On paper, and sometimes even on screen, there’s some promise and potential in this remake of Ben-Hur.
A question I couldn’t get to in 60 seconds: What’s the real story with the creepy, green spaced-out tribal warriors? Can anyone explain that?
Father Robert Barron is one of the Church’s best commentators on popular culture today, so I’ve been waiting for his take on Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. He doesn’t disappoint.
This has been a crazy week! I was interviewed about Noah for Vatican Radio, the NBC News website, EWTN News Nightly, Kresta in the Afternoon and The World Over.
“Let me tell you a story,” Russell Crowe’s Noah says to his family in a moment of great crisis and emotion. “The first story my father told me, and the first story I told each of you.” What he recounts are the events of Genesis 1, the creation of the world; and Aronofsky relates them both verbally and visually in a way that bespeaks a confidence in the power of this story to speak to us today: a story still worth telling and retelling.
The punning headlines write themselves: “Noah Awash in Flood of Controversy.” “Deluge of Criticism Inundates Filmmakers.” In the weeks preceding the release of Noah, controversy has swirled around the film — and will no doubt continue to do so in the weeks ahead.
The first major big-studio Bible film in decades is a dark, divisive, personal film from the director of Pi, The Fountain and Black Swan.
Darren Aronofsky’s Noah pays its source material a rare compliment: It takes Genesis seriously as a landmark of world literature and ancient moral reflection, and a worthy source of artistic inspiration in our day.
Wrath of the Titans in 60 seconds: My “Reel Faith” video review.
“Let’s have some fun,” says one god to another, suggesting that they “put on a show.” The moment comes late in Wrath of the Titans. Very, very late. I don’t remember the response, if any, but “Why start now?” would have been appropriate.
Alejandro Amenábar’s Agora is a work of hagiography, and, for that matter, of anti-hagiography. Among its burdens are that Hypatia of Alexandria, the celebrated neo-Platonic philosopher and mathematician, is worthy of veneration, and also that Cyril of Alexandria, saint and doctor of the Church, is not. Neither of these theses is without prima facie plausibility, or unworthy of serious-minded and nuanced exploration. Agora is serious-minded to a fault, but nuance, while not absent, is lacking.
Are there five less inspiring words in the English language than “based on a video game”?
Opening on Good Friday and setting a new Easter weekend box-office record, the new Clash of the Titans features a divine father in the heavens (Liam Neeson, the voice of Narnia’s Aslan, as Zeus) who tells his divine/human son, “I wanted [mankind’s] worship, but I didn’t want it to cost me a son.”
The gods of classical mythology have always been selfish and capricious, but in a tempestuous, grand, passionate style, sort of like “Dallas” in heaven. In the new Clash of the Titans, the gods are about as grand and passionate as “The Simpsons,” and not a tenth as interesting. The original 1981 Clash of the Titans gave us Zeus portrayed by Laurence Olivier with a sort of dissolute patrician dignity. As played by Liam Neeson in the remake, he’s merely grumpy and vacillating. No wonder his half-human son Perseus (Sam Worthington) keeps telling anyone who will listen that he’s a man, not a god.
For good and for ill, it’s as much a testament and a fixture of traditional American ideals and affections as a courthouse display of the stone tablets, and as weighty and solid.
At nearly 2½ hours long, the 1925 version is still an hour shorter than the 1959 version, yet the story is essentially the same, and the scale similarly impressive.
Though pre-Christian, Spartacus prefigures and provides historical context to the Gospel story in intriguing ways — most obviously in the bold climax, the film’s greatest strength. Spartacus doesn’t entirely escape the melodrama, cheesiness, and anachronistic hairstyles that afflict the genre and period, but the comparative frankness of the politics, sexuality, and violence, and especially the downbeat third act and memorable finale give it a dramatic heft beyond its predecessors. The decadence and corruption of Rome, too, is vividly contrasted with the wholesome, family-oriented society of the rebel slaves.
So long is the shadow of The Iliad over the history of Western literature that before considering the merits of Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy it may be helpful to recall that the story of the Trojan War was not only likely told by poets long before Homer, certainly after Homer it has been retold and reworked by numerous poets and writers, including Virgil, Euripides, Quintus, Chaucer, and Shakespeare.
The grandest of Hollywood’s classic biblical epics, William Wyler’s Ben-Hur doesn’t transcend its genre, with its emphasis on spectacle and melodrama, but it does these things about as well as they could possibly be done.
Director Ridley Scott made his name with the groundbreaking science-fiction films Blade Runner and Alien, both of which, like Gladiator, were triumphs of set design and visual style, memorable more for the haunting worlds they created than for any engaging character development or moral interest. In these earlier films, Scott had the advantage of showing us worlds we had never seen before. Gladiator takes us to familiar territory, though new computer effects and Scott’s strong direction make it worth seeing anyway.
The Robe is the story of the other Roman soldier at the foot of the cross — not Longinus, but the one who wins a toss of dice and takes home the robe of Christ.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.