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Friday, December 14, 2012

"Suing the Devil" and the Unpardonable Sin

THIS IS SPOILER-FILLED!! Be warned. But it is also clever, and may be worth it.

"Suing the Devil" is a "Christian movie" about a young lawyer who sees all the terrible things in his life, and in the world, and decides to sue Satan for eight trillion dollars. Inexplicably, the International Court accepts the suit, and the fun begins. Satan shows up, played to the hilt by Malcolm McDowell, and proceeds to use all his wiles (and a dream team of corporate lawyers) to destroy the young plaintiff, including dredging up "hidden sins" before a watching world (the chiefest sins on earth appear to be internet porn, the f-word, and racial epithets). Our Hero trots out Biblical texts, and Prominent Pastors to buttress his arguments. Satan bullies his team, charms his fans, belches incandescently at the reading of James 4:7:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

I shall let you guess who wins. Better yet, see the movie. RedBox has it. It is a good popcorn flick, and actually takes some serious cues from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters.

There are various weaknesses to the film. McDowell (who executive produced the movie) is great fun as Satan, and therein lies the problem. He becomes almost likeable, a likeable bullying buffoon. From a strong start, he rapidly moves into caricature.

"I'm a Tom Jones man." RIOT!

A key point to the movie is that Satan's cleverest ruse is to convince folks that he doesn't exist. They miss a more important one: Satan isn't stupid. He has had a long time to perfect his wiles. McDowell's portrayal waffles between "Master Schemer of the World" and "Thick and Sloppy".

Our Hero is revealed to be a nominal Christian with homicidal tendencies (he carries a major grudge against the drunk who killed Mom in a road accident). He is shown twice stalking the guy, getting out a gun, and then chickening out. One time he forgets the bullets. Thick seems to be a theme. He ultimately comes to the place of repentance and renewal, and does not shake his fist at God when he learns (from Satan!) that his wife has brain cancer.

Me daughter sez on Fa-CHAY Book:

OK, I figured out one thing bothers me so much. Movies like this inevitably portray Satan at some point like a blithering idiot...and he isn't. He's had millennia to perfect his tactics. Al pointed out the lack of guile in this particular portrayal - In the film, Satan is almost a bully, not a whisperer of half-truths and cunning persuasion. It's like writers glom onto the roaring lion aspect, and forget the serpent. Satan, I would contend, is not generally a creator of chaos, but a careful orchestrator of subtle change. It is man who *reacts* in a violent manner. The noise aspect is a good one, though. "The music of hell."

They got a lot of things right - again, the good parts were exceptional, and someone on the team clearly knew their Lewis.

It came close to being as good as one could expect...and is a far cut above MOST Christian movies. But it dumbs down the wrong things, and expects a certain level of scriptural understanding of which the target audience may not even be aware...
(the)movie was embarrassing in all the ways that Christian movies usually are.

Trust her. She knows. I used to run programming at a local Christian cable station, and Friday night was "Lock-in Movie Night". I would take her to the station with me, get Little Caesar's, Pepsi, and suchlike (the $5 Caesar's, with whopping cheeseless crust tumors), and I would press the buttons and make movie magic for all our viewer.

These were movies like "A Thief In The Night", where a nominal churchian miss misses The Rapture, and Antichrist misdoings ensue. Real potboilers, long on dispensational dogma (read:false doctrine) and short on talent, but enough to scare Hell out of twelve-year-olds sated with soft drinks and pizza. To read my opinion of what passes for Christian Entertainment, go HERE.

"Suing the Devil" is very good, compared to the spate of End-Timey-Wimey stuff that is normal Christian movie fare. I recommend it, whether you are a believer or not (hello, Malcolm McDowell as Satan!). It is not perfect, but it is a sight better than most. 

Oh, and the Unpardonable Sin?

It turns out to be All a Dream!

This did not work in kid's puppet shows. It is not any better as a Christian movie plot device.


-Warren Zoell said...

I'm reminded of this from "A Man For All Seasons"

Sir Thomas More

-- There's no law against that.

William Roper

-- God's law!

Sir Thomas More

-- Then God can arrest him.

William Roper

-- While you talk, he's gone!

Sir Thomas More

-- Go he should, if he were the Devil, until he broke the law.

William Roper

-- Now you give the Devil benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More

-- Yes, what would you do?

William Roper

-- Cut a road through the law to get after the Devil? Yes. I'd cut down every law in England to do that.

Sir Thomas More

-- And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned on you...

... where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?

This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast ...

... Man's laws, not God's, and if you cut them down ...

... and you're just the man to do it ...

...do you really think you could stand upright in the wind that would blow then?

Yes. I give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake.

The Aardvark said...

Thank you very much for the comment. I enjoyed that bit immensely. Would that we had more Mores today.

-Warren Zoell said...

We certainly need them.

Doom said...

I always wondered why I gave the Devil that due. Some things have just never put into words. Who knew? Well... don't get smart.

And "more Mores"? In more ways than two. Interesting non-intentional turn of words, or are you being all poetical?

The Aardvark said...

I think my Freudian slip was showing *blushes*.

I was speaking of Sir Thomas, but my altogether-too-clever subconscious may have also meant "more 'mor-AYS'".