FIREPROOF Debate 
FIREPROOF Debate

My wife and I had the ultimate experience going to the movie FIREPROOF.

It was a very intimate and EXCLUSIVE time for us… as we watched Sherwood Pictures latest release. We were the only two people in the 70mm Dolby HUGE theater. (Of course we went on a Monday evening @ 10pm in Tyler, Texas… probably had something to do with the empty seats.)

The debate over this movie in artistic circles populated by Christian professionals is very interesting. Lot’s of good conversation and points being made.

Here is some of what I’ve found:

Rotten Tomatoes is presently giving the movie a SPLAT at 46%.
ROTTEN REVIEWS coming from: The L.A. Times, L.A. Weekly, Boston Globe, and Entertainment Weekly.
POSITIVE REVIEWS coming from: The NY Times, Daily Variety, and Christianity Today

Definitely not a total THUMBS DOWN by reviewers (across secular and Christian lines).

The Christian community has mostly embraced FIREPROOF to the tune of somewhere around $13.7 mil in just 8 days. That breaks through the seemingly insurmountable $10mil ceiling (for Christian/Faith-based movies)… maybe for good.

Focus on the Family’s PLUGGED IN ONLINE give this insight on FIREPROOF:


FIREPROOF


The church congregation in Georgia that faced down giants has turned its attention away from football and toward firemen in the save-your-marriage-or-die-trying film Fireproof…

…Writer/director Alex Kendrick and his writer/producer brother, Stephen, aren’t under any illusions that this small-budget movie will turn Hollywood on its head. Stephen told Plugged In Online, “When people butcher our films on Rotten Tomatoes and say, ‘This isn’t Oscar-winning material,’ we say, ‘We know!’ We’re just people who are working with what we have at a small church in Georgia. It’s truly a loaves and fishes story.”

What they do want is for their earnest project to turn your marriage upside down.

You might notice that some of the lines in Fireproof feel a little wooden. And you might notice that the script indulges more dialogue (most of it spiritual) than you’re used to hearing in movies about firemen. But the honest truth is that you don’t really care by the time the credits roll, because you’re too busy feeling your own feelings and thinking your own thoughts about your own relationships. This is the kind of movie that succeeds, sometimes despite itself, because it does a superlative job of digging into serious issues that so deeply affect so many of us every day.

The first time I saw this film I was alone in a cramped and cold projection booth, scribbling notes as fast as my fingers would fly. The second time, though, I was with my bride of 14 years, and I was in no mood to write a movie review. All I wanted to do was hold her hand. And when the last scene faded from the screen, I could do nothing less than turn to her and whisper, “If you ever wanted to leave me, I would try to make it so hard for you! I would do everything he just did and so much more to keep you by my side.” She breathed in response, “I would never leave you.” I spent the rest of the day thanking God that I was so fortunate as to never have to doubt her.

Others who are right now in the middle of ugly emotions driven by marital neglect, apathy and want, will surely be compelled by Fireproof to skip such emotional promises and tender bonding and instead break out the survival gear right away, putting into practice some of the principles they’ve just seen brought to life. That, I believe, would make the Kendrick brothers far happier than any golden statue ever could. It’d make our Savior happier, too.

Full review of FIREPROOF available at Plugged in Online

On the flip side… some in the Christian community are voicing artistic concerns:

From Worldmag.com // Warren Cole Smith

Full disclosure: I saw only the first 20 minutes of Fireproof. If this causes you to dismiss my assessment of the movie as a cinematic disaster, then you can stop reading right now. I will say in my defense, however, that in those 20 minutes I saw enough bad acting, heard enough bad dialogue, was assaulted by enough amateur lighting set-ups, and was distracted by enough bad directing to give me full confidence in my thinking.

I realize, of course, that for many of my evangelical brethren, it takes more than bad acting, bad dialogue, bad directing, etc., to make a bad movie. It also takes bad intentions, and even I admit that the amateur Fireproof team intended to make a good movie.

And because they made a bad movie doesn’t make them bad people. Neither does it mean they eventually will not make a good one. Director and writer Alex Kendrick plans to make a film every two years, and he is clearly learning a few things about movie making. Fireproof, which stars one “pro” actor, Kirk Cameron, is much better than his previous effort, Facing The Giants, which was an improvement over his first film, Flywheel. Who knows? Kendrick and his brother Stephen, his co-writer and producer of the first two films, are both young. If they keep making this much progress, perhaps the next movie—or the one after that—will be the one they and those who have stuck by them can be proud of.

Let’s be plain: The Kendricks’ movies are apprentice efforts, and there’s nothing wrong with that—all great artists and craftsmen go through an apprentice stage. But for an apprentice to graduate into true mastery, someone must give him honest feedback, and it appears no one in the evangelical community is willing to do that. Some of the most prominent movie reviewers in the Christian world acknowledged the film’s shortcomings but said—inexplicably—that they didn’t matter. Among rank-and-file Christians, any criticism of the movie is met with vitriol, such as the hate I was met with on an online discussion group. You would have thought I had nominated Osama bin Laden for the Nobel Peace Prize.

We do the Kendrick brothers no favors when we grant them a “pass” based on good intentions. I learned this lesson as a writer many years ago. I am not the greatest writer in the world, but (I assure you) I am much better than I was last year, and I am much, much better than I was a decade ago. I improved because of tough feedback from teachers, mentors, and—sometimes—critics…

…If we truly want to encourage the Kendricks, let’s say: “Congratulations. Making a movie, even a bad one, is no easy task. This one is an honorable ‘next step’ in the process, but is it really your best?”

If the Kendrick brothers have any artistic integrity at all, they will not be discouraged by such feedback, and—in the end—they might one day make that great Christian movie we all have longed to see.

Full article by Warren Cole Smith (including comments to his thoughts) available at Worldmag.com

At this point in time… I’ll say this: FIREPROOF would not and should not be made by all film makers. It is the Kendrick’s movie. We each need to make the movies we are passionate about and believe in. We need to tell the stories we are compelled to portray.

My conclusion:
I believe to the bottom of my soul that movies made with stories, characters and values that appeal to the Christian audience have a place in the commercially competitive marketplace. Just ask Spike Lee… Fireproof beat out his latest release “Miracle at St. Anna” head to head on their box-office opening weekend… in fact, Fireproof has out-grossed St. Anna out-right.

May God use each one of the storytellers He has CALLED to tell the tales He has laid on each heart.

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4 Comments »

  1. Michael Mistretta Says:

    I agree.

    Making a movie is about telling a story, and that story was portrayed in Fireproof. But, I’ve seen a constant progression in Kendrick’s movies. Flywheel was really low-quality, whereas Facing the Giants was much better, and then Fireproof bests both of them.

    Personally, I think that artists should be accepting of constructive criticism. It only makes their next films all the better.

    And being an artist, I know how hard that really is. :)

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  2. Nathan Says:

    This is a tough one for me. I haven’t seen this movie yet…and it’s because I understand too well the feeling of hearing tons of Christian praise for a movie that is sub-par when compared to just about any other movie out at the time and then going to the theaters and being very disappointed. This is not to say that as an artist I don’t wish the best to these guys and their future work, but as much as I’m all about encouraging other artists, especially other Christian artists, these guys have a very significant place in the public eye and the Christian community that concerns me. Here they are, making movies- and good for them!- But they’re they ones the Christian community as a whole seems to be lifting up the world saying, “See! We can make great movies too! These guys made me cry!”

    And the rest of the world is like…

    “So? We have about a million movies that do that on top of out-writing, out-directing, and out-acting that movie.” (And that’s not to mention the visual quality.)

    I really like what the critic above said about hard criticism. I really feel it’s necessary. Non-believers don’t cut other non-believers a break because they’re both “pagans” and appeal to similar values. Why do we? I can’t see how that attitude has helped so far.

    Why not look to examples like “Good Will Hunting”, “Rocky”, and other great first efforts? When put on that scale (and if we think we’re on any other scale we’re kidding ourselves) things look quite different.

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  3. patrick Says:

    I just got back from watching Fireproof… it was great to see such a different-flavored movie on the regular, big screen

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  4. Suzanne Manthei Says:

    One of the reasons I believe that any Christian movie is “sub-par” in quality is that even to this day… the creative arts in the churches are discouraged for the most part. Yes, there are a few Christians or churches that promote the Creative Arts with quality standards, but it is a tiny majority- thus Christians who want Act, produce or train with great people in the “secular” film industry are discouraged or labeled “rebellious.” I’ve been saved a long time, and have seen this over and over again. This is one of the reasons that I now attend Jewish synagogues, tho I’m a Believer in Yeshua. The Church just does not embrace Creative artists who are “different.” If we want quality Christian films, we must train with those who know how to make quality films in general… and it would be lovely if churches would provide the funds for talented people who can’t afford it- to do so.

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