27 March 2011

Thoughts on "The Adjustment Bureau"

So G & I saw "The Adjustment Bureau" last night, and it was quite entertaining. It's fast-paced without being violent, with just enough twists to keep the viewer guessing--until the end. I won't exactly give plot spoilers here, but I will give concept-spoilers (so beware).

There were some pretty gimmicky conditions and talismans: angels can't track humans through water (what, do they use scent like hunting dogs?) and they wear magical hats that bring them through mysterious doors in the "substrata" of Manhattan. Huh?

But there were good, though basic, idea-conversations on about a grade-school level of philosophic speculation. There were some nicely filmed moments (in a café, at a dance recital) and some beautiful people. So it's definitely worth watching -- especially if you can find a $5 bargain theatre like I did!

Even though it was fun and enjoyable, it turned out to be just a dumb, watered-down version of the Siegfried saga, with a fair amount of Philip Pullman thrown in for moral ambiguity. The many conversations about predestination and free will were good and interesting, but easy and unoriginal. I guess we like our theology swift, sexy, and simple.

On the drive home, G asked why there is such a spate of movies on predestination and free will these days. We thought of Inception, Batman Begins, The Matrix, Gattaca -- maybe you can list more? But whether or not there are really more out now than usual, it was a good question. Why recycle the old plot yet again?

And here's the answer I came up with: I think we need to recycle the old plot yet again right now because we don't know the old plots anymore. How many American school children read Plato's Republic or watch Wagner's "Ring" cycle of operas? How many avid Lord of the Rings viewers know anything about its source materials or philosophical grounding?

You see, the human race needs these old plots and old debates in every generation. If we don't get them from literature or philosophy, we will put them into films, songs, comic strips, etc. We need to ponder fate and free will again and again, in every age of our species. So, right now, we're doing it on the big screen instead of in classrooms, homes, and churches.

Do you think I might be right? What do you think?


Anonymous said...

yes. and i see a touch of synchronicity in the freshening recurrence of these themes. i haven't seen the movies but am glad to hear these mighty concepts are creatively under consideration. i write about them creatively myself from time to time because they are worthy, and... i think people can't help wondering in the privacy of their thoughts.... it helps, as you've said, to have a way to /think/ about them and perhaps come to some understanding. older creative and philosophic materials aren't as important to young thinkers as are the forms that speak to them. then maybe these older forms will be there for them when they're mature.

sbadgett said...

We can't get away from them. They underlie everything.

Annelise said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly!

At the moment I'm writing an essay whose question is
"Myths never were but always are." Discuss with reference to two Greek myths.

Relevant to what you've thought here, and it brings out some interesting thoughts!

Anonymous said...

so, so true! The longing for True Truth & narrative fill each one of us to the extent that perhaps everything we do is done with the desire to fill that longing

Teresa said...

Maybe you're right with the educational theory, though I think any literature course stumbles across this debate. I've never read Plato's "Republic" myself, though I've explored the concept thoroughly when reading "Beowulf" and the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," among other texts. Mostly, though, I think this is an issue that's endlessly fascinating to us because it can't be answered, at least in this physical realm :) - much like there will always be movies about life after death (and that's part of the vampire fascination these days, I believe). And perhaps also interesting because some people don't want to be held responsible for their choices.