. This is a lacunum in relation to the original, where the aliens were saying (in effect) "Blow each other up if you want, just don't bring that garbage out here."
  3. The judgment in Genesis is morally-based, not ecologically-based. "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). In that vertical and transcendent context, Moses introduces the fact of horizontal violence and corruption (vv. 11-12).
  4. For my part, I would be deeply distressed if anyone drew any spiritual conclusions in harmony with the movie. Jennifer Connelly's character cries, "We can change! We can change!", producing gales of derisive laughter from my dear wife and me — because the desired (and promised) change is never specified. How is Ms. Connelly's character going to change? Is she going to drive in summer without using her air conditioner? Buy a Prius? Cancel her flight to Europe? Stop throwing away her diet soda cans? A vague commitment to "change" will send a sinner straight to Hell with a silly smile on his face. It is no message a Christian wants to send.
  5. Further, the "message" of the movie is that we have intrinsic good in us, and if we just work harder, we can bring that good out of our hearts and make everything nice and politically acceptable. It's purely humanistic, purely PoMo, and purely horizontal — unless the aliens are a vertical dimension. If so, they worsen, rather than improve, the situation.
  6. By starkest possible contrast, the "change" God requires involves changing that heart of which "every intention of [its] thoughts" are "only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). But we cannot change our own hearts, because they are sick, and they deceive us at every turn (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart is the source of our dilemma, not the source of our salvation. We must be saved from without, by the sovereign power and grace of God, dealing with our vertical wrongs against the absolute and transcendent standard of the Law of God. We need our guilt assuaged, and our natures changed. We need reconciliation to God. The movie neither admits, nor suggests, nor even so much as hints at such a solution. In fact, its message is in direct conflict with the Gospel.
Reading this takes me back to the seventies, when Christian writers grasped at the flimsiest of straws (George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord," "The Omen") as if we need validation in The Arts. We don't, and we shouldn't.

In sum: this movie gives the Christian viewer nothing except a point of contrast with the Gospel. In that way, it may indeed be useful as a conversation-launcher.

But I don't think it's worth seeing, even for that.

To read about God's good news, click here.

Dan Phillips's signature


Daniel said...

I had to stop reading Chan's review at: "When a large object hurtling through space at supersonic speeds makes it way toward Earth"

Super SONIC? In space?

DJP said...

In space, no one can hear you speed.

Daniel said...

I believe super "califragilisticexpialidocious" would only be marginally worse, just marginally though.

FX Turk said...

That is a great movie review.

And Phil even slacked off with the Spurgy this weekend, so I hope he's OK.

David said...

Precisely what we've come to expect from CT. And as far as intrinsic good in all of us, the John 3:16 Conference folks would affirm that too.

CH said...

What does it say when Christian writers praise a movie that secular reviewers found laughable. Not only that, but trying to find spiritual meaning in it?

Just more evangelical silliness.

Solameanie said...

Didn't Tears for Fears have a song called "Change?" I'm surprised no one has glommed onto it yet, especially the makers of a film such as this, or certain campaigns that shall remain nameless. I think there was also a band called "Klattu" if I am not mistaken.

Meta-derailing musical references aside, you should offer your excellent review to CT as a rebuttal. Think they'd publish it? (cough, cough)

DJP said...

You know, I love a good CT-thrashing as much as the next guy, and they certainly deserve a truckload of it: but this is CP, not CT.

Mike Westfall said...

Well, me apparently being less geezerly than y'all, I've never seen the original. It was a long time ago.

And now, because of your reviews, Dan, I'll likely never see the remake, either.

I feel deprived.

jeff said...

This movie sounds like most of the rest of the humanistic, touchy-feely clap-trap coming out of Hollywood. Not worth a Christians' time to spend wasted in a movie theatre.

On another note, I wonder if someone could tell me, perhaps you Dan, did you or someone else give a recommendation of a particular version of Dickens' "Christmas Carol"? I seem to remember reading last year in the blog here at Pyromaniacs that one of the film versions was better than all the rest. Can anyone refresh my memory?

Thanks and God bless.

DJP said...

Sure. I mean to put a post up at my blog soon summarizing some of my previous Christmas postings (i.e. on versions of Handel's Messiah, etc.).

Of course, it's a matter of opinion, but by far my favorite version is 1951's Scrooge, with Alistair Sim. For me, one major test is whether the person playing Scrooge is equally convincing before and after, and no actor even touches Sim in that regard.

Sir Brass said...

Are you sure, DJP? I mean, Patrick Stewart as Scrouge is pretty darn good. :)

DJP said...

yes, I'm sure; and no, he's not.

(Well, you asked!)


Solameanie said...

Sorry. CP it is. My mistake.

As to Scrooge, can anyone correctly play such a character if they're not named "Alistair?"

Strong Tower said...

nononono! Muppet Christmas Carol. Michael Caine, the best by far. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RUth7EX-eo McDuck was good too.

And I like Neo.

He was convincing in Speed, no?

donsands said...

"Be still, and know that I God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."

Thanks for the review of the movie, and the review of the review of the movie.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Hmmm, I wonder how many pastors in the "Church of What's Happenin' Now" will have sermon series on the movie? I can picture the billboards and local TV ads.

I still remember (in my old church) sitting through four sermons about "Titanic". I'm almost totally recovered now...

~Mark said...

Thanks for saving me $10 Dan. I'm sick of Green movies, Green tv shows, Green teeth (oh wait; gotta brush!) and at this point anything on tv that starts with the word "Green" gets my remote finger twitchin'.

I bet the local church who promoted their series "The Gospel according to The Office" will love the sermon fodder Mr. Chan has given them.

CH said...

Wow Mark (Hanson), my heart goes out to you brother. Just reading about someone doing a sermon series on Titanic about made me vomit all over my computer.

I can't imagine what it was like having to sit through it.

DJP said...

SolameanieAs to Scrooge, can anyone correctly play such a character if they're not named "Alistair?"

So far, the answer would be "No."

CR said...

I thought George C. Scott played an excellent Scrooge.

DJP said...



Luke and Rachael said...

Point (3) seems to assume a sharp disconnect between the "moral realm" and the "ecological realm."

But the two are tied pretty closely. Ecological irresponsibility is--perhaps necessarily--a form of moral responsibility; and at least some forms of moral irresponsibility are forms of ecological irresponsibility. Given that humans are so wicked in the Gen. flood narrative, is it really that strange to think that part of the reason for God's sending the flood is because they weren't treating the non-human creation as God wanted and instructed them to?

Mike Riccardi said...

Luke, you'd have to read that into the text.

Dan: The heart is the source of our dilemma, not the source of our salvation.

That, my friend, is a gem. Belongs in red, as you have it. I was recently at a Thanksgiving dinner designed as a ministry for international students (here in NJ we're quite the melting pot, especially in the colleges/universities). We sang some good worship songs, had some dinner, and we also had a "speaker," from one of the recently Emergized churches in the area. He had his Bible, but never opened it. Used it as a prop though. And his whole message was about our finding our place in the big story. If we feel that stuff isn't right inside of us, Jesus can explain that for us. It was the gospel of self-actualization. "Jesus can show you how to be all you can be."

But it still rested on letting out of us what we were quenching. It was terrible to think that many of these students who have no idea what Christianity is, but come in droves to such events don't get fed the Gospel, but some ridiculousness about how to follow one's heart. As you say, it's the problem, not the solution.

I also really appreciated what you said about Christians feeling like we need to find vindcation in the arts. I remember desiring that and going after that when I first became a Christian. It was like I was trying to convince myself that the world (read: American culture) wasn't as evil as it is, or that the things that I still enjoyed in my flesh were things that needed to be crucified to me.

The antidote for all of that is just an extremely lofty view of, and immersion in the Scriptures. We need to have our minds so shaped, so informed, so mastered by the Word of God that godly discernment becomes natural. I pray that God would grant it to be so for us.

Anyway. Good review, Dan.

Chris H said...

Luke & Rachael,

I don't think anyone's willing to argue humans ought do with creation whatever we please. I think the point is that ecological irresponsibility comes as a result of our moral inability to follow God's desires on our own. Fixing the former without first addressing the latter is like giving someone painkillers for the infection they're suffering.

Not that DJP needs someone to speak for him, but I've answered that often enough from my "Green" friends that accuse Christians of not paying enough attention to the world's health. Turn the hearts to Christ, and care for the physical world will follow, as will care for the homeless, poor, sick, oppressed, healthy, etc.

trogdor said...

I suppose I'm probably the only person here whose favorite Christmas Carol rendition is "Huh Huh Humbug" from Beavis and Butthead, starring Beavis as Scrooge. And no, he does not learn his lesson. Of course, I also associate "klaatu barada nikto" with Army of Darkness, which I think should've won an Oscar, so there ya go.

As to the article, I've been exposed to way too much of "redeeming" these movies by finding the spiritual stuff in them. In college, I was a leader in a "seeker" ministry and contributed to such nonsense. Thankfully, a wise man asked a simple and shoul've-been-obvious question: instead of using a pop culture thing and trying to bend scripture to it, why not just use scripture and preach what it says?

Among the worst I've seen was a series on The Matrix, which coincidentally also starred Keanu's full range of emotion. It sounds like in this one he's changed from "wooden" to "petrified". No thanks. I have no desire to see a second-rate movie to have a "conversation starter" that will lead to a quasi-spiritual conversation one out of twenty times.

DJP said...

Petrified"? Oh my, yes: Ke-laat-nu makes Mr. Anderson look like Jim Carey on crack.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and play the village contrarian - and I'm going to ask a wee bit of forgiveness in advance.

I firmly agree with everything you've written, Dan, and I mean at both blogs (well, Keanu was okay in "The Replacements" and "The Watcher," that may just be me. Write that off to my corrupt and fallen nature). I'm probably sicker of "green" movies than you, too. But - with apologies to Mesa Mike - my geezerliness has to pipe up.

If we fire up the Wayback Machine and go back to the original movie, you'll find plenty of ham-handed pseudo-Biblical references in the original as well. [SPOILER ALERT!!!] Come on - Mr. Carpenter? Carpenter? I've always taken that as a Christ-reference. And remember, he died, didn't he? And was raised from the dead, briefly, afterwords? The whole "came to Earth from the heavens in a spaceship and will ascend to the Heavens" bit is only one of a long list of ersatz Messiah-references.

My assumption is that there has been a passel of reviewers just dying to do the review of the new one and make the "It's All Biblical" pronouncement so all us proles will marvel at his highly nuanced sensibilities, and Mr. Chan got it done first. He won't be the last. I remember with both "Star Wars" and "Superman" how you couldn't swing a dead ritual sacrifice by the tail without hitting a Christian reviewer praising the deep Christian overtones of the movies. Meh; whatever.

In short, if you miss only one movie this season, make sure this is it. To quote someone else with a good adjective to describe this plot:


DJP said...

"...if you miss only one movie this season, make sure this is it."


As to the original, fair enough; but this isn't a review of it. This (specifically) is a review of a review of the remake, in main.

Chan finds enough Biblical allusions that Christians are "likely" to "embrace" the movie; thinks it presents an "important" and "needed" "message" "for every person in this world"; and expresses the hope that "moviegoers will leave this flick not just entertained, but inspired and changed themselves."

That's what I'm mostly targeting here.

Anonymous said...


And you have done so marvelously well, as always!

I'm just sayin' that because of the nature of the original's allusions, I just knew there were reviewers champing at the bit to find them in this new one. For Mr. Chan to comment on them might be seen as - pardon the joke - unoriginal...

Solameanie said...

"Calling occupants of interplanetary, most extraordinary craft . . . "

I'd rather have that song in my head than anything from Beavis and his, ahem, soulmate. I had managed to excise that dynamic duo out of my consciousness until now. Thank you, Trogdor. A thousand "glibby glup gloobies" to you until Christmas!

jeff said...


Thanks. That was exactly the reference I was trying to remember. I enjoyed reading your post last year and I even followed the links you provided to youtube. Watching those video clips reminded me of how good that version was, and how powerful the message that Dickens brought forth in his story.

I believe their are many good works of art that are worthy of our time and attention. But most of what comes out of Hollywood today is not edifying. Even the stuff that is well intentioned is so humanistic that I can't tolerate it.

Anyway, God bless. I'm going to keep my eyes open for the 1951 version with Alistair Sim.

CR said...

Hmmm...interesting, I followed the link to Chan's review and I saw another link of the director's comments - Scott Derrikson. He's a professing Christian, he went to Biola. (I didn't know that). He gives his own comments about the movie and insists it is not a Green movie anymore than the 51 version is a Cold War movie.


CR said...

Sorry, I'm dense today. Chan's review and that link are the same.

Anonymous said...

I'd be careful mentioning a movie title in congruence with a post about the gospel, Chris Roseborough might take you to task on "pirate radio!".

donsands said...

I was thinking Mr. Magoo was quite the mean miser as Scrooge. And very benevolent when he came to his senses.

But I like Michael Cain in the Muppets as my favorite Scrooge as well.

LanternBright said...

Please, please--leave us not forget the incomparable Bill Murray! Has there EVER been a sleazier Scrooge?

DJP said...

No, no no no no. That's not a good CC. Except parts of the Buster Pointdexter sequence, and a moment or two here and there.

PointSpecial said...

That's a great review!

A few things jumped out at me... and I haven't seen the movie, don't really know the full plot, and had been planning on not seeing it anyway... but ascribing a Biblical message to it really seems to be not only grasping for something that isn't there, but it also shows a poor theological understanding of the original narrative.

Yes, the story of Noah's ark is a story of judgment and wrath... but so much more, it is a story of grace and salvation. God could have ended humanity with one fell swoop... yet, in the same way that banishing Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden thus prevented mankind from forever being incurably cursed with their sinful nature, which would have occurred by Adam and Eve's eating of the fruit of the Tree of Life, God preserved the human seed through Noah and his descendants and allowed for mankind to continue existing... leading to Abraham, the nation of Israel, and ultimately Christ.

My understanding of this movie is that humans are killing the planet, this ticks off some outside observer, who decides to save the planet.

... Well, the people in Noah's time may or may not have been "killing the planet" (whatever that truly means...), but more importantly, they had evil in their hearts. Now, does the world today have evil in its heart? The world has a sinful nature... but that's a discussion for another time.

So, people in Noah's time were living with no regard for God or their fellow man... "every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." Gen 6:5b. And God, being, as you so rightly put it, the creator ex nihilo, for whom the world was created, sits alone on the judgment seat. Not an observant third party.

And the whole idea of mankind changing within themselves and becoming "better" sounds like Hindu meditation and self-cleansing... which doesn't cleanse. God and God alone has the power to redeem us. And He did just that by saving Noah and his decedents.

If Chan wants to go so far as to ascribe theistic powers to aliens then there's more of a problem that is initially appears!

No, from the write-ups I've seen, it looks like the main characters convince Reeves of their goodness and then they foil the plan of annihilation.

And finally... I fully believe that one of mankind's jobs is to be a steward with the earth... and there are lots of rather blatant examples of times when we haven't. But the earth was made for man, not the other way around. Global warming has as little true proof as evolution... because they simply are not true! Anyone can skew scientific results to fit their preconceived notions... but that doesn't mean that anything has been proven. The whole "Green" movement does not actually accomplish anything other than making people feel guilty about an issue that isn't an issue, causing a problem that isn't a problem.

Oh, wait, this is your blog... I'll hop off the soap box now... I stopped preaching a while ago!

W. Ian Hall said...

Haven't seen the movie. Won't bother now.Better ways of redeeming the time. Thanks DJP for the heads up on it.

P.D. Nelson said...

Dan once again you've come to rescue in regard to this awful movie remake. And its equally awful "christianization" by Kenneth Chan. Truly sir you are a prince among men.

BTW I share your opinion regarding the Christmas Carol Alister Sims is the best Scrooge. And I'd like to point out that Chuck Jones used Sim's voice in the 1971 cartoon of a Christmas Carol which you can find on You Tube.

Anonymous said...

Y'know, the funniest thing to me when Hollywood starts getting all "environmental" and "preachy" on us is that the movie industry probably blows more things up, burns more fuel, seizes more assets from worthier causes and wastes more of its money on devouring limited resources than just about any other industry besides the military. Why, I'd wager that the casting budget alone on this thing was about as large as the GDP of some third-world countries.

I'd mind Hollywood's sanctimoniousness a lot less if it wasn't the worst kind of corporate hypocrisy imaginable. Granted, I'd still wind up minding it a lot.

/inserts tongue in cheek

But otherwise, I think this movie's goals are laudable. We can change! Massive conglomerates can stop tearing the planet to shreds! Consumer greed will subside because of the heroic examples of Hollywood starlets! Things can be better – if only we had more technology, or we embraced kharma, or we read The Secret!

Shame on you Pyromaniacs (burning fossil fuels, I presume!) for being such pessimists! The Age of Aquarius is upon us, and Hollywood is leading the way!

James Joyce said...

"Come on - Mr. Carpenter? Carpenter? I've always taken that as a Christ-reference."

There are some Christian references written into the original movie.

However, according to the screenwriter, Edmund North...

"It was my private little joke. I never discussed it with Blaustein (produce) or Wise (director) because I didn't want it expressed. I hoped the Christ comparison would be subliminal."

p.s. The 1951 Christmas Carol is the best version by far. Even with the error during the Christmas morning scene where you can see the camera operator in the mirror it's still hands down the best version.

DJP said...

Isn't that funny? He reminded me of one of my profs at Talbot.

Also, I do wish they could re-do parts of the sound track. Some sounds as if it were recorded in a big gym shower.

Mike Westfall said...

> I do wish they could re-do parts
> of the sound track.

Is there a Wilhelm somewhere in it?

DJP said...

That's what it needs!

When Marley's Ghost lets out that wail.

(Actually, Michael Hordern lets out one of the all-time great Marley wails.)

James Joyce said...

Michael Hordern got to play Scrooge in a BBC remake. He was an excellent Marley, I wonder how he did as Scrooge?

I found it on a list of hard to find Christmas DVD's. I can understand why some are hard to find.


Ms. Scrooge with Cicely Tyson and Katherine Helmond looks like a miss see.

DJP said...

Hordern also made for a fine Gandalf, in the BBC production of "Lord of the Rings."

greglong said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Oh, my.

Unknown said...

Elitists are of course entitled to look down their noses at Keanu and blow him off, but it is an interesting reversal of roles in view of how often it is the despised common little people like Mary and the shepherds that have God's eye (not many rich, not many wise 1 Corinthians 1:26) and know His dealings better. Another danger those who despise him face is that, like me, he is fatherless, and God makes very clear how protective He is about them. It's amazing how easy it is for me to thus discern the fatherless even knowing nothing of their bio, as with Keanu only knowing his moving Matrix performance (disregarding the worthless Matrix 2 & 3 porn). I have seen how damaging the grievous insensitivity to these and the widowed by most has been for the Church as I see their need others do not and in my limited way feebly try to reach out, painfully unable to imagine how bad it is for Keanu outside the Church if it's this bad inside, now inspired to reach outside to him as well. I wonder how many of those belittling his portrayal of Klaatu will be moved by this to consider such an outreach; unlikely. As a reformed charismatic I often grieve at the insensitivity of each to the other with myself of course getting hit by both sides thereby, but happy to know that only by embracing both Word and Spirit is there growing up, The Word without The Spirit yielding drying up, The Spirit without The Word yielding blowing up (in pride). Soli Deo Gloria! I usually don't read blogs, so you'll have to email a reply.

DJP said...

1. What?
2. Hm; rather the definition of a "drive-by."

Kay said...

Michael Hordern is the voice of Paddington Bear to me. And Patrick Stewart is my favourite Scrooge, closely followed by Michael Caine. I don't like Alistair Sim at all, he is permanently in drag in my head. Call me contrary on that one, too.

I think modern Christians reviewing movies often come across as ridiculous dupes trying to squidge 'spiritual' themes out of the latest film they really want to see, just so they can justify seeing it and endorsing the latest relevant sermon series piggybacking on it.