Monday, June 12, 2023

Arnold Defeats The Devil- Problems and Perspective

Normally I would not review a movie based on the rating and explicit content of this film, but I did see it and was motivated to comment. Viewer advisory caution and use your FF button- that is what I do.

I recently watched the Netflix three part documentary on Arnold Schwarzenegger and like almost any documentary I watched, I found it fascinating. I love hearing people's stories! All three episodes were intriguing and as soon as I finished the last one, a link popped up to an Arnold movie I had never seen before, and is ranked as one of his very unusual flops (it only made 212 million worldwide... hmm quite the standard of failure!)

"End of Days" is an action-packed thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, revolving around the battle between good and evil in the final days of the millennium. After sleeping on it, I woke up and decided to to analyze various aspects of the movie, including theological themes, visual imagery, and character development. It also has two powerful apologetic applications that most movie watchers would miss.

While the movie incorporates theological elements, there is an acknowledgment that theological interpretations may not resonate with all viewers. However, it is worth noting that the visual and artistic qualities present in the film can be appreciated independently, much like the aesthetics of Renaissance paintings that transcended religious beliefs. Make no mistake, this movie has terrible theology, but the depiction of spiritual themes through imagery is compelling.

The film employs striking visual imagery that leaves a lasting impression on the audience. Although certain graphic images may be challenging to defend, they effectively convey the inherent evil within the story. The portrayal of evil remains consistent throughout the film, allowing viewers to recognize and understand the nature of the antagonist.

One of the movie's strengths lies in its exploration and depiction of temptations. The filmmakers delve into the allure and dangers of succumbing to temptation, providing a powerful representation of the human struggle against immoral desires. This adds depth to the narrative and enhances the complexity of the characters. The scene where the Satan character interacts with Arnold's character held me spellbound, and has applications to how the real Satan tempted Christ in the wilderness.

TWO APOLOGETICS APPLICATIONS: The film does carry questions of faith in light of suffering and the existence of God. Early on a ranking priest poses a logical question about knowing God includes the existence of His adversary but another thought-provoking aspect of "End of Days" is the reflection on the notion of fixed standards. The film highlights that the greatest apologetic lies within the limitations imposed by time, procedures, and dates. This raises questions about the origin and validity of the fixed standards by which actions and events are judged, stimulating contemplation on higher authorities or moral frameworks. In the movie, Satan was powerful but bound my rules of what he could do, how he could do it, and when he must do it. WHO SETS THESE STANDARDS? We miss the self evident answer all the time. It takes more faith to deny God than admit His existence in my opinion.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's character exhibits a significant turning point in the movie when he throws down his weapon and humbly asks for help. This moment resonates with audiences, showcasing vulnerability and a willingness to rely on others for support. It humanizes the character, allowing viewers to connect with his journey on a deeper level. The film's climax is ultimately that the Arnold character must, in humble reliance upon divine grace, admit the existence of God, ask for his help, trust in Him and not earthly weapons to defeat the spiritual enemy.

Finally, the concept of sacrifice to defeat Satan is another notable theme in the film. The depiction of the main character making a selfless sacrifice in the face of evil adds depth and emotional weight to the story. This portrayal underscores the idea that defeating malevolence often requires personal sacrifice, emphasizing the resilience and strength of the human spirit. The Christ imagery is strong throughout the film though the theology continues to miss the Bible's message.

The producers wrestled with an alternate ending. In the alternate one, God resurrects Arnold's character after the defeat of the devil. Though it was a test audience favorite, I am glad they left in the original format of Arnold being dead at the end. By choosing not to deify the character, the filmmakers maintain the protagonist's humanity, preserving the integrity of the narrative. This choice avoids elevating the character to a god-like status, emphasizing the importance of mortal limitations and the preservation of relatable human experiences.

Again, I can't 'recommend' the movie because of the graphic nature of the film and it isn't a great film by any stretch of the imagination. It does make me pray for Arnold- he needs Jesus and he is such a likable person and possibly the most driven celebrity I have ever had the privilege to learn about. I know he has gospel influence in his midst with son-in-law Chris Pratt and others, but he has sin and flaws like all of us as well.

Lord, open our eyes to the beauty of gospel truth and let us respond to the message of salvation in the name of Jesus!

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