MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Friday, March 31st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.
Coming next on The World and Everything in It: what’s new in theaters. Here’s arts and culture editor Collin Garbarino to talk about a couple of films debuting this weekend that offer some surprises.
COLLIN GARBARINO: Last weekend, John Wick: Chapter 4 topped the box office with a surprisingly strong 73 million dollars. The ultra-violent movie about a retired assassin waging war against the criminal underworld might repeat as No. 1 this weekend. But a new sword-and-sorcery movie hopes to steal the crown.
MUSIC: [“Wings of Time” by Tame Impala]
Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is based on the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role playing game. Despite being almost 50 years old, the game has never been more popular than it is today. It’s not surprising that D&D’s parent company Hasbro would want to capitalize on the recent surge in popularity with a feature film. What is a little surprising is that the movie isn’t just a corporate cash grab. It’s actually a smart adventure comedy.
DORIC: What exactly do you bring to this?
EDGIN: I’m a planner. I make plans.
DORIC: You’ve already made the plan, so…
EDGIN: If the existing plan fails, I make a new plan.
DORIC: So, you make plans that fail.
HOLGA: He also plays the lute.
Similar to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, humans, elves, halflings, orcs, and wizards inhabit the world of Honor Among Thieves. The fate of the universe always seems to be at stake in fantasy films. But this movie doesn’t take itself so seriously. Honor Among Thieves is a heist movie—sort of like Oceans 11 meets Lord of the Rings. The movie is rated PG-13 for fantasy action and a few bad words intended for comic effect.
The hero, played with great comic timing by Chris Pine, must assemble a team, make a plan, and break into an impenetrable fortress. The heist’s execution is both inventive and delightful. But Honor Among Thieves isn’t the only surprising film debuting this weekend.
MUSIC: [His Only Son theme music]
Just in time for Holy Week, Angel Studios—the studio behind The Chosen TV series—debuts its first theatrical feature film, His Only Son.
His Only Son tells the story of Abraham and the events surrounding God’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac.
ABRAHAM: Lord, here I am.
GOD: Take now your son, you’re only son Isaac.
Abraham keeps the details of God’s message to himself, merely telling his wife Sarah he and Isaac must travel to Mount Moriah to sacrifice to the Lord. Sarah is reluctant to let her son go and convinces Abraham to take a couple of servants with him.
As the group walks through the dusty landscape, flashbacks to earlier events from Abraham’s life interrupt the narrative.
ABRAHAM: I saw God. The God. He appeared as a man before me. He spoke to me.
SARAH: What are you saying?
The journey is also interrupted a few times by extra-biblical ruffians, meant to add a little dramatic peril to the story.
RIDER: There’s a tribute to be paid. This road belongs to Abimelech, king of Philistia.
ABRAHAM: I know who owns this road. I have given your king plenty of tributes.
His Only Son is writer/director David Helling’s first feature film. For a first film made with a modest budget, it isn’t bad. I enjoyed many of the film's choices and interpretations. The lead actors playing Abraham and Sarah give credible performances.
SARAH: I have clung to you through every trial. Every day. Every week. Every month. Year after year. Waiting for what you claim the Lord has promised.
The movie also contains some beautiful cinematography. But the movie’s small budget and the director’s inexperience show up every so often.
For a feature film, the movie doesn’t contain enough people. On the journey, Abraham and Isaac pass the city of Hebron, but they don’t enter. City sets and crowd scenes would have cost too much. The movie also suffers from poor pacing. Some of the traveling scenes drag on too long. And the movie’s climax feels rushed.
Despite the movie’s limitations, the journey with Abraham might be worth taking.
ABRAHAM: The Lord himself came to me. He appeared before me. And in an instant, I was undone.
Mankind’s sin tortures Abraham. He’s broken over his own failings. The movie notes the patriarch’s adultery, lack of faith, and even his enslavement of others. Halfway through the film, the travelers have a theological discussion about the nature of sacrifice and atonement that sounds ripped from the pages of the New Testament.
ISAAC: How does the life of an animal measure up to the life of a man?
ABRAHAM: It cannot.
Though this is a story from the Old Testament, it makes for a good Easter movie. The film frames the narrative with the death of Jesus. It’s an overtly Christian film tying the symbols of sacrifice to the true sacrifice accomplished on the cross. The movie reminds us no one, not even Abraham the possessor of the covenant, can earn God’s favor. The Lord justifies his people through his own righteous substitute.
I’m Collin Garbarino
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