I was a little uncertain when I was asked if I wanted to preview the upcoming film Samson, which hits theatres February 16. And it wasn’t just because I’m not really into superhero movies.
Back when I first started reviewing movies the process was simple. An advance press screening of the film would be scheduled at a local theatre, media would arrive and be checked in, watch the film and write the review. The press showing was usually a day or so before the movie opened to the general public.
These days there is no communal experience and no big screen. For a preview screening you go to a website, enter a password and watch on your computer, tablet or even telephone. No big screen or booming sound system, unless you have that at home already.
The producers of Samson, for some reason, decided not to make the entire film available to reviewers beforehand. What I was offered as a 26-minute segment. I ignored the offer at first, but after the second email decided I might as well see what he film is like.
After having watched it I’m not sure if I can do it justice. The film looks good, though I must admit I find all Bible-based films look a little strange to me. That probably comes from my youth and one too many church pageants with a bathrobe being substituted for “period” costume.
If you aren’t familiar with the tale of Samson from The Bible, it takes place over three chapters in the Old Testament book of Judges. It was a Sunday School staple when I was a child. Samson was a mighty warrior, who lost his way in life and was redeemed at the end. I think that is the vibe the film producers are reaching for – they are calling him the first superhero. I think the movie loosely follows the Biblical story but can’t say for sure as the version I saw jumped from scene to scene rather disjointedly. The story has certainly been fleshed out to make it movie length, but that is to be expected – Scripture tends to be more precise than Hollywood.
I don’t think I can comment properly on the acting, or writing given the limitations of what I saw. Neither blew me away, but at the same time neither seemed horribly bad. I do want to know what comes next, how the movie comes out, which I guess is a good sign. I felt frustrated that the screener didn’t include the ending. Yes, I know how it ends in Judges, but I wanted to see how the filmmakers handled it.
One thing I didn’t like was the big battle scene where Samson more or less takes on the Philistine army and wins. It seemed just too choreographed and would have fit nicely into any of the Lord of the Rings films. It also went on too long. Given that the movie was produced by Pure Flix, a Christian company, I guess the tale probably has its sexual aspects toned down. At least there was nothing suggestive in what I was given to review. If you read the tale in The Bible you will discover that Samson was less than smart in his dealings with beautiful women and that led to his downfall. Actually, if you read The Bible you have to come to the conclusion that he wasn’t very bright.
Last year Pure Flix gave us The Case for Christ, a film I thoroughly enjoyed. I even enjoyed that one when I saw it a second time, in German with no subtitles – a real challenge given that at the time I hadn’t even started taking German lessons. I’m not so sure I will like Samson as much when I get to see the whole thing, and I doubt I would bother to see it in German.
So, the question is, should you go to see Samson when it hits the theatres on the 16th? That depends on you as much as on the film. If you are a fan of superhero movies (where the superhero is flawed) set 3,000 years or so ago, the answer is probably yes.