Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
April 3, 2004
Judgment reviewed.
Category: Meme … SC Updates … Serious … TV, Film, & DVDs

So I just got through watching Judgment on dvd. I pulled it out of the massive $5.50 bin in Walmart, and -- I'll be honest -- I was expecting it to really suck. Granted, I expected it to be awfully entertaining. After all, it had Mr. T, larger than life, on the dvd cover, and the premise of the movie has to do with the trial of none other than God Him/Her/Itself.

Now, assuming that God (in some form) exists, we all -- yes, even believers; perhaps especially believers -- put God on trial every day in our hearts. All of our fears, worries, doubts, etc., stem from our lack of complete trust in God. Every time we see something horrible and say, "How horrible," we're questioning God's actions, if not God's motivations. We're blaming God. (And we're also getting downright Nietzschian with the italics here...) Some people think that charging the Devil and wicked people with these crimes removes the difficulty. But if God is what the Bible says, God still retains complete control over the creation and is the Creator of all things -- including the Devil, sin, evil, and the entire lot of nasty things -- so to blame the Devil, sinful humans, etc., doesn't ultimately solve the problem at all. We blame God; we question God; we put God on trial. But we do not hold a literal trial against God and demand that Christ descend from the Heavens and appear on the stand -- which is what happened in this movie. So I was expecting it to be extremely silly. And admittedly, parts of it were.

But it was hardly the so-bad-you-must-see-it fun fest of hilarity that I was expecting. Oh, don't get me wrong -- the first half-hour or so definitely skirted the line. Mr. T is always Mr. T, and Mr. T can't act for shit. What Mr. T can do is urge his fellow Christians pick up automatic weapons and mow down the followers of Lucifer, which is what he spent the majority of the movie doing.

Yeah, you read that right. God never showed up in court, but Lucifer took the stand twice. Let's back up a sec and give you the story's setup.

This is the fourth in a series of films, so I assume that much of this played out in the previous films, but here's the sitch. Sometime in the near future (my guess? in the next 10-20 years), a great leader by the name of Franco Macalousso, also known to the good people as Lucifer, rises up and restores order to the world, uniting all nations under one world government and bringing peace and hugs and puppies and stuff. The movie might've been more effective if it made me believe that part -- they did a lot of talking about how much better the world was, but all we saw were the Christians who refused to accept Lucifer as their "savior" (yes, that's what he was called time and time again in the film) living like the Franks in cramped quarters and getting shot, imprisoned, and fed bread crawling with worms and maggots. Oh, and there were a lot of news reports that talked about hospitals being blown up by acts of terrorism. Didn't sound like a very great or peaceful world to me, but whatever. So those who didn't accept Lucifer as their "messiah" and "god" (yep, they called him those too...) were hunted, prosecuted in mock trials, and executed, and the story mainly focused on one particular captive, Helen Hannah, and her defense attorney, Mitch Kendrick. Thanks to his efforts (he really did mean to help her, and just before the prosecutor shot him dead at the end he became a Christian), Helen's trial was abandoned mid-way through so that they could prosecute the real menace: God Him/Her/Itself.

And that's where the movie got kind of interesting -- despite the ridiculousness of that premise, I kind of enjoyed the arguments that went back and forth. Nothing said was sufficient to prove the truth of Christianity, mind you, but it was fairly well defended against the "atheistic" sentiments of the prosecution. Except of course it's hard to really call them atheists, given that they kept proclaiming the godhood of Lucifer.

And that's my main problem with the movie. Now, I don't know about you, but if an unctuous politician -- seriously, the guy was sleazy as Hell (ha ha) -- by the name of Lucifer popped up, took control of the world, and demanded that people get "666" tattooed on their hands to become part of his new and peaceful society (that really didn't look all that peaceful to me), I'd certainly raise an eyebrow, despite not being a Christian. The name "Lucifer" is one thing. I mean, I think it's a pretty neat name, and I'd consider naming a daughter "Lucifera". ("Lucy" for short. It's also worth mentioning that there's a pretty favorable character by that name in the novel I've got outlined in my head, who's modeled slightly after the character of Lucy Farr in Josephine Pinckney's Great Mischief. Which you've probably never heard of. Neat book; go find it.) But the 666 tattoos are just too much. Plus, the guy brought people psycho-kinetic miracles -- at one point during the trial, one follower of Lucifer, as a demonstration of the blessings Lucifer had bestowed upon him, moved a pitcher of water across the room and made it empty its contents into Helen's lap. And Lucifer made several references to having been around for centuries. Not to mention them constantly referring to him as their "savior" and their "god". Again, I'm no Christian, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't fall in line with this guy and I wouldn't take that mark on my hand, so there's no way I'm buying the movie's contention that the vast majority of people on Earth would literally take Lucifer's mark -- frickin' 666, for crying out loud -- and fall into Satan worship. Hell, seeing that guy pop up might be enough to make me a Christian convert.

Yet other than the Christians and the defense lawyer (whose mark was fake -- a sticker -- and who eventually became a Christian), there were only two other characters in the movie who didn't have 666 tattoed on their hands -- and unfortunately, they got very little in the way of character development. One of them did end up helping the Christians break into the compound to rescue Helen, but only because Mr. T promised him some candy bars (as a fugitive, it was impossible for him to procure food himself, but the Christians had a support network). And while Mr. T and his Christian buddy stayed safely in the getaway van, the unmarked non-believer (whose name I don't remember) made the attempt to break into the compound, and he was shot dead in the process. Now, you'd think that after that happened, they might've taken a break to extol this guy's virtues. I mean he didn't believe in Jesus, but he'd still refused Lucifer's mark and had been starving and hunted as a result. He did sign on to help them -- even if it was only for candy bars -- despite knowing that he might get killed in the process (which just goes to show you how hungry he was). And he did get killed. What did the Christians do? Well, for a moment Mr. T and the other guy in the van bickered about what they should do -- Mr. T wanted to go out there and blow the bad guys away; the other guy wanted to hightail it out of there. Mr. T even made a comment about not leaving the non-believer behind, so I thought maybe they'd recover the body and bury it in a place of honor. Maybe say a few words or something. What ended up happening was Mr. T donning a guard's uniform and calmly walking past the guards as they dragged the body out of the fountain into which it had fallen (I know there's potential for symbolism there, but trust me, the movie didn't make much of it) and into the doorway that the non-believer had unlocked before the guards came out and shot him. They never mentioned that poor guy again. All he wanted was some candy bars. 🙁

So the film seemed to take into account that not everyone who doesn't believe in Jesus is all that bad -- and that these people can still reject evil and suffer and die for their trouble -- but that it didn't feel that such persons were worthy of character development or a brief eulogy bothered me. And while the subject of damnation didn't come up that much -- despite the title -- there was one point during Helen's trial when she was asked, "Do you believe that Franco Macalousso is evil, and that all those who follow him are damned?" To which she of course replied in the affirmative. But here's the thing -- during the entire movie, the focus was mainly on the turmoil and conflict in the heart of Mitch, who eventually became a Christian. But even that doesn't remove all doubts and fears, as Helen admitted several times during the movie -- though she stood firm in her faith, she admitted to being scared, and she admitted to being unsure at times. But why assume that those with 666 tattooed on their hands didn't share some of that doubt and uncertainty? Why assume that these people who stood with Lucifer were necessarily evil? After all, he'd supposedly brought an era of peace and prosperity to the world. He did help a wheelchair-bound person to walk again. Granted, I wouldn't have taken the mark, but I don't think that one would have to be evil to do so. After all, not taking the mark was grounds for execution, so I could see how parents might take the mark -- and see that their children were marked as well. The movie didn't address these concerns (except for Mitch's father, who chose to die despite his son's pleas to just take the mark and come home), and for the most part the marked people were depicted as vicious bastards. There was, however, one clever scene in which Mitch pulled out a gun with a single bullet and announced to the crowd in the courtroom (mostly my words, but the sentiment is paraphrased), "You credit Franco Macalousso -- Lucifer -- with the salvation of this world. You call him your savior, your messiah, and your god. But who among you is willing to die for him? After all, he's done so much for us..." He scanned the room, but no one -- not the man who'd had the use of his legs restored to him, not even the judge, who had been one of the most vicious figures throughout the movie, was willing to step forward. And then Mitch pointed out that the Christians were willing to die for their beliefs and their God. That's when the courtroom got all crazy, Mitch renounced Lucifer and declared himself a Christian, and then the prosecutor took the gun and shot him.

What I noticed during this scene, though, was the looks on the faces of those people in the courtroom who refused to step down and take the bullet for ol' Scratch. Despite having been marked, despite having affirmed time and time again the goodness of Lucifer and the great works he'd performed, they were still afraid and conflicted when they were called to stand up for him and possibly die for it. And I have a hard time believing that those confused and scared people deserve to be damned for all eternity because of their weakness and error (and perhaps poor judgment) in accepting Lucifer's mark.

After all, they're only human.

So that's my review of Judgment. The movie's not wacky enough for a full Scary-Crayon review, but I may post the above commentary on the site at some point, cum a few screencaps -- but then again, it's a pretty heady review, so I may not do that. In any case, expect an update at some point today -- I'm not sure if I'll have the amazing food article ready, but at the very least you'll get a Crayon Haiku or something. Alright then, let's close with a quiz, courtesy of T and A.

You are Apocalypse Now.

What Classic Movie Are You?
personality tests by

Well, there you go. Ja for now.

-posted by Wes | 5:26 am | Comments (0)
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