Expelled Movie Review: From the content to the packaging
Ben Stein takes us along his intellectual journey to understand our country’s current state of expressive freedom by looking at Darwinism and how its rise has suppressed other ideas such as Intelligent Design.
The movie felt like a cleverly crafted essay read aloud but presented with images, animation, anecdotes and music. Had this essay been read in a class, it would have been boring for those not as interested in the topic of freedom of speech or Intelligent Design, especially if it would have been read by a rather monotone voice such as Stein's.
Hypotheticals aside, he approached the issue with a genuine curiosity that seemed to have been bothering him like a thorn in the side. His questions were fair and simply put so that audiences could understand the conversations. Reflective of his wit, this visual essay metaphorically compares the divide between Darwinism and Intelligent Design with the Berlin Wall.
And he demonstrates how that wall extends through out other aspects of society such as mainstream media, politics, academia and medicine. This metaphor as well as analogies and inquiries he poses in the film question popular ideas and encourage people to discover how much their worldview has been affected. Furthermore, the film suggests that people living in the United States are unknowingly restricting speech as they conform to the popular ideas.
Despite the seriousness of the issue, Stein successfully injected the film with some humor. In order to avoid boredom, Stein alternated between literal visual representations of the adjectives and verbs used by the interviewees or the narrator and the actual footage of the interviews. For example, one of the interviewee’s mentioned he felt he was being bullied – a comment heard while an old black and white movie clip shows three young boys pushing one smaller boy around. For a more dramatic effect, sometimes the subjects would be filmed at the very edge of the lens having their foreheads or the sides of their face go off screen. Graphically, there were no dull moments.
In sum, it was a well-edited film content-wise and visually. It was thought-provoking and emboldening no matter what beliefs one may hold. And it was another successful work by a well-rounded, sincere and respected leader.