Magazine article The Christian Century

The Same Deep Down

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Same Deep Down

Article excerpt

The most common theme being played out this summer at the movies is: No matter who you are, deep down, you are just the same as everyone else.

The smartest of this summer's offerings, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, depicts a future in which most of humanity has been wiped out by an ape-born illness. The remaining apes commandeer the planet and evolve quickly; they speak, ride horses, and--unfortunately for the surviving humans--fire weapons. A postapocalyptic San Francisco provides the perfect backdrop for a man-versus-ape battle.

But the film's moral punch is the claim that apes are not so much different from us: they speak and give evidence of higher thought. Likewise, we humans are the same as apes deep down because we are animalistic in our barbarity. When the film's human characters have opportunities for either kindness or meanness, they show their wicked selves in full glory, detonating weapons designed to wipe out the apes. The apes' leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) is more noble than anyone the humans can muster; the villainous human Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) is willing to stoop to any level to perpetuate his wretched species. The film is too good to be quite this preachy, but the point is clear: we and the apes are the same below the surface. Darwinism's most enthusiastic evangelists couldn't have made the point more clearly.

A film that's not in the contest for smartest of the summer is Luc Besson's Lucy, whose title character is played by Scarlett Johansson. Lucy is premised on the old canard that we use only 10 percent of our brains, and if only we could use more, we could be ever so smart. According to this film we could learn languages instantly, move objects through space, stop time, and rule the universe.

The point of this film, however, is not to celebrate the brain's capacity; it's to propel Johansson into that rarified stratum of American films: the solo hero action flick. It's the same movie that Bruce Willis makes every year, the same one that Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and John Wayne have made in the past. As difficult as it is for women to break into this genre, is it really progress that ScarJo can be as successful an ass-kicker as Bruce or Amie? That she can imitate the same shoot-'em-up take-over-the-world solo hero that the boys can?

There are more sophisticated versions of this theme available for public consumption. On a mission trip to Cherokee, North Carolina, I saw a production of Unto These Hills, put on by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee in an outdoor theater. …

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