Tuesday, June 17, 2014
On the surface: The movie is a “Godless zone,” with no direct reference to anything spiritual. The only authority consulted for guidance is a scientist, but frankly he doesn’t offer much; he’s mostly there as a device for the writers to give us “rules of engagement” for how to defeat the aliens in a way that modern audiences will most likely accept. It’s not all that important, though, as that is not what the movie is really about.
The heart of the story: The story is actually the journey of development for the main character from a morally stunted worm to a man of virtue: the virtues in evidence being courage, perseverance, and self-sacrificing love for others. This is no small achievement for a movie absolutely chock-full of alien-fighting special effects wizardry. Cruise’s ability to give us such a clear developmental arc for the character amid all that in-your-face action (no doubt filmed entirely out of sequence) is frankly remarkable.
Is it any good? The move gets off to a bad start; not just “slow,” but actually bad. The opening sequence is inexcusably cheesy for a movie with a budget that can afford both Tom Cruise and the truly terrific action effects with which we’ll later be constantly pummeled (in a good way!). Cruise’s character choices at the beginning also seem uncharacteristically lackluster and empty of his trademark electrical charisma (we see why eventually, but at first viewing, it’s disconcerting), and coupled with a bit of waffling before the movie firmly sets its tone, this makes the first act a bit slow to roll. However, once it does get going, both the action-adventure and the character’s quest are an excellent ride; very well done.
Is there any “bad stuff” in it?
Sexual Content: There’s literally no time for sexual content (unlike its comedic relative “Groundhog Day,” this movie doesn’t propose to us that a man could, or ever should, attempt to bed a woman after a single day of acquaintance). We do have one character who goes into battle naked under his “super soldier” suit; this does result in our being treated to a shot of his prodigious backside; it’s intended to be funny (and it does set up quite a funny moment later).
Violent Content: The movie is, on the surface, about a soldier in the midst of pitched battle with a terrifying enemy, and as such there is a movie-load of violence, although interestingly, in retrospect, you note that the violence is kept cleanly against the alien enemy. Even in one scene where two soldiers approach our main character with the intention of roughing him up, that violence is literally side-stepped. There is a lot of interesting battle gadgetry, and tons and tons of in-your-face encounters with swirling, smashing, unforgiving aliens out for nothing but the destruction of humankind and the rape of our planet. So, for any concerned with the constant diet of hyper-violent content Hollywood is feeding us, that is important to note.
It is also important to note that the “resetting” of the day requires the death of the main character, so we do see him not only repeatedly killed by the alien foe, but also killed (rather dispassionately, and more than once) by his fellow soldier (and developing love interest), and even one instance where he attempts to kill himself to reset the day. Although this last is, in the context of the film’s story, an act of self-sacrifice, and in the moment is thwarted by an alien, it is a potentially problematic triggering image which could make suicide look “noble” to someone in a vulnerable place in their life.
Finally, it should be noted that the concept of the piece, where the main character’s death resets the day, plays right into the video-game version of non-reality in which most of our youth (especially boys) are now over-steeped. If the movie weren’t appearing in the context of this overwhelming pathological meta-message, I would say that the moral lesson fully justifies the violent concept. However, while it may not make a great deal of difference in terms of re-emphasizing the already hyper-pervasive media meta-message that life is cheap and death is no big deal, it certainly doesn’t help to counter it, so that is something to weigh when deciding whether to welcome this particular story into your heart and mind.
Bottom Line: By being thrown into this boiling cauldron of almost inconceivable challenge, one worm learns to become a man.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. --Romans 5:3-5