As I read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress for the first time, my internal filmmaker balked at the difficulties one would find in adapting it for the screen. So I mean it when I say I gladly applaud what Revelation Media did with this film.
Adapting such an archaic classic, with its relentlessly paced plot and thematic-heavy dialogue, into an engaging animation film for the 21st Century is no small feat. The result of their efforts is a successful three-act structure (albeit with a hasty first act) centered on the transformative journey of Christian Pilgrim.
The film aptly demonstrates Revelation Mediaʼs mission to “[deliver] engaging and culturally relevant animated films…that promote Biblical literacy, discipleship and world evangelism.”
It’s clear that the minds behind the film knew what they were doing. They knew their audience and made creative choices accordingly. This will surely give the film a firm reception among Christians across the globe.
In terms of aesthetic excellence, however, the animation style left something to be desired. There’s nothing wrong with this creative choice, per se, but I would have loved to see something more refined. Specifically, the textures, movements and lip-syncing could’ve used more time in the editing room to give the film an edge on the competing voices Christian media is up against (something Revelation Media understands).
My issue with the animation may be my personal preference, but I’m probably not the only one who feels that way. It’s an understandable fault given the scope and intent of the production, but my fear is that, for many audiences, the unpolished images will be more of a distraction than an inconsequential cosmetic decision.
My personal aesthetic preferences aside, the script is well-written, the voice acting is superb and the music complements the experience well. As a whole, it compels us to apprehend the cosmic drama it allegorizes.
The Heart of the Matter
The worldview promoted is certainly Biblical Christianity, and the formative impact of the film is one that incites trust and obedience. It does this by illustrating perseverance through suffering as the test of true faith. Additionally, it highlights the tumultuous nature of the
Like his desire for the Celestial City, the desire for the Really Real–God himself–is at the heart of the Gospel (Jer. 29:13; Matt. 7:7-8). This desire manifests itself at the start of Christian’s journey. The character, Evangelist, tells him to keep obeying what his heart is beckoning him towards: “You will soon see with your eyes what you believe in your heart.”
This echoes Jesus’ own words: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29).
As for the film’s theology, the Biblical themes of Bunyan’s story shine through without any obstruction. Specifically, this version focuses on the motifs of perseverance (Rom. 5:3-5; Heb. 12:1-2; Jam. 1:12), spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:12; 1 Pet. 5:8),suffering (2 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim. 3:12), God as Helper (Psa. 46:1; 54:4; Isa. 41:10; John 14:16), spiritual sight and hearing (Isa. 6:9-10; Matt. 11:15; Eph. 1:18), and the forfeiting of family for God (Matt. 10:34-39).
Revelation Media enhances Bunyan’s vision with an imaginative feat that brought me back to childhood. I truly wish this film came out when I was young. Steve Cleary’s visionary world-building awakens the yearning for Another World. Indeed, this film is a great example of why the genres of Fantasy and Fairy Tale are highly conducive to expounding and incarnating Christian theology.
Films of this sort are what the upcoming generation of Christians need. With Pilgrim’s Progress,they will find a story to inform their lives as they grow into adulthood and, hopefully, inspire the creatives among them to take up the mantle and produce compelling, Biblical art for their own generation.