Monday, January 26, 2004

The Order (2003)

Vacuum Energy rating: no stars
Background information about "The Order" is available at The Internet Movie Database.

"The Order" is the story of a young priest named Alex Bernier who is a member of a now obscure (and presumably fictional) Catholic order known as the Carolingians. The Carolingians, we are told, have been trained to specialize in dealing with the various ghosts and goblins that plaugue humanity. The effectiveness of the Carolingian ethic is of course demonstrated by the absolute surrender of anything supernatural yet superficial to the plot when confronted by a Carolingian shoving a crucifix in its face. On the other hand, the suicide under suspicious circumstances of the Carolingian head based in Rome, thus making it necessary for Alex and the one other extant Carolingian, Thomas, to investigate is perhaps a better indication of what the Carolingian Order is capable. Coming along for the ride is Alex's friend Mara, with whom he seems to have a long past as well as an "if we don't get married to other people by the time we're 50, we'll do it" style relationship.

The exceptional feature of the world that Alex, Thomas, and Mara inhabit is the omnipresence of the supernatural. Demons in the guise of children, mysterious books of ancient lore, and underground mystical cults are about as commonplace as stray cats on the Roman streets. When Alex discovers mysterious markings on the body of the deceased priest, he immediately hits the 15th century occult shelf of the local library, instead of, say, a medical doctor, and hits upon the concept of a sin-eater. Need more information on sin-eating? Just walk into a random night club, talk to the first woman you lay eyes on, get her to take you to the secret underworld Dark Pope and you've got your answer: ask the dying, since they can do anything. Of course, there are plenty of potential dying hanging around the Dark Pope's lair, each ready to mysteriously answer your questions once they begin actively dying, since the police forces of the world seem to have succumbed to a debilitating case of the stupids.

The downgrading of the Catholic faith to a sort of pseudoreligious conspiracy is the goal, which makes "The Order" similar to the movie "Stigmata" in this regard. If mysticism and salvation are merely facts, as the movie seems to want us to accept, and a sin-eater can give you salvation just as well as Catholicism can, then there really is no need for a Church after all. It would be as if we all had invented a series of rituals about gravitation because of our undying love for Sir Isaac Newton. The corollary to this principle is that if the particular set of magic powers you end up with aren't to your liking, there's no reason why you can't just trade them in for a new batch that works better. When Alex meets the sin-eater for the first time, who apparently has lived for 500 years on the excellent nutritional values of sin, it's barely ten minutes of movie time before Alex has gone from stalking the sin-eater to taking naps on the sin-eater's couch. Alex starts thinking about a career change to a new set of magic powers, we see that sin-eating is really, really real to make it all sink in, and it becomes painfully obvious where the movie is going to end up.

Of course, in the end we see exactly how a sin-eater can be completely despicable, but by then Alex is too far gone to care.

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