Sleepy Hollow

I recently saw a trailer for the new tv series “Sleepy Hollow” and was quite intrigued. I found a little time to watch the first episode. It was pretty good, except it got a little weird at the end when the book of Revelation from the Bible was being quoted as an explanation for what was going on in the show. Then I started the second episode, and the weirdness became genuine discomfort to the level that I felt I could not watch the rest of it. First of all, it was very sacrilegious. I realize that there are gray areas as far as what can be termed as sacrilegious. Here’s why I came to that conclusion. They take direct passages from the Bible to foretell the end of the world and explain the unnatural events that are occurring. However, there is absolutely no mention of God. Ever. How does it make sense to take a book that is commonly known as God’s word (even if one does not believe it), and base an entire television show on it, yet fail to mention this vitally important detail? Demons and dark magic abounds. Witchcraft is a good thing. Ichabod Crane is the destined savior of the human race. Yet he, as I am sure will be evident later in the series, is still just as human and fallen as the rest of us. There is something so presumptuous about the heart of this series that irks me. It operates on the belief that we, as humans, are capable of preventing the coming apocalypse, in spite of God laying down exactly how it is going to happen. I suppose it is a very human thing to want to do: change the course of the world. But God, ultimately, is the one in control. We can try to prevent it, but we are not capable of altering one iota of the plan he has set in motion. If the script had left the Bible out of it and based the story off of something else, this would be a completely different post. The storyline is intriguing and the idea new. I just cannot, in good conscience, continue watching this show. It literally makes me angry. How can good prevail when the author of good is absent? You cannot base a story off of the Bible and leave God out of it.

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Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Don’t ask me why I wanted to see this movie; maybe because it’s based off of a fairy tale, and that always interests me. It definitely had a steampunk (I’m an avid steampunk fan) feel to it, both in the costuming and the outlandishly modern yet not modern weaponry that Hansel and Gretel used. If you’ve seen Van Helsing, you will recognize many similarities in the style of movie. I wouldn’t say it’s really a thriller, but it’s more gruesome and creepy than just a regular action flick.

I would delve into the plot elements, but there’s not much there. In true action packed fashion, the plot takes a back seat to the fighting and blood and gore. It loosely follows the classic story of Hansel and Gretel, but expounds on why they were left in the woods by their father, and it explores their life as adult witch hunters finding and destroying witches. Honestly, the most entertainment my flatmate and I got from watching this film was keeping a running tally of how many times each cuss word was used. Considering that the characters cussed twice in the first 5 minutes, I was expecting it to be a lot more (we counted 16). The best thing about this film was the costuming and makeup. My friend didn’t like the creepy witches, but, as a fan of the show Face Off, I was fascinated by the wide variety of makeup jobs and skills portrayed. However, a movie which is only entertaining because of the makeup jobs is not particularly one worth watching.

Surprisingly, this film was not filled with nudity. Gretel wears some pretty low cut tops and there is one scene where Hansel goes skinny dipping with a good witch (more is implied, but not shown). The whole relationship between Hansel and the good witch seemed rather pointless. She helps them defeat the evil grand witch, is stabbed, and dies. What was the point in bringing in a love interest if it was doomed to end like that? I guess every good action flick needs a little romance to make it appeal to more than one specific group of viewers.

As with any movie based on witches, this movie is filled with witchcraft. There are no incantations invoked, which somehow makes it better. It doesn’t seem as ominous or real when things just happen with no explanation as to how it’s done. God has no role in the plot line. “Even your God knows better than to come here,” one witch says. However, without God, or any kind of moral standards, there is no way of determining right and wrong. Hansel and Gretel are the purveyors of justice, but one cannot tell how they determine it. Right just is. Everyone does what is right in their own sight, but they are the most right. It’s hard for me to be fully on board with Hansel and Gretel because there is no truly right side.

All in all, this movie is one with no message or moral and no clear purpose. It’s an action flick that’s full of fluff, and by fluff, I mean gory scenes of dismemberment, violence, and abuse that could definitely leave someone with nightmares. It wasn’t worth watching the first time nor any other time.

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The Host

I had no interest in Stephanie Meyers’s The Host when I first heard about it. I like SciFi, but not too often. All that alien stuff gets to be too much for me. I will admit, I have not actually read the book. I watched the movie last night. I know, I know, in most literature-loving circles, this is a cardinal sin, but what can I say? I’m a rebel. I loved the movie, and I plan to read the book when I find the time (so the review will come eventually).

The Host opens with the main character, Melanie, describing how perfect the world has become. “The world is at peace. Our world has never been more perfect. It is no longer our world.” (I’m trying to quote directly here, but forgive me if it’s not 100% word for word). I love this opening. In the first five minutes of the movie, the audience is aware of our fallen state as humans. We can’t have peace and perfection in our world. We, as a race, are incapable of it because, apart from God, we are imperfect.

As my flatmate so aptly summed it up, this story is all about love. The alien souls (that’s the best way I can describe them) that inhabit human bodies do not experience love. I interpret them as very scientific. Imagine a completely logical being that does not hate, lie, steal, or fight, and that is what they are like. They also do not love or feel many of our positive emotions. They just are. They view the humans’ loss of free will as a good thing because it is for the common good. Does this sound familiar at all? I can’t think of a dystopian story that I have read or seen a movie of that does not focus on the loss of free will in order to achieve perfection. God gave us free will, not because He knew we would be able to achieve an ideal society, but because He wanted us to choose him. Obviously, a world with no choice is terrifying, as can be seen in this film. We, as a race, have an innate love of freedom: freedom to love, work, live, and pursue our dreams. Idealists can talk about peace, hope, and love all they want, but it’s never going to happen in this life on this world. That is why “we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 3:13-14). Tangent aside, the movie comes to a close with a nice, neat happy ending, where Wanda (Wanderer, the alien soul that originally inhabits Melanie) realizes that she does not want to live in a world without love and decides to sacrifice herself so Melanie can have her body and life back. However, Melanie and her companions have come to love Wanda so much that once her soul is removed from Melanie’s body, they bide their time until a freed body does not wake up. This makes it ok for Wanda to inhabit the (conveniently young and attractive) girl’s body because she would have died without a consciousness. Together, they form a band of freedom fighters that continue the battle to free the human race from the alien infestation.

The one other character that I find worth mentioning is Melanie’s Uncle Jeb. He is the one human who does not immediately try to kill Melanie/Wanda on sight. Instead, he protects her and gently takes her under his wing. He represented a kind of God figure to me. His fatherly love is part of what coaxes Wanda into trusting (and ultimately loving) the humans. At one point, she asks him, “Why should I trust you?” to which he replies “Because I trust in you”. Maybe this is just me and the emotional soundtrack pulling on my heart strings here, but I thought this was a beautiful moment. Why should we place our trust in God? Because He loved and trusted us first. He gave everything for us, He fought for us when we were as good as dead, wallowing in our sins, covered in our own filth. How can we not love and trust him? Uncle Jeb has got to be my favorite character in this movie because he has the good sense to see beyond the hurt and pain he has suffered under the invasion, and recognizes that Wanda needs love just as desperately as any human.

I would recommend watching this movie. It has an intriguing story line, and I think that I would be able to glean more insight from it by watching it again and also from reading the book. The script was well written and there were no glaringly obvious flaws in the dialogue. I was never distracted or disappointed in the dialogue or story line. Also, the soundtrack was rather fabulous and fit well with the movie.

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The Two Princesses of Bamarre

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.

–C.S. Lewis

While The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine is not a recent book, it still holds a very dear place in my heart. It was one of the first fantasy books I can remember reading, and to this day it still is a favorite. I reread it for an independent reading class this semester and had the opportunity to evaluate it through a more trained eye.

The core theme in this story is overcoming one’s fears. The two princesses, Addie and Meryl, are complete opposites. Meryl is ready to march off into battle and save the world while Addie would much rather stay safely inside her castle, especially if there is a charm on the grounds preventing the presence of spiders. In a twist of fate, Meryl contracts a deadly plague, and Addie’s love for her sister drives her to seek a cure in the dangerous world of ogres, gryphons, dragons, and other mythical creatures. Addie has the gift of endurance. As her dragon captor, Vollys observes, “She [Meryl] could lead a charge, but you could last a siege” (161). And last she does. In spite of excruciating pain in her arm, she drags an ogre for leagues as she bounds through the countryside in magical boots. She endures assaults by gryphons and outsmarts specters. Addie realizes that there is something more powerful than her fear, and that is love. The turning point for her is when she acknowledges this while still captive in Vollys’s lair.

“I went to the chest she [Vollys] had said held food. A black spider crawled across the lid. It was big, with long probing legs. I stood still, clenching my teeth to keep from screaming. The spider stopped crawling. It might have seen me. It might be poisonous. It might spring on me…I raised my hand to kill it, but I couldn’t make myself touch it…Then, through my misery, I realized how absurd this was, my terror at a spider with a dragon sleeping nearby. I had to smile, and that steadied me. I balled the cloth and pounded it into the hideous black body. It was dead. I had killed it. Now that it was dead, I knew it had meant me no harm. My fear of spiders evaporated. I would try not to destroy an innocent life again” (140-41).

As a girl, I was terrified of spiders, so I could relate to Addie’s struggles on a small level. I still fear them, but now I can muster up the courage to smash them, rather than running to my brother to get him to do the deed. Even though Addie clearly lives in a mythical world, she is easy to relate to, which is why I loved her so much. Levine takes the atmosphere of an epic fairy tale and twists it into something new and refreshing. Addie, not Meryl, is the heroine, and she is very real. She’s not perfect or brave or a skilled warrior. She’s a girl motivated to do extraordinary things because she loves her sister more than she fears anything remotely dangerous. “Loving her [Meryl] was the best part of me” (218), as Addie so aptly discovers.

From a spiritual perspective, the fairies’ mountain where Addie finds herself at the end of the novel represents a kind of heaven. It is invisible to the human eye and dragons are the only creatures that have any idea where it is (but they can’t see it either). Fairies are like angels. They are constantly at war with evil monsters. Meryl explains, “They’re not trying to kill us [fairies], they’re trying to destroy Bamarre and the other kingdoms. Sometimes they carry the day, and you humans suffer, or the elves or sorcerers or dwarfs suffer. For example, Bamarre’s monsters are the results of a lost battle” (226). Fairies fight the endless cosmic battle, protecting the rest of the world from them. There is no god figure, just the fairies.

As far as fairy tales go, this one has to be one of my favorites. It’s not one of Grimm’s or Andersen’s but that just adds to its charm. It is refreshingly different. I’d recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good fairy tale, especially for preteen girls. The book is an easy read and it’s message is resoundingly positive. Kudos to Levine for a great story!

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The Golden Compass

In the spirit of adventure, why not start this blog out with the highly controversial book by Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass? Perhaps this novel is not quite as big of an issue now as it was several years ago when it was produced as a movie, starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. However, it is still good to read the controversial and discover for one’s self what all the fuss is about.

Quite frankly, my enduring impression of this novel was one of shock and dismay. This is written for children????? Here’s my reasoning:

1. The main character, Lyra, is blatantly disobedient to her elders. She disobeys the rules of her home at Jordan college, yet she is not punished for it. She is actually made into a kind of pet project of the scholars living there. The Master of the college tells her, “‘You haven’t found it easy to obey us, but we are very fond of you, and you’ve never been a bad child’” (69). I thought disobedience was a bad thing, but apparently in Pullman’s world, it is not. What does this teach the child reading the novel? That it is ok to break the rules and there will be no consequences because they are not really “bad”.

2. Education is optional. Actually, it is discouraged in many ways. Lyra’s own education is spotty, ranging from tidbits in weighty subjects such as astronomy, yet severely lacking in the basics necessary for one her age. Yet Pullman seems to be asserting that this is a good thing. She is able to read the alethiometer, a truth telling device, without the interpretation book, a skill that no other human is capable of. She suddenly seems to understand the vast levels of interpretation in words, such as an anchor, and what they can possibly mean. This baffled me. How is she able to understand all of this? There is definitely a magical quality to it all, but it doesn’t quite fit with the extremely scientific nature of the rest of the novel. Perhaps this is explained further in the following books, which I have not yet had the chance to read.

3. From a Christian perspective, this novel is very disturbing, especially considering the young audience it was written for. The villains are part of the Church which is conducting experiments on children, treating them like lab rats instead of human beings. There is a great fear of Dust, which is regarded as sin, that settles on adults, yet scarcely touches children. This fear is what drives the action of the plot. However, in the final part of the book, Lyra concludes that because the church is evil and they are persecuted by this church, then maybe the children have it wrong. “‘We’ve heard them talk about Dust, and they’re so afraid of it, and you know what? We believed them, even though we could see that what they were doing was wicked and evil and wrong…We thought Dust must be bad too, because they were grown up and they said so. But what if is isn’t?” (398). This transitions into the next book in the series, where Pullman hopefully explains more clearly what this Dust is and what exactly it represents. My suspicions are that is has something to do with celebrating Atheism, which is the underlying purpose of his narrative. He even describes his heroine as “destined to bring about the end of destiny” (310), which sounds rather anti-Christian.

Pullman writes a fairly intriguing story, if you can get past his preachy bits. The ideas behind it are different and fun. I particularly enjoyed the steam-punk atmosphere that he managed to create through his description of modes of transportation and scientific devices. That was something I hadn’t experienced before in a book and it was refreshing. All in all, I wouldn’t say “Don’t read this book”, but rather read with an understanding that this was written in support of Atheism and should be interpreted that way. It is not merely a children’s book. There is a much deeper meaning to it, and I challenge you to read and decipher what Pullman is driving at.

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