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Dogma: The Review
2012
unknownj
Don't ask why I don't sleep - I honestly couldn't tell you. I try to sleep, I really do - I have a compulsory workshop at 10:15am - i.e. in 4 hours. I don't expect I'll go to sleep before then. If I do, I'm going to sleep through the thing, that's for sure. And I want to talk to Vicky before she goes home. Or perhaps it's best if I don't - I have a funny feeling I know what I'm going to say, and it's not going to help anybody here...

So anyway, it's 4am, and I'm wondering what to do. So I think "Hey, I'll watch Dogma again". So I did. I feel I can now review it, so that's just what I'll do... Be warned, there are spoilers here. But since the film doesn't rely on suspense or plot twists so much, it's kinda OK :o)

Firstly, who the hell saw Linda Fiorentino's character as the heroine of the story? She was an incidental character - a plot device that enabled the end to transpire as it did. By no means was she an important character at all - there was nothing there. Sure, if you're a female, you might be able to identify with her, but I sure wasn't, and that's unusual. In films, I can generally identify with the heroine, but this one managed to pass me by. The four heroes in this film were Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Lee and Chris Rock, playing Bartleby, Loki, Azrael and Rufus respectively. So let's discuss....

Affleck and Damon play two exiled angels, with a genuine complaint against God. They have been poorly treated, and feel they have been more than justly punished for their (minor) transgressions, and as such want to go home. The characters are played convincingly and (to my mind) compassionately. Once more, the sheer chemistry between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck comes through, and interaction between the two characters is top class. They are truly the Chandler and Joey of films. Their fates trouble me somewhat - it looks like a plot hole to me. If they get into heaven, then God is proven wrong and the universe ends. However, both characters appear to be repenting of their actions when they meet their fates - this suggests to me that they go to heaven. The more compelling character Loki (Matt Damon) certainly ought to get in - he seems to me to be genuinely acting in a morally correct way at the end. In addition, as he stated previously in the film, he is unable to harm anybody who doesn't deserve it - even his executions of numerous people can be passed off as being just.

The third character that I would associate with being a hero is that of Jason Lee. He plays the demon Azrael, another character to have fallen foul of God's wrath without (in my opinion) sufficient reason. His motives in the movie seem fair to me, and as such, he's another character I empathise with. Perhaps it's just me who thinks ending the universe in order to get out of Hell is justified, but heck, so be it....

Other characters.... Well, I like Chris Rock's character Rufus, but not enough to talk much about him. I felt he was one of the heroes of the story. Silent Bob was also very groovy. Alan Rickman is the master of dead-pan, in my opinion - some of the sarcasm he delivers in that film is pure class, it really is. I seem to have spoken more about the male characters, but that's because frankly the female characters in the film were uninspiring and dull. The acting was great, the execution was marvelous, but the characters themselves were just naff, frankly.

Now let's look at what I perceive to be the core themes behind the movie. Well firstly, there's the theme of "What is belief?". Well I already beat Dogma to this one - the underlying message is that people shouldn't follow organised religion. People shouldn't take Ideas and make them Belief, because you can change Ideas, but you get into wars over Belief. Sometime I really ought to do a huge long post on my religion - maybe later on, when I get really tired. Anyhow, I'm a fan of that particular theme, believing it strongly myself.

There's also the aspect of the film which deals with ordinary people becoming extraordinary through nothing they're responsible for. While it's only briefly touched upon, one of the key points in the film is where Metatron (Alan Rickman) describes how Jesus reacted to being told he was the son of God, who would go on to be persecuted and crucified by the very people he was sent to enlighten. It's a few sentences only, but it's one of the most important things in the film, to me. My belief in Jesus centers around a very few key things, and one of them is the sheer psychology behind him - this film gives a wonderful viewpoint.

Violence. Specifically, Violence in the name of God. Bartleby and Loki are on Earth because together they sought in some way to reduce the violence committed against man by God. To me, the film appears to be endorsing violence, although I'm positive that I'm reading it wrong. Loki's (Matt Damon) cold execution of the adulterous man on the bus didn't in any way make me think "What a wrong thing to do". Nor his massacring of the board of executives that brought forth a false idol. While I ought to have thought "That's a bit mean", I thought "Take that, motherfuckers". Never underestimate the effect of perceived righteousness on one's morals system. The only reason it doesn't scare me that I didn't think it was bad is that I identified this, am discussing it, and can see that it's a problem. Otherwise, we could well have a psychopath on our hands here ;o)

Then there's the theme of justice. To me, the movie says "Life can suck, get used to it". There's Azrael, the muse who didn't fight in the war between Satan and God, and for this got sent to Hell for eternity. There's Loki, who got kicked out of heaven for effectively not showing God sufficient respect, and for refusing to continue an existence where he was required to commit genocide. There's Bartleby, whose only transgression was to feel pity for humanity and convince his friend Loki to choose a path that didn't require mass homicide. The story isn't really sending out a positive message about God here. And the final resolution of the movie is unclear - as far as we can tell, the demon Azrael is dispatched from this world, and indeed existence, which was his goal. It ends as well as can be expected for him. For the other characters, I'm not sure - if Loki and Bartleby were genuinely sorry when they died, presumably they'd go to heaven, regardless of their sins (although Bartleby may well not, simply because he went nuts and killed lots of people for no good reason). The film says to me "Sure, there's a system of justice, but justice does not necessarily follow from this system". Not a positive message, and probably not the one I'm meant to see, again. I have a habit of seeing the wrong things in movies...

Anyhow, put it all together, and you have a damned fine movie. I would recommend it to anybody who has a sense of humour, and any sort of opinion on religion. People who don't give a shit about it probably won't be as amused, because it's not such a part of their lives. Those of us who think about these issues enjoy seeing a fresh perspective on it :o)

That concludes our post. Perhaps one on religion now? Or maybe just sleep. The problem is, if I sleep now, I probably won't get up in a few hours for lectures, and just stay in bed. Not good :o)

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