The Pilgrim’s Progress: The Journey Begins

The Pilgrim’s Progress

Plot Summary

The famous tale by John Bunyan now comes to life in animated form for the first time. Join Christian as he embarks on a daring quest to the Celestial City that will ultimately test his faith and endurance as he fights through each new challenge the enemy brings him in attempt to dissuade him from the path of righteousness.

Production Quality (2.5 points)

The overall production of this movie is unique and fairly well done – minus a few imperfections. One main imperfection is that most scenes are overall quite choppy and transitions are awkward. Not to mention that some scenes (especially close up staring scenes) go on for a little too long. For the most part though, as already mentioned, the animation quality is actually quite good, especially scenes involving nature. As for music quality, it’s not bad but it seems a little inconsistent. For example, it’s either too overpowering or too drowned out by extra background noises. However, these are all fairly minor issues because there is always room for improvement in nearly every film. This being said, Pilgrims Progress The Journey Begins certainly has a lot more to offer (production wise) than most Christian animated movies with just a few things that could be improved upon in a production sense.

Plot & Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

The film started out with a creative outlook on the town where the main character resides, which made one think that they were going to modify the plot in a more creative/modern way. However, they sort of overlooked this idea and continued with an edited version of the original storyline. This being said, even though they did cut out a lot of the story (obviously for the sake of time) it still seems like they tried to cram too much in a film with a medium-length run-time. This goes back to the choppy production work – not to say that the plot and storyline quality is not good, it just would have been more interesting if they had restructured the plot a little bit more. The writers didn’t need too completely change the original plot, but create a few different outlooks on things like they did with some scenes already. For example, the beginning, as mentioned, and one other very interesting outlook on the story was the Legality hill scene. This scene in particular was probably the most creative scene in the movie. Another main imperfection in the storyline was that each scene seemed very different from each other, as if they were all written at different times or by different people. These factors cause the storyline to not flow very well. All of these issues and positive qualities are why it receives said points.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting quality in this movie is somewhat mediocre at best. The beginning of the film is especially rough in this area. The mayor/superior’s assistant is quite cringe worthy, even during his very short appearance in the film. The acting seems to get slightly better as the movie progresses, and it is also quite apparent throughout the film that most of the characters are played by the same voice actors (meaning John Rhys-Davies in particular). This is not really a problem though because it does workout in the end considering John Rhys-Davies is good at what he does and this method will always save space on the budget. The one main drawback of the casting is that the main character (Christian) is a bit annoying at times – it is mostly tolerable but could be better. Overall, the acting quality is one of the the main drawbacks to the film. We should certainly like to see these filmmakers spend more time on this aspect in future films.

Conclusion

In conclusion, all said menial problems noted about this film don’t really matter that much in the end as long as the main point is established and that point is the gospel message. Although a higher production, acting and storyline quality would definitely help to get this point along more effectively, as long as it reaches individuals and families for Christ that is all that matters. This being said, Pilgrims Progress: The Journey Begins is a great movie for children and families to watch because it doesn’t treat children like they are dumb – like so many animated christian films do – and doesn’t completely lose the interest of adults.

final rating 5.5 points out of 10 points

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Pilgrim’s Progress: The Journey Begins (April 2019)

Coming to theaters April 18, 2019 from Revelation Media

Writer(s): John Bunyan, 

Director(s): 

Producer(s): Steve Cleary

Starring: TBA

Plot Synopsis: This animated film will focus on the well-known story of Christian’s journey to heaven as told in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. The story will challenge and inspire both kids and adults alike to set their eyes on God. 

Tortured for Christ (Movie Review)

 

Plot Summary

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina were active in Lutheran ministry in Romania during the 1970s Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.  The Communist regme sought to corrupt the church by ‘uniting’ the denominations as a political body rather than as a ministry.  Richard and Sabina dared to stand up against the tyranny both by speaking against it and by illegally proselytizing their faith to Romanians who struggled under the heavy yoke of the Communist government.  Because of these infractions and because they helped harbor wanted Christians, Richard was arrested and tortured for his faith.  He languished for fourteen years in a cruel Communist prison, but he did not give up his faith in Christ.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this production was somewhat low-budget, there is still a very clear commitment to making it as authentic and gritty as possible.  Video quality and audio quality are among these good production elements.  Although there are some moments of oddly poor lighting, the sets, locations, and props are very realistic and demonstrate great attention to detail and great care to make the surroundings as realistic as possible.  This is definitely the best that could have been done with the funding available, which is all we ask of productions.  Though there is some choppy editing throughout, it’s obvious that this creative did all they could with this production, which is all a film maker needs to do.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1.5 points)

Another thing film makers can do to ensure a mostly successful effort is to use good source material.  The story of Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand is a very poignant and unfortunately true narrative that definitely deserved to be made into a movie.  However, one has to question whether the high amount of heavy-handed narration was necessary since it greatly stunts character growth and plot development.  Even still, the serious commitment to have each character speak in the original Romanian dialect is very intriguing to say the least as it further shows care for realism and attention to detail that we rarely find in Christian film.  Moreover, because of the narration that punctuates and explains a majority of the scenes, the movie comes off as too much of a random collection of loosely connected scenes rather than an engaging story about real people we can relate to.  There are also a few too many docu-drama elements.  Nevertheless, the strong content of this story keeps the plot from being worse than it could have been as the tragic realities of religious persecution at the hands of tyrannical regimes is brought to the big screen.  Thus, many audiences will find this movie to be worthwhile.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

Although most of the cast members are not allowed to fully act due to the high amount of narration that only allows for rare moments of dialogue, the portions they do act in are definitely great.  The culturally authentic casting and the good use of the original language is also a huge plus.  Emotions are mostly good with only a few instances of being slightly overdone, but on the whole, this is the best area of the film, and it rounds out a job well done.

Conclusion

Christian films are still getting better by using source material and by being committed to great productions.  This creative team is off to a great start in their movie-making careers, so it will be very interesting to see what they come up with next.  Until then, Tortured for Christ is an above-average film that carries a great message and a stirring theme packaged in a realistic production that will make a lasting impression on many who watch it.

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

Stephen’s Test of Faith (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Stephen doesn’t like to be picked on by bullies at school because of his Christian faith.  When he complains about it to his father, his dad decides to tell him three stories of Christian martyrs in history, including the stoning of Stephen from the book of Acts.  Thus, when Stephen falls asleep that night, he has three dreams about the three stories, in which he is also a character.  Will his visions teach him how to not be afraid of the atheist bullies at his school???

 

Production Quality (1 point)

Though Voice of the Martrys has crafted quality productions in the past, Stephen’s Test of Faith is not one of these.  This film contains somewhat cheap and limited sets, props, and locations, which doesn’t bode well for the historical parts.  There is also some poor lighting throughout.  Further, this production has some odd camera angles and slightly shaky camera work, although the video quality is fine.  Audio quality is also fine, even though the editing is somewhat poor.  Overall, the low quality of this production, combined with the shortness of its duration, makes its creation slightly unjustified.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

This is combined with the fact that its premise is very unusual and almost insulting.  Equating real martyrdom and persecution with getting made fun of by immature kids at school is very odd and off-putting.  Did Voice of the Martyrs mean to tell kids they don’t have it as bad as people who are killed for their faith?  That’s almost worse.  Either way, it’s a mishandling of first-world problems.  Besides this, the story of this film has a disorienting progression and sequencing, which is helped by its short time frame.  Even so, the plot jumps from one thing to the next as it tries to cover far too much content in a small amount of time.  It seems like it is unable to focus on any one thing, and this makes the characters too one-dimensional and swept along by the plot’s circumstances.  Unfortunately, though Voice of the Martyrs might have meant well with this film, it’s a swing and a miss.

Acting Quality (1 point)

For the most part, this cast tends to be dominated by child actors that have an annoying delivery style.  Other cast members tend to be too forceful and dramatic, while others are unsure of themselves.  However, not all is bad in this cast as there are some good moments, yet this is not enough to save this film from itself.

Conclusion

With films like Bamboo in Winter, Behind the Sun, The Eastern Bride, and Closure, Voice of the Martyrs is usually able to capture the real struggles of persecuted Christians around the world, but trying to transpose these struggles onto the first world problems in modern America is just wrong.  This may have not been intentional, but it came off that way in Stephen’s Test of Faith.  We have to be careful not to demean the actual persecution Christians experience outside of the Western world by trying to make our minor issues into persecution.

 

Final Rating: 2 out of 10 points