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September Dawn? Or September Snooze?

Seth - August 23, 2007

Most of our readers have probably at least heard of the upcoming movie adaptation of the Mountain Meadows Massacre – a dark moment in Mormon history, where a group of Mormon settlers and militia set upon a wagon train bound for California near Cedar City, Utah, killing men, women and children.

Daily Variety has published a biting review of the upcoming movie, describing it as a “middling frontier soap opera” with “ham-fistedly” obvious scenes and a gory climax that basically amounts to “massacre porn.” It also notes that the film is “less interested in understanding its Mormon characters than in demonizing them.”

Alright, I’m not sure many of us were expecting much better. But the part of the review that interested me was actually in the first paragraph:

Limited commercial prospects will depend on the film’s ability to exploit Mormon outrage — the louder, the better — with its angry and contentious view of a still-disputed tragedy.

So, basically, the movie is likely to be flop commercially and is depending on a newsworthy fight with the Mormon community to generate press for itself.

I don’t know… maybe…

What do you think? Should we just be ignoring this film as a second-rate historical retelling that will quickly die in obscurity? Or should we be outraged at this latest installment of anti-Mormon bigotry and character assassination? Should this film be dignified with a response?


  1. Not a loud public response. That would be doing the filmmakers too much of a favor. But I’ll tell anyone who talks to me about it that it’s grossly distorted.

    Comment by Tom — August 23, 2007 @ 8:18 am

  2. I suppose they were counting on the outrage that “Passion of the Christ” got from the Jewish community. It’s just not going to happen The Church PR dept. seems to choose its battles carefully.

    Comment by Tim J — August 23, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  3. I didn’t plan on seeing this movie, but it’s out tomorrow here in Salt Lake, so I’m going to check it out. The reviews have been fairly mixed, so I imagine it will flop, not just because it might be a poorly made film, but also, because it is a western – which rarely do well anymore. I’ll be posting my review sometime over the weekend.

    Comment by Dallas Robbins — August 23, 2007 @ 8:49 am

  4. Thanks for the link to the Variety review; I thought it was actually a slightly positive review. I had imagined that the movie would be dreadfully boring, but the Variety review made it sound at least watchable. I was intrigued by the idea of the movie flashing back to Joseph Smith’s death.

    I try to avoid R-rated movies these days so I probably won’t ever see this film.

    Comment by California Condor — August 23, 2007 @ 8:54 am

  5. How many people would have seen “The Last Temptation of Christ” if nobody would have protested?

    Comment by Tim — August 23, 2007 @ 9:38 am

  6. How many people would have ever learned the subjunctive case if nobody had taught them?

    Comment by Mark B. — August 23, 2007 @ 9:54 am

  7. Another review was linked in the comments at variety. You can read it here at http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A31846

    Comment by gilgamesh — August 23, 2007 @ 9:55 am

  8. As to the movie, ignore it. It’ll go away.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 23, 2007 @ 9:55 am

  9. Tim J.,
    Yeah, the Church’s PR department will ignore it. But I’ve received too many idiotic chain mails from relatives in Utah (and, sadly, LDS friends in New Jersey) to think that members will let it pass. I just pray that nobody launches an email campaign to get it taken out of release, or out of a theater, or whatever. It looks horrible and is getting horrible reviews, but if we stand up and yell, people will go, if only out of curiousity over what could piss off a group so badly.

    Comment by Sam B. — August 23, 2007 @ 10:18 am

  10. I have yet to see an ad for this movie on TV. Anyone else? If you have, where do you live?

    Comment by Tim J — August 23, 2007 @ 10:20 am

  11. Tim,

    I saw an ad last night at nearly midnight in a Seattle suburb. I’m sure it was on a cable channel, so I don’t know if it was a national ad or not.

    The only reason it caught my attention is because I had seen an online trailer and knew about it. I would have otherwise just spaced out through it.

    Comment by KyleM — August 23, 2007 @ 10:45 am

  12. I haven’t seen any ads on TV but when I watched them on the movie’s website I laughed my head off. I’ve been waiting for this movie to come out just to see how it all plays out. I was hoping to be someplace where people would ask me questions about it and I could point them in the right direction but I live in Utah now (sigh) and am afraid of watching some ill conceived protest response develop.

    We should be more like the Amish when a movie comes out about us. Just chuckle at the way those English perceive us and go bck to raising Jebediah’s barn.

    Comment by Bret — August 23, 2007 @ 10:51 am

  13. Tim, I saw an ad on Discovery Channel during Dirty Jobs. But that’s it.

    Comment by Clark Goble — August 23, 2007 @ 11:22 am

  14. How weird. I saw that same ad while watching Dirty Jobs Clark…

    Comment by Geoff J — August 23, 2007 @ 1:07 pm

  15. It must have been a nationally placed ad and I think most studios stopped placing ads locally. Though this might be an exception as they want to target the Rocky Mountain region. Interesting.

    Comment by Tim J — August 23, 2007 @ 1:20 pm

  16. Tim (#5):
    I’m not sure the response to The Passion of the Christ can be chalked up to merely “protest.” What other films that have been protested are in the Top 50 all-time grossing films, earning over $600M world-wide?

    But, the best protest to “Sept. Dung” is to ignore this coprolite and let it die a decisive financial failure death.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — August 23, 2007 @ 1:44 pm

  17. The film looks absolutely hilarious to me. I’m wondering myself if the net effect of it will be positive or negative about the church. I predict that it will impassion the extremists in both camps, make most non-LDS curious, outrage about as many non-Members as it ends up converting, and get people talking a lot more about the mountain meadows massacre. What I’m really curious to see is if it has any effect on the 2008 elections. But if it’s as poorly written as the reviews say it is, it’ll probably tank too soon for it to become a major issue.

    I’ve heard that the church is going out of the way to talk about the MMM and the controversies related to it, to the point of even including discussions of it in the Ensign. That’s a very good thing, to my mind. I think rather than protesting the movie, we should take a look at our history and use the movie as an opportunity to discuss it. The church has nothing to hide, even though the MMM was an unspeakably horrible tragedy.

    Comment by onelowerlight — August 23, 2007 @ 8:06 pm

  18. onelowerlight-

    I just got the Ensign in the mail today, and the MMM article was in it. Elder Richard Turley Jr. wrote it, and I must say, it was quite good.

    Look at the back of the Ensign for a letter from Nathan Oman about the article…

    Comment by Cheryl — August 23, 2007 @ 10:06 pm

  19. And Ebert says?

    ZERO stars.

    This movie will not do $10M. It is doubtful to show up in the top 10 over the weekend.

    Comment by Tim J — August 24, 2007 @ 6:03 am

  20. There are 12 theatres in Omaha playing first-run films–only two of them are showing September Dawn.

    Comment by Tim J — August 24, 2007 @ 6:06 am

  21. How many people would have ever learned the subjunctive case if nobody had taught them?

    Exactly as many as would have learned the subjunctive mood if nobody had taught them.

    What was this thread about? I forgot already.

    Comment by Last Lemming — August 24, 2007 @ 6:25 am

  22. Reviews are mostly negative, and I would guess that the film will disappear pretty quickly. I’m tracking the reviews here.

    Comment by Justin — August 24, 2007 @ 8:09 am

  23. I’m not sure the response to The Passion of the Christ can be chalked up to merely “protest.” What other films that have been protested are in the Top 50 all-time grossing films, earning over $600M world-wide?

    But, the best protest to “Sept. Dung” is to ignore this coprolite and let it die a decisive financial failure death.

    I wasn’t talking about Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”. I was talking about Scorcesee’s “The Last Temptation of Christ.” Totally different movies and totally different protest.

    Comment by Tim — August 24, 2007 @ 10:08 am

  24. Seth,
    You missed out on a great title opportunity. It should read: September Dawn or September Yawn You’re slippin man.

    Btw, I knew the film would be a bust when I saw that John Voight was playing John D. Lee.

    Comment by cj douglass — August 24, 2007 @ 6:27 pm

  25. Except John Voight doesn’t play JDL. Voight plays a fictional bishop, which the guy that played Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite is JDL.

    Comment by David Grua — August 24, 2007 @ 7:56 pm

  26. Sorry David. Let me correct myself. Any movie with John Voight is going to be a bust.

    Comment by cj douglass — August 25, 2007 @ 7:18 am

  27. Friday’s box office estimates are out, and September Dawn didn’t make the top 10. Expect this movie to disappear soon.

    Comment by Copedi — August 25, 2007 @ 10:54 am

  28. Here is the best, most hilarious review you’ll read about it. It ends with a short satirical script of the movie’s plot line.

    Comment by Bret — August 25, 2007 @ 2:39 pm

  29. cj – you obviously missed “Coming Home” in which Voight won the academy award for Best Actor. Yes! It was an R-rated movie and I willingly attended. Thangs have now changed in my life. But it was a great commentary on the current moral.social conflict of the day – VIETNAM! I’m just so amazed that George Bush had the nerve to even mention that conflict in a recent speech about Iraq.

    But, on the other hand, Jon Voight has produced some pretty lame performances recently.

    Comment by lamonte — August 25, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  30. lamonte,
    This is one of the last places you’ll be shunned for watching rated R movies. But I’ll give you “Coming Home” – that’s it.

    Comment by cj douglass — August 25, 2007 @ 5:17 pm

  31. And Ebert says?

    ZERO stars.

    I read this review to my family over dinner tonight. We thought it made some interesting points about religion, and was incredibly well written.

    After his illness last year, with so many months of enduring Ebert-less Fridays and having to face the harsh prospect that he might never get back up to speed, it is such a delight to have him back.

    (That’s even less starts than he gave Godzilla.)

    Comment by Naismith — August 25, 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  32. And, it appears, fewer people are seeing the movie than actually saw Godzilla (not the movie, the actual beast).

    See here.

    Comment by Mark B. — August 27, 2007 @ 1:46 pm

  33. I’ve heard this movie is a “Stinker” with a Capital S with Quotes. Usually they don’t postpone a good movie with great historical value. Usually it’s the odd ones.

    I’ve heard from someone who is LDS who saw the movie and it came out looking absurd and contrived. It is unbelievable. Highly unbelievable and that’s why the investment money on this one will go un-recouped.

    Comment by Jamie Trwth — August 28, 2007 @ 10:12 pm

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