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A few years ago, I edited a book for Christianity Today called “Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching,” the premise of which was that select, individual scenes in movies – regardless of the message or content of the entire film – could be used to illustrate biblical truths.
Rarely does a movie come along that a pastor or preacher could endorse in its entirety because of polluted content and messages, but Hollywood does often stumble upon biblical truth – even if it’s obscured by various untruths.
Such is the case in the new, anything but epic animated film from the makers of “Ice Age” called, ironically, “Epic.”
As a film, “Epic” contains beautiful animation, but alas, very little else to its credit. The story is unoriginal, the characters unsympathetic and the jokes are … unfunny. The voice acting, with a few exceptions, is … uninspired – led by a plastic, lifeless performance from Josh Hutcherson and bizarre, sometimes accented, sometimes not lines from Colin Farrell.
“Epic” tries to tell the story of a pair of teenagers from single-parent homes (one a human girl, the other a “leaf man”) who feel lost and abandoned, but learn in the end they’re not as alone as they feel. Toss in some teen angst and sophomoric self-centeredness so real-life adolescents can “relate,” and it’s at least a nice try, though I don’t think many teens will actually line up to watch this movie.
Kids may enjoy the film for its lovely visuals and exciting sequences, but I expect most adults will be thoroughly and justifiably bored. If you want even better 3-D animation and a film adults and kids can enjoy, I’d recommend “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole” instead.
But what about that “biblical truth” I was hinting at?
It certainly doesn’t come out in most of the tale, which is steeped to enviro-New-Agey gobbledygook about “a feeling” you can get from the forest or full moons and summer solstices or “balance” or us all “being connected.”
I suppose you could see a parallel between the “many leaves, one tree” mantra and the body of Christ metaphor from Scripture, but that’s a bit of a stretch.
There is, however, a poignant line that parallels the heart of the gospel – even though I doubt the scriptwriters ever intended it to do so.
At a critical moment in the story, when all seems lost and the power of decay is poised to bring about its reign of death upon all the forest, the forest dwellers look for hope, but find none.
“Who gives up everything,” they ask, “for a world that’s not even theirs?”
But the teen girl, the one human among the forest dwellers, knows the answer: “My dad!”
In similar fashion, the one, incarnated Son of God faced a world succumbing to the power of death. And who would give up everything to save this lost world?
Jesus similarly knew the answer: “My dad!”
“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language, but will tell you plainly about my Father,” Jesus said. “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father” (John 16:25, 28).
And how did he “leave the world”? By – as the movie says – “giving up everything for a world that’s not even his,” by dying upon the cross: the Son sacrificing His life, the Father giving His only begotten Son.
“Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent me,” Jesus said. “I have made You known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for me may be in them.”
In almost two hours of movie, it’s not much, but it is one moment, one scene that offers a metaphor for biblical truth. I could even see a preacher picking up a DVD of the film, just to show it, to illustrate the point during a sermon.
I just don’t see the preacher, or many others for that matter, bothering to watch the rest of the film.
“Epic,” rated PG-13, contains neither profanity nor obscenity.
The film contains very little sexuality, consisting of flirting between the two teen protagonists, including a few jokes about “put your arm around me,” a slug (literally) who boasts of wooing the girl and a romantic kiss.
The film portrays an ongoing battle between soldiers of the forest and soldiers of rot, so there’s plenty of action-adventure violence, such as swordfights, bows and arrows and various forms of hand-to-hand combat. Characters are killed by arrow and by fall, but there’s no attempt to be gruesome (save for a splatter on a windshield).
In terms of religious and occult content, the film has some dialogue that sounds like nature religion and various scenes of apparently “magical” happenings (including the queen’s ability to telepathically control plant life). The movie does not, however, specifically depict a “religion” for the leaf people, and the dialogue is vague at most.