Peter Jackson

What's the 'A Wrinkle In Time' news story? Flashback to wisdom from Madeleine L'Engle

What's the 'A Wrinkle In Time' news story? Flashback to wisdom from Madeleine L'Engle

So what is the story with the new Disney version of the classic, Newbery Award winning novel "A Wrinkle In Time" by the late, great Madeleine L'Engle?

I'm talking about a news story here.

I'm talking about the attempt -- another one -- to make this beloved youth-fiction classic into a blockbuster movie. Why is it is causing discussion, debate and even controversy? Yes, I'm asking this because that's what we talked about this week in the GetReligion "Crossroads" podcast. Click here to tune that in.

Is it news because it appears, to one degree or another, to be a box-office flop? Is it news because, at Rotten Tomatoes, only 40 percent of critics like it? That's bad, but the score from ordinary people in theaters was even lower, to the tune of only 34 percent positive reactions.

Director Ava DuVernay was not amused and argued that race may have had something to do with it, since she -- as a star African-American director -- changed the racial mix of the cast.

It's clear that some of the movie's supporters thought race was a crucial part of the mix, as seen in this NBC commentary: " 'A Wrinkle in Time' isn't a film for critics. It's Ava DuVernay's love letter to black girls." And over at CNN there was this: "Watching 'A Wrinkle in Time' is a political act."

So one more question: Why write a religion column about this book and its author?

That's what I did this past week, for the Universal syndicate. It did that because, nearly two decades ago, I had a chance to spend two hours talking to L'Engle about the crucial themes woven into her book. In particular, I asked her if there were concepts and even quotations from her novel that needed to be in a film adaption of it. Here is a key piece of that column:

It would be hard, explained L'Engle, to grasp this book's cosmic war between life and death, good and evil, darkness and light without two crucial passages.

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How to miss a few scary angels at Comic-Con, as well as zombie theology debates

How to miss a few scary angels at Comic-Con, as well as zombie theology debates

First thing first, let me offer a cry of personal outrage about one passage in that interesting New York Times piece about God and the annual Super Bowl of American pop culture -- Comic-Con. We're talking about the news feature that ran under this headline: "At Comic-Con, Faith-Based Entertainment Stays in the Shadows."

(Cue mock voice of indignation) What? There is no one on the copy desk of the world's most influential newspaper who knows the Doctor Who canon? That newsroom is a Whovian-free zone?

What does this question have to do with this story? Well, the interesting thing about this piece is that it seems to define the missing "faith" content at Comic-Con 2015 in terms of products produced by the niche-entertainment industry that strives to appeal, for the most part, to pew-sitting evangelical Christians. It seems tone-deaf to the religion content in mainstream culture, including some of its most popular products.

In that context, there is the following passage:

... There was almost no obvious contemporary, faith-based cultural presence on a convention exhibit floor that was crammed with gods, spirits and cultic outcroppings of almost every stripe.
The Christian Comic Arts Society was supposed to have a spot in the small press pavilion, but was not to be found in its assigned spot on Thursday and Friday. If the group indeed showed up, it was lost somewhere in the crowd of 130,000 attendees. The closest approach to Christian imagery was a large drawing that portrayed a dragon-conquering woman beneath a halo.
A couple of “angels” were strolling about, but they were ominously covered, head to toe, in dark makeup.

#DontBlink #WeepingAngels #DUH

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Was there a religion ghost in the life and haunted film career of Sir Christopher Lee?

Was there a religion ghost in the life and haunted film career of Sir Christopher Lee?

Sir Christopher Lee was not able to attend the New York City press events held just before the 2002 release of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," but it sure seemed like he was there, based on the number of times members of the cast and creative team made references to him.

There were members of Peter Jackson's team -- especially co-writer Philippa Boyens -- who knew the fine details of J.R.R. Tolkien's worldview and masterwork, including the ways in which his Catholic faith influenced its symbols and substance. In one famous quote, the author called the trilogy a "fundamentally religious and Catholic work."

However, various members of the team agreed that Lee was, in many ways, the official keeper of the Tolkien flame during the filming, the person whose knowledge and love of the books made him care, fiercely, about getting key details right so that the spirit of the books would soak into the movies. Several people said that they thought Lee was, himself, a Catholic.

Was Lee a believer and, if so, of what stripe? I thought that this detail might surface in the obituaries over the past day or so, but apparently journalists were not interested in the role that explorations of good and evil -- incarnate evil, especially -- played in his life and work. Alas, this didn't happen.

Now I really regret that he wasn't at those NYC round-table interviews. What did Lee say years earlier? I'll come back to that.

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