Archive for January, 2017

passengersPassengers accomplishes something reminiscent of Cast Away and I Am Legend – the need for fellowship.  While audiences felt sympathy for Tom Hanks and Will Smith being secluded on islands – one a tropical island, the other Manhattan island – Passengers increases this feeling on the final frontier.

When we first meet Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) he’s just waking up from hyper-sleep…90 years too soon.  Not only is that just a tad too early, but he’s the only passenger, out of five thousand, who woke up too soon.

As he slowly gets acclimated to life on the spacecraft, Avalon, he quickly realizes he’s all alone.  His terrified reaction to this realization reminds us of the importance for community and fellowship.  Not only is this feeling enhanced when it’s set against the backdrop of the vastness of space, but it’s increased by the understanding that other humans are aboard the Avalon.  This presence of humanity only seems to taunt Jim’s solitude.

Jim gets a glimpse of humanity as he encounters a bartender named Arthur (Michael Sheen), only to discover he’s a robot.  To Arthur’s credit, he does a superb job of acting human.  Just one example, Arthur constantly polishes glasses at the bar, even though Jim is the only customer aboard the ship.  When confronted with this truth, Arthur explains that it’s designed to comfort those he’s talking to.  Instead of staring into the eyes of Jim as he shares deep struggles, the distraction offered by polishing the glass comforts the patron.

Arthur even offers some advice to momentarily alleviate Jim’s predicament, “Quit trying to control everything.”  While this could be interpreted as a biblical truth – pointing to rest in God’s sovereignty – it becomes license to indulge.  Jim is all alone, but he has carte blanche access to every restaurant and drink available to Avalon guests.  Arthur’s advice grants reprieve to Jim’s loneliness, but it is short lived.  The emptiness of self-indulgence is on full display as Jim’s party comes crashing down.

The Moral Dilemma

As Jim reaches the end of himself – and the partying he enjoyed – he discovers a passenger that catches his eye.  He learns her name and tracks her down through the ship’s video log.  What begins as curiosity, becomes infatuation.  Jim watches the videos Aurora has left and begins to fall in love with her.  Sitting beside her sleep chamber, watching videos of her – simulating something of a date – Jim realizes his curiosity has only left him in greater misery.  He’s so close to human contact, and yet, so far away.

As he seeks advice from Arthur, he realizes the dilemma he’s created for himself: Wake a woman up too early and ruin the life she desired on another planet or continue to live and eventually die in isolation. One thing is for certain, neither is an appealing conclusion.

Movie-goers with a heartbeat understand this to be a true challenge for Jim.  Perhaps there are many who would claim, I’d never be that selfish.  The filmmakers, however, present such a clear picture of isolation and loneliness, one can’t help but feel Jim’s dilemma. 

One of the most poignant scenes in the film occurs from Jim’s discovery of a spacesuit.  As he sees the headless suit, he beings to embrace it and try to hold the hands of the suit.  For a fleeting second, he’s reminded of what it’s like to embrace another.  It is a powerful illustration of our need for community and displays the inner-wrestlings of Jim’s heart.

The Unintended Truth

This film does such a good job of communicating mankind’s innate desire for community.  Being created in God’s image necessitates community.  As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in perfect community with themselves, humanity is created with this desire for community – it’s hard-wired into us (Gen. 1:26-27).

An equally deep truth, and stronger theme in the film, was seen in Jim’s choosing of Aurora.  On the one hand, we understand that perhaps he was drawn to her beauty and then her personality through the video log, therefore, his choice of passenger is easy to grasp.  On the other hand, why didn’t he choose another man?  A buddy to hang out with?  A guy he could have played basketball or lifted weights with (he does both of those things on the Avalon)?

I was fascinated by the fact that Passengers unintentionally, most likely, illustrated one of the earliest truths of Scripture – It is not good that man should be alone (Gen. 2:18).  Just as Adam spent some time in the Garden of Eden and discovered he did not have a helper fit for him, Jim discovered that he needed – not just another image bearer – but a female.

Jim’s portrayed as a capable man in the film.  He’s a mechanic so he can fix things, he seems to be in good physical shape, he’s athletic, but he’s still incomplete.  He needs a woman.  Yes, another man would offer him community and fellowship he longs for, but there’s something about a female that’s unique.  There’s something she offers that man doesn’t.  The female is an image-bearer that bears the image of God in a manner man doesn’t.

In light of the differences between genders, I must tell viewers that there is some sexual content in the film.  While nothing is explicit, the film illustrates the sexual desires males and females have ingrained into their being.  I want to be sensitive and warn others of this content, and, while nothing is too explicit in this film, I wish they would have toned it down a bit.  At the same time, we are talking about one man and one woman secluded in space for a long time.  While Christian viewers may quickly look upon those scenes with understandable disdain, we also – I would suggest – should recognize the biblical truth of sexuality that’s being communicated onscreen.  I’m not condoning the content, but the truth.

As the film approaches its ultimate climax, Jim looks at Aurora and says, “I need your help.”  Jim, a very capable man, needs the woman and, as the film illustrates, Aurora needs Jim.  The man and the woman need one another to accomplish the task before them.  Ultimately, it is one man and one woman that keep civilization aboard the Aurora continuing.  Without the two of them coming together, the entire crew would not survive.

God’s Passengers

While so much of our culture wants to distort Scripture’s view of biblical manhood and womanhood, I feel that Passengers gives viewers a pretty accurate portrayal of what we find in God’s Word.  God created humans to be in fellowship.  God created male and female after his image.  God taught Adam he needed Eve.  Adam recited poetry as he first lays eyes on the beautiful creature he calls ‘woman’.

This side of heaven, our community and fellowship is imperfect.  Sin brings division among males and females, it brings division among races, and sin brings death which ushers in the most painful form of isolation to those left in its wake.

Truth be told, we are all passengers.  In this grand narrative called life, we are reminded that we aren’t the main characters.  The life we’re now living is not ours, but Gods.  He owns all things, even our stories.  While we are significance because we bear his image, we are merely passengers along for the ride.

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[Note: This was originally written at the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but never published.]

Star Wars seems to be everywhere you turn. It’s on the major news outlets – CNN, Fox, & NBC. It’s on endless magazine covers. It was on your children’s Christmas lists (and possibly some adult’s lists as well).   It’s even on theological websites.

The release of Star Wars: Episode 7 was historic and Rogue One continues to reign at the box office. It’s impossible to measure the impact this franchise has had on the cinema. Notable directors and actors state that their initial viewing of this film was a watershed moment in their life. The science fiction genre was not a money-maker at the box office until the release of Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977. Thus, all the hype.

Iconic characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, & Han Solo returned to the silver screen for the first time in decades. Even the beloved Millennium Falcon was back in action. While Rogue One gave us a list of new characters, familiar sights and sounds from the previous installments were present. Almost everyone’s back…except for the originator of the aforementioned Star Wars world, George Lucas.

The Original Creator

Last year there was an interview with George Lucas stating that those in charge of The Force Awakens didn’t want to involve him. For those who are unaware, Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise for $4 billion. Box office records show that it was a wise investment.

However, the very man who invented Luke Skywalker (initially called Starkiller), wasn’t even consulted. The man who wrote A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…sat back and wondered what was happening to the galaxy he thought up. George Lucas, who avoided major studio influence on his initial films by funding them with his own money, placed his creation in the hands of another.

Some may dismiss this thought and say, Well, Lucas did sell the rights. After all, why should we feel sorry for a man who’s counting his billions. However, there would be no hype, there would be no Force Awakens or Rogue One, had there been no George Lucas. One could even argue that there would be no Harry Potter, Hunger Games or film adaptation of Lord of the Rings literature had there been no George Lucas.

After the release of Episodes I-III, fans were ready for a change. Most despise these installments of the franchise, so it was clear that there had to be a marked difference with Episode VII and the ensuing Star Wars films. Here’s where I feel sorry for Lucas, however. It’s his story. It’s his world. It’s his cinematic vision. Yet, the movie-goers feel like they own the Star Wars universe. How dare George Lucas take this story in this direction! What was he thinking when he created Jar Jar Binks?! Why in the world did he cast Hayden Christensen as Anikan? So, I feel a bit sorry for all the criticism and down-right anger Lucas has endured from fans.

If it wasn’t for him, we would never have Episodes IV, V, & VI! He created them for movie-goers to enjoy – and enjoy they did. Yet now, we are ready for him to get out of the way and let us enjoy our Star Wars the way that we want it!

Don’t get me wrong, I was envisioning ways Jar Jar could be killed off in each ensuing episode. I was disappointed in all of the previous episodes, but I think in critiquing films sometimes we miss the humanity of the people we’re critiquing. We critique Star Wars as this thing that’s out there and forget there’s an image-bearer attached to it. I really wonder how Lucas feels.

Think about it. You can’t turn a television on right now or get on the Internet without seeing something about Rogue One. You can’t go anywhere without hearing how much critics and fans love this one immensely more than the prequels. Yet, somewhere is George Lucas hearing all this. Somewhere George Lucas must be thinking, I gave fans so much. I gave them Luke, Leia, Obi-Wan, Chewbacca, & Han. I created one of the greatest villains the cinema has ever seen in Darth Vader. I collaborated with John Williams to create a musical score that would transcend time.

What is the man, George Lucas thinking about all this?

It was this thought that got me thinking about the human condition. We are so selfish. We are so spoiled. We are so self-centered. Everything is about us and for us. We wake up looking in the mirror at a god we can’t wait to serve. Everything revolves around the person we see in the mirror and it better serve us.

The True Creator

As much as I appreciate George Lucas’ work, I am not imparting god-like status to him. Yet, he is a “creator” that has now witnessed his “creatures” rebelling against him. He did a great deal for those who are a fan of his Star Wars universe. They loved and worshipped him and now they’ve rebelled. There are definite parallels here to fallen mankind.

The true Creator gives and gives so much to this fallen race. In the beginning, God gave Adam and Eve anything they could want or imagine.   Yet, Adam and Eve rebelled against their Creator. The One who gave them the very hands that reached for the forbidden fruit wasn’t enough. The One who blessed them with the very taste buds that tasted the fruit witnessed those bestowed gifts being abused.

The Creator of all these great graces witnesses his creatures’ disdain towards those graces on a daily basis. We complain about the weather. We’re dissatisfied with our job. The body we see in the mirror isn’t what we want it to be. We take the creation that was graciously given to us and complain. It’s not what we think it should be. In short, we think we deserve better.

This parallel breaks down, however, in terms of ownership. Lucas is the creator of Star Wars, but he sold the ownership. Part of his reasoning is that he wants this story to go on after he’s gone – he’s not eternal.

For the Christian, we have a Creator who is eternal and will not leave or forsake his creatures because of their rebellion, no matter how much they complain. This Creator did not sell his rights to his creation, rather he entered into it in order to ensure this rebellious race could enjoy life everlasting. And, we can rest assured that the next chapter in that installment won’t be a disappointment…especially if Jar Jar isn’t there.