Cowboy Builders

*Doorbell rings*

*Mrs Humanity opens the door, a hinge breaks as she does so*

Humanity: “Hello, yes?”

Mr Vishnu: *Presents his card* “Vishnu and Zeus, builders. You called about a problem?”

Humanity: “Oh thank fate you’re here Mr Vishnu! We’re having all sorts of problems with our universe.”

Mr Vishnu: “I’d best come in, Mr Zeus will check the roof, drainage and the outside for you.”

Humanity: “Yes, yes, come in, come in, can I get you a cup of ambrosia and a prayer biscuit?”

Mr Vishnu: “No, no… that’s fine thanks, let’s see what the trouble is. Shall we start in the kitchen?”

Humanity: “Oh, yes, certainly, if you’ll just look over here…”

Mr Vishnu: “Oh my me! You’ve had the cowboys in here! Look at that, black holes all over the place, cracks up the wall from subsidence… what’s that in the oven?”

Humanity: “Oh, those, those are New Species. We ordered a creationist universe, you know, everything already made, but Jehovah and Son seem to have given us something different.”

Mr Vishnu: “Oh yes, they’re notorious Jehovah and Son, bodged jobs up and down the multiverse. Did you pay them?”

Humanity: *visibly flustered* “Well, I wasn’t going to, but then Jesus dropped by, he had a black eye and a swollen lip, he said his father was very upset with me for not paying and could I possibly see my way clear to coughing up just to help him out.”

Mr Vishnu: “Yeah, I’ve heard that one before, classic tug at the old heartstrings, all a scam of course.”

*Mr Zeus plummets through the roof in a shower of tiles and smashes through the floor into the basement.*

Humanity: “Oh my…”

Mr Vishnu: “I don’t think I need to see anything else, this universe isn’t up to code, it’s not even steady state for crying out loud! Plus you’re infested with evolution. If you hadn’t told me different I’d have thought this was one of those messy naturally occuring universes.”

Humanity: “Can you fix it?”

*Mr Vishnu sucks his teeth and makes a few notes on a notepad*

Mr Vishnu: “It’ll cost ya.”

Mr Zeus: (From below the kitchen) “Can I get a hand up? I think I fell in some dark matter.”

*Fade*

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G.O.D.S.

Cop: “Howdy maam, we got a report of a domestic disturbance in the vicinity, mind if we come in for a minute?”

Christianity: “Oh, oh no officer, everything’s fine, really.”

Cop: “You sure? Your neighbour Mr Hebrew reported what sounded like a massive flood, decimating the earth. Is that water on your face?”

Christianity: “Oh, that’s nothing officer. I… I fell over, that’s what it was.”

Cop: “Uh huh, never heard that one before maam, let us in and let’s talk this over.”

Cop2: “I think I found him, he’s hidin’ under the trailer!”

Christianity: “Oh no! Please don’t arrest him, he’s a good god! It’s my fault, I done bad, I pushed him to it, I know he’s got a terrible temper!”

Cop2: “God? I’m going to have to ask you to come out from under the trailer peacefully now, bring your dog with you please.”

God: “His name’s Jesus! He’s a good dog, aintcha Jesus, not like that whore up there Christianity. Bitch had it comin!”

Cop2: “Come on out from under there and let’s talk this out sensibly.”

Christianity: “He’s right, he’s right, I’m a filthy bitch, a dirty sinner, I had it comin’, it ain’t his fault, I drove him to it! I should be more like Jesus, he’s a good dog, always does what he’s told, not like me!”

God: “Dern right woman, I warned you.”

Cop: “Alright, alright, calm down both of you, now what set this off this time?”

God: “Bitch ate muh last apple.”

Cop: “Is that right?”

Christianity: “Yes, but he didn’t make it very clear I wasn’t supposed to.”

Cop: “And eating an apple justifies flooding her and killing nearly all her people does it?”

God: “You damn right, filthy slut doesn’t know how to obey me. I wear the pants in this trailer! I’m the damn boss! Why can’t you be more like Jesus woman? He’s a good dog, aintcha Jesus? Who’s a good boy?”

Jesus: Woof!

Cop: “Right, but this is over now isn’t it? We’re not going to have any more trouble are we?”
God: “So long as the dang woman behaves herself.”

Christianity: “I’ll be good, I’ll be just like Jesus, you’ll see, I won’t do nothin’ to aggravate you!”

God: “Yeah right woman, you don’t know how to behave, you’ll be sinnin’ again in no time, and you know what happens then?”

Christianity: “I have to sit in the hell closet.”

Cop2: “Whoa, whoa, whoa, the what?”

Christianity: “The hell closet. When I’ve been a really filthy sinner he locks me in the closet and burns my feet, he keeps me in there and doesn’t let me out, but I deserve it! I’m a slut! A filthy sinner!”

Cop: “Sweet merciful fate, lady you need psychological help. Torture ain’t right!”

God: “What’s it to do with you? This is my trailer and my bitch! I’ll do what I damn well please!”

*Cops assault and cuff god*

Cop2: “You sick sonofabitch, you’re going away for a long time!”

Christianity: *Crying* No! Don’t lock him up! I deserved it! He’s a good god! I shouldn’t have done pushed him like that!

God: *being lead away* Shuttup woman! Jesus, you watch her now!

*Bad gods bad gods, whatcha gonna do…*

The Bible: A Film Review

Of course, this is an old film, so a review isn’t necessarily very informative but it can be worthwhile to visit old films now and again to subject them to a modern perspective. The Bible isn’t the first, or last, film to follow these themes being part remake part sequel to Ingmar Bergman’s critically acclaimed, intellectual, disturbing but commercially unappealing ‘The Torah’ (1952). The Bible lacks the critical authenticity of that work while also lacking the trendy (but also confusing) Tarantinoesque jump-cuts of 2006’s ‘Islam’ by Robert Rodriguez or the sheer surreality of Salvador Dali’s arthouse masterpiece ‘Mormonism’.

The Bible, then, stands somewhere in the middle, Roland Emmerich – as director – is given a huge budget to both re-tell The Torah for a popular audience and to tell the story of the sequel, ‘Messiah’, which was so heavily hinted at in the earlier work but never came to fruition. Unfortunately as with many Hollywood ‘epic’ summer movies of the nineties and noughties the high budget drove a confused, sprawling, over-long, monster of a film that paid far more attention to special effects set pieces than to consistent plotting, characterisation or even sense.

Jeremy Irons chews the scenery as the character ‘God’, a supernatural entity of enormous intelligence and power that dominates the first half of the film before fading into the background during the second half. Clearly we’re supposed to sympathise with the God character and, while Irons’ English accent does lend an element of credibility to the God character’s authority the plotting and actions of the character make no sense and the film would have hung together more with the God character cast as the villain, rather than the vastly more sympathetic Serpent/Devil character, depicted with sensitivity and sympathy by Jude Law. As it stands the audience is left confused as the character we’re supposed to be empathising with visits misery and destruction upon humanity much like the aliens in Emmerich’s other big blockbuster, Independence Day.

The effects are astonishing of course, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the flooding of the Earth, children being mauled by bears (which guaranteed the director’s cut a hard R rating in the US) but while there’s plenty of impressive eye candy the whole thing starts to fall apart in the plotting and narrative. God saves Noah (Donald Sutherland) as he’s supposed to be a man of virtue but after the flooding of the Earth the first thing he does is get drunk and doink his own daughters.

The Egyptian section of the film has received the most plaudits from critics and audiences alike but this is largely down to the tour-de-force performance by Brian Blessed as Moses, with audiences barely able to help themselves shouting along with his bravado delivery reminiscent of his role as Prince Vultan in Flash Gordon (1980). His scene of confrontation with Pharaoh’s sorcerors provides his most memorable line ‘YOU CALL THOSE SNAKES? HAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!’ but also demonstrates the weakness in plotting that even Brian Blessed cannot save, the God character being supposed to be the only true supernatural force in the world, yet these sorcerors capable of producing magic themselves. True, it makes for a more effective scene but this really is a goof up in the plotting.

In America of course, The Bible was released as a four hour epic movie and did reasonably well at the box office during its early weeks but in response to testing the film was split into two sections. The Old Testament and The New Testament since testing had shown that The New Testament tested better as an independent movie in focus groups. Now many people don’t even know that the two films were one ‘The Bible’ and many fans of The New Testament completely disregard Part One, preferring to focus on Part Two.

Part Two, however, cannot really be understood without having watched Part One and while it is a better plotted movie it lacks the same, grand, set-piece battles and special effects that redeemed Part One for the popcorn chewing hoi-polloi. There’s just too much dialogue, much of it repetitious, really trying to hammer home the film’s moral message in a crude fashion that becomes annoying about half an hour into the second half. The use of Jude Law to play the Jesus character – as well as the devil – was somewhat inspired but as soft featured and feminine as he is he fails to bring across either the supposed stoicism of the Jesus character or the malice of The devil in much the same way his lack of macho credentials damaged 2004’s Sky Captain.

While the message of the second half is a positive one it loses its impact because of the poor plotting, particularly when the two halves of the film are viewed as a whole. The first half spends all its time setting up the god character as this all powerful arsehole in the sky (perhaps Bruce Willis with his background of playing morally questionable antiheroes would have been a better choice) only to then have him settle on, perhaps, the most baroque and overly complex plan for the ‘redemption’ of mankind ever conceived, which leaves the cinemagoer – even Joe sixpack – feeling he could have come up with a better solution. The impact of the Jesus character’s sacrifice is further undermined by his popping back up again three days later, perfectly fine and then floating off to paradise. The film, therefore, lacks any real conclusion, the world hasn’t changed, nothing is different and the whole thing is left extremely anticlimactic.

The proposed sequel ‘Revelation’ has been stuck in development hell since the release of The Bible in the mid nineties but Emmerich has expressed a desire to return to the topic and to return to the eye candy of the first half of The Bible with an effects laden destruction of the world that will make The Day After Tomorrow look like Steamboat Willie. Michael Wincott is attached to the latest attempt to bring this film to the cinema, taking over for Jeremy Irons as God while Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have also expressed interest in interviews in the parts of Jesus and The Whore of Babylon respectively. Nothing concrete has settled yet though, so it seems that Revelation will remain in development hell for the near future.

Summary
A confused film, half effects laden, no-brain blockbuster, half cinema-verite talking-heads, lacking a conclusion or climax to justify the budget. Poor plotting and characterisation lead the audience to sympathise with the villains rather than the out-of-control God character or the whiny Jesus

Scores
Style: 3
Substance: 1

A Song (To the tune of Modern Major General)

There’s Abraham who gave us God in forms like Christianity
And Islam, Bahai, Judaic and Baptist-faith calamity
Who whoop and hoot and vote Repub in all of its inanity
And beat and spit on homo sex and call it a profanity

There’s Hindu gods like Hanuman, Vishnu, Krishna and Shakti
To fail to mention Lord Ganesh would really be remiss of me
They fall into a caste that determines what and who will come of thee
And then you end up married to a guy that you will never see

There’s Buddhists in their temples high preaching arch-passivity
But if you’ve seen a Shaolin monk you know how fragile that can be
They teach that life is pain and that attachment is the enemy
But in Tibet their temples are the loveliest you’ll ever see

Sikhs never cut their hair but they always have a sharpened knife
And whirling discs upon their hands that pose a threat upon your life
Still they’re good men upon your side if your Empire’s in a strife
Just don’t count on their good wishes if you ever take a Hindu wife

Far to the East Confuscious say don’t leapfrog with a unicorn
Then there’s Shinto split asunder into many, many forms
There’s Tao that wows with Dao but fails to be so uniform
And then there’s Mao who looks good in his natty little uniform.

In Africa the Catholics cause an AIDS encouraged genocide
And the local faiths kill just as much, ‘witches’-many, they have died
Kids have the hardest time between LRA and being child brides
And religion, I would note, has failed utterly to food provide

There’s Neo-Pagans, New-Age nuts, Asatru Pastafarians
Wiccans, witches, Golden Dawn, Scientology and Raelians
There’s Crystal Wavers, David Icke and worshippers of aliens
And not a one stands up for one mo to study that is Bayesian.

I’ve had a look at every one from angles Utilitarian
I’ve exhausted logic, evidence and words episcopalian

And all of this that I have done forces conclusions but a one…
It’s all a bunch of ‘woo’ and I can live fine without any of ’em.