Motion pictures are one of the 20th Century’s major contributions to our artistic heritage. Great cinema serves as more than nickelodeon entertainment; it is a vehicle for examining truths concerning the human condition. We appreciate films more fully when we perceive and ponder their themes and messages. Here, we analyze important Gospel insights in popular movies released this winter.
Peter Jackson’s cinematic adaptations of J.R.R Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” have captured the hearts of many movie lovers for over a decade, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have watched the second installment of “The Hobbit Trilogy” this past week.
For Desolation of Smaug my overall reaction involves a range of emotions, primarily excitement and wonder. I have been a fan of these films since childhood. To witness another part of the story on the silver screen is an almost nostalgic experience. However, I’m not here to talk about my love of elves, dragons and epic battles.
No, there is something far more precious to the story than the subject of “second breakfasts.” There is more to the film that fancy speaking wizards and smooth-talking dragons.
Various parts of the film speak of small things that pertain to the Christian Gospel. One particular scene evokes a doubtlessly unintended but nonetheless striking parallel to a famous story from the Book of Mormon. In the eight chapter of First Nephi, the prophet Lehi has a vision in which he sees multitudes of people struggling through mists of darkness to reach the Tree of Life. Only those who hold firmly onto a rod of iron make it successfully to their divine destination. In 1 Ne 11:25, we learn that the iron rod is representative of the “word of God…which led to the fountain of living waters, or to the tree of life.” Latter-day saint discourses and literature are full of allusions to the principle of holding to the iron rod.
In Desolation of Smaug, Gandalf the Grey, played by Sir Ian McKellen, gives similar counsel to the Company of Torin before they make a perilous, spider-infested journey into the dark forests of Mirkwood.
“Stay on the path,” he says. “If you lose it, you’ll never find your way back.”
Tolkien probably didn’t intend on making any connection to the Book of Mormon. But as a devout Catholic, it’s not surprising that his work should include Christian undertones. Although modern tastes try to obscure Christian messages with vague concepts of “optimism,” Tolkien communicates something distinctly Christian: when we adhere to divine established principles (the “path”) not of our own making, we receive sure guidance and protection from the omnipotent and omniscient conscience forces that stand above us. If we deviate from these divine laws and principles, we lose that protection and are subject to the destructive powers present in the world.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, is a cinematic masterpiece that is both entertaining and spiritually meaningful.
At first, I was a bit skeptical about Disney’s newest Pixar film, Frozen. It seemed like a typical Princess story where the protagonist has a magical problem, meets a guy, falls in love and and her problem is solved. They all live happily ever.
Oh, and add in the occasional talking animal with the awesome quirks.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney just like any other girl. But lately, it seems like the storytellers are milking the same dead cow.
But after taking a look at the critics’ reviews and reading that is was one of Disney’s best since the “Disney Renaissance”, I figured I’d give it a shot. Here is where I learned: Never judge a movie by its teaser trailer.
“Frozen” is an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale “The Snow Queen” with a twist that’s sure to melt any snowman’s heart. Unlike its animated fairy-tale predecessors, this film focuses more on the importance of family rather than following a love story.
Elsa and Anna are sisters, princesses in the Kingdom of Arendelle. They have a very complicated relationship. While Anna craves a relationship with her older sister, Elsa struggles to keep her ice powers in check. She pushes Anna away out of fear of causing her harm.
Again, what’s beautiful about this film is that it explores a part of the family relationship that Disney princess movies doesn’t often focus on—the family itself. It highlights the unique bond between siblings and the transcendent potency of that love. Frozen demonstrates how family can strengthen each other in times of struggle. It serves as a reminder of how we should be a support for those family members in need, because family is the greatest blessing of all.
Check out these titles while they are still in theaters to gain a news perspective on Gospel insights in popular movies.