Recasts the Core of the Christian Faith
This is the first review I've ever contributed to CSM and I hope it is helpful.
Pilgrims Progress is a CG feature film that tells the story of Christian as he leaves the City of Destruction for the Celestial City talked about in a "book." Technically, the art and animation is subpar for most CG movies today. The motion is jerky and tends to detract from the immersion. I would put it on the quality level of most CG TV shows for kids.
That could easily be overlooked because nobody becomes Pixar or Dreamworks overnight, but I really struggle to recommend this movie. The primary message that it conveys is this: If you try hard to stay on the path and believe (in what, is not clear) as hard as you can, you can get to heaven.
Regardless of whether you are a Christian, it is beyond dispute that that is not the Christian message and it most assuredly is not what Bunyan intended to communicate in his seminal book. The Christian message is that Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God for our sins, and we are to walk in a posture of repentance and faith until the day that we are called before Him.
I watched the movie with my daughter (11). We had read the real Pilgrims Progress around a year ago, and we both noticed that the words "Christ", "sin", and "repentance" were omitted from the entire movie. How sad, as the Christian message only is good news when people are aware of the bad news about themselves.
Understanding that certain things will be abbreviated for a cinematic format, I will not pick at things left out (the scroll/assurance of salvation, the enchanted ground, the valley of the shadow of death, and many notorious characters like Talkative, Formalist, Hypocrisy and of course, Pope). However I think I can fairly critique those areas where the movie departed from the book enough to change the entire thrust of Bunyan's intended points.
In the book, Christian's burden was his awareness of his own sin. In the movie, his burden represented his "fears." Definitely not the same.
The interpreter, in keeping with our age's repulsion toward any sort of authoritative male teaching, was re-imagined as a beautiful young woman who essentially led Christian on a positivist, brief inductive study, in contrast to straightforward teaching. The man in the cage at Interpreter's house was portrayed as someone who was simply depressed; Bunyan's caged man had sinned himself to a seared conscience that could not repent. Radically different things.
When Christian was fighting Apollyon, in keeping with the overall "try hard and trust your heart" message, he did not quote Holy Scripture to Apollyon (as, importantly, Christian did in the book), but gathered his courage and said something along the lines of "I will rise again." Sigh.
Small thing, but Christian said that "war" was coming to the City of Destruction, rather than the wrath of God. God is not wrathful here.
Big thing, there is no moment when Christian actually looks upon the crucified Savior. He sees a glowing cross in the air and the burden falls off. Again, sigh. What did Bunyan say? "Blest cross! Blest sepulchre! Blest rather be - the Man that was there put to shame for me."
I would almost say that nobody wanted to talk about sin and repentance because this was a movie for families with babies. But I struggle with that because the movie had some really scary, nasty looking demons in there that certainly would have scared babies or particularly sensitive kids under 8 or 9 years old.
It is not my job to go around policing everyone's theology. If people have a man-centered theology, that is absolutely their right. There is much good company for that all over the world, and it is represented well in this movie. My issue here is that this is not Pilgrim's Progress. It's not in the ballpark. It's not even the same sport. It could be called Disney Does Christianity, but it really should not bear the weighty name of Bunyan's landmark work.
I give the movie 2 stars instead of 1 because the movie might prompt someone to familiarize themselves with the book, and by extension, the Bible. I would not call it a loss if it did so.