Tag Archives: Merlin

Movie Review: Snow White And the Huntsman @SnowWhite #SWATH

MCM Expo Snow White and The Huntsman Display

Violence, Pacifism, and Religion in Medieval Fantasy Television and Film

So I had been meaning to go see Snow White And the Huntsman inspite of my doubts about Kristen Stewart‘s ability to act. Unlike fellow blogger Amanda who was disappointed with Mirror Mirror (yah I wasted my time with that 1 too!), this movie was just the opposite. It was actually a surprise.

Oh, and *MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!*

First, for the religious overtones. In the Middle Ages, in spite of what George R.R. Martin may conjure up, the Christian church was at the center of life back then. I am not trying to brag or be triumphalist, it’s just a fact. In some versions of fairy tales about Snow White, she is described as being pious ( I have no idea what the relationship between Snow White and the tale of Snow White and Rose Red). The first religious imagery we see are the priests that stand in approval of the marriage of Snow White’s father The King to the wicked Ravenna at the wedding ceremony. Later, a few years after Ravenna has murdered the King and placed Snow in prison, young Snow can be seen kneeling, saying the Lord’s Prayer.  Throughout the film,  what looks a lot like mockingbirds or black birds  (symbols of divine providence in stories such as Elijah in 1st Kings 17) show Snow White where to find the nail that helps her to escape, the white horse she finds along the way, as well as the Great White Elk. The very last piece of religious imagery we see is that the Huntsman, as Snow White lays dying, tells her that she is among the angels as a queen.

A bit of possible clarification is Snow White’s chosenness as “The One.” At the beginning of the film, it is Snow’s mother that hopes that she has a daughter, one of pure of heart as white as snow. In other words, the King needed someone as just and fair as himself to continue his legacy.  In the world of SWATH, virtue is biologically inherited by blood. This is why only Snow White (being born of a man just, “fair blood”) can defeat the Queen Ravenna, who was cursed by her sorceress mother.  This is why Snow says that she does not hate Ravenna any longer, but has sympathy for her.

There was partly an ecological message, when Ravenna comes to power, with her greed and avarice, the Enchanted Forest becomes the Dark Forest. Greed in human nature corrupts the animals and plants around us.  As Snow discovers, magic is all around us, in the trees, and therefore all of creation has dignity.

Lastly, I must say that the monologue that Snow White gives after waking up from her slumber is not that articulate. It was awkward, and for about 3 minutes, I did not know what was going on until Snow says, “Who will be my brother?,” meaning a call to arms. After being the victim for a vast majority of the movie, passive and quiet (except for when she confronted the Troll in the Dark Forest), the conversion to a femme fatale warlord was not as believeable as I had hoped.  I must say the movie left room for a possible interpretation whereas instead of being a metaphor of a girl’s step into womanhood and being a bride, erotic love is replaced with war and violence. Snow White, like her father who is meek (but still a soldier), goes through the Dark Forest to sacrifice her innocence and unfamiliarity with battle in order to become the leader of a revolution.

Of course, at the end, when Snow White mourns the death of Ravenna, Snow’s death blow could be seen as an act of mercy to end Ravenna’s insanity.  IMHO, I see that there is a potential lesson here, that our enemies are still human, and that is more in line with pacifist logic. No doubt if Ravenna and Snow had been characters in a comparable fantasy world like Game Of Thrones, Ravenna would have been beheaded or worst.

Perhaps instead of having Snow White grow up so fast, young Snow White should have been featured more to give the movie more of the dramatic change that the character Snow called for. Great visual effects and artistry, but Snow’s speech post-dying just ruined the movie’s flow as a whole.

All in all, I give Snow White and the Huntsman 3 and a Half Angry Puppies out of 5.

(you can only guess the angry puppy reference)

 

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#Merlin, Religion and Politics, Again

“I am the Callileache–the Gatekeeper to the spirit world. You have torn the veil between the worlds.” […] “Tearing the veil between the two worlds has created a new world.”- The Callieleache to Lady Morgana, MERLIN ‘The Darkest Hour, Part 1’

And then consider:

“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”- Mark 15:38

“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.”- Hebrews 6:19-20

From left to right: Guinevere, Gaius, Morgana,...

Last year, about this time, I posted on Merlin, MLK, and JFK. In last Friday’s season 4 premiere of Merlin, Morgana’s quest for vengeance has reached a climax. Through the first 2 season, we saw Uther trying to suppress magic and the supernatural, executing wizards and warlocks who violated his decree. After a failed coup, Morgana and her half-sister Morgause are introduced to us as exiles in “The Darkest Hour, part 1.” Morgause’s face is disfigured, and we are not told why she expresses like she has experienced a fatal wound. All we know is from season 3 finale, The Coming of Arthur, Merlin badly wounded her. Morgana goes through the struggle of not wanting to sacrifice her sister, if its the choice of vengeance against Uther or her sister’s life, with it’s a difficult one for Morgana. Morgana choose to sacrifice her sister, and castes a spell that tears the veil between the realm of the dead and magic, and the world of the living.

Throughout this episode, we hear the screeching of the Dorocha (the souls of the dead), and I was truly creeped out. I am not really into the horror film genre, but the ghosts in Merlin’s season premiere sent chills up my spine for some reason. The words of the Callileache reminded me of the description that Mark the evangelist wrote in his gospel, about the curtains in the Second Temple tearing as Christ is dying. I would say that the Messiah’s victory in obedience paved the way for the opening of the covenant and direct access to fellowship with YHWH. What believing in a personal God means in terms of politics is a different matter. There is a vocal group of Christians who believe that the existence of a personal deity demands the establishment of a Christian domination system in His Name. On the other end of the spectrum (isn’t there always), there are religious folk who criticize these “dominionists” while in some form or another, affirming an impersonal divinity, a process or force in the universe.

There’s no denying the deep ties between the legend of King Arthur and the civil religious establishment in Great Britain. The myth of Arthur is traditionally understood as King David Redivivus in British and Gaelic garb. Coincidentally, in the Hebrew Bible, King David’s son Solomon is seen as the one responsible for the building of the Temple of Jerusalem, but it is David who gathered the materials. The story of David, like many narratives of the monarchs of the Ancient Near East, puts to question our assumptions about the “separation of church and state” as well as the role of the government.

Read, for example the history of Babylonian temples and religion, and then the oracles of Ezekiel. In the Mesopotamia, emperor’s counted on what were called kalus, or chief-priests to dedicate the temples. The destruction of the temple literally meant that the boundaries between the sacred and profane had been blurred and therefore the difference between human and divine had become lost. In order to reconstruct the temple, the emperor had to choose a kalu priest to preside over the purification process. The sacred society of Camelot is falling apart in Merlin, all is in chaos, just as ancient Judah was. Why? Because Morgana sacrificed her priestess half-sister to make the supernatural and the natural intermixed when Uther had worked so hard to keep these things at a safe distance.

We like to think of the relationship between religion and politics are simple. We could go the Dominionist route, and control god, use His name to lift up our systems and our majorities. Or, we could join some progressives, deny any personality to the divine at all, and try to keep religion at a safe distance in the name of “tolerance.” I think both groups have problematic ideas as they relate to church-state relations, even though I affirm a personal God and still come out as a church-state separationist. I am still working this all out, however.

For more on Ezekiel as the kalu of YHWH, check out:

Launderville, Dale F.. Spirit and Reason: The Embodied Character of Ezekiel’s Symbolic Thinking Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007

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T.V. Series Review: Camelot

Last night, I watched the series finale of Camelot on Starz. To be honest, before the season even began, as a fan of BBC‘s  Merlin, I was a little than a more cynical, but because I am soo open-minded, and because the writers, from everything I read, claimed Camelot was going to be different, I gave it a shot.

What differentiated Camelot from Merlin was that the producers in the former aimed for a more realistic perspective on the legend of King Arthur.  From the story of the Lady in the Lake (I was almost brought to tears at the end of that episode) to the links between Camelot and the Roman Empire, Camelot did an impressive job of conveying its “realist” message.  Merlin, geared toward a  younger and more family-oriented audience, is filled with a lot more fantasy and magic.  Camelot is mostly a 21st century picture of medieval feudal politics.

From this season, my favorite episode was Justice, when Arthur established courts throughout the land, and played a chivalric proto-feminist, saving women from oppression. Speaking of feminists, is Morgan evil because she constantly plots against her brother out of envy, or because she is a brunette haired woman that does not know her place, unlike the blondes Gwen and Igraine? I could see everything that was going to happen in the season finale except for one instance.  Was Merlin leaving a foreshadowing of Camelot leaving the airwaves? That question will be with us until Starz makes a decision.

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