I just watched the trailer for the new movie coming out in March 2007 called “300.” It looks like a gorgeous artistic film, along the lines of Sin City from 2005. I noticed something in the trailer, the theme of the film seems to be “few stood against many,” which I’ve noticed is a common theme in American filmmaking recently, the glorification of the few against incredible insurmountable odds. The few also happen to be “free men,” the ideal utopian group that has their lives interrupted by an invading force. (Mel Gibson used this too in his film Apocalypto). It seems we’re getting fancier, more professional, more artistic, in our worship of the hero, the warrior, the David against a massive Goliath. I’m noticing a lot of glorifying of the hero and the warrior, the soldier in everything around us here in America, and not just entertainment. But in all these cases, these heroes and warriors rely on the ethically and morally compromising arm of flesh to succeed, and one has to wonder if we drink too much in their glory to rely on God for our protection. President Spencer W. Kimball warned us about our worshiping of the gods of steel and muscle. Can we escape this worship when it is all around us?
Furthermore, can we ever get something this beautifully artistic without all the violence and gore? I still want to see Sin City for its style and cinematography, but am kept away by the brutishness and coarseness of its violence.
UPDATE: Oh, fittingly, the enemy in this show is the Persian Empire….
Is Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto more a movie about our generation rather than the ending generation of the Mayan culture? In his review of the movie, Kenneth Turan makes an interesting point about Gibson’s movie.
Gibson unblushingly intends “Apocalypto” as a clarion call warning modern man to watch his step or risk following the Mayas into decline and near-extinction. To this end he opens the story with a famous quote from historian Will Durant about the fall of Rome: “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”
This is all well and good, but the reality of “Apocalypto” is that this film is in fact Exhibit A of the rot from within that Gibson is worried about. If our society is in moral peril, the amount of stomach-turning violence that we think is just fine to put on screen is by any sane measure a major aspect of that decline. Mel, no one in your entourage is going to tell you this, but you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. A big part.
I’ve decried the violence so prevalent in America and American entertainment before, and I keep wondering why we condone such violence in our entertainment. I remember when Gibson made his most popular work yet, The Passion of the Christ, how so many Christians watched in awe at the violence thrust upon our Savior, not realizing that such beatings was not what the Savior actually went through. No doubt he suffered, and no doubt he was humiliated, but the accounts do not speak of the Roman guards treating Jesus Christ any different than they had any other Jew ready to be hung on the cross. His atoning sacrifice did not come through the beatings of men, but through the application of something man cannot yet understand, and could not possibly inflict upon a God.
I enjoyed Braveheart when I got off my mission. The cinematography was astoundingly beautiful and artistic. The violence, however, kept turning me off. I now do not watch Braveheart anymore. I don’t really need to see arms chopped off, blood flying from open wounds, etc to understand that the Scots were not appreciative of King Longshanks’s “prima nocte” practices.
I wonder just what message Mel Gibson is trying to send in his new movie, Apocalypto. That civilizations that go in decline get violent? Well…I think Mr. Turan makes a rather salient and prescient point in his review. At what point does the attempt to get the message across become the message itself, that violence tends to dumb down and destroy a civilization? Does not the portrayal of ultra-violence become the problem itself? Does it not feed the fire that will consume even the best civilization?