Maleficent

imagesDisney seems to be on an anti-traditional true love kick. There are things about this that I appreciate like a little tongue-in-cheek laughing at one’s self like you see in Frozen when Anna ‘falls’ in love with Hans. I also appreciate the nod to other types of love that lead to sacrifice like family relationships. But, what I don’t like is the removal of the male-female true love relationship.

I know many parents who are probably breathing a sigh of relief that their daughters can watch Frozen or Maleficent without getting their heads filled with false notions of Prince Charming falling madly in love with them, charging in on a white horse, and rescuing them from their parents and all that’s horrible in their life. But, before we all jump on this band wagon, let’s think through it just a bit as people and as Christians.

The Bible uses lots of different familial relationships to teach us about our relationship with God. It calls God our Father. Christ is referred to as our brother. We call one another brother and sisters in Christ. But, one of the strongest descriptions in the Bible, in fact, one of the strongest running themes in the Bible is the idea of Christ and his Bride. Christ and his Church are shown to the world through our marriage relationships. This relationship is shown in the love of a man for a woman, the act of getting married, and then living a life committed to one another until death do us part. This is a very important concept and one we don’t want to throw away too quickly.

Now, I think what Disney and parents might be reacting against is the harsh reality of realizing love at first sight is just the doorway into a loving relationship, not the basis of the relationship. True Love can’t be based on an emotion. When we teach our children that they can have a marriage relationship based upon an emotion we’re setting them up for failure. Thus, we’ve reached a point where we think we’ve found a Truer Love in the relationship between sisters, and the relationship between god-mother and child.

What we’ve missed completely is that, just like those relationships, true love is not an emotion. It is a daily choice to be loyal, supportive, and sacrificial for the sake of someone else. No two sisters love emotionally. Trust me. I have four sisters. Do we all just feel loving towards each other all the time??? No. Of course not. But we’re a family. We love each other. We stand up for each other. We’re loyal to each other. If only more people would see their marriages that way.

Fairy tales are not to be taken as gospel truth; we have the gospel for that. What they are supposed to do, like all fantasy and superhero stories, is exaggerate good and evil so that for a short time we can see the glory of good triumphing and be encouraged to get back in our own battles.

While I somewhat sympathies with what Frozen and Maleficent are trying to say, it also concerns me that they decide that the male-female love relationship is okay to downplay or get rid of all together.

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Now, just a few thoughts on Maleficent itself. SPOILERS!!!

One, I found it very odd that her name is Maleficent from beginning to end. Just a thought, it’s very hard to make the name Maleficent good. Even after seeing the movie, I don’t have a warm fuzzy when I hear Maleficent. I still shudder a bit. I think giving her a good version of this name would have been wise, like Magnificent or something, if you want to tie the names together.

I thought the movie started out strong, got realllllllly slow through the middle, and finished rather poorly. It was fun. The setting was very pretty. But I didn’t think the movie was very logical. I think they tried to show a heart broken by false love and healed by true love, but instead of doing a mirror image, they used a different type of love. The pain and suffering in the movie was one only parents and mostly just women could understand and relate too. King Stefan was crazy which didn’t make his anti-relationship with Maleficent understandable, it just made it kinda strange.

There were a few moments I laughed at, but not many. There were a few moments I sort of choked up, but not really. Godzilla hooked me more emotionally than Maleficent did. Again, the filming was beautiful, and they tried to show you Maleficent changing as she gets to know Aurora, but the ending didn’t seem to match the rest of the movie. It would have been better if they had stuck to the story. Let me pity Maleficent, but have her stay the villain of the film. That would have been amazing. Or at least have her be forgiven and forgive in a real way. Aurora gets anger at her for a few minutes for putting her under a curse, but ultimately Maleficent faces very little punishment for her crime. King Stefen betrays her, sinks into madness, and dies. The only real moment with him is when he pleads for his daughter’s life. The rest of the time, you really don’t care about him, you just wonder how he has kept the kingdom going for so many years.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for saving sinners type stories, undeserved rescues, and what not. I love anti-hero moves for that reason. But in an attempt to re-tell this fairy tale, I think they lost a lot of its strengths. There was no moment when Prince Philip was armed with the sword of Truth and the shield of Righteousness so he could defeat the dragon. At the end, the only character I cared about was Maleficent’s crow. He was the only one I was rooting for, the only one I cared if they lived or died, and he was the one I thought should have woken Aurora with a kiss. He loved her, and wasn’t trapped by a broken love.

So, there were a few moving scenes, but ultimately little story. I think there were some opportunities to make the good less pure and the evil less dark. There was room to write a redemption story. There was a chance to mirror a bad love and a healthy love. Instead, it was a plodding, boring story where the only person I cared about was a man who promised to serve Maleficent, fell in love with a golden haired child, laid his life on the line for her, and lived to see her grow up into a beautiful young lady. I think the crow is the real hero of this movie. Maleficent never learns of the power of the love between a man and a woman. Stefen only catches a glimpse of his daughter loving Maleficent, but doesn’t really understand what is going on so he doesn’t learn the power of love. Aurora doesn’t ever really deal with her father’s betrayal, but everything’s all right in the end, not to worry! πŸ™‚

Yep. I like the crow the best.

PS. Even with my above mentioned concerns, I did enjoy Frozen. It was cute and funny. I didn’t feel the same way about Maleficent. I felt disappointed.

Frozen and Predators

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Sometimes you just have to own up to your own weirdness. Here’s mine: I watched Frozen for the first time the other day and Predators (the sequel to Predator) for the second time. Guess which one I ultimately enjoyed more? Or which one I wanted to watch again right away? Predators.

Yes. I enjoyed Frozen a lot. It was cute. It was sweet. It made me tear up especially because I watched it with my sister. (And I’m totally Elsa. I took a Facebook quiz and it agreed.) Disney’s tongue-in-cheek perspective of itself and the standard love-at-first-sight story line made the movie particularly funny. The inner message exemplified by Elsa’s character provided a great lesson on selfishness. When Elsa sought what she wanted, when she sang, “Let it go”, she destroyed the world. Only when Anna willingly gave her life for Elsa, was Elsa able to see what she was. A monster and a villain.

It’s odd to me that so many people, especially Christians, treat Elsa’s song as if it is some awesome message when it’s what creates the villain of the story. Do parents want their kids to become villains? Or are they so caught up in the idea of being ‘true to yourself’ that they don’t care if that makes you a monster or not? I doubt that the goal of Frozen was to point out the lie of this concept, but they did it, planned or not. The one person true to themselves was the villain, and then the villain was saved. Plus Olaf was really cute. Fun stuff!

Rated: PG

But . . . I loved Predators. Most people wouldn’t choose it over Frozen. I get that. It wasn’t anything magical or amazing. It wasn’t especially well acted, directed, or even that intriguing of a story. It was a nice shout-out and throwback to the first Predator movie, but not quite as good. The first Predator had great timing and pacing.

My weirdness: I have a well-trained eye for finding the special soft spot in an action flick that makes it worth watching.

When I first heard about this movie, I mouth fell open. Adrien Brody embodies great acting, but casting him to fill Arnold Schwarzenegger shoes seemed like insanity or comedy. It would be the equivalent of casting Justin Bieber to be the lead singer for Metallica. Okay, maybe not that bad, cause Brody can act. As the previews rolled out, I joined in with the ridicule for the casting decision. How could they not cast someone like the Rock, or even Jason Statham? Give us an action hero, not some pretty-boy actor.

NOOOOO! (At least that's how we all felt.)

NOOOOO! (At least that’s how we all felt.)

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Brody did a great job. He played a cold, distant, hardened killer. From the very beginning of the movie when he’s dropped out of a plane on some foreign planet, he pulls everyone together, shows himself to be a competent leader, and in some ways psychopathic. He’s not above using his fellow prey to trap the Predators.

They also have a female sniper. Now if you know me, you probably think I’ve lost it. I typically hate action movies with buff women who fight just like men. There are a few exceptions, like Sarah Conner and Chuck, but generally action flicks have eye-candy (come on, I have a brain) or they have super buff women (yep, it’s believable that without a gun, she took that guy out – not). In Predators, the female sniper nurtures and watches out for everyone else. As Brody leads them and uses them to figure out what’s going on, the woman at his side keeps track of everyone. She keeps them all going. This is a rare realistic pairing of a man and a woman. They stand shoulder to shoulder to face the problem together each supplying what the other lacks. It was amazing to see that kind of real and special relationship in an action flick.

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(SPOILER ALERT) Two things made this movie. Brody’s character’s unwillingness to give out his name and the woman’s willingness to end the sufferings of herself and her team before the Predators could torture them. The woman asks Brody’s character several times for his name and each time he evades the question. Why? He doesn’t want to attach himself in any way to these other people. He wants to stay distant because he realizes that’s the only way to stay alive. The minute he starts caring about anyone is the minute he dies. Over and over he uses those around him to learn and battle the Predators.

Woman: This isn’t right. He’s one of us!

Brody: He is. That’s what they’re counting on. They want you to feel something for this man. To be human.

Woman: And what are you?

Brody: Alive.

Woman: What’s that worth?

Several other people sacrifice their lives for the group painting a nice contrast between Brody’s character and everyone else. Even the convict two days away from execution gives himself for the others.

At the end of the movie, they’re down to three people: Brody’s character, the woman, and a strange guy who seems to have no purpose. The strange guy gets injured. (See quote above.) Brody wants to leave him behind. The woman refuses. Brody ditches both of them. He’s all about himself. In the end, he has to choose between going back to help them or the chance to leave the planet.

He goes back.

He’s the best fighter, and the only chance they have to survive. At the end, he makes the choice to sacrifice himself for his friends.

While Brody’s character is forced to fight for someone other than himself, the woman is also dealing with her own demons. Before she dropped on the Predator’s planet, she was engaged in a failed sniping mission which left her spotter captured and tortured. She wishes she had put him out of his misery even if it risked her own life. Throughout the movie, she assists with suicide, or offers to. At the end, she is forced to either put Brody’s character out of his misery, or give him a chance to save himself. She knows if she takes the shot, she might miss and he might suffer. But she decides to give him a chance.

Brody saves the day, decides to acts for the good of others, and instead of sacrificing the weak he depends on them. The woman chooses life instead of death.

Royce and Isabelle.

Royce and Isabelle.

His name is Royce and her name is Isabelle.

This movie amazes me because Isabelle finds her strength in nurturing and helping a man. Royce finds his soul in sacrificing himself for others. Wow. That sounds familiar. I think I know of other places this kind of behavior is encouraged. Wink wink. Who would have thought that you could see examples, extreme yes, of Biblical male/female behavior in an action flick?

There were quite a few places in the movie that had huge plausibility gaps. Thankfully, most of them happen at the beginning of the movie. At one point, the misfit gang seeks out high ground. They break free of the jungle and wonder across an open stretch of flat rocks. No one notices anything odd about the sky other than the sun not moving. Then, in a totally different scene, it’s the extra close planets visible on the horizon that clue them in that they’re far from home. How did they miss the planets the first time when they were on high ground? The jungle is filled with pines, fields, and oak type trees. That sounds about right for a jungle. Isabelle’s jacket has a decorative zipper on the back.

Why oh why do these movies not get military consultants? Please.

A sniper would never have a decorative zipper on the back of her jacket. Also, speaking of military, one of the things which sets our military apart is their ability to control their shooting. Our soldiers don’t just spray bullets everywhere. They choose a target and shoot it. This proved to be a huge advantage to us in the Iraq war. The untrained terrorist just hosed our boys with their AK-47s but missed much of the time. Our soldiers are trained to hit what they aim at. In one scene, Royce fires at this alien dog with no thought to aiming at all even after a head shot proves to drop it. Royce is supposed to be ex-special forces. His useless shooting was way out of character compared to the cool, calculated guy he appeared to be the rest of the time. It wasn’t like the scene in the first movie, Predator, where they used the mass destruction of the jungle to prove how freaked out the men were and yet how powerful. This was just everyone shooting. Royce doesn’t even seem particularly freaked out. It would have been better if they had carried his personality through to his shooting at this one point.

Rated: R (Obviously) (Deanna, you can’t watch this, obviously.)

In the end, I really enjoyed Frozen, but Predators hit home more. Despite its problems, it proved a fun action flick with an awesome heart at its core.

 

Predators