What Bugs a Christian Film Critic?
by Phil Boatwright

Here are three things that spring to mind: overused technical gimmicks, feeble writing, and subversive attacks on our Christian faith.  These irritations were well represented in movie fare this past year.

First, there was the never-ending use of the herky-jerky, hand-held camera in film after film, including the apocalyptic I Am Legend.  I admit this is a personal annoyance, as it doesn’t seem to bother others, but this style of photography has crept out of the action adventure and forced its way into every other genre, much like MTV-styled video editing did a decade back.  In this film the use of the hand-held camera defeated the intended mood.  When a camera is inert, the audience is unaware of its presence, but when it bobs and weaves and stumbles along as it chases the protagonist, the camera takes on a life of its own.  Suddenly you are aware of its presence and the realization that someone has to be holding it.  Since the lead actor is supposed to be alone through much of the film, this reminder of another’s presence destroys the illusion.  This cinematic process has become a filmmaking fad.  Sadly, like rap music and Paris Hilton, I think the handheld camera is with us until the real apocalypse.

Then there was the obtuseness of I Know Who Killed Me.  Just before entering a substance abuse sanctuary, Lindsay Lohan played a teen abducted and tortured by a sadistic serial killer.  Here’s an example of the film’s absurdity: after being chased through a dark house (nobody ever turns on the lights in these movies), Ms. Lohan manages to hack off her attacker’s hand.  But a couple of scenes later, our young heroine is seen bound tightly to a chair.  Somehow, the villain has gotten the upper hand (sorry, I couldn’t resist).  I was thinking as I watched Lindsay struggle with sailor knots, “How did the nutcase tie her up?  He’s got one hand.”

More doltishness – writer/directors Cathy Konrad and James Mangold go to great lengths in 3:10 To Yuma to point out that their protagonist has a wooden leg.  He stumps around like Matt Dillon’s buddy Chester – until the final chase scene.  Suddenly, he’s racing down alleyways and over rooftops with the agility of an Olympiad.  I suspect the actor must have brought this up: “How can I be running without the limp?”  I’m assuming the director’s answer was, “Just run.”

And then there was 30 Days of Night.  Its story concerned a vampire sect feasting on the residents of a small Alaskan community.  It’s spooky and action-filled, but it’s also gruesome and dreary.  Oh, yeah, and dumb.  For example, all the townees go to one house to hide, yet, somehow the blood-suckers can’t track them.  Why?  It’s Alaska in the dead of winter, with lots of snow, and lots of footprints in the snow.  Helen Keller could have found these people.

Simple rewrites could have eliminated those absurdities, but there’s a more serious ailment penetrating the movies.  Bigotry toward the Christian faith is on the rise in Hollywoodland.  This subversive guerrilla warfare is not just aimed at the foibles of the faithful, but reflects a determined offensive against the Creator Himself.  The following film should give you an idea of what Hollywood, in general, thinks of our religion.

The Mist was an unsettling experience for me as I felt a palpable rage from audience members toward the religious zealot in this tale of human-eating aliens overtaking a quaint hamlet.  Author Stephen King created a mean-spirited Bible-thumper who distorts Old and New Testaments and manages to ignore Christ’s command to love one another.  She is completely unfeeling and determined to divide the group rather than draw them together.  And when she meets her doom, well, I haven’t heard such an audience approval since the demise of Darth Vader.

Viewing Marcia Gay Harding play this petty-spirited prophetess, I kept wondering why she chose the role.  Was she unaware that the misrepresentation of a true follower of Christ might insult Christians?  Did she wonder if this misrepresentation of God’s nature might be considered blasphemous to the Creator?  Exactly what was she thinking?

Fortunately, Hollywood doesn’t reflect the entire national consciousness concerning God’s existence.  Perhaps the financially disappointing The Golden Compass signals a disdain for all the anti-God agenda.  Indeed, none of the films containing anti-Christian themes were financial blockbusters. 

Perhaps studio heads should keep this in mind; take out the religious contempt and your films will make more money.  As for nonsensical plotlines and dialogue found in too many movies, perhaps the writer’s strike will end that.  Perhaps writers will get paid more and therefore feel an obligation to use wit and logic in future projects.  Perhaps.