Watching so many films alone in dark theaters—feeling vaguely as though my Heavenly Father has abandoned me—I started to think about God in the movies. If a movie creates its own universe, then the governing truth behind that universe is there in the bones of the art, is it not? Here on earth, IRL, we can’t be sure that God is real, but maybe in cinema?
Sometimes I write film reviews for a little paper in Montana, which means I wind up seeing a lot of movies. Just for you, I’ve invented a fun game called GOD or NO GOD. It’s a one-person game with no rules, scores, ending or winners. I’ll show you how to play using a random sampling of 13 new releases from 2013.
The fact that this aggressively mindless, star-studded film was ever made and released in theaters is evidence of Richard Dawkins’ blind watchmaker at work. If there ever was a god, he abandoned these characters long ago.
Now You See Me
This is a movie about magic in the “staged illusion” sense of the word, but they end it with an inexplicable CGI glowing eyeball of a halfhearted suggestion that real magic exists. Ergo, God is a wizard.
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
Unlike Now You See Me, which treats teleportation like it’s the easiest trick in the world, the makers of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone claim that all of the stage magic performed in this incredibly dull excuse for a movie is based on real magic tricks, aided by only minimal CGI. There’s no real magic and there never was.
Jesse and Celine are at each other’s throats for half the goddamn film. Gravity has defeated their bodies. Celine drowns the little ones in the tub in the last scene… (Not really.)
I overheard some people say this father/son adventure saga was about Scientology, which it turns out isn’t true but here I go repeating it anyway. Nevertheless, remember that M. Night Shyamalan is the director, who made that movie Signs about the little girl who changes destiny by leaving glasses of water all over the house. Apply the auteur theory, carry the one, and…
This is The End
All the good people get sucked up to heaven in blue rays of light and I think Satan waves a towering penis around at some point, if memory serves. Sometimes this game is easier than others.
World War Z
This is a tough one. It’s a conclusion that every moviegoer has to come to on his or her own: Are zombies an expression of a harsh, indifferent, predatory existence? Or are they God’s retribution sent down from the heavens in the form of a virulent, rabies-like disease or whatever? I think
They cast a demon out of a woman using the Lord’s Prayer. Since the prayer worked, I have to tentatively conclude
I think we can all agree that Woody Allen is an outspoken atheist who’s really more like an agnostic. Not a lot of mention of God in Blue Jasmine, but if you look at Crimes and Misdemeanors and its sister film, Match Point, you’ll find that in both stories, the evildoer gets away with his crimes, because of privilege, chance, or both. The implication is that man dishes out his own punishments and rewards. Then again, who can say for sure that the Martin Landau character isn’t burning in hell as we speak?
I really went back and forth on this one. There’s George Clooney’s ghost, but most people interpret this as a hallucination. When Sandra Bullock talks about the death of her daughter, she describes it as a random accident, not predetermined or divinely inspired. Now, does the fact that Bullock survives in the end confirm or contradict the conclusions she came to about her daughter’s death? Did she survive with the help of an inner, Godly strength as part of a predetermined plan, or did she just happen to beat the odds and live? I think this movie flirts with the divine, but it has a stronger hard-on for the human spirit.
Cormac McCarthy wrote the script, so.
The movie is for kids, and they’re not just going to send our little ones into darkness. More to the point, it seems that Ender’s conflict at the end reeks of moral absolution. He’s deceived by man but ultimately answers to a higher power. It’s probably some sort of futuristic God is a robot inside a video game wrapped in a dream from the future God, but a God nonetheless.
12 Years A Slave
This is the movie that first got me thinking about GOD or NO GOD in the first place. In my review I wrote, “it feels like God or the devil is lurking in the shadows, pressing down… Always it sounds like a storm is on the way, but it never rains. A cotton field is both beautiful and feels like hell. The black people are in hell and so are the white people.” And somehow Brad Pitt always manages to be on the right side of history. He must be real.