Latest Legacy Wannabe

So here's my thoughts on Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration.

I need to first own up to my biases, like the good postmodernist that I am. I adore the Church Institutional Film (CIF) Legacy and have a hard time thinking that it can be outdone. Therefore, I am initially skeptical of these new ones being shown in the Legacy Theater, but not so much that I hate them outright.

Overall, JS:PotR is a nice film. It's production values are high and it manages (for the most part) to avoid unnecessary melodrama. The film does a nice job of many, many things. In particular, fleshing out Joseph's 14-year-old concern over religion which made it, in my mind, reasonable. There's also a great scene of him preaching the day after being tarred and feathered. Additionally, Emma was nicely played as were Joseph, Sr. and Lucy.

The God and Jesus of the first vision are no longer just a disembodied voice. They now have disembodied hands. All heavenly visitors are shot from a distance and with a soft lens. I wasn't sure if this was supposed to suggest other worldliness or just trying to avoid definitive statements on what these people looked like. Though the inclusion of hands is an improvement. I was not a fan, in the slightest, of Satan as Predator during that scene (heavy breathing, shaky camera from some unseen enemy's view, etc.). My brother-in-law enjoyed this and another scene, citing Ring Wraiths as the inspiritation. Frankly, that doesn't help the case in my mind. Is the Church so desperate for mass appeal that it has borrow from Bro. Jackson?

The story of Jane Manning breaks my heart. Here's a precis for those you don't know. Black woman joins church, moves to Nauvoo then to Utah with the Saints. She petitions several times to be allowed to get her endowment in the temple (she died in 1908). She is denied each time. However, her inclusion in this movie smacked a bit too much at an attempt to be multicultural. Clearly, I'm just a cynic.

The one thing that CIFs know how to do well is music. I was not disappointed here. Moving stuff.

Once again, we have a matyrdom scene that does not include the Smith's six shooter. That's ok, I suppose. Also, no mention of polygamy (again, reasonable) and a large emphasis on Brigham Young's ordination (but no mention of Thomas B. Marsh, who was the president of the quorum until excommunicated....I mention this because a. I am a brat and b. the movie made it look like BY was the only apostle ordained). There is one scene in which Joseph has painfully obvious garment lines. I'm still at a loss for the purpose of that.

Another part that still loses me is the purpose of this film. I can see it as two options: hagiography or missionary tool. As a hagiography, it does a nice job, but only for the initiated. I'm not sure if someone who does not know the history came to the CIF if they'd really understand what's going on. Also, the Mormons are always the victims, especially the women. So, a nice tribute to Joseph to be sure. However, as a missionary tool, it may fall a bit flat. It didn't make me keen to "find out more".

So, there you have my opinion of it. Check it out when you get a chance, as this is what the Restoration has built up to.