This saying is true and worthy of full acceptance: people love movies. 1 Given the prominence movies play in the our culture, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that being conversant with them is a necessary skill for Christians. We could say at bare minimum, it would be good if most Christians were cinematically literate.
If this is true for the average Christian, I think it is even more true for Christian leaders, whose thoughts often set the tone for the conversation. If a Christian leaders is watching movies and posting either reviews or extended thoughts on their blog, it will in effect model for others how to engage the movies. If it’s done poorly, it’s not just an isolated incident. It will, to some extent, influence how others engage the particular film as well.
Nothing has made this more clear than the recent release of Noah, which won the weekend at the box office. In evaluating a film like Noah, something I won’t do here, we have a perfect example of the need for Christian leaders to be able to evaluate a film as a film. Though it may complicate things when core of the story is from the Bible, it is still a skill everyone needs to have, especially when it is a film with a message and is going to be seen by a lot of people. Noah has provoked a lot of discussion, and it seems like everyone has an opinion on it. The best assessments are multi-dimensional. The worst focus too much on one aspect of the film (i.e. basing the entire assessment on whether or not the story fits the Bible, something it was, by the director’s admission, never intended to do). We need to develop the ability to offer 3D assessments if we’re going to interact with films well.
To be able to do this, we need to learn the language of film and develop the ability to interpret what is there. If a film is bad, you need to explain why it is bad. Though the above picture is a humorous way of explaining things, it is making a clear statement about the Twilight franchise. Here we have a series of films that contain no great stars (maybe debatable after the fact), no great acting, and no good plot. This is not even touching on the moral aspects. The film as a film is just not good, just like the books, as books, were not well written.
It is also important to separate the more objective qualities of good vs. bad from the subjective qualities of loving vs. hating. You can love a film that is objectively speaking, bad. Take Sharknado for instance. There are people who loved that movie (I enjoyed it). But from what I can tell, most of them would never claim that it is a good movie. Conversely, there are movies that are critically acclaimed but not well liked. Personally, I’m not a fan of films set in dystopian futures, but there are some of them that I cannot deny are quality films. 2
I say all this by way of an introduction to a new series on movies. Call it “Movie Monday” if you like, but kind of like philosophy Friday, I want to start devoting time on Mondays to talking about movies. I’ll likely cover how to best watch a movie in general, and as a Christian in particular. I may post movie reviews. I may also apply some of the principles to music as well (since “Music Monday” also works). For now, I’ll probably draw on a lot of material from my thesis and my recent ETS paper. I’ll rework it and add more examples. I’m also planning on hosting Friday night movie nights over the summer, and am hoping that generates good discussion.
In starting this conversation, what are some aspects you think need to be discussed? Where do you think Christians get it wrong with the movies? Where do you think Christians get it right? What’s missing? What movies would you like to see evaluated?
- Also, a corollary: the love of good movies compels people to hate certain movies. ↩
- This paragraph applies equally to music. Songs can be classified are well or poorly written, or somewhere in between. Whether you personally like it or not has no bearing on whether, objectively speaking, it is a good or bad song ↩