Yesterday I went to the movie “The Rite” and shared with you some reflections on that movie in yesterday’s post. Frankly yours truly doesn’t get to the movies much. In fact the last movie I saw in a theatre was the “Passion of the Christ.” Yes, it’s been a looong time.
But as you likely know, one of the aspects of movie going is to sit through a number of “trailers” that are shown prior to the main movie. These trailers depict movies that are coming soon. I want to share with you a brief reflection on my experience of viewing those trailers.
My fundamental reflection is how dark and violent movies have become. I must have seen at least six trailers and every one of them was packed with extreme violence, anger, and very dark themes. Many of them featured sinister evil, most of them involved life and death pursuits, explosions, gunfire, dismemberment, and car crashes filling the screen of these trailers, one after another. This is film noir on steroids. How dark and looming the themes were. I have embedded some of the trailers I saw for your viewing “pleasure” at the end of this post.
It also strikes me how much these movies resemble video games more than regular movies or real life. People walk on walls, have magical powers, use exotic weapons, and appear and disappear at will. The landscapes are often surreal and some of the characters are not even human. Further, the pace of the movies seems unrelenting and the dialogue is staccato. We are rushed from one shot-em up scene to the next, and fresh, hot, close pursuit seems the point of it all. There seems little appeal to an attention span. I am sure that the filmmakers know their audience and, for those raised on video games (I was not, they came after my teen years) staccato dialogue, chase scenes, rapid pace and violent explosion after violent explosion may appeal. To me it seems very dark and the violence is extreme.
Call me out of touch. I realize I don’t get out enough. Call me stuffy, I am becoming old fashioned. Call me uptight, you might even be right. Maybe I should relax and say there’s no problem here, it’s just fantasy. But I would also like to argue that, due to the fact that I don’t have a steady diet of all this sort of thing, I have not become desensitized to the violence and darkness of modern action movies. Maybe it is worth being the odd man in the room for a minute. Perhaps it is important for someone like me to come from “another planet” or to “step off a turnip truck” and be quite surprised, even shocked at what is marketed. Maybe I am the one to ask with some exasperation, “What on earth is THAT all about?”
And I will admit, I have also been on something of a personal journey is this regard. When I was younger, especially in my 20s I was like most men my age. I loved a good action movie with something of a “high kill ratio.” Blowing up stuff, chase scenes, etc. appealed to me. But somewhere in my journey I heard the Lord say to me, “It’s not good to find that sort of thing entertaining.” Indeed, real violence is horrifying. Actual murders are awful. Even low speed car crashes also cause great injury. In the movies, our hero walks away from the crash scene. But in real life car crashes cause, broken bones, back and neck injury, neuropathy, even paralysis and death. It’s not “cool” at all.
Real Death – In my last assignment I lived in a very tough neighborhood. There were murders every week. And two people were killed right on my Church grounds. It was pretty awful to see a young man lying on my parking lot who had just been shot to death. He had died in a gunfight that took place on our grounds even while the children were at recess just on the other side of the Church. I remember, I left the bullet holes in my Church window unrepaired for a long time in silent protest to the violence. There was also a woman who was stabbed to death in front of my rectory. I still remember the crime scene tape and her lifeless body lying there. She was well known to all in the area as one of the neighborhood beggars. She had her troubles but basically she was a sweetie. Violence like this was no movie. Real people were killed. Real children were threatened by nearby violence. This was no cartoonish movie, it was real violence, real murder and real threat.
Somewhere in the years that have transpired, I have lost my taste for violent movies. I have stopped finding them exciting, entertaining or even all that interesting. I am not on some crusade to end such movies, but I do rejoice that they no longer appeal to me. I think that is grace at work. Deep in my heart I always knew there was something wrong with enjoying movies that featured violent killing.
And so, there I was yesterday in a theatre. And suddenly the lights went down and the screen lit up. But the light flickering on the screen seemed very dark. And I thought of the words of Jesus who said, Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matt 6:22-23).
So, how say you? Should I just “lighten up” (pardon the pun)? Am I being too severe? Are these movies just good fun? And remember, it’s not just their violence, it is their dark themes. Recall too, I am trying to start a conversation here not pontificate. When it comes to cultural trends there are always going to be different views, even among believers. I am interested in your views.
Here are some of the trailers I saw yesterday: