A Very Contrary Mary

We may not have a lot of information about Mary of Magdala, but what we have paints her as a fascinating New Testament character. We are told that she was once possessed by seven demons. We are told she was part of the entourage that traveled with Jesus of Nazareth during his itinerant ministry. We know she was present at the crucifixion. This is significant since we are told that the disciples had deserted Jesus. We are told that she was one of, if not, the first to discover the empty tomb and learn of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We are told she relayed the good news of Easter morning to the disciples.

Though not a lot of information, this qualifies her as a significant player in the gospel story. Significant enough that Hollywood has made a movie about her, titled simply, Mary Magdalene. I am aware that Hollywood often receives a lot of criticism for the way it handles biblical material. Yet, I am always glad when it takes a stab at it. Add to that, a character like Mary presents a great opportunity to tell an adventurous story about a first century female disciple. The prospects for a movie like this are exciting.

One of the benefits of quarantine is the opportunity to watch movies and I recently had opportunity to watch Mary Magdalene. She is correctly (if she is indeed from Magdala) portrayed as being from a fishing village and the movie shows her to be an active participant in the fishing industry. She is a strong character and this shows in her abilities as midwife, her refusal to marry, and her refusal to abide by the religious protocols. (The Mary of the movie sometimes comes across more like a twenty-first century American girl than a first century Jewish girl). This betrays that the movie’s good intentions may be overdone. While we can applaud the way women in the ministry of Jesus are highlighted, it comes across as artificial when one of the strategies to do this is to make the male disciples appear even more clueless than they already are.

While the gospel makes clear that Mary had once been possessed by seven demons, the movie passes this off as a false accusation. It is simply something said about Mary because she was not compliant with expectations of society. Interestingly, the method to rid her of these demons is to immerse her in some ritual that resembles a forced baptism. Interestingly, both Jesus and Mary baptize disciples in this movie (uncertain at best).

Jesus does give slivers of the gospel message, including miracles. But there is no passion, no fire in his belly, no eschatology. Aside from the miracles, it is unknown why anyone would be willing to give up everything to follow this Jesus. Instead, this movie makes no doubt about the fact Mary is the star. She is portrayed as not only the most important disciple, but almost as if she is Jesus’s personal consultant or therapist. For much of the movie it seems that Jesus is simply furniture in order to tell Mary’s important story.

A more serious effort to explore what made Mary who she is would require a more serious look at the New Testament gospels. I wish we could have seen her gratefulness and the gratefulness of her community for being loosed from demons. I wish we could have seen some creative representations of the role she, Joanna, Susanna and other women followers played. I wish we could have seen the emotion of her presence at the cross or at the cemetery on Sunday morning. Instead, her resurrection encounter with Jesus came across as just another conversation. I wish we could have seen the joy when she reported the empty tomb to the other disciples. Instead it felt like, once again, she was Peter’s mentor.

I find myself wishing for so much more. Far from adventurous or exciting, I started wondering if it would ever end. This movie fails miserably in its characterization of Mary (not to mention a mischaracterization of Jesus). It is a current trend to misrepresent Mary (see The Da Vinci Code). This is unfortunate because the story of the Mary we find in the gospels deserves to be told.

It’s Time for a Western Revival

Dad always enjoyed westerns. That is probably the reason I like them so much. I recently watched The Sons of Katie Elder. I am pretty sure it was the first movie I ever watched start to finish. I remember a recess while in elementary school when kids were asking the question “what is your favorite movie?” We weren’t really movie people and I was not up on the trendy choices so I was surprised when everyone in my class was choosing Love Story or Go Ask Alice. (I still haven’t seen either of those). The only movie I had ever watched was The Sons of Katie Elder and I was shocked they had not heard of it. That is how it was in our house, Dad had convinced us that every house talked about John Wayne and practiced quick draw.

The last movie Dad and I watched together was Open Range. Good show, Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner are convincing cowboys. I was introduced to Robert Duvall as a cowboy in Lonesome Dove (with Tommy Lee Jones and Danny Glover, also convincing cowboys). I enjoyed it so much I can’t believe it was made for television. Duvall was so good I was convinced he really was Augustus McCrae.

Costner has done much to keep the Western Genre alive. As good has his intentions have been, it doesn’t always work as planned. He once made a movie about Wyatt Earp. It seemed like a certain win, putting Costner into an epic American western. Unfortunately, it was released at the same time as Tombstone. And Tombstone had a wild card. Val Kilmer playing Doc Holliday was one of the best performances in a western or any movie – ever.

Anyway, I have been wondering, will the western continue? Is the future of the western a mix with sci-fi? Yes, that is an embarrassing thought but it has already happened. Who will continue the western on the big screen? Some movies give me hope. Gene Hackman and Sharon Stone were convincing in The Quick and the Dead. Jeff Bridges was excellent as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Denzel Washington made me want to be Sam Chisolm in The Magnificent Seven. Christ Pratt has cowboy written all over him. I recently watched The Duel and hope that Liam Hemsworth stops all his other projects to become a full-time cowboy. And where in the world is Emilio Estevez? In Young Guns he was probably better at Billy the Kid than William H. Bonney ever was.

It is time for a western revival. Maybe I say that because I miss Dad or maybe I’m just tired of the stupid movies that I keep hearing about. Will someone please write something where Washington rides across the frontier righting wrongs with Pratt and Hemsworth as his wing men? Along the way I hope they cross paths with characters played by Sharon Stone and Emilio Estevez. Maybe it is time for a remake of The Sons of Katie Elder. I want to watch that.

Best Sports Movies Ever

Sports movies are a popular genre. Not only are there a mess of them, but everyone thinks they know what the best ones are. While I am not going to make a list for you, I will say that if your list does not include the following movies you probably do not know what a good sports movie is. Fact is, I can’t take full credit for this list. But, after a Thursday evening dinner conversation, a Saturday morning breakfast conversation, and a consult with my mom, here are some movies that should be on everyone’s list.

For starters, the following movies are acceptable on any list of twenty movies or more. Bull Durham, Leatherheads, Friday Night Lights, 42, A League of Their Own, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Brian’s Song, Tin Cup. If you want to include Rocky or Field of Dreams due to their classic Americana feel, I understand. You might want to include For Love of the Game just for Gus Sinski’s speech in the bottom of the eighth.

If your list is limited to fifteen, the following are pretty good choices. Major League, The Sandlot, The Rookie, Cool Runnings. If you include Caddy Shack or Chariots of Fire at this point for classic value, that makes sense to me.

If your list is a top ten and you want to include a classic, Pride of the Yankees is an excellent choice. But you have got to include the following. Remember the Titans (my mom insists this is the best sports movie), Hoosiers, The Natural. One more, if you do not include Miracle on your list, you don’t really know about sports or movies.

So, go ahead and make a list. You can use the above movies as a test. If your list includes five of the above movies, you are at least capable of recognizing a good sports movie when you see one. If your list includes ten of the above movies, consider yourself above average in your ability to make a good list. If your list includes them all, pat yourself on the back, you can consider yourself an expert.

Secretariat: the Movie

I recently watched the movie Secretariat. (I am aware it is eight years old). But, it had my attention from the opening scene. It begins “More than three thousand years ago a man named Job complained to God about all his troubles and the Bible tells us that God answered. Do you give the horse its strength or clothe its neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing, he does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground. He cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.” Did you know God had so much to say about a horse?

The story is carried by characters that are easy to like or not like and the tensions of loyalty vs. economics. But this story is interesting because of a horse. Not just any horse, Secretariat is likely the greatest race horse of all time. Indeed, if race times mean anything, Secretariat still holds the records for all three Triple Crown races (45 years later). Indeed, Secretariat was voted one of the top 50 athletes of the twentieth century.

The storyline includes a daughter’s love for her father and the things her father loved. It includes a coin flip to determine who gets what horse. By the way, the “loser” gets Secretariat. (Sign me up to lose my next coin flip). It includes Penny Chenery’s (played by Diane Lane) savvy at acquiring a trainer and a jockey. It includes some great lines like this one from trainer Lucien Laurin, “He lays against the back of that starting gate like he’s in a hammock in the Caribbean. And when he finally does get out of the gate, it takes him forever to find his stride.” It includes a rivalry with Pancho Martin, who worked with a pretty good horse as well. Sham was likely one of the fastest ever but spent his career chasing Secretariat. It includes a horse who loved to come out of the gate last but cross the finish line first.

Even though we know how the story goes, the movie keeps a hold on us. The Kentucky Derby followed the script. Secretariat came out of the gate slow but went on to win the race in the fastest time ever. One of my favorite characters in the movie, Eddie Sweat (played by Nelson Ellis) provided one of my favorite scenes the morning of the race. Secretariat had been struggling with a mouth abscess that kept him from eating. But the morning of the race Sweat comes out and announces “Hey Kentucky! Big old Red done ate his breakfast this morning! And you about to see something that you ain’t never even seen before!” At the end of the movie we learn that Sweat spent more time with Secretariat than any other human. Just saying, if I ever own a horse, I want Sweat to be nearby.

We cheer for Secretariat during the Preakness in the family living room as a reminder of the sacrifice and unexpected celebrity that came with owning this particular horse. But, let’s face it; this movie is always leading up to the Belmont. This is a race that is played up as being too long for Secretariat. In this race Secretariat didn’t come out of the gate last but first. Throughout this race, even loyal fans (including owner and trainer) were giving up because of the race speed. But in this race, Secretariat started fast and got faster. He averaged over 37 miles an hour for a mile and a half.

But to my favorite part, who am I kidding, probably everyone’s favorite part. The movie goes silent as we watch an empty track at the final turn. Until Diane Lane’s voice can be heard reading again words from the book of Job. “He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing, he does not shy away from the sword… He cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds.” This is followed by the hoof beats of a solo horse and the appearance of Secretariat who goes on to win by 31 lengths. I love when Sweat adds to the scene “There you go Red!”

Critics and staunch history buffs may not like the way some events are portrayed or that Riva Ridge, a horse owned by Chenery, trained by Lucien Laurin, and who won the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes just a year earlier was not even mentioned. So if you want a movie that sticks close to history, this may not be it. If you like underdogs, this may not be your movie either. Secretariat is so fast it sometimes doesn’t seem fair. But if you want to be reminded of greatness, in fact one of the greatest athletes in American history – this might be the movie for you.

An Apostle Goes to the Theater

Under cover of darkness a man makes his way through the streets of first century Rome. This man is on a mission to visit a prisoner who has been sentenced to death. We later discover that man to be Luke the physician and the prisoner to be Paul of Tarsus. Thus begins the movie “Paul: Apostle of Christ.”

It is as if Paul has emerged as one of the primary celebrities of the year. N. T. Wright has written Paul: A Biography. I am currently reading Paul: An Apostle’s Journey by Douglas A. Campbell. And now, we find Paul at the theater also. The apostle has become a current event.

In the movie, the great fire of Rome is blamed on Christians in general, but Paul in particular. Therefore, Paul is sentenced to death. With some risk, Luke’s mission is to write down Paul’s story before that day arrives.

The movie reminds us that the ancestors in our family tree lived in dangerous days. The phrase “Nero’s Circus” is more than just where the games are held, it describes Nero’s whole deal. And while many are unhappy with the way Nero rules, it is the Christians who are at greatest risk.

Luke is able to make it into Paul’s cell. And the result is fascinating conversation about what has taken place during his ministry. What an interesting place to find ourselves, in a cell with the two most prolific writers of the New Testament. During this conversation and in others, scripture themes emerge often. I am glad scripture was shared in conversation. We are reminded that the bible was not written as memory verses; instead scripture emerged from real life situations. These words more likely originated in dungeons than in pulpits.

Fictitious characters and scenarios are a significant part of the storyline. These do not distract from, but support the point of the story. I rather enjoyed the way the movie portrayed dilemmas faced by the primary characters. Both the real ones and the fictitious ones. But I feel obligated to highlight one character in particular. Priscilla is strong and passionate and articulate and gracious and motherly and pastoral. I will never read her name (nor Aquila’s the same ever again).

“Paul: Apostle of Christ” does what we want a movie to do. It may not grandstand, but it does invite us into potential dilemmas and issues of the early church. It will motivate and challenge viewers to demonstrate love and patience and forgiveness and grace. And it just might prompt us to ask questions about how we can respond as Christians in our current world climate.

A Man, a Book and a Mission

I recently watched again “The Book of Eli.” As the title suggests, this movie focuses on a book and a character named Eli. The book, we learn, is the last of its kind and sets Eli off on a special mission. I suspect the name of the primary character was chosen very carefully. Eli, and variations of that name, carries a great deal of significance in the book. The play on Eli’s name could prompt us to think of the coming of “one like Elijah.”

Eli is a walk by faith not by sight guy. Yet, in many ways the movie is about seeing. The movie is dark and not only due to its content. It is set in a sepia tone that works well in a world where not many are able to see what is really going on. Sunglasses are a prominent part of the wardrobe. And sight belongs to the blind, while blindness is prominent among the sighted.

There are parts that are tough to watch due to violence. For instance, do not mess with Eli. He has incredible skills of anticipation, as if he is able to see things before they happen. This is only enhanced by his skills with a machete, a bow, and even with guns. Eli is a hybrid between a prophet and a cowboy. And that is exactly how he rides into town, not looking for trouble but finding it.

But even Eli begins to see more clearly as the movie plays out. For much of the movie he quotes the book and defends it, but in the end he realizes it is more important to live by the book. This is evidenced in a scene where Eli is talking with Solara, a young lady he rescues from this dangerous town and who becomes his traveling companion. He tells her “All the years I’ve been carrying it and reading it every day… I got so caught up with keeping it safe… I forgot to live by what I learned from it.” Perhaps the movie could have been titled “Eli of the Book.”

But Eli is not the only one interested in the book. Every post-apocalyptic town is in need of someone to take charge and Carnegie is happy to do it. This Carnegie wins friends and influences people through manipulation and coercion. He is infatuated by power, which is why he wants the book, so he might further control the people. He talks about the book as if it is a weapon to aim at the hearts and minds of the weak and desperate. Needless to say, a significant portion of the movie includes a battle for the book.

The movie includes a message about things that really matter. Water is a precious commodity. A good pair of boots is rare. Food is so scarce that cannibalism becomes common. A friendly companion is something to be grateful for. Music is enjoyed as something sacred. Shampoo is considered a luxury. Important possessions receive special care. What we take for granted is in stark contrast to what we find in this post-apocalyptic world. This is highlighted in conversation as Eli tells Solara “People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious, what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.”

One of my favorite scenes comes at the end as Solara prepares to continue the mission. The gates open, she sheaths Eli’s machete, puts his ear buds in her ears, and she steps through the gates. All while we listen to Eli’s voice pray for her protection. Perhaps we should not be surprised to find that, after spending so much time with Eli, we see the fruit of discipleship. Perhaps those of us who need help to see more clearly should make it a point to watch the movie again.

A Quick Stop at The Shack

The Shack has become a religious phenomenon. At the same time it is a lightning rod for claims of heresy. Even before the movie was released there were responses to the book titled Finding God in the Shack and Burning Down the Shack. You can probably tell which is for and which is not. Despite the potential of being burned at the stake, Layne and I attended the movie over the weekend. I had read the book a few years ago and tend to enjoy an imaginative narrative so I suspected that I would enjoy the movie as well. I don’t often say this, but I think I preferred the movie over the book.

The movie presents a theme of invitation that I particularly liked. Jesus invites Mack, the main character, to walk with him. The Spirit invites Mack to join her in the garden. “Papa” invites Mack to join the Trinity for a meal. I especially liked that scene where we see the Trinity at fellowship with one another. A picture of perichoresis. We do not often see good pictures of the Trinity at fellowship but here at least is an attempt. The general theme of the movie is an invitation to forgive.

Some highlights for me include the part where Jesus first arrived at the shack. I enjoyed the garden that was portrayed as a beautiful mess. That is, until we saw the view from above and realized it was actually a work of art. I enjoyed when Papa tells Jesus to show Mack some of his handiwork. I was expecting them to walk to the wood shop where Jesus had been working on something. Instead he took him outside showed him the sky, including a shooting star.

I like how the movie demonstrates the involvement of God in the lives of people. I suspect this is one reason many are attracted to the story. People want to have an encounter with God. The Shack presents a passionate God who is not without emotion. Here human pain is embraced by a deeply loving Trinity. Yet, I suppose one of the problems people are having with the movie is the way that God is portrayed. The Shack is an attempt to portray a story with imagination. Sometimes we forget that movies are a form of art (and a form of making profit). They are not intended for theological instruction. While theology may show itself in a movie, we should not be going to the theater to get our theology. Having said that, I like that The Shack reminds us that we have not got the Trinity figured out.

Here are some reasons to not see the movie;

  • You are certain you will like the book better
  • You think theaters are always too loud
  • You always wait for the blu ray

In other words, don’t stay away for theological reasons. I hope you never choose to go to the theater for theological reasons. Hollywood stinks at theology. If its theology you are looking for, read Barth’s Dogmatics. Go ahead and try to make a movie about Dogmatics. I doubt anyone would want to see it. But people are going to see The Shack which gives us an opportunity to talk about things we like to talk about with people who may not ordinarily be interested. I do like that The Shack is a catalyst for an important conversation.

The fact is, we want stories that speak to both head and heart. So when evil and forgiveness and the work of God are presented in The Shack it surprises me that some of us are not more interested. The criticism reminds me how much easier it is to criticize something we feel is wrong than it is to demonstrate something we believe is right.

Should The Shack be taken seriously – yes. Should The Shack be taken literally – no. Is it an exaggeration – yes. Will it prompt people to think and talk about God – yes.

The Young Messiah: a Response to the Movie

With two Jesus movies at the theater at the same time, we might find ourselves wondering when he became so trendy or entertaining. Is there an increase of interest in Jesus? Or is hollywood aware we like religious films at this time of year? The Young Messiah is a movie based on a book by Anne Rice titled Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. This is a work of fiction that focuses on the life of seven year old Jesus. It is my understanding there are intentional differences between the book and the movie that do not take away from the spirit of Anne Rice’s story.

The movie does its best to tell us it is not easy to grow up as Jesus. Trouble follows him from Egypt to Nazareth to Jerusalem. Much of this trouble comes from Herod Antipas who wants Jesus dead. In order to accomplish this, Antipas assigns Roman centurion Severus the task of killing him. Severus and his men are close for much of the movie but do not catch up with Jesus until the end. I rather enjoyed the scene where they finally meet face to face. At that time we find an uncertain, bewildered Roman centurion and a confident, unafraid seven year old Jewish boy. We have ourselves a showdown in the temple court. I love a search story where the seeker discovers something much different than they were looking for.

If it is difficult to grow up as Jesus then maybe it goes without saying that it is also difficult to be his parents. Any of us may look at our own parenting challenges differently after viewing this movie. Some of the complications faced by Mary and Joseph are summarized at one point by a question, “How do you explain God to His own son?” Mary and Joseph appear to be onto something that the Satan figure in the film is not. Namely, the origins of this child. Jesus is the only one who is able to see this figure, though others hear him and are influenced by him. Nevertheless, the figure introduces cosmic implications into the movie.

The movie uses miracles to help make the story move. While we cannot discount miracles from young Jesus, this is more likely the result of reading of what we know about adult Jesus into his childhood. Yet, in the movie a bird, a youth named Eleazer, an uncle Cleopas, and a blind rabbi are recipients of his healing touch. Miracles from Jesus are common enough that at one point he has to try and convince James (who somehow becomes his older cousin in the movie) he did not make it rain.

While some may complain about historical inaccuracy or the unlikeliness of this account, I find The Young Messiah to be thought provoking and imaginative. It is a work of fiction that allows us to think about potential tensions that may have been felt by the holy family. It is not difficult to picture unusual days in the life of young Jesus.

The movie prompts us to think about questions like “Who is this Jesus?” and “Why did God send this Jesus?” Mary, Joseph, family members, Jewish rabbi’s, Roman soldiers, even Herod Antipas are all exploring these questions. In this way, the movie may cause us to think about the incarnation in ways we had not before. Especially the part where we read “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

Risen: a Response to the Movie

I like the movie. I like the way it begins with the question “Have you traveled far Tribune?” I like the way the rest of the movie answers that question. The Tribune, Clavius, is a fictional character inserted into the story of the crucifixion and the resurrection. Clavius is given the assignment of finishing the job at Golgotha and finding the missing body of the crucified Jesus. As seen through the eyes of this character, Risen allows us to view the resurrection from a different perspective.

For myself, I would have found Risen even more entertaining if the search for the missing Jesus would have lasted even longer. What would it have been like for Clavius to find himself just one step behind the disciples for a few more scenes?

The movie did leave me with some questions. For one, I am wondering why Tiberius is visiting Jerusalem. Perhaps the movie makers felt this helps make sense of Pilate’s desire to keep peace in the city. I am also wondering why the grave clothes were not folded. Perhaps this occurs so the shroud of Turin could make an appearance. And I wonder if sixth century preacher Pope Gregory the Great knew he would be so influential when he decided to turn Mary Magdalene into a prostitute.

I like the early statement by Clavius when summoned by Pilate “I am sticky with filth.” At the time he says this it is literally the case as he has just led his soldiers in battle against insurrectionists. But as the movie moves along I wonder if it is intended in theological fashion as well.

I really liked the way the sky darkens and the earth quakes as Clavius is on his way to Golgotha. I like the way he stops soldiers from breaking the bones of dead Jesus when he arrives at the scene of the crucifixion. I like the way the centurion declares him innocent. Those familiar with the text will understand why I like these things.

Although I wish the chase for the disappearing body of Jesus would have lasted a little longer, I do like the words of Clavius at the turning point of the movie. “I have seen two things which cannot reconcile: A man dead without question, and that same man alive again. I pursue Him, the Nazarene, to ferret the truth.”

The portrayal of Pontius Pilate is convincing. So are the portrayal of Caiaphas and the portrayal of Joseph. I also like the portrayal of Peter. My favorite scene involving Peter is during conversation with Clavius when he says “I haven’t every answer. We’re astonished too.” He then adds “We are followers. We follow to find out.”

I am not sure why Bartholomew is presented as such a giddy disciple. When the others climbed onto a fishing boat at the Sea of Galilee, I expected him to pull out a surf board. This prompted one writer to title his review “Dude, Where’s My Christ?” I also have a favorite scene involving Bartholomew. While in Galilee, Clavius asks Bartholomew if he expected resurrection. Bartholomew tells him he had doubts. Clavius then asks why he decided to follow. This conversation is interrupted as a leper enters the scene. Of course, Jesus heals the leper. At this point, Bartholomew turns to Clavius and says “That’s why.”

Perhaps my favorite line is the movie is the final line spoken by Pontius Pilate. Upon discovering that the whereabouts of the disciples are unknown he replies “I doubt we’ll ever hear from them again.” The movie then returns back to the place where Tribune Clavius was asked if he had traveled far. When we met Clavius he was praying to a pagan god Mars and he is now following a crucified Nazarene. Clavius answers “I can never be the same again.” Clavius has indeed traveled far.

Exodus: a Response to the Movie

The movie begins with a ceremony where a priestess reads a prophecy from the entrails of a goose.  Moses doesn’t seem to be convinced, in fact doesn’t appear interested in religion at all.  At one point he even says, “Is it bad to grow up believing in yourself?”  Moses doesn’t want anything to do with gods – that is, until the Hebrew God wants something to do with Moses.

A significant part of the plot revolves around the relationship between Moses and Ramses, but there is still plenty of emphasis on the relationship between Moses and God.  Both of these relationships stir emotion.  The relationship with God is best described by the definition given an Israelite “One who wrestles with God.”  Moses grapples with God from his initial reluctance until the movie’s end at which point it is noted that though they often disagree they are still talking.

Like others, I was surprised to find the messenger (or was it the Lord Himself) continually appeared as a young boy.  Perhaps the greatest surprise was that the young lad had an attitude that seemed something other than divine.  Maybe surprise is what the movie wanted to evoke.  For that matter how should one present the Creator of the universe on the big screen?  Is there a best way to portray God in a movie?  Nevertheless, my favorite of these appearances comes at the end of the movie as He is walking among the people of Israel.

This movie attempts to make sense of things, tries to leave room for natural causes for things like the plagues.  But it also presents Pharaoh’s scientific advisor as fumbling through an explanation for the plagues.  At this point it becomes clear that God is in control of things like weather, the sea, wildlife, even human life.

This Moses is a warrior.  This works in the movie because that is what God claims to be looking for.  So Moses, still trusting himself, develops a warrior’s strategy.  Eventually however, he watches as the plan of God becomes visible.  I don’t mind a warrior-like Moses, but I miss the shepherd’s staff.  I kept waiting for Moses to exchange his sword for a staff, but it never happened.

I was also surprised that a Moses “slow of speech” in Exodus couldn’t seem to stop talking in the movie.  Yet the words I wanted to hear from him, a bold proclamation to Pharaoh “Let my people go” never happened.

There is no lack of action in the movie, yet I found myself wanting more.  The movie seemed to go more for artistry than accuracy.  As we have come to expect, there are many additions to the story to fill in the gaps.  Still, with all the action in the Exodus narrative, even more wow could have been added.  Instead of a priestess reading from goose entrails, did anyone else miss clever midwives to start the story?  Or a scene where baby Moses dangerously floats in the Nile while the Egyptian princess walks to the riverbank?  Or how about a showdown where the staff of Moses swallows the Egyptian staffs?  Whether you liked the additions to them or not, at least the plagues and crossing of the sea are portrayed with some of the severity they undoubtedly brought with them.  Yet, when honest, we will never be satisfied with Hollywood as tellers of our stories.

As the movie Noah did for Genesis, I am grateful that this movie has helped Exodus to become a larger part of public discussion.  And for all who have watched these movies – we are again reminded that the biblical storyline sets us on an adventure.