Two "Expelled" Reviews
(Image courtesy of midwifetoad)
They interview someone else about evolution, who mentions that science doesn't know how life began. So the film shifts to discussing the origin of life on earth. Philosopher Michael Ruse mentions the theory that organic life piggybacked on crystalline structures (Richard writes more about this in his review). Stein takes the opportunity to ridicule the idea: "Crystals!? On the backs of CRYSTALS!?" The film cuts to B&W video of creepy fortunetellers hunching over crystal balls. Stein's only desire is to oversimplify the theory and make fun of it.
The film mentions the Miller-Urey experiments (I'm pretty sure these were the experiments referred to in the film) done on the mixture of elements likely to have been around at the dawn of life. Stein's voiceover merely states that these experiments were done to replicate the origin of life, and that "Nothing happened" (there is more to this story, of course). Boy, those stupid scientists should have known then and there that they were way off track!
Josh does a masterful job of wading through a film that expels insult upon insult on one's intelligence, and this was more work than I wanted to do on this awful film. I'm not getting paid for this. I've gotten paid for reviewing books/films that I thought were hideous that, as it turns out, were all better than this.
Also, Rev. Barking Nonsequitur also reviews the film. It's interesting that Josh mentions the inferior sound of the film (too much "gain"), because during the screening Rev. Barky, also a sound guy, leaned over to me and said, "The sound is terrible." I couldn't tell.
The film was trying to be a Michael Moore documentary about people being persecuted because they chose to mention the word "ID" but with Ben Stein - who is really not very pleasant to look at. He looks like an emotionless basset hound and his eyes seem to be exuding a viscous fluid much of the time. Of course he comes off very smug all through the film which is interspersed with interviews of supposed victims of the elitist Nazi science academia establishment. Of course when they are interviewing the "evil" people like PZ and Dawkins, there were lots of footage of Nazi and Communist rallies, death camp scenes and retarded people making fools of themselves underscored with malevolent or dopey music to set the mood.
I really enjoyed the point that Richard Dawkins made about the film's technique:
Now, to the film itself. What a shoddy, second-rate piece of work. A favourite joke among the film-making community is the 'Lord Privy Seal'. Amateurs and novices in the making of documentaries can't resist illustrating every significant word in the commentary by cutting to a picture of it. The Lord Privy Seal is an antiquated title in Britain's heraldic tradition. The joke imagines a low-grade film director who illustrates it by cutting to a picture of a Lord, then a privy, and then a seal. Mathis' film is positively barking with Lord Privy Seals. We get an otherwise pointless cut to Nikita Krushchev hammering the table (to illustrate something like 'emotional outburst'). There are similarly clunking and artless cuts to a guillotine, fist fights, and above all to the Berlin wall and Nazi gas chambers and concentration camps.
Now you begin to get an idea of how bad this film is, aside from its message. Ben Stein should go to the privy to expel whatever it is that he ate for dinner that is giving him nightmares about Hitler, and go back to bed. Spare us all his personal hang-ups.
UPDATED: I’ve been asking myself why I have not found much to say about the content of Expelled. I guess it is because I am so flummoxed by this film’s request that I laugh at its incredibly puerile use of stock footage “asides” of people hitting each other, Krushchev pounding a table, things blowing up in a lab, etc. Its humor is on or below the level of the Three Stooges, and I never liked them. As I said, take Michael Moore’s worst moments and string them into a full-length film…
But there’s something else. This film is empty. It is devoid of content – everything is chopped up, including the interviews of the intelligent design theorists. Even they get short (very short) shrift.
When I saw how bad this film was, I was relieved – but I’m still stunned at how incredibly artless this film is. What is there for me to say? Perhaps this was how (since Godwin’s Law has been trashed by now) Hitler’s art teachers felt when they saw the future Fuehrer’s talentless art.