Dogma (1999) Film Review

Rating 15
Length 2h08
Release 26.12.1999
Director Kevin Smith
About Two fallen angels who were ejected from paradise find themselves banned in Wisconsin. They are now headed for New Jersey where they find a loophole that can get them back into heaven. The only catch is that it will destroy humanity. A group bands together to stop them.
Moon: None sighted
Where to Watch: You’re out of luck. The Weinstein brothers personally own the distribution rights, so there is no streaming or digital version, so it’s blu ray, dvd or VHS all the way.
Trailer:

First Thoughts

When I first watched this film, I hated it so much that I went back to HMV and got a refund. Yep, I was so overwhelmed by how surreal what I saw was that this is one of only 3 films I’ve returned, the other two being the animated Lord of the Rings film and the other The Island of Dr Moreau (1996).

This will shock people. Mainly because all you have to do is spend five minutes in my company and I’ll mention how much I love Kevin Smith and Dogma. I’ll talk, at length, about my love of Smith whether you want me to or not! Hell, I even have a Dogma tattoo that I had done in honour of Alan Rickman. So what changed?

Harry Potter gave the world Alan Rickman as Snape and what developed was a massive crush on the actor. I consumed everything he was in and that included buying Dogma again. I was also 14 when I first watched Dogma and I’ll be honest, I think it went over my head. Even that extra year, changed the way I viewed the film and it was with each passing watch, I realised how much this film represented my humour, my need for a strong female lead… along with a compulsion to say ‘bless you’ to anyone and everyone who sneezes?!

In 2009 I became an RE teacher. Religious Education for those of you outside the UK and in 2016 I got to tell Kevin Smith that was thanks to him. Yep, in a screening of Yoga Hosers I got to stand up and thank Smith for inspiring me to go into my career, never thinking he’d ask what it was. Upon telling him, he chuckled and told me he wasn’t sure I understood his movie. To this I said:
“Oh, I do. My main aim is to teach that religion is an idea.”
Well… that got him. “Woah, I think you understood my film more than I did.”

And its true. It was, and still is, that message within the film that religion works first and foremost as an idea; That it needs to be adaptable, changeable, malleable. Also the idea that it is the ‘interpretation’ of man (mainly those in power) that corrupt religion.
I am not religious, in any way. I’m agnostic. I went in to teach RE, not to show people how to be religious, but to ensure those I taught understood that they couldn’t be dicks to people for believing in something different to them.

The Good

  • Alan Rickman works in this film for the same reason he fits perfectly into Robin Hood and Galaxy Quest; you can tell he’s having all the fun in the world. While I always love a comedian who is able to take on a serious role (Robin Williams, Will Farrell and Kristen Wiig to name a few), there’s something rather beautiful in a straight man taking on the comedic role.
    For me, this is Marvin in human form. Which is perfect seeing as Rickman goes on the voice the paranoid android five years later. Only, I’m convinced that grump is for show and really, Metatron is having the time of his life. Much in the same way Rickman appears to be. He’s also the most quotable of all the characters. I maintain that if I was to play any character in any film like in the book Ready Player One, it would be Metatron.
  • The dialogue and story is really clever. On the surface, it’s peppered with all these pop culture references that will have even the casual film fan doing the Leo DiCaprio point. However, the more you watch it, you see the complexity of the narrative, the importance of what characters are saying (Jesus being black, for one) and you begin to view it in a different way.
  • That said, you can totally switch your brain off and watch this for the road trip /action comedy it is. It has a clear plot, decent antagonists and a pretty amazing cast. This film gives you want you want at the time of viewing.
  • The effects used, on the most part, still hold up. largely, I would imagine, to do with the use of practical effects when possible.
  • The music choices are genius. Magic Moment will always have me whistling along and Dirty Dancing’s Love is Strange are just the two that play during the ‘I’m Han, Your Chewie…’ scene and I adore both. Much in the same way Guardians of the Galaxy has a perfect soundtrack, this one hits all the right notes too.

The Bad

  • We don’t get a Silent Bob soliloquy. I’m not sure there’s a need, or place, for one. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the man’s profound words. Although kudos for the ‘no ticket’ line. *chefs kiss*
  • Possibly a unpopular opinion, and I’ll be honest this does change from viewing to viewing, but Linda Fiorentino really pissed me off in this watch. While Rickman has that ‘I’m having a blast’ aura, Fiorentino is the opposite. She’s the Britta of the cast, she’s Roy Scheider in Jaws 2, Marlon Brandon in is brief appearance in Superman.
    Fuck me, Bethany is one of my favourite cinematic characters. I just wish she was played by someone who wanted to be there.

The Ugly

  • The protests and the mindless calls of blasphemy. It happens with almost every film with religious content and Dogma was no different. President of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue, protested without even watching the film. This infuriates me. How can you be offended by something you haven’t seen?!
    • It’s the same with the Pythons, who also suffered the wrath of the Catholic Church upon the release and subsequent ban on Life of Brian. These are intelligent men and they know their shit and quite often, their representations are rather accurate.
      For example, Bethany laments to Metatron that the holy mission he’s given her is too big. Metatron replies “Noah was a drunk. Look what he accomplished.” It’s true, Noah was indeed an alcoholic and is mentioned in the Bible as bringing shame to his family. (I mean, he did just witness the genocide of the human race…)
  • Technically, it is Bill Donohue’s fault that we don’t have digital access to the film because it was his protests that caused Disney to remove the film from their distribution slate and sell it to the Weinsteins. Bastard!

Final Thoughts

The humour won’t be for everyone, but it really is a film everyone should watch at least once.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Rating: PG (aka BBC’s butchered version)
Length: 2h 23
Release: 19.7.1991
Dir: Kevin Reynolds
About: Robin decides to avenge his father who was murdered by Sheriff Nottingham. He joins forces with Little John’s band of thieves to overcome the evils of the sheriff.

First Thoughts

This film is everything about my childhood. Okay, so it’s not the film you went into school shouting about like Goonies was, but I certainly felt its presence in a similar way. From what I saw on twitter today, I wasn’t alone.
For me, this film seemed to be a staple on BBC around Easter. Now, given that I thought Back to the Future was on ITV every Christmas Day for about 5 years, I’m willing to accept that my Easter theory for the archery master isn’t correct either.
I also remember a distinct memory of watching this film in English. The TV trolly was in the hall and there were at least three classes huddled around this tiny tv. At this point (it was at least 1998) I had the whole thing memorised.
There’s problems with that sort of devotion to a film though; you notice when things no longer make the cut.

The Good

  • Alan Rickman is the scene stealing, panto villain of all of our dreams. Some may call it over-acting. I’d say it was Rickman having the best time of his life. He has all of the best lines, he has the best style and the best death. It’s not often we love the villain, but here he is, in his Slytherin finest.
  • The strength of this film does lie in its characters. The story and how its presented is a little bit garbage, but with the element of nostalgia and the characters you root for, it ensures it is less of a chore. Some of my favourites are Duncan, the servant of Robin’s father. He’s a little bit more trouble than he’s worth, but you love him none the less.
    Little John and his wife Fanny are the relationship goals of this movie, not Marian and Robin. The film is clever in how we’re introduced to the family one by one, to finally see them together in the final act. It’s perfect.
  • Morgan Freeman as the Moor, Azeem, is pure joy for me. It’s a performance and character I’ve only come to truly appreciate as I’ve gotten older. There are plenty of small things that he says and does that give people a true idea of what Islam is, but my favourite part of this movie is the interaction with the young girl who asks “Did God paint you?” The answer is as beautiful and as relevant today as it ever was. It also feels important that its Morgan Freeman, of all people, that gets to say it.

The Bad

  • It is, for me, rather on the long side. I don’t need it needs massive editing, but more a trimming of the fat. It is made very differently to films today; cramming what would, by today’s standard, be a trilogy’s worth of story.
  • The accents. Yeah, I went there. Now, I don’t mind Costner’s. I’m not so patriotic in that sense. However Slater and Mastrantonio on the other hand, they drive me mad. Both are half arsed attempts. Certain words are well pronounced, but most of it remains this weird mash up of their native accent and whatever it is they’re trying to achieve.
  • I can’t quiet put my finger on what is is about this production, but it has a Monty Python quality to it. Some of it is to do with the voices used, but it could also be the dialogue.

The Ugly

  • Marian. She bugs the fuck out of me. When we first meet her, not only is she this strong independent woman, she is able to fight in such a way that Robin believes her to be a man. It is only her scream that gives her away. So what pisses me off, is that in the final act, she becomes the stereotypical maiden. Aside from an opportune candle, she stands to the side and shrieks. Have her knocked out by the witch before she goes off on her side mission or something.
  • They cut out Pat Roach. I actually didn’t know until today that Auf Weidersien Pet alumni and part-time Harrison Ford fighting partner was in this film. That’s because his role as Celtic Chief gets a blink and you’ll miss it appearance. However, there is footage out there. I’d imagine it’s on the extended cut that also has much of Rickman’s performance restored.

Final Thoughts

This for me is an awesome, but flawed, film. I think it’s aged better than Robin Hood Men in Tights and the Prince of Thieves will be a film I watch again. However, I do accept a lot of what makes this a good film is nostalgia and that had I watched it for the first time today, my review would be much different.