Monday, August 16, 2004

Around the World in Eighty Days

I saw this one, too--and on the same day, believe it or not.

It's hard criticizing such a fine movie--what with all its many high points--but darn it, I just can't resist!!

First the good:

This movie was filled with hilarious antics, witty dialogue, good special effects, and a fun, exciting storyline. It reminded me of the old-time adventure tales told back in the '40s and '50s, and revived somewhat in the '80s. Jackie Chan's a funny guy, and the man who played Phileas Fogg did a great job, as well. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a humorous turn as a Turkish prince--one of the film's several highlights. I'd recommend this one for anyone who likes a good comedy or a good adventure movie--since it's both, rolled into one.

It had some annoying flaws, though.

Fogg's nemesis--and the man who challenges him to the task of traveling around the globe in eighty days--is a lowlife of the worst sort. And yet he is based (I believe) on the real scientist, Lord Kelvin. He even has the same name. Now, in the movie, this man is portrayed as a smug, superstitious, narrow-minded little man--a fool, in other words. The problem is, in reality, Kelvin was a great scientist, who made many innovations in his field of study. What's more, he was a devout Christian. So the trashing of this important historical figure bothered me, because it seemed senseless and mean-spirited.

Just as disappointing was the absurd scene in which Kelvin tells Fogg that, next thing we know, you'll have us all believing in things like evolution. Remember, the man is shown to be a jackass, and wrong about everything. The film's implication is that, if you disbelieve in evolution, you are a small-minded bigot, and not a true man of science.

Finally, there is a scene near the end that serves no other purpose than as a paean to Buddhism. Chan finally has rescued the Buddha statue stolen from his village, The elders return it to its place of worship, as it were, and everyone spends several moments bowing their heads to the earth outside, surrounding the shrine. I admit that, in the late 1890s, most Chinese were practicing Buddhists, so this was historically accurate. So why did it bother me? Let me explain: Have you ever noticed that--in Hollywood, today--every religion is deserving of respect and honor? Except for Christianity, of course, which apparently deserves (and receives) almost universal contempt. That's what bothered me: the fact that such a scene would never be inserted in a film with Christianity in Buddhism's role of honor. It's disgraceful. As I watched the movie, I thought to myself: "You know, most of the people watching this film don't even practice Buddhism, since America's a predominantly Christian country. And yet, the filmmakers went out of their way to honor a religion that their fellow countrymen largely don't understand. Whereas when Christianity is mentioned at all, it's with a libelous sneer.

All in all, this was a good film. But with the excision of the flaws mentioned earlier, it could've been a great film.


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