Leans strongly toward a biblical worldview
|Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
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With an action-packed storyline that rivals any modern-day, big screen superhero saga, SAMSON tells the biblical story of a man with supernatural strength who defeats his enemies against all odds—and wins freedom for his people from an evil regime. And although tempted to run from this destiny and chart his own course, Samson learns that the call on his life to ultimate greatness is most powerfully and perfectly realized at the very moment he is most broken and weak.
Arriving in theaters on February 16, 2018, SAMSON is produced by Pure Flix Entertainment (GOD’S NOT DEAD, THE CASE FOR CHRIST, DO YOU BELIEVE?) and Boomtown Films (THE PERFECT WAVE), and is directed by Bruce Macdonald and Gabriel Sabloff. It features Taylor James (MAMMA MIA!, JUSTICE LEAGUE) as Samson; Billy Zane (TOMBSTONE, ZOOLANDER) as Philistine King Balek; Lindsay Wagner (“The Six Million Dollar Man,” “The Bionic Woman”) as Samson’s mother, Zealphonis; Rutger Hauer (THE SCORPION KING 4, BEYOND VALKYRIE: DAWN OF THE 4th REICH) as Samson’s father, Manoah; Caitlin Leahy (“Black-ish,” “Queen of the South”) as Delilah; Jackson Rathbone (THE TWILIGHT SAGA) as Balek’s son, Prince Rallah; Frances Sholto-Douglas as Samson’s wife, Taren; and Greg Kreik as Samson’s brother, Caleb.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
Loosely based on the biblical narrative found in Judges 13-16, SAMSON offers a number of powerful messages that will resonate deeply with both faith-driven and secular moviegoers alike. And while those looking for a line-by-line retelling of the biblical account may be disappointed, the creative liberties taken by the writers to fill in details and move the story forward do not undermine the authority of scripture or seek to revise key doctrinal positions. The result is an action-packed adventure that respectfully tells the epic tale of a well-known biblical figure and teaches some great lessons along the way.
Specifically, SAMSON raises important questions about God’s sovereignty and individual calling. What happens when God sets us apart for a specific purpose, but we choose to go our own way? Through Samson’s story, we see that things go badly and that his disobedience negatively impacts his family and community. And we also see that gradual compromise in Samson’s godly source of strength results in being blinded by the enemy—rendered weak and hopeless, stripped of all worldly entrapments. But we also see forgiveness when Samson confesses his sin and cries out to God in his moment of greatest weakness. Then, God shows Himself mighty and powerful to deliver—crashing down the stronghold of the enemy.
Beyond this, SAMSON offers a biblically accurate insight to the nature of false gods that people so readily embrace when they turn away from the one true God. Here, the Philistine deity Dagon is shown to be merely an impotent symbol that the ruling elites use to control the masses.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
Overall, the depiction of characters and their relationships in SAMSON are largely faith compatible. Samson and his family are shown to be of the tribe of Dan, and his father Manoah and mother Zealphonis, who is not mentioned by name in the Bible, are loving parents who are mindful of the prophecy about Samson from his birth. And while they try to steer him on the godly path, Samson often does not want to conform to the expectations placed upon him as either a member of the community or as God’s anointed one. This is particularly true when it comes to women, where Samson is shown to be quite handsome and have a wandering eye—ultimately expressing interest in a Philistine girl named Taren.
When Samson asks Taren to marry him, a Romeo and Juliet-type story unfolds in which two people from groups that hate each other fall in love and attempt to create their own destiny against the wishes of their respective tribes. While this relationship is extra-biblical, it is quite believable and serves to push the story forward, with Taren serving as a source of temptation for Samson to abandon his calling as a Nazirite set apart unto God from birth.
At their wedding, Samson unintentionally breaks the first of his three Nazirite vows when Prince Rallah and his companions trick him into drinking alcohol. Later, Samson more intentionally breaks the second vow of purity by gathering 30 Philistine tunics from those he slays to satisfy a bet he lost over a riddle. Here, Taren’s betrayal of Samson over the answer to the lion/honey riddle foreshadows Delilah’s eventual betrayal of Samson—leading to the breaking of his third vow and the cutting of his hair. Taken together, each broken vow represents gradual sinful compromise on Samson’s part—and a weakening of his power in the Lord.
When it comes to Delilah, SAMSON depicts her as Prince Rallah’s confidant and future queen—a powerful and highly placed woman in the royal court. Shown in a sympathetic light and trapped in her position, Delilah is conflicted in her affections toward Samson and remorseful when she ultimately betrays him. For his part, Prince Rallah, an extrabiblical character, is an arrogant, cruel, impatient, usurping, evil man who is disrespectful of his father, King Balek. His character represents the biblical truth of Satan—an enemy of God’s people who seeks to destroy His anointed one.
For Samson’s part, the film depicts him as reluctantly—and belatedly—assuming his anointed role as leader of the Hebrews chosen by God to defeat the Philistines. He and his brother, Caleb, an extra-biblical character, have a playful relationship in their younger years but which becomes somewhat contentious later when Caleb pushes Samson to go to war with the Philistines. Ultimately, however, Samson demonstrates a self-sacrificial love for Caleb that points to Jesus when he takes Caleb’s place in prison and sets him free. Indeed, throughout SAMSON there are repeated parallels between Samson as deliverer of his people and Jesus, the Deliverer—raising an important question about whether the Savior is a mighty warrior or a suffering servant. There are also clear parallels to Balek/Rallah as Herod and even Moses as Deliverer facing Pharoah on behalf of the enslaved Hebrews in Egypt.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
The film SAMSON is set in Ancient Israel about 1200 years before Christ in the context of the book of Judges. Here, the Hebrew tribes are weak and divided, vacillating between periods of faith and obedience to God and periods of apostasy and worship of the false gods of neighboring nations. During times of rebellion, God allows foreign powers to subjugate the Israelites. During times of repentance, He raises up anointed judges like Samson to lead the people into freedom.
Unfortunately, this historical context is not entirely clear at the outset of SAMSON, and some moviegoers who are less familiar with the biblical narrative may be confused about references to a “prophecy” about Samson’s life. Here, a scene involving the Angel of the Lord’s visits to Samson’s mother and Manoah might have been helpful. Despite this drawback, it eventually becomes clear that there is some sort of call on Samson’s life that is significant and involves him leading the Israelites to freedom from the awful yoke of the Dagon-worshipping Philistines.
As the story unfolds, Samson realizes he has great powers—occasionally putting them to use in ways that help the Hebrews. Despite this, he continues to say it’s not yet time to assume his anointed leadership role. Here, Taren encourages him to choose his own path and not be bound by any external obligations. He falls hard for her and gives her a sweet kiss on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
As mentioned above, this, and other situations in SAMSON represent creative liberties taken by the writers to fill in some of the blanks in Judges 13-16 and produce an engaging storyline. For example, in one scene Samson is seeking to know God’s will for his life. He asks God to show him a sign if he is, indeed, supposed to lead the Hebrews. At that point a lion comes out of the woods and charges Samson, who instinctively fights him off and kills him with his bare hands—a clear sign.
In another example, a recurring storyline involves Samson’s rejection of his fellow Hebrews’ counsel to go to war with the Philistines—in contrast to his rather naive insistence on a negotiation that will change their hearts. Here, the results are catastrophic for Samson, his family, and his village—with the clear lesson that one cannot negotiate with evil and win.
Similarly, there are differences in the biblical account of the details about Samson tearing down the city gate with his bare hands, his time in the brothel, Delilah’s manipulation to get Samson to tell him the secret to his strength, and the circumstances in which Samson’s eyes are gouged out by the Philistines. But again, these details are minor, do not cast aspersions on the reliability and trustworthiness of the Bible, and effectively serve to create a cohesive story line.
Finally, as the film reaches its dramatic climax, there’s a creatively re-imagined parallel to the passion of Jesus in which Samson is put before the Philistine crowds as entertainment and mocked, spat upon and beaten. Whipping the crowd into a frenzy is now-King Rallah, who leads the mob in praise of Dagon as Caleb watches on (a la the Apostle John) and Delilah agonizes over her betrayal (a la Judas). After praying to God for strength to carry out his mission, Samson slowly rises and knocks down the palace pillars, bringing everyone present to their deaths in utter destruction.
Family Viewing Suitability
At 110 minutes in length, SAMSON is rated PG-13 for violence and battle sequences, including some gore that may be intense and frightening for children. While parental guidance is called for, the violence is not gratuitous and is very comparable to similar scenes in superhero and action figure movies with characters wielding superhuman strength to vanquish enemies against overwhelming odds. Indeed, many moviegoers, particularly males, may find these scenes to be engaging and refreshing—especially for a faith-driven film.
As an action-packed drama with the feel of a superhero saga, SAMSON offers an entertaining and engaging look into the life of a well-known biblical figure that will likely appeal to both faith-driven and secular audiences alike. Although the pace of the story line lags in a couple of places, SAMSON maintains its momentum through to the end—thanks to strong directing and an able cast. In particular, Jackson Rathbone and Billy Zane shine as the evil duo of Prince Rallah and King Balek, while Caitlin Leahy and Frances Sholto-Douglas turn in strong performances as Delilah and Taren.
By developing a story that maintains the overall integrity of the Old Testament narrative—while creatively filling in the blanks in compelling way—the producers of SAMSON have shown that it’s possible to make a high-quality, faith-driven film that challenges moviegoers to think about important questions in a fresh way while simultaneously appealing to a broad audience.