Monday, June 28, 2021

TV Show Review: The Chosen

I know people have VERY STRONG OPINIONS on this show, but I want to share my opinion. 

Summary: I LIKE IT. 

That's all. Just kidding, I can elucidate. 

First off, where can you watch it? Right here! Want a summary? Here's the wiki!

So I watched the first season right before Lucy was born (literally the week or two before) and I enjoyed it. After she was born, Mark and I watched the first season and then started on the second when we have time. Since it is still being released, let me be clear that I have watched the first season and the first five episodes of the second season. I think the season and series will progress along the same track, but you can never be sure. This review is with the first 13 episodes in mind. 

I think this show is not at all a replacement for reading the Bible but, armed with your Biblical knowledge, the show can help bring the stories to life. Do they take creative liberties? Oh yes they do - they take a lot of them to really fill out the characters! Do they keep the creative liberties historically and Biblically sound? I believe they do! I think they do an excellent job with the casting, the costumes, and the sets. I think they do an excellent job of tying the stories together, chaining the narratives to flow from one scene to the next. Do they spend a lot of time on small sections of scripture, putting Peter Jackson's The Hobbit to shame with how slowly they are progressing? An argument could be made to say yes, they indeed do. It would be a very simple argument. The show is not fast-paced by any means. But that is not a bad thing! You are really getting to know the characters and get a feel for the day-to-day ministry. It wasn't all mountain-top experiences and quickly made, life-changing decisions! They had a lot of small experiences - it was a three-year ministry after all, not a one-week revival service. 

I think it is really cool how many layers there are to the stories given. The more you know of the Bible, both Old Testament and the Gospels, the more you will get out of this show! Now, if you want a production that gives just the Biblical stories and very little extra, I suggest you go to Sight & Sound Theatres and watch any of their productions. They probably cover in their one show Jesus all the material that The Chosen plans to cover in 7 seasons. Since Sight & Sound is an approximately two hour experience and The Chosen is planning to be approximately 56 episodes ranging from 30-60 minutes each, you can see how they are vastly different experiences. Both are good, in my opinion, but very different from each other.

At the start of the first episode of the first season, they have the disclaimer below (I copied this from the wiki page because that was much easier than freeze-framing and transcribing). I think it is a great summary of their intent with the series:  

The Chosen is based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Some locations and timelines have been combined or condensed. Backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added.

However, all biblical and historical context and any artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures. Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels.

In summary, read the Bible! If you'd like, watch this show to help picture the characters and interactions from the Gospels. But don't base your Biblical facts on this show! For example, we do not know if Nicodemus did all the things mentioned in the first season of this show. It would be in-character and also could be likely that he did those things, but it is historical fiction rather than Biblical fact. We do not know the backstory of most of the Apostles - the trades of some are listed but many are just shown as being gathered by Jesus and following Him. Could Doubting Thomas have been at the Wedding at Cana? Sure he could have, but we do not know. Knowing what is in the Bible and what is conjecture is vital when watching a show or viewing a movie or even listening to a sermon! Don't confuse man's opinion with God's Word. 

My review is five out of five stars for this one. ✶✶✶✶✶ I like it and plan to keep watching it. 

Double Movie Review: Luca and Raya and the Last Dragon

Recently we have been seeing what there is to see on our streaming apps. For both of these movies being reviewed, we used Disney Plus (which we got for free when we signed up with our internet provider last year). Here are my thoughts on these two movies:

Summary: I liked Luca but wasn't blown away. I wanted to like Raya and the Last Dragon but did not. 


First up, let's tackle Luca and I'll keep it spoiler-free.
The animation was just what you'd expect from a Disney/Pixar, which is to say it looked excellent with the color palettes and the character designs. I liked the story, no overly scary parts but it was nothing ground-breaking. It was mostly predictable with a few minor twists. Didn't notice any crude humor or youth romance (there could be something between the male lead and female lead but it could easily be read as just friendship like Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter). I don't think there was anything overly scary (the species is called 'sea monsters' but they seem more akin to merpeople and also they call humans 'land monsters' which is kinda cute). There was one character (Uncle Ugo) that I thought looked creepy (he's played off as just odd but I could see getting nightmares from him if I was a small child). I liked the character of Giulia's father - I think he was very well done. All in all, I give it a solid 4 stars out of five - great for a family-friendly movie night, I recommend it and would watch it again. ★★★★☆

Now for Raya and the Last Dragon, again keeping it spoiler-free.
The animation was nice, and the over-all plot was compelling. There were some twists and it kept me engaged throughout the film. I really wanted to like it - there were dragons! Dragons are cool! On that note, why are dragons now fluffy like Elliot in the remake of Pete's Dragon? Is is just for merchandizing? I think it makes them look cute but they aren't very lizard-like. However, I felt the movie as a whole was very militaristic and there was just a lot of fighting for being a children's film. This is a minor point, but I really don't like the font they picked for the title - I keep reading it as Rava instead of Raya. As far as the plot, they has some unexpected parts and I think they came together nicely. I liked the character of Tong - they did a good job in creating an unexpectedly kind character - but he was arguably the only character that I liked. Most of them were annoying, unpleasant, and/or selfish. The reoccurring theme of trust is a good theme and there is a lack of romance (I see that as a good thing in most movies but especially children's ones - there is no need to be pairing off the lead female with whomever), but the film was saturated with violence and there was some crude humor (highlight here to see one example: a character wielding an battle axe is described with the term "bad-axery"). All in all, I give it maybe a two out of five stars - would not watch again, would not recommend. 

"Now Lauren," you might say, "how can you be a fan of Mulan but not Raya?" Well, let me tell you - Mulan is an example of a warrior who, while becoming very skilled at war, has the greater skill of creative problem-solving. She uses her brains to figure out how to climb the impossible pole, to orchestrate the avalanche, and to disarm the villain in the final boss battle (using her fan rather than her sword). And that's just three examples off the top of my head - I'm sure there are more. "But Lauren," you say, "I don't remember any of those scenes from the 2020 Mulan movie!" You would be correct, I am not a fan of the remake for many reasons but one major one is the removal or deemphasis on her brains and the emphasis on whatever chi is (seems like a super-power that she barely has to hone). In stark contrast to 1998's Mulan, Raya's main skill is her fighting. She uses her sword skillfully but that seems to be her main characteristic - she knows how to fight and she sees fighting as the main option in any confrontation. Most of the other characters in RatLD are the same - fighting is the main response. 

I could give a more detailed review which would involve spoilers for the film, but I didn't like the film overall so I don't wish to delve further into it. If you like the film, then I'm glad it brought you some joy and you were able to get a positive experience in something that was not wholly positive for me.