Hollywood Is Not For Real

I may not watch the film “Heaven is for Real,” which has just been released in movie theaters and which purports to tell the story of a young boy who, in a near-death experience, is said to have visited heaven.
I enjoyed the book. It treated the subject of life after death respectfully, reverently even, and I came away from it feeling inspired. But even though reviews I’ve read of the movie version, starring Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear, are generally positive, I can’t help but nurse a nagging unease. I have developed such a distrust of the Hollywood movie industry that instead of enjoying the production I’m likely to be looking for fault lines — secondary themes mostly — things put in, things left out, that water down the real message of the book.
I can certainly understand the desire of movie-makers to appeal to the widest audiences possible. That’s how they make money. It’s also how they leave many moviegoers feeling let down.
But it also used to be true that mainstream movies were made with the audience’s sensibilities paramount. No more, I think.
As “Heaven for Real” is getting rolled out, there are some other popular movies making the rounds that —according to reviews I have read — reek of a kind of unwholesomeness that makes me think twice about what I used to call “entertainment.”
There is now a Johnny Depp vehicle called “Transcendence,” where the main character dies and is resurrected as a computer program — but a dark, malignant all-powerful one that mocks any higher purpose and instead talks about “creating your own god.” Meanwhile, another popular film, “Noah,” purports to be based on the Biblical character from Genesis, but not really. This Noah, according to various reviews, embraces the message that humanity is not to be wiped clean due to its sin against God, but because of its sin against the environment. The ark is built to save the innocents — not Noah and his family who still strive to follow God — but to save the only part of God’s creation that really matters — the animals.
The way I see it, if you want to belittle biblical concepts to sneak radical environmentalist propaganda down the throats of the unwashed masses, go right ahead. But this is stretching artistic freedom just a little bit too far, don’t you think?
Now, I don’t want to get carried away here. I haven’t seen either movie. I have seen other movies in the past after reading troubling reviews about them, and found them to be nothing like what the reviews said. But I also believe that for an increasing number of movie-makers today, political agendas are what drive the story. The trust that movie-makers once shared with their audiences has been broken.
We all enjoy a little entertainment, of course, and we’re all on the lookout for inspiration where we can find it. But I wonder how many other would-be film fans are like me, thinking that when I’m in the mood for inspiration, today’s American movie industry just isn’t a very good bet.

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