December 18, 2008
Director's Vision Clouded by Faith?
So says Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere in criticizing Scott Derrickson, director of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeffrey Wells isn't alone in his dislike for the recent remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. He's also not alone in his disdain for Christians.
But Wells might be alone in saying that the new movie isn't very good because it was made by a Christian.
In a recent blog post titled "Thou Shalt Not," Wells writes, "On top of his other allegiances, The Day The Earth Stood Still director Scott Derrickson is an avowed Christian. Which has clouded his vision."
Huh? Wells is certainly free to question Derrickson's vision; that's what movie buffs and film critics do. But to blame it on the guy's faith? Wow.
Has Wells ever said that a Spielberg movie suffered from poor vision because the director is Jewish? Would he blame an Indian film's shortcomings on the director's adherence to Hinduism, or rip an Iranian movie because the filmmaker is a Muslim?
I don't think so.
Wells went on: "Klaatu in the original 1951 film is a Christ-like figure . . . but how Derrickson sees Keanu Reeves' Klaatu in the same light is beyond me. For most of the film Reeves seems barely cognizant of moral or emotional distinctions in people, and he's decided from the get-go to murder the human race in order to save the planet earth - an understandable thought from an earth-firster but hardly a Christ-like determination."
So what if Derrickon's version of the film isn't exactly the same as the original? So what if this Klaatu is a bit different? If Derrickson still sees him as a Christ figure - and he does, according to this interview with CT Movies - why is that an issue to be "blamed" on Derrickson's faith? (Derrickson also talked about the "Christ allegory" here.)
People see Christ figures in stories and movies all the time - Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Superman, E.T., and even The Tale of Despereaux, releasing to theaters tomorrow. Others don't see a Christ figure in some or all of those stories. Fine. But are those of us who do see it all guilty of a "clouded vision" due to our faith?
I don't think so. One might even argue (but probably not with Wells) that our faith sharpens our vision, rather than clouds it: I once was blind, but now I see.
But forget my beef with Wells. Steven D. Greydanus, a CT Movies film critic, argued even more articulately in his response to Wells' blog post:
"You seem to be saying that Derrickson is an avowed Christian, which clouds his vision, because Keanu-Klaatu is strikingly un-Christlike, but Derrickson fails to see this, because Derrickson must regard Keanu-Klaatu as Christlike, because Derrickson is an avowed Christian. How does that follow?" writes Greydanus, who also reviews films for the National Catholic Register and runs the website Decent Films.
Greydanus continues: "Maybe Derrickson clearly sees that his film is about a less Christ-like Klaatu than the original, precisely because he is an avowed Christian. . . . Now, if Keanu-Klaatu were overtly and excessively Christ-like - and if this constituted a dramatic problem in the film - then you might have a case. Then you could argue that Derrickson's Evangelical fervor had hampered his art.
"As it is, I can't see that you even have a cogent point, let alone a case. It looks to me like you're going after Derrickson's faith because you're going after Derrickson's faith - not because Derrickson's faith is a creative problem in the film."
As of this posting, Wells had not responded to Greydanus's comments. I think it's because Greydanus is absolutely right.