Skull recycles past glories, Caspian strays from Lewis
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By Peter T. Chattaway

IF YOU watch the Indiana Jones movies in the order they take place, rather than the order they were made, you may notice something interesting.

The first, Temple of Doom, introduces Indy as a cynic out for “fortune and glory” who discovers that there are higher spiritual realities after he encounters what we might call a Hindu cult.

The second, Raiders of the Lost Ark, puts Indy in touch with the God of Moses. And the third, Last Crusade, revolves around the Holy Grail.

So the first three films take Indy on a journey from selfish skepticism to paganism to Judaism to Christianity – not a bad trajectory, all things considered.

But the new film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, gums things up by moving beyond religion altogether and taking its cue from Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods.

This time, Indy, his associates and his enemies look for supernatural inspiration in the psychic power of extra-terrestrials, of all things.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the new film were as amusing, exciting or even thoughtful as the films that came before it. But alas, despite some high points here and there, far too much of it isn’t all that thrilling or even interesting.

Indeed, much of the film comes off as a pale and lazy recycling of the trilogy that came before it.

The Indiana Jones franchise began as an homage to old-fashioned movie serials; but by now, it has become an homage to itself. And that’s not nearly as much fun.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is, if anything, a better film than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – and a worse adaptation.

The filmmakers have given themselves a lot more freedom to change things this time, and this makes the movie more consistently entertaining – but it also strays further from C.S. Lewis’ ideas.

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The whole point of Lewis’ book was to reawaken in his readers a love of mythology, but in a ‘baptized’ form – hence a key sequence features the Christ-figure Aslan and various Greco-Roman figures, including the god Bacchus, dancing together. But that theme is almost entirely missing from the film, and so, too, is Aslan – who is virtually written out of the story altogether, until the final 15 minutes or so.

To be fair, Prince Caspian is still one of the better action-packed fantasy battle epics to have come along since Peter Jackson’s version of The Lord of the Rings came to its end nearly five years ago. But it could have been so much more than that.

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Right from the opening shot, which shows a black starlit sky gradually giving way to the warm glow of a rural sunrise, it is clear that Silent Light – which plays June  5 – 12 at the VanCity Theatre – will be a beautiful and challenging film.

The film concerns a Mexican Mennonite farmer who has a wife and several children but has fallen in love with another woman. His understanding father says the affair is a temptation sent by “the Enemy,” but the farmer says it feels so “natural” it must be from God. And yet even he can sense, at times, that it must be wrong.

The affair is handled discreetly, with just a modicum of nudity. Along the way, there are stimulating discussions about the nature of destiny, bravery and the ways in which people associate happiness with feeling like a part of the world – a theme which is emphasized by the film’s intimate use of natural sounds and scenery.

However, for all its naturalism, the film also seeks to transcend its earthly bounds, in a way that is part Lars von Trier, part Carl Theodor Dreyer. Occasionally the film lets its seams show – crew members reflected in the window, the occasional actor looking right at the camera when they probably shouldn’t – and reminds you that it’s just a movie. But it also points beyond its movieness to deeper mysteries.

See vifc.org for tickets and showtimes.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, the pro-Intelligent Design and anti-atheism movie starring Ben Stein and produced by Vancouver-area Christians, may be coming to Canada after all – though it’s not clear when, exactly, it will get here.

Yoko Ono has sued the filmmakers for using a tiny snippet of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ on the soundtrack. The filmmakers say they used it under the provisions of “fair use.” On May 19, their lawyer argued in court that this issue needed to be resolved soon – partly because the DVD rights needed to be finalized by the end of May, and partly because the film was set for a June 6 release in Canada.

A few days later, however, Expelled co-writer Kevin Miller said at his blog: “It’s now looking more like it will be released during the latter part of the month.”

As of this writing, the film has grossed $7.5 million in the United States, making it one of the dozen top-grossing documentaries of all time.

filmchatblog.blogspot.com

June 2008