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Peter T Chattaway

300 (2006)

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Yeah, there was lotsa cheering at that point in the movie. (It was one of three points when the crowd loudly applauded. I believe the first was a decapitation scene -- which brought a certain rousing scene from The Fellowship of the Ring to mind -- and the third was when the end credits rolled.)

I was fortunate enough to see 300 with a rather small and quiet crowd, but I know exactly which part of FOTR you're talking about ... and it never fails to disturb me when I think of how people cheer at such a thing.

A local DJ was calling this the best movie experience she's ever had on my way home from work today. I must have missed it... I liked the movie but I bet I won't remember it in 2 weeks.

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Sorry folks, but I cannot help but notice that nearly everyone who has posted about this movie has something to say about the 'homo' this-that-and-the-other instead of researching about the war and the battle itself. I saw a special on this particular battle several months back on the History Channel, and the mere odds facing the Spartans were so unforgiving, but yet they were defying all and slaughtering the enemy. I am not Pro-War by any means, but I do completely respect the insane odds the Spartans faced and appreciate the level of battle intelligence they displayed. I don't really care if they were homosexual or not, they were well trained, battle hardened, discplined warriors.

In today's military, I don't care if I am next to a man or a woman, homosexual or heterosexual, if they are smart, discplined and prepared I will follow them into any foxhole. I do agree with the sentiment that we should give all the love and respect to our troops today, and not hate them, even if we do or do not agree with the war in which they are fighting. I believe the same sentiment is in the bible, "Hate the sin, Love the sinner."

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Hello Croatoan, and welcome!

I don't think anyone in this thread posted any specifically anti-gay remarks (and you might be surprised to learn how many posters here at A&F have no problem with gay people). But there are two gay-related observations of this film that I perceive have been made here in this thread by several of us:

1) The visual portrayal of the Spartan men on the screen is imagery right out of a lot of homo-erotic fantasy magazines and art work. None of us (or few of us) believe that was unintended, and instead believe that the film's art director did that in full consciousness. (My own feeling is, that was a bold move, and it might have backfired such as in Alexander, but somehow it didn't.)

2) Historically speaking (according to the above-posters who know the history, which I do not), Spartans had no problem with their citizens and soldiers engaging in homosexuality. So the dialogue which indicates the Spartans were anti-gay is not accurate. And a lot of posters at A&F are kinda picky about historical films being historically accurate (kinda funny that way).

While those two observations are undeniably gay-related, I don't believe any posts at all in this thread have been anti-gay. We're certainly gay-aware here at A&F, but I don't think the label "anti-gay" can be correctly applied here. If anything, we're more gay-neutral (at least in THIS thread). I will admit that I'm still a newb here myself, so I am not familiar with the WHOLE board. But in the five or six weeks I've been here, I have yet to see an anti-gay remark on this web site.

By the way, did you see the film yet? Cool, huh?

::EDITED for grammar & clarity::

Edited by Plot Device

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In years of watching "ancient warrior" sagas, I have noticed that the warrior films about Japanese or Chinese soldiers tend toward a mystical concept of a sort of uber-warrior. A strain of warrior from myth and lore, trained over the course of a lifetime, the likes of which we of Western society seem to lack. The Ninja. The Shogun. Super-cool and bigger-than-life soldiers whose every molecule is trained for warfare. A type of soldier we don't seem to have in European legend. The nearest we've ever come has been the recently over-done concept of there being a once-in-a-lifetime apearance of the strangely gifted warrior born amid a nation of mediority (such as Achiles from the recent Troy, or Marv from Frank Miller's Sin City.) But those two heros were treated like freaks of nature rather than shown to be the product of rigorous Ninja-esque training.

Yet this film offers just such a team of European super-warriors.

Me thinks 300 will play well in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

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The nearest we've ever come has been the recently over-done concept of there being a once-in-a-lifetime apearance of the strangely gifted warrior born amid a nation of mediority (such as Achiles from the recent Troy, or Marv from Frank Miller's Sin City.) But those two heros were treated like freaks of nature rather than shown to be the product of rigorous Ninja-esque training.

Oh, I don't know. This might be reaching back a bit far, but what about all of those countless Stallone, Schwarzeneggar, et al. action flicks that came out in the 1980s and early 1990s? It sure seems like the hero of those flicks is something of a pinnacle of military training, thanks to the result of countless hours of training and fighting.

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The nearest we've ever come has been the recently over-done concept of there being a once-in-a-lifetime apearance of the strangely gifted warrior born amid a nation of mediority (such as Achiles from the recent Troy, or Marv from Frank Miller's Sin City.) But those two heros were treated like freaks of nature rather than shown to be the product of rigorous Ninja-esque training.

Oh, I don't know. This might be reaching back a bit far, but what about all of those countless Stallone, Schwarzeneggar, et al. action flicks that came out in the 1980s and early 1990s? It sure seems like the hero of those flicks is something of a pinnacle of military training, thanks to the result of countless hours of training and fighting.

I guess I'm driving at a "warrior elite" of some kind who go beyond Navy Seals and the US Marines. An UBER class of UBER soldiers who have tapped a near-mystical store of power from the cosmos. Marv was a freak of nature. Achiles was a freak of nature. And as such neither Marv nor Achiles had a normal place in society. (And some would argue that the Governor of California is also a freak of nature.) But Ninjas and Shoguns are a warrior elite who inhabit an entire culture of other warriors, train for years to achieve what they become, and function with societal honor rather than in a state of freakdom. And I think the only Western equivalent to them would be these Spartans.

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Where do Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, Alec Baldwin in The Shadow, and Christian Bale in Batman Begins fit into this?

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Where do Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, Alec Baldwin in The Shadow, and Christian Bale in Batman Begins fit into this?

Any number of comic book heroes would fit into this: Captain America, The Punisher, Nick Fury, etc.

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Plot Device wrote:

: Me thinks 300 will play well in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Funny you should mention that, as one of Frank Miller's better-known titles is Ronin (which I have never read, FWIW).

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Where do Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, Alec Baldwin in The Shadow, and Christian Bale in Batman Begins fit into this?

Freaks! :D

Actually, no.

Crusie was a Samurai student, and Batman was a Ninja student. So they were both extensions of an existing warrior class. And yet, they're both EASTERN warior classes, not WESTERN ones. So here in the West, they sadly BECOME freaks.

And Alec Baldwin is a freak no matter what. ;)

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I was thinking more of knnnights. ("I'm invincible!")

I'll bite yer knee caps off!

I have pondered in the past whether European knights were the equivalent of Samurai's and Ninjas. I think they MIGHT be somewhat on par with Shoguns. If I recall correctly, Shoguns were lone feudal lords and land owners, not rank & file soldiers who operated in teams/squads/battallions. Sometimes a knight would join his sword on a battle field with another knight against a common enemy, and likewise, sometimes a Shogun would join alongside an allied Shogun against a common enemy, but for the most part, these guys fought solo.

I still don't feel that a CULTURE of "warrior" is represented by knights to the degree that they were in any of the Eastern disciplines. The history buffs here are free to correct me (as I am more than probably wrong) but I always believed that knights were more attuned to their Christianity and their allegiance to the king, and kept their training in warfare as merely a means to those ends: they learned to fight BECAUSE of their servitude to God and King. And so they didn't learn to fight for the sake of fighting itself. Warfare was a base means toward a higher end (serving God and King). But the Eastern traditions developed a hyper-attuned sense of warfare, were far more meticulous about it, and developed an entire culture--a secret culture even-- devoted to their skills as warriors. It's this culture of warfare that I keep pointing toward. And I invite anyone here to correct me. I am only recalling bits and pieces of stuff I've read. So please chime in.

Of course, there's Zorro, too...trained in secret for a secret mission, the Scarlet Pumpernickel Pimpernel, Robin Hood, blah blah blah.

But there wasn't a whole legion of Zorro's. He was a solo act. (A freak, if you will.)

In The Lord of the Rings, Aragorn is definitely an uber-warrior, as are others.

AHHHHH! You have now brought out the Tolkien fan in me.

Aragorn was from a special race of men called the Numenoreans, from the land of Numenor (a massive island nation off the Southwest coast of Middle Earth--which sank into the sea!). They were partly Elven, and so they lived unusually long lives (hundreds of years).

Elrond is called "Elrond Half-Elven" because he is part Man (but mostly Elf). I forgot the exact structure of the family tree, but Elrond is descended from the two brothers born to Berin and Luthien. Berin and Luthien were a Man and an Elf-maid who married, and she gave up her immortality to be with him (just like Aragorn and Arwen). The two sons born were given a choice to be either mortal or immortal. One son chose immortality and he eventually became Elrond's dad (or grand-dad I think). The other chose mortality and he became the father of all the Numenoreans. One of the those Numenoreans was King Isildur (Aragorn's ancestor, thus Aragorn is Isildur's heir). He was the guy with the sword named Narsil who cut the ring from the finger of Sauron on the battle field, and caused the sword to shatter. (And we all know the sword was reforged and given to Aragorn.)

Aragorn comes from a special race.

I never read "The Silmarillion" all the way through, but I don't think the Numenoreans were gung-ho warriors. They certainly did engage in warfare. But more as the means-to-an-end thing, not as a warrior culture. I do wanna address the culture of the Rangers though.

The race of Numenor was punished. They built a temple (a big no-no) and (if I recall) they started engaging in human sacrifice (I think). The righteous eyes of Heaven saw their wickedness and plunged the island of Numenor to the bottom of the ocean. The remnant of Numenor went to Middle Earth. They were fine while they were an organized nation. But after they grew weak and their culture fragmented, the few Numenoreans who were left wound up as unwanted vagabonds roaming the countryside. They were mistrusted by regular Men who were suspicious of their long life (a little Colin McLoud of the Clan McCloud there for ya). They became self-appointed stewards of wildlife, the Rangers, awaiting the day when their civilization would be restored, something that would only happen when the rightful king ascended the throne of Gondor again. That's why Aragorn was a Ranger.

In the books, there were other Rangers besides Aragorn. And toward the final battle, a small band of Rangers assembled and presented their swords to Aragorn. But they were few in number (less than a hundred I think). So even they didn't have a culture of warriors. If anything, they had a culture of nature conservationism.

Plot Device wrote:

: Me thinks 300 will play well in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Funny you should mention that, as one of Frank Miller's better-known titles is Ronin (which I have never read, FWIW).

It seems then that Miller is fascintaed with the idea of the Uber Warrior.

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From the Relevant review:

(I've bolded a few lines that really caught my attention... especially the uses of "us" and "we.")

So, what is so compelling about 300? It is, in essence, a gore fest. What causes us to cheer when limbs get hacked off? What does it say about our culture when the top movie at the box office has an extremely high body count? I, for one, couldn

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No trace of gray? In a movie that begins by emphasizing how the "heroes" owed their existence, in part, to the rampant infanticide practised by their culture!?

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: But I don't cheer anymore when limbs get hacked off.

Not even when Aragorn beheads the leader of the Uruk-Hai? I saw that film five times in the theatre, and the crowd cheered almost every time at that point.

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Cheering for victory and cheering at a moment of violence exploited for the audience's desire to see a spectacular killing are two very different things.

I imagine different people cheered at THAT moment for different reasons, and that many were cheering for the spectacular kill rather than for the victory.

I haven't seen it, but I just have this hunch that 300 isn't a rich story of developed characters (I mean their character, not developed pectorals) in the same sense as The Lord of the Rings. And I have a feeling that it's wound to make audiences anticipate fireworks of bloodshed, and to cheer at the amazing blows, rather than cheering out of a deep sense of conscience.

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The 300: Must We Celebrate War to Fight?

Hollywood has refused to make pro-war films and there was a pent up market for a film with less angst and more courage. Regretfully, the story is useless as a defense of our present War (if anyone should try to use it as such) and paints a dangerous image of combat. The picture of warfare is pagan and not Christian. However wonderfully told, the message is seductive in its simplistic glorification of violence and not appropriate to our time.

John Mark Reynolds, Middlebrow, March 14

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Hitler's Spartans

[Maclean's critic Brian D.] Johnson notes with some fairness that unlike the Nazis, the Spartans were defending their freedom from foreign tyrants and not laying waste to the world. "But as 300's messianic hero happily leads his troops into what is essentially an act of mass suicide," he goes on, "it's hard not to think of fascists, suicide bombers and fundamentalists who promote the righteous beauty of marching off to a perfect death."

Jeffrey Wells, March 14

- - -

Gosh. I guess Ignatius and all the other saints who saw something beautiful and glorious in their imminent deaths would fall under the heading of "fundamentalists", then.

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I know that, once upon a time, I found violence thrilling. But I don't cheer anymore when limbs get hacked off. And I'm not sure I'm capable of looking "past the pile of dead Persians" anymore. And personally, I think that escapism that urges us to see the world as "black and white with no trace of gray" is very, very dangerous. We had better not "look past" the casualties of any war, no matter what side we're on. We have to look at the casualties directly and be able to justify our actions with a clear conscience and a compassionate heart.

Wasn't Osama bin Laden "standing up for his way of life" and "fighting for something greater than himself"?

Surely those aren't the distinguishing characterics of virtue.

We need to dig deeper than that.

Two things make this film's violence "forgiveable" in my eyes:

1) The film technology used de-gore-ified the violence. The blood was black and white, not red. The emphasis of the camera work was on the brute force of the battles, and so the blood was merely a side issue. We were being asked to identify with the struggle, sweat, and sheer force of will that the Spartans were employing, not revel in the blood bath.

2) I think the film made a valid appeal to the principles of "a just war." I bought that apeal. So I sided with the Spartans.

My ongoing sense of excitement while watching the film wasn't: "I can't wait to see the NEXT fountain of spurting blood!" It was: "I hope they successfully thwart the next wave of onslaught like they did the LAST one!"

My take-away package of emotions after exiting the movie house wasn't: "Wow! So much blood! So many dismemberments! COOL!" It was: "Those guys fought tooth and nail, right until the end. Talk about Chutzpah!"

The blood wasn't an issue for me because it wasn't the primary focus or the overriding point.

Cheering for victory and cheering at a moment of violence exploited for the audience's desire to see a spectacular killing are two very different things.

That's an important point to raise: did the film separate those two? And did the audience separate them as well? I say "yes" to the film's separation, and "yes" to my own ability to do so with this film. I can't vouch for the rest of the audience. I guess that's where exit-polls might come in handy.

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And, speaking of exit polls ............

Aint It Cool News had this to say concerning the internet's impact on 300's success:

300 wasn't being marketed as an "internet phenom" like SNAKES ON A PLANE... but, it is the success that SNAKES wasn't.
They cited exit poll data which indicated that the internet, not TV commercials, was the primary impetus that inspired people to see this film.

[in analzying all forms of movie advertising] TV COMMERCIALS have remained king.

Until Now.

In Warner's Top Secret polls - 60% chose the Internet as what brought them to the theater.

And at IMAX - that number grew to 68%.

These numbers show a HUGE growth in the Internet's growing pull for where people decide to see their weekend movies.

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Hitler's Spartans

[Maclean's critic Brian D.] Johnson notes with some fairness that unlike the Nazis, the Spartans were defending their freedom from foreign tyrants and not laying waste to the world. "But as 300's messianic hero happily leads his troops into what is essentially an act of mass suicide," he goes on, "it's hard not to think of fascists, suicide bombers and fundamentalists who promote the righteous beauty of marching off to a perfect death."

Jeffrey Wells, March 14

- - -

Gosh. I guess Ignatius and all the other saints who saw something beautiful and glorious in their imminent deaths would fall under the heading of "fundamentalists", then.

I think I'm about to agree with you, Peter (in a bass-ackward kinda way):

For all the many anti-war films made, cannot even ONE film that shows "a just war" be made?

I hate the idea that Hollywood--the all time reigning proponent of the "do whatever you want" philosophy and the "down with rules that can never be broken" mentality--is guilty of having a set of stone tablets in their own inner sanctoms. Their written-in-stone axioms include the commandment: "Thous Shalt Not Make A Movie That Justifies War."

Were that enforced, no one could ever make a film that explores the doctrine of a Just War. I'm NOT talking about GLORIFYING war, but about intellectually (and spiritually?) conceding to the idea that sometimes war is just and necesary. The very existence of our entire military here in the US --the world's beacon for freedom--is justified by that one tennet.

One of my favorite lines from an otherwise forgetable film is from Stephen King's Dream Catcher where the soldier reflects upon the words of his father who was also a soldier once. Here's my half-recalled paraphrase of the general gist of that father-son conversation: "While sometimes a soldier regretably has to kill, his true purpose is to help people."

Soldiers are valid. Their vocation is honorable. Our need of them is both regretable and undeniable. As Leonidas said: "Remember us!" This movie is about the soldiers and their bravery, not about blood 'n guts. But it would be stupid to eliminate the blood 'n guts aspect from the portrayal of their experience.

One more comment on my final take-away package of the emotions I walked out of the movie house with: the coolest scene IMHO was when

the shower of arrows came down,

and the Spartans laughed at it. They LAUGHED! I loved that moment! And I laughed along with them.

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I have another thing I wanna toss on the table:

I recall reading an interview in the past six months with some movie director who talked about war films. He said that in order to correctly fashion the needed anti-war message into the story of ANY war film, there must be no less than one truly lamentable death of a character that the audience grows to like. He said it's critical to engineer that moment of regret into the structure of the plot to make sure the audience tastes the bitterness of war.

This film had one such death:

the Spatan father whose son was beheaded right in front of him

. So this film DID take pains to include that axiom.

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The problem with violence is that it is directly linked to human suffering and to the Fall. Suffering without any hint of hope, redemption, or at least meaning is problematic from a spiritual point of view. Violence that is presented incoherently or gratuitously is also bad art.

This is perhaps the ONLY thing that makes me hesitate about the upcoming Paradise Lost. On the one hand, I think showing a LITERAL battle on the screen between Good and Evil will be nothing short of way cool. As a huge fan of the whole Hero's Journey concept, I think it'll be just mind-blowing and over-archingly poetic.

But on the other hand, from a theological stand point, my one hesitation is that the screen will be showing God's angels engaged in violence against one another. So the Fall impacted them as well as us (all the creation groans). Getting past whether or not I even believe in literal angels, or in the notion that they really do fight each other, are we suposed to be cheering about their battles? If it's true that angels are real and that literal battles do take place all around us, God (in his wisdom) has chosen to hide that stuff from us. And probably for good reason.

We are mere children compared the angels. I liken us to 4-year olds and them to divinely appointed baby sitters. They are the nannies and we are their charges. They are the day-care workers, God is their client, and we are their students. Tiny little children. God and the angels hide these terrible things from our childlike eyes. If the battles in the Heavenly realms really are literal battles, we have been shielded from the traumatic experience of seeing them.

So perhaps my delight at one day seeing Paradise Lost depict what I deem "the epitome" of the struggle between Good and Evil is woefully misguided. Perhaps no delight should betaken at all in that film. Perhaps depicting that struggle on the screen just wrong (theologically wrong, not artisiticly wrong). God never asked us to delight in the angelic battles. Out of ALL the things the Bible encourages us to celebrate, that was never one of them.

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So perhaps my delight at one day seeing Paradise Lost depict what I deem "the epitome" of the struggle between Good and Evil is woefully misguided. Perhaps no delight should betaken at all in that film. Perhaps depicting that struggle on the screen just wrong (theologically wrong, not artisiticly wrong). God never asked us to delight in the angelic battles. Out of ALL the things the Bible encourages us to celebrate, that was never one of them.

Very interesting thoughts, because it seems like a lot of Christian culture takes delight in angels vs. demons, uses war imagery all of the time, etc. For example, when I read This Present Darkness in junior high, I remember being thrilled when Tal and the rest of the angels kicked demon hiney. Not necessarily because it was Good triumphing over Evil, but simply because the good guys were trouncing the bad guys.

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I haven't seen it, but I just have this hunch that 300 isn't a rich story of developed characters (I mean their character, not developed pectorals) in the same sense as The Lord of the Rings. And I have a feeling that it's wound to make audiences anticipate fireworks of bloodshed, and to cheer at the amazing blows, rather than cheering out of a deep sense of conscience.

FWIW, that's one of the biggest issues with the film that I raised in my review. I kept being reminded by the battles in Lord Of The Rings throughout 300, because on the surface, they're quite similar. But what bugged me was that 300's battles lacked everything that the LOTR's battles had in spades: a sense of loss and tragedy, a sadness that was mixed in with the thrills. The charges of the Rohirrim have me in tears every time even as they thrill and excite me. The charges of the Spartans left me feeling a wee bit of an adrenaline rush, at the most, and often with a serious case of the rolling of the eyes.

As for the hyper-stylized visuals with regards to the violence, they actually stripped out all of the visceral-ness and impact of the violence. Despite all of the blood spraying across the screen, all of the chopped off limbs and heads flying across the screen, the film just felt way too clean to me. It was difficult for me to feel anything for the Spartans' plight partly because of the over-stylized violence: I couldn't take it seriously.

And yet the film was so serious and weighty -- or at least had the appearance of being so serious and weighty -- that I couldn't not take it seriously. Honestly, I probably would've enjoyed the film if it had been, in fact, more mindless and tongue-in-cheek minus all of the portentous stuff about "glory" and "honor" that was layered on as thickly as the computerized gore.

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So perhaps my delight at one day seeing Paradise Lost depict what I deem "the epitome" of the struggle between Good and Evil is woefully misguided. Perhaps no delight should betaken at all in that film. Perhaps depicting that struggle on the screen just wrong (theologically wrong, not artisiticly wrong). God never asked us to delight in the angelic battles. Out of ALL the things the Bible encourages us to celebrate, that was never one of them.

Very interesting thoughts, because it seems like a lot of Christian culture takes delight in angels vs. demons, uses war imagery all of the time, etc. For example, when I read This Present Darkness in junior high, I remember being thrilled when Tal and the rest of the angels kicked demon hiney. Not necessarily because it was Good triumphing over Evil, but simply because the good guys were trouncing the bad guys.

Exactly! It's way cool. But .... should we even being goig there?

And with Parardise Lost getting so much pre-production buzz, I predict that Holywood will be scrambling to make lots of angels-in-combat-gear knock offs of Paradise Lost during the next 2 years. So I'm thinking the Paretti books This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness will get some press also.

Paretti has relented of even having written those books (even though they made him millions of dollars) and refuses to continue the series (rumor has it he originally planned an additional five books). He cited reasons of "growing theological conflicts" and overall discomfort with the material he was getting into as he wrote the books, and he also got disturbing fan mail from avid readers (I can try and find that interview from four years ago). So if Hollywood finally wants to make his books into flms, I think he's gonna say "No."

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