Sunday, November 4, 2012

Christian Movie Review - Dredd 3D

I was amused to read a recent review of Dredd 3D by 'Movieguide - the family guide to movies and entertainment'. Here's how it finishes off:

"DREDD exists only to exploit and demean all who are involved in it. Everyone associated with this movie, both behind and in front of the cameras, should be deeply ashamed. DREDD is an abhorrent movie on every artistic and moral level."


Naturally, it provoked widespread derision from fans, who didn't seem bothered by the reviewer's damning assessment of the comic book adaptation. In fact, they were almost proud to be associated with a "vile, inhumane and horrifically violent movie ... with abundant foul language."

As a Christian myself, I felt slightly awkward reading the review. Firstly, because my fellow brother (or sister) reviewer succeeded in portraying the Christian faith as ultra-square and tragically un-cool. Secondly, because I actually liked the film I felt like I was being a bad Christian.

In response to the first point, I can't argue really. The Christian faith is not meant to be 'cool' or 'trendy'. In spite of people like Rob Bell doing their best to wear the right clothes and proffer culture-friendly-yet-profound sound-bites, Christianity isn't cool. If anything, it's messy. All sorts of people, regardless of how ugly they look or how broken and hurt they are inside, are allowed to take part. It isn't, or at least shouldn't, be about saying the right thing and wearing the right clothes. We're a motley bunch, some of whom warble hymns out of tune in dusty old pews while others prance around 'in the spirit' to Coldplay-esque worship music at some trendy venue serving slightly pretentious real coffee (bless 'em!). Some believers are always going to react to things in a way that some people will find amusing, offensive or both – there's not much I can do about it, really.

I felt like a bad Christian because I thought maybe I shouldn't have watched a movie like Dredd. It's got lots of violence and swearing in it, not the kind of things you normally associate with Christian values. It's also seriously dark and heavily pessimistic – again, fairly un-Christian qualities.

It brought to mind a well-known piece of scripture:

"... whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4v8 NIV)

So does it mean I'm not allowed to watch anything mildly racy? Well, personally I think the verse from Phillipians is encouraging believers to focus on the good and wholesome stuff most of the time, not necessarily all of the time. I don't think Christians are meant to bury their heads in the sand and think about butterflies and candyfloss all day.

Dredd dispatches perps who gave the movie a negative review
The world can be a horrible and nasty place, and Christians can only offer hope if they are aware of this and understand what is going on in the world. The media is a mirror to society so I think that sometimes it's necessary to take a look once in a while so as to not lose touch.

Saying that, I wouldn't encourage fellow believers to deliberately watch stuff they're uncomfortable with. Some people can stomach some things more than others. Clearly, there are certain kinds of 'entertainment' that no Christian can really justify viewing – pornography or slasher horrors, for example – because there is nothing redemptive or insightful to take away from them.

Dredd, however, is one example of a film which isn't overly gratuitous or indulgent in the darker aspects of its narrative and one can easily draw something useful out of it. Like my good friend Jon did in his recent post. I wouldn't suggest all Christians go watch it because it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if any do wish to go see it I wouldn't judge them for doing so (Heh! See what I did there?).

The other thing that occurred to me was why oh why did someone even bother to review Dredd for Christians?

I mean, it's R-rated. If you read the description, it's clearly full of violence and profanity. No self-respecting Bible-basher would even think of going to see it anyway.

I can kind of understand why the reviewers detail the content of each film the way they do – so at least anyone going to see it is aware of what they are going to end up watching – but to judge the filmmakers for including such content seems baffling to me. After all, the Bible contains its fare share of rape, murder, incest and adultery (amongst other things). But, as I'm sure is true of Pete Travis (Dredd's Director) and his colleagues, the authors of the Bible's 66 books aren't necessarily condoning such behaviour. They're just representing facets of human brokenness and pain (a staple element of most good stories).

Needless to say, I'll be getting my copy of Dredd when it comes out on DVD in January. I won't be watching it guiltily, but if any of my Christian buddies want to watch it with me, they're more than welcome.