Thursday, April 10, 2008

Time magazine reviews "Expelled"

Another negative review for the film, by Jeffrey Kluger. He specifically calls out the film for dishonesty:

The man made famous by Ferris Bueller, however, quickly wades into waters far too deep for him. He makes all the usual mistakes nonscientists make whenever they try to take down evolution, asking, for example, how something as complex as a living cell could have possibly arisen whole from the earth's primordial soup. The answer is it couldn't--and it didn't. Organic chemicals needed eons of stirring and slow cooking before they could produce compounds that could begin to lead to a living thing. More dishonestly, Stein employs the common dodge of enumerating all the admittedly unanswered questions in evolutionary theory and using this to refute the whole idea. But all scientific knowledge is built this way. A fishnet is made up of a lot more holes than strings, but you can't therefore argue that the net doesn't exist. Just ask the fish.

It's in the film's final third that it runs entirely off the rails as Stein argues that there is a clear line from Darwinism to euthanasia, abortion, eugenics and--wait for it--Nazism. Theories of natural selection, it's claimed, were a necessary if not sufficient condition for Hitler's killing machine to get started. The truth, of course, is that the only necessary and sufficient condition for human beings to murder one another is the simple fact of being human. We've always been a lustily fratricidal species, one that needed no Charles Darwin to goad us into millenniums of self-slaughter.

Kruger also criticizes Myers and Dawkins:

In fairness to Stein, his opponents have hardly covered themselves in glory. Evolutionary biologists and social commentators have lately taken to answering the claims of intelligent-design boosters not with clear-eyed scientific empiricism but with sneering, finger-in-the-eye atheism. Biologist P.Z. Myers, for example, tells Stein that religion ought to be seen as little more than a soothing pastime, a bit like knitting. Books such as Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion often read like pure taunting, as when Hitchens pettily and pointedly types God as lowercase god. Tautology as typography is not the stuff of deep thought. Neither, alas, is Expelled.
Looks like a sub-50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a foregone conclusion. I see that has a new April 18 film on the list, Jenna Jameson's first non-porn film, "Zombie Strippers." "Expelled" is still not on the list. Which will have the bigger opening weekend box office take?

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (currently with a 93% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes) will most likely be the box office leader. "Forbidden Kingdom" with Jackie Chan and Jet Li may also do well. Al Pacino in "88 Minutes," though it looks like a weak offering, is likely to have greater box office draw than "Expelled." Likewise for Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood in "Life Before Her Eyes." Morgan Spurlock's latest documentary, "Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?", with a mere 33% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes, is something "Expelled" needs to beat if there's really any hope of it making a mark on the top box office numbers for documentaries, as some of its advocates have claimed it will. (I predict it won't get into the top ten documentaries by box office, let alone the top three as the delusional advocate I just linked to seems to think.)

UPDATE (April 12, 2008): P.Z. Myers responds to the criticism directed at him by the Time reviewer.


Eamon Knight said...

Given the XVIVO copyright issue, I'm still sticking by my "never opens at all" prediction. (And I wonder if the DVD will keep the disputed segment, on the theory that a DVD distribution is low enough profile not to be noticed. Stupid of course, but these clowns excel in that department).

Jim Lippard said...

I disagree. I think it will open as planned in a week, with the footage intact. I suspect Premise Media has already lawyered up and will issue a blustery, aggressive response to XVIVO if they haven't already. I think XVIVO will probably sue, and then there will be an out-of-court settlement of some kind.

Walt Ruloff has deep pockets, and I'm sure they'll weigh the potential cost of the lawsuit against what they expect in revenue for the movie, and make a decision on that basis.

I suspect their expectations of revenue are overly rosy; after a disappointing opening they may be more likely to settle with XVIVO.

Jim Lippard said...

If the "Expelled" website is any indication, they intend to go full speed ahead without regard for XVIVO's letter. Of course, they completely misrepresent the charges in their reply:

Editor’s Note: Questions have been raised about the origination of some of the animation used in our movie EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed. Claims that we have used any animation in an unauthorized manner are simply false. Premise Media created the animation that illustrates cellular activity used in our film.

The Producers of “EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed”

As Darwin Central notes, if you hire your own animators to make a Mickey Mouse cartoon, but only change the color of his pants, that's not going to protect you from a Disney copyright infringement lawsuit.

Jim Lippard said...

According to David Bolinsky, "Expelled"'s budget has set aside funds specifically for defending against a copyright infringement lawsuit over this footage. If true, then they knew what they were doing was morally and legally wrong, but did it anyway. Par for the course.