Film Freak: Star Wars 40th Anniversary: The Phantom Menace

phantom menace

The prequels are often considered the worst part of the Star Wars saga. In fact, many fans would like to pretend they don’t exist. As I said in my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, fans don’t get to decide what’s canon. The films exist and it’s time someone said something positive about them.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way because they’ve been said to death. Was Jar Jar Binks annoying? Yes. Was Jake Lloyd bad? Yes, but so was everyone who treated him so badly afterward. Hate the film, that’s fine. but don’t tear down a kid like that in the process. Were the midichlorians a bad explanation of The Force? Yes, actually I would’ve preferred no explanation at all. The Force is magic, and magic isn’t cool once you explain how it works. It ceases to be magic at all.

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Film Freak: Risen

Image: The Risen movie poster, with actor Joseph Fiennes as Clavius
Image: The Risen movie poster, with actor Joseph Fiennes as Clavius

“You are looking for something you will never find”–Mary Magdalene to Clavius

There has been a huge market in Christian movies like God’s Not Dead, Fireproof, and War Room. Even the Narnia movies could count. One I’ve seen recently that I like is the just-released-to-DVD Risen.

Risen tells about what happened after Jesus was crucified. What’s interesting is that the movie isn’t done from the viewpoint of a follower of Jesus, like the Apostles or even Mary Magdalene. Instead, the protagonist is Clavius, a soldier who was present at the Crucifixion (he’s not actually in the gospels. There is a soldier mentioned in the accounts, but it’s the one who pierced Jesus’s side. It’s not said in the movie whether this is the same soldier or a different one.) The Sanhedrin are concerned that Jesus might indeed fulfill his prophecy that he would rise from the dead. Considering all the miracles he performed during his ministry, they have reason to be concerned. While the Jews did want to be free of Roman rule, they knew the danger of uprising. This is why the crucifixion happened, in my theory. Jesus was not what they thought the Messiah would be. He was too kind, not a person who would rise up an army and use His godly powers to make the Romans quiver in their armor. They knew the Romans outmanned them and had better weaponry. They wouldn’t stand a chance. Pilate was also concerned because he wanted to keep his position of power. After all, when Jesus was just a baby, Herod had ordered all Jews below the age of two to be killed to stop Jesus before he could even begin an insurrection. That failed, obviously, because now he had condemned the same man, one he deemed innocent and had only done so to placate the crowd.

I like how the movie sets up Clavius as a protagonist. He’s not presented as a villain. Like the rest of his people, he pays tribute to the Roman pantheon–Mars in particular (Kudos to the writers for knowing that some Romans didn’t worship the entire pantheon and had favorite gods that they looked to) He regards the Jewish god with indifference, and thinks little about this “Yeshua” trouble-maker (Note: Jesus’s name was actually “Yeshua” in the original text, not Jesus) However, Pilate is his commanding officer, so it would be best to see to it that Jesus does not rise from the grave. I love what Mary Magdalene tells him when he interrogates her. “You are looking for something you will not find.”

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