The Better Beauty and the Beast

large_tnml0g604pdrjwgj5fsusykfo9After months of fasting from watching the latest Disney live-action remake, I finally got to look over Emma Watson’s most anticipated film. And actually, after all the negative views I’ve read on it, I still walked away with some surprises. This version of the 1991 classic is slower paced, and not as compelling (some scenes actually bored me enough for me to pull out my phone and check the news, waiting for the lame parts to pass). It’s lacking musical beauty, the CGI was sub-par, and the story is too top heavy, trying desperately to out-do its origin by adding tacky changes. From the start, this remake was in trouble since it was trying to perfect an already perfect original, and you just can’t fix what ain’t broke. Instead of trying desperately to improve, they should have desperately tried to honor the original. But despite these failures, here are some things I appreciated more than I thought I would, and things I think you never noticed:

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. Right from the get go, I noticed the fly-by camera in the opening Disney Castle logo sequence. I wondered and replayed it, and took a screenshot. Here’s what I saw:StMikeDisneyThat’s right! Atop the Disney Castle logo in this film (it’s usually a flag in other films) is a gold statue of St. Michael defeating Satan. And then at the end of the film, when the curse is broken and the Beast’s castle transformed, we see yet another gold statue of St. Michael, transformed from a gargoyle into the Archangel slaying the evil one. This leads me to wonder why Disney and the director (Bill Condon) okayed these clearly traditional Christian images, especially in a film that was supposedly designed in some scenes to push immoral same-sex relationships. Could it be that despite the attempts at evil, St. Michael was snuck in to show that Mickey and company belongs to St. Michael and company?6f17a9903a9e5487675b308eec8e8f28-hamburg-germany-munich
  2. Continuing the peculiar positive portrayal of the Church is the reverend/priest in the movie, who Belle meets with regularly to borrow his books. Granted that not many were literate in that time, it’s still strange to change Belle’s connection to literature from being with a bookstore (in the 1991 version) to a Catholic priest in the remake. And how do we know it’s a Catholic priest? Because there’s a giant crucifix statue, and Protestants and Orthodox don’t use crucifixes or statues. Also, the setting is France: a traditional stronghold of Catholicism (think St. Joan of Arc).
  3. Beast also has an almost throw-away line rebutting Lumiere’s claim of Belle being “the one” for Beast. Beast says: “there’s no such thing as the one.” This immediately reminded me of the correct understanding of love and marriage without the false fantasy of fate that negates freedom, without the this-was-meant-to-be lies. Blogger and author Matt Walsh explains this hilariously and clearly in this article: My Marriage Wasn’t Meant To Be. Here’s an excerpt (but seriously read it all):

    We think that our task is to find this preordained partner and marry them because, after all, they’re “The One.” They were designed for us, for us and only us. It’s written in the stars, prescribed in the cosmos, commanded by God or Mother Earth. There are six or seven billion people in the world, but only one of them is the right one, we think, and we’ll stay single until we happen to stumble into them one day.

    And when that day happens, when The One — our soul mate, our match, our spirit-twin — comes barreling into our lives to whisk us off our feet and take us on canoe rides and deliver impassioned romantic monologues on a beach in the rain or in a bus station or whatever, then we’ll finally be happy. Happy until the end of time. We can get married and have a perfect union; a Facebook Photo Marriage, where every day is like an Instragam of you and your spouse wearing comfortable socks and sitting next to the fireplace drinking Starbucks lattes.

    Yeah. About that. It’s bull crap, sorry. Not just silly, frivolous bull crap, but bull crap that will destroy you and eat your marriage alive from the inside. It’s a lie. A vicious, cynical lie that leads only to disappointment and confusion. The Marriage of Destiny is a facade, but the good news is that Real Marriage is something so much more loving, joyful, and true.

    We’ve got it all backwards, you see. I didn’t marry my wife because she’s The One, she’s The One because I married her. Until we were married, she was one, I was one, and we were both one of many. I didn’t marry The One, I married this one, and the two of us became one. I didn’t marry her because I was “meant to be with her,” I married her because that was my choice, and it was her choice, and the Sacrament of marriage is that choice. I married her because I love her — I chose to love her — and I chose to live the rest of my life in service to her. We were not following a script, we chose to write our own, and it’s a story that contains more love and happiness than any romantic fable ever conjured up by Hollywood.

    Indeed, marriage is a decision, not the inevitable result of unseen forces outside of our control. When we got married, the pastor asked us if we had “come here freely.” If I had said, “well, not really, you see destiny drew us together,” that would have brought the evening to an abrupt and unpleasant end. Marriage has to be a free choice or it is not a marriage. That’s a beautiful thing, really.

    God gave us Free Will. It is His greatest gift to us because without it, nothing is possible. Love is not possible without Will. If we cannot choose to love, then we cannot love. God did not program us like robots to be compatible with only one other machine. He created us as individuals, endowed with the incredible, unprecedented power to choose. And with that choice, we are to go out and find a partner, and make that partner our soul mate.

  4. And now the question of freedom and love: Beast finally learns this when he frees Belle from being his prisoner, even though she has become a willing prisoner. Being yet not fully free, her love is unable to be true, and his love is prevented from maturing also. But once Beast let’s Belle leave, once he allows himself to lose and become incredibly vulnerable to Belle’s rejection and abandonment, only then does Belle’s return mean anything. This insight isn’t unique to this remake, but is also in the original, and is a timeless truth about how love becomes true love. It reminds us that only a heart that can break is an honest heart, a real heart. And when Beast accepts his broken heart for love of Belle and her freedom and dignity, then does love truly bless and bloom, not wilt as the cursed rose.beauty_and_the_beast_emma_watson_rose
  5. That’s all I have to say about the remake. For more about the 1991 original masterpiece and all the bursting Christian and biblical symbols in it, please see Beauty and the Beast and the Bible. Finally, it should be obvious that I believe the better Beauty and the Beast is certainly not this remake. Sorry fans. Everything that was good in this version was already in the original.
  6. For another, more thoughtful review, please see here.

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A Look-See at Lucy

Lucy-BannerWhen the first Lucy trailer hit my face, I was about to scream plagiarism!

On a warm autumn day in 2002, I daydreamed about a girl who had an accident that fully unleashed her mind. From then on, the scenes of how she would live played out in my imagination… and eventually give rise to the raw origins of my novel: Little Miss Lucifer.

I wasn’t worried though, and am not even threatened by Lucy. The story is way different. But even so, after spoiling it by reading the plot on Wikipedia, I still wanted to see what director Luc Besson could do with such a character. Here’s what I think of Lucy:

[SPOILER ALERT]

Saint Lucy1) First, the name of the film and Johansson’s character is — you guessed it — Lucy. But who was the person who popularized that name? Who is the person who every “Lucy” afterwards was named after? Well, like most names we have in English today, those names belonged to saints who launched them into popular use. Think of MaryAndrewJohn, and yep… Lucy.

Saint Lucy was a young Christian woman who was persecuted for her love of Jesus. One of the ways she was tortured before being martyred was that her eyes were ripped out from her face. Many icons of St. Lucy depict her holding her two eyeballs in a dish.

But here’s how this relates to the movie: In Latin, the “lu” in the name Lucy refers to “light,” as in “luminous” or “luster”. When St. Lucy was blinded and murdered, she no longer saw created light (the light of the sun, stars, firelies and lightning), but instead became able to see the true Light of the World: Jesus Christ, the God who created all other lights. (Btw, notice all the emphasis and focus on Lucy’s eyes in the film and its ads.)

In the film, Lucy also symbolizes this as someone who becomes able to see more than light. She can see, and sense, the world we know as mystery. She even explains that time is the standard of defining reality, not us humans and our standards, but time. Now, I don’t agree with this because even time itself can be destroyed (since spacetime is only a product of the Big Bang), and if time itself can be destroyed, then what? Instead, what I take from this is that we do not define what is real or true. Instead, the film tells us that reality and truth exist apart from what we think of it. In short, the film busts relativism (the idea that something is true only as long as we want it to be, and that we can all have our own truths about reality) into smithereens!

Creation of Adam2) Lucy in the movie also amasses huge amounts of information. She and others believe that knowledge is the purpose of life. She gains the ability to time-travel, manipulate matter, teleport, and even control other people. There’s criticism out there that the film’s use of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam suggests that Lucy has become god. However, if this is the film’s intention, then it cancels itself out in a few ways. First, Lucy knows a lot about how and what things are, but she does not know why: as in why is there such a thing as the universe as opposed to nothing? Why is there life? Why does she exist? Why does she love her parents (their conversation was one of my favorites in the film)? Why is there love anyway? And what is love? Why are some things beautiful and others not? Why does beauty exist?Why does anything exist at all? Second, Lucy can do a lot, but she couldn’t even save her own body from decay. Unless there’s a sequel about her resurrection, she’s a pretty flimsy god. Third, she’s an even flimsier god since she needs a cell phone to tell her friend that she is everywhere (and more on this below). Fourth, is it really enough to know something, to know all things? If you had all the information in creation, but nobody ever existed to share it with, would that be enough for you? If you knew about love and what it was, but you were never loved by anyone, and had no one to love in return… would that be enough for you? What I’m saying is that knowledge is not the purpose of life… love is! And this reminds me of a quote from beloved Pope Benedict XVI: “For those who love, you can never have enough information” — meaning that a lover never tires of discovering and rediscovering  the beloved.

3) So, what’s up with Lucy needing to use the cell phone? In fact, what’s up with all these latest mind-movies (like Transcendence and Her) showing that untethered consciousness still needs a way to be physically expressive? Could it be because God (the real One) created us humans that way? That we need the physical to make ourselves known? That “the body alone, and only the body, can make visible the invisible” (I stole that quote from Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body). Think about it: if I had an idea, how would anyone know about it? Unless… I used my brain, nerves, eyes, hands, skin, bones, muscles, etc. to pick up a pen and write it out. Or used my vocal cords, lungs, breath, tongue and teeth to speak it out? We need our bodies, because we are our body. It’s not just something we have, it is us.

Lucy4) And back to the beauty question from #2 above: beauty is one of those realities that knowledge and information alone cannot explain. I mean, how do we recognize beauty? Why does it exist? Why is it important to us? And don’t just think of visual beauty, but think of music, flavor, fragrance, and texture! (Yes, this movie did make me think of this, after all… if knowledge was everything, why bother making it all pretty with Scarlett and cinematography?)

5) Scarlett made me notice another thing: when her roommate was gushing about her night with a man, Lucy was totally disinterested. Lucy not only didn’t care, but even mocked it. This reminds me of why some men and women in the Catholic faith choose a life of celibate chastity. I’m thinking of priests and religious sisters (aka: nuns). That’s right! Scarlett Johansson’s character just exemplified celibacy. Here’s how: priests and nuns put the ordinary and natural desire for married sexual intimacy aside and instead choose the extraordinary and supernatural desire for intimacy with God. By living celibate lives, they’re witnessing that we were not meant merely for marriage with another person, but were meant for marriage with the Person, with God who is more real than any creature, more beautiful than beauty (since He created beauty). In the movie, Lucy knows reality more than the average person and sees that sexual intimacy is not enough for her — that compared to intimacy with supreme reality, sexual intimacy is kind of a joke. [NOTE: Catholic teaching does not say that sexual intimacy is a joke (married intimacy is very holy), only that any other intimacy is incomparable to intimacy with God.] (Click here to see what I mean (these sisters went on Oprah to share their story!) (And click here for how Professor-X from X-Men also exemplifies celibate chastity.)

6) The movie starts and ends with this voiceover: “We were given life over a billion years ago…” Notice that it says we were given life. Not that life popped out of nowhere, or that we gave life to ourselves, but that it was given to us. In that case… who gave it to us? Being given something implies there’s a giver…

7) Lastly, there’s a sort of throwaway line that Lucy says when the lead police officer warns her about people dying. She says point blank: “No one ever really dies.” Now, this is a claim Christians should know very well, since we profess to believe in the Resurrection and the Life, that we will all live forever, and not just spiritually, but bodily too! So, not sure what to make of this line from Lucy since nothing else follows it up and fleshes it out.

8) All in all, I enjoyed Lucy. It made me ask a lot of philosophical questions and hinted at theological truths. It was fun, although corny at times. I’m just glad it wasn’t a waste of 90 minutes and a free admission, and I’m even more glad Luc Besson didn’t steal my idea about a girl who goes 100%. Yet, the greatest disappointment was that Besson himself didn’t go 100% on this film.

Sed Libera Nos a Malo

DeliverUsFromEvil“But Deliver Us from Evil…”

And does Deliver Us from Evil deliver?

I love a good exorcism story. But over the last few decades, they’ve been less and less original. My favorite is still Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose (yes, I prefer it over the original Exorcist).

This latest film from Derrickson wasn’t bad at all, but it did leave me feeling disappointed. No one in the film industry seems to know what to do next with the genre (which is why I wrote Little Miss Lucifer); the same story runs over and over. Hey Hollywood! It’s getting a bit redundant!

But let’s focus for now on the positives from Deliver Us:

1) It’s Catholic. The director himself, in a lengthy interview, admits that he “has nothing but love for Catholicism” and would convert if it weren’t for one reason: he doesn’t know how to raise his kids Catholic. So, here’s to praying he finds out how!

St. Benedict Medal2) It boldly features the Medal of Saint Benedict! Today is the Memorial of Saint Benedict! I have more and more friends who sport the Medal of St. Benedict. If you want to know more, check out this page (note: the medal bears exorcising properties.)

3) It calls out anti-Catholic stereotypes, especially about priests. No priest is perfect, just like no police officer is perfect, just like no person is perfect: “Every saint has a past — every sinner has a future.”

4) It takes the Sacrament of Confession dead seriously: meaning that if you’re going to battle the devil’s tricks and temptations, you must be free from your tainted history, and the only one who can liberate you from your guilt and lies is Jesus Christ. Confession is not only for healing, but also for shielding!

5) And of course, the Latin!

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