I at first hadn't planned on writing reviews this time around, but have since decided on doing just that, as three films I watched recently made me think enough that it might provide some readable fodder. This will be the first of three reviews of films that deal with Evolutionist/atheist worldviews. There Will Be Blood is strongly atheistic, the other two films have ties to Evolutionary ideas. A little different I know, but still....
I'd heard hype about this film when it was released; apparently some Christians came out against it. As I was never sure why and also I prefer to formulate my own first-hand opinion (barring films with sex or sorcery), and also the fact that I was slightly interested to see the old-fashioned oil industry on film, I watched it (I didn't pick it out, however).
First of all, I admit that the oil drilling scenes were interesting (the movie takes place around the turn of the century). And as usual, Daniel Day-Lewis did a wonderful acting job. Now...there endeth all "good" in this movie!
I had been expecting some sort of conflict due to the title, but it wasn't until the end that the title is explained (more on that later). A very strange film with often ill-fitting and at times hideous music, watching the movie was quite...well, different. The scenes were strange, and for the beginning of the film we had next to no dialog, which left the viewer to guess about what was transpiring. Our protagonist, Daniel Plainview, is a self-professed "oil man", who, to give him due credit, knows what he is doing and has worked hard to get to where he is. But....
Plainview is no person to aspire to be like. He business practices are twisted, he dislikes religion, hates people (although I can see why someone might feel this way somewhat, but to a much lesser degree), and, that's not the worst of it. Twice in the film he murders men in cold blood, and that's not all. We see little to no good in Plainview; the only admirable thing he does is taking in an orphaned boy, son of a fellow worker who died in an accident many years ago--and then even this turns out to be fouled by Plainview's recurring evil. He proclaims him to be his own son, but later, after the boy begins to lose his mind after first losing his hearing in yet another accident, Plainview abandons him. He sends him far away to live somewhere...else. It is true, the reason Plainview sent him away was because the boy lit his house on fire as he and another man slept inside, but this was clearly still a cold act in my opinion.
Prior to this he had shown nothing but deep affection for his adopted boy, but not here. Later he repents of this act and sends for the boy to come home again. But, again, Plainview, in his old age, disowns the now-grown boy for what appear to be numerous reasons (none justified, of course).
Worse than all of this, was when the viewer meets another character: Rev. Eli Sunday. A young, very creepy-looking preacher and healer, Sunday is, to today's strong believer, a clear charlatan. He leads a small, radical flock, his church of "the Third Revelation", conducts an exorcism (The scene is intense, but apparently the "demon" was the old woman's arthritis!), and all-around carries himself as some sort of holy man. Eli beats his own father on one occasion to mention just one more thing, and in fact he reminded me of a cult leader. Eli and Plainview come into conflict over and over as Eli "leads" his flock, and Plainview drills for his oil. In one scene, Eli comes demanding the money that Plainview promised to the Church of the Third Revelation, Eli's church, and the two get into a fight...or something of the sort. Plainview begins to strike Eli, and the coward crawls about and screams like a girl. It is true that Plainview broke his promise of funding, but Eli is also at fault, Plainview believes, as the supposed healer is powerless to heal his adopted son's deafness.
In one "big" scene, Plainview, years later, runs into this adversary of his, and he ends up faking his own conversion. At the altar of that same little church again, in front of the whole congregation, Plainview calls on God and is told to "beg for the blood" in what is nothing more than a high-stakes game of charades for him--Plainview is only doing this in order to broker an oil pipe deal on one of the parishioners' land. Especially humiliating for Plainview is Eli's repeated mentioning of the abandonment of his son, apparently an intentional pot-shot of Eli's. (Plainview's "salvation" is clearly a show, as is the crazed, cult-esque rantings of Eli and his not-all-there parishioners. A blasphemous scene.)
The film paints Eli in a horrible light, and that may seem justifiable, yes. But...there's a little bit more to all of this, I think. I wouldn't necessarily say that all of Plainview's actions were presented as just, but I will say that all of Eli's actions were portrayed as detestable. Both men are guilty of horrible acts, I say, which is why I wonder the film's makers chose to give us Plainview as an almost hero, and Eli as the villain. The answer seems to me to be the same old textbook stuff: atheism, etc., again. Eli is the "Christian" character. He is a liar, an evil man, is a coward, is a false preacher, and can even be violent. We would see him as a blasphemous cultist, but no, Hollywood would have the world believe that he is Christian, perhaps that he is Christianity.
Plainview is "our" character yet his is devoid of any morality. He is a murderer, a thief, and a perfect atheist. He believes in nothing, and therefore has nothing to live for but self. He has nothing to stop him from doing wrong, for of course without a God there is simply no morality. Plainview is the perfect atheist. Perhaps this is why he is presented as the protagonist, hmm?
In the final scene, in the midst of the Depression, down-trodden Eli comes to visit the old and wealthy Plainview as if they are old friends. Underlying conflict is hidden by the loosely-worn garment of friendliness, but things soon become ugly. Eli is there for nothing more than money from Plainview. His attempts at making money have failed. He talks of God giving no answer to his cries for help, as if the viewer must see the impotence of God (or the malevolence). Then, as if he is about to agree to a new oil deal with Eli, Plainview gives one last stipulation. Eli must say, "I am a false prophet, God is a superstition!" Eli stops...and says he will not do it under the half-hearted excuse that it would be a lie. Yet at Plainview's repeated insistence, Eli finally does this. Over and over again. Plainview revels as he forces Eli to shout this out, over and over. He makes a grand production of finally beating down his rival and getting revenge for the humiliating "conversion" event so many years ago. Even the so-called Christian knows that God is a farce, apparently. Then, as Eli again scrambles about and squeals, this time for his life, Plainview beats him to death with a bowling pin.
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then God is impotent. Is God able to prevent evil, but not willing? Then God is malevolent. Is God both willing and able to prevent evil? Then why is there any evil in the world?
And the "blood"? It is a double-reference, seeming to refer to both the "blood" of Christ that must wash Plainview as he falsely converts, and the oil that is Plainview's lifeblood. They both have their blood. But it would seem that one's blood is powerless (Eli's blood of Christ), while the other's is strong and true (Plainview's oil). If Eli were a true Christian, "his" blood would be the most powerful thing of all time.
P.S. Next time we will review the famous film The Matrix, and then Reign of Fire, and we will examine each film and how the events that transpire in them would only be possible with Evolution/Uniformitarianism.