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Dogma (film)

Dogma is a 1999 comedy film, written and directed by Kevin Smith, who stars in the film along with Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, Bud Cort, Salma Hayek, Chris Rock, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes, George Carlin, Janeane Garofalo, and Alanis Morissette.

Brian O'Halloran and Jeff Anderson, the stars of Smith's debut film Clerks, have cameo roles, as do Smith regulars Scott Mosier, Dwight Ewell, Walt Flanagan, and Bryan Johnson.

The film is a satire of the Catholic Church and Catholic belief, which caused organized protests and much controversy in many countries, delaying release of the film and leading to at least two death threats against Smith. The film follows two fallen angels, Loki and Bartleby, who attempt to get back into Heaven—however, as God is infallible their success would prove Him/Her wrong and undo all creation. Thus, the last scion and two prophets are sent by the Voice of God to stop them. Aside from some scenes filmed on the New Jersey shore, most of the film was shot in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The film was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay as well as a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America honor for Best Screenplay.

This film was rated R by the MPAA “for strong language including sex-related dialogue, violence, crude humor and some drug content”.

Like many of Smith's films, the movie is noted for its heavy use of profanity. The word "fuck" is used 106 times in the film, and the word "shit" 38 times.

Plot

The film opens with an old man looking at the ocean from a New Jersey boardwalk, outside a skee ball arcade. He is then set upon by three teenagers that beat him into a coma with hockey sticks.

Two fallen angels — Bartleby (Ben Affleck), a watcher, and Loki (Matt Damon), formerly the Angel of Death — were banished from Heaven by God after Bartleby convinced Loki to stop killing humans. Forced to live out their lives in a place worse than Hell, Wisconsin, the two see their salvation when a church in Red Bank, New Jersey, celebrates its centennial anniversary with a plenary indulgence. By passing through the doors of the church, their sins would be forgiven, and upon death they would regain access to Heaven. However, by doing this, Bartleby and Loki will overrule the word of God (played by Alanis Morissette in a cameo role). Since the fundamental basis of existence is that God cannot be wrong, to do so would destroy existence itself.

In order to stop this from happening, the angel Metatron (Alan Rickman), the Seraph who acts as the Voice of God, appears to abortion clinic worker Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) and gives her the task of preventing Bartleby and Loki's return. Though reluctant at first, she changes her tune after she too is attacked by the same three teenagers and saved by Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith), two prophets whom Metatron said would appear. In addition to them, she is aided by Rufus (Chris Rock), the thirteenth apostle who was left out of the Bible because he was black, and Serendipity (Salma Hayek), a muse with writer's block turned stripper. Along the way to New Jersey, Bethany finds out that she is the Last Scion, the last living descendant of Mary and Joseph, and thus the last living relative of Jesus Christ.

On the way to New Jersey, Loki decides to kill the entire board of a company whose mascot is a golden calf named Mooby for idolatry and various personal sins. They are hoping to get back on God's "good side" before their return. The duo leave only one board member alive because she was "pretty much a good person," but Bartleby has to stop Loki killing her for not saying "God bless you" when he had sneezed. The demon Azrael (Jason Lee), a former muse, convinces them to be more subtle in their attempt to reach New Jersey, claiming that both the forces of Heaven and Hell are attempting to kill them (since God won't let them succeed and undo creation, and Satan won't let them succeed for fear they'll make him look bad), and that Loki's killing sprees are not helping. The two sides meet on a train unaware of the identity of the other, where a drunk Bethany reveals the consequences of proving God wrong to Bartleby. When their identities are revealed, Bartleby and Loki are thrown off the train by Silent Bob.

Bethany's revelation drives Bartleby insane. When Loki discovers what their success would result in he becomes reluctant to continue, but Bartleby rants on the unfairness of God's rule and decides existence would be better off destroyed. Loki comments that Bartleby's rant reminds him of Satan. Elsewhere, Metatron reappears and the group ponders over who could have orchestrated the duo's plan. Admitting that God cannot be contacted, Metatron explains God had gone to Earth in human form to play skee ball and they have been unable to contact Him/Her; apparently, someone knew enough to incapacitate Him/Her and leave Him/Her alive but unable to return to Heaven of His/Her own will. During this time Rufus and Metatron also tell Bethany of her lineage and how previously, Jesus similarly took until age thirty to come to terms with his.

When Bartleby and Loki reach the church, Bartleby goes on a killing spree as a ploy to lure police to the scene, intent on letting them kill him after he enters the church. Watching from a nearby bar, Azrael explains to Bethany that he is the mastermind behind their return to Heaven, wanting to destroy existence rather than spend eternity in Hell. He is dispatched when Silent Bob hits him with a golf club blessed by the Cardinal of the church. They reach the church before Bartleby and Loki (who has cut off his wings and become mortal), can enter. Bartleby kills Loki, who now opposes Bartleby's plight, and then fights Rufus, Serendipity, and Bob. When all hope seems lost, Jay mentions John Doe Jersey, a comatose patient in a hospital across the street who was beat up outside a skee ball arcade, and who is being kept on life support because of pro-life protesters. Realizing that this is God trapped in mortal form, Bethany and Bob race to the hospital as Jay foolishly shoots off Bartleby's wings with a submachine gun, turning him human.

At the hospital, Bethany removes the life support from God's human form. God manifests at the church and neutralizes Bartleby, then brings back to life all the people who had been killed. Silent Bob shows up with Bethany's corpse, injured in the manifestation of energy when God had been freed. God heals Bethany, and at the same time conceives a heir inside her, to carry on Sion's line. All the heavenly beings return to heaven through the Church doors, leaving Jay to crudely hit on Bethany.

Cast

The small role of a nun was played by Betty Aberlin, better known as "Lady Aberlin" from the children's television program Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

Characters

  • Bethany Sloane (the Last Scion) — a worker at an abortion clinic who is given the task of stopping Bartleby and Loki from returning to Heaven. Her husband left her because an infection rendered her infertile, which has also made her a lapsed Catholic. She is the last living descendant (the last scion) of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph of Nazareth. She is played by Linda Fiorentino.
  • Rufus — the thirteenth apostle who was written out of the Bible, which he attributes to racism. He knew Jesus, and claims that Jesus still owes him twelve dollars. He also says Jesus was Black, and that he was martyred in Antioch for preaching this. He helps Bethany, Jay, and Silent Bob to reach New Jersey in exchange for them helping him change the Bible (making sure he is included and that Jesus' race is corrected, for starters). He is played by Chris Rock.
  • Bartleby — an omniscient grigori watcher angel who, feeling sorry for the human race, asked Loki to lay down his sword. Both were expelled from Heaven and banished to Wisconsin. Initially the more laid back and reasonable of the two, his sanity snaps when he comes to the realization that God has given humans "infinite patience" and the choice of whether or not to worship Her, while the angels' lives were meant to be those of servitude and they in turn were exiled for a single transgression. He subsequently becomes a deranged, unstable killer. He is played by Ben Affleck.
  • Loki — the former angel of death who, after getting drunk with Bartleby one day, lays down his sword and flips God off, leading to his and Bartleby's expulsion from Heaven. More extroverted and humorously aggressive than his partner, he has no qualms about killing those who have committed harsh sins in the past with a recently purchased Desert Eagle, though he is unwilling to kill the innocent. He also likes to convince members of the clergy that there is no God, despite knowing full well there is; his stated reason for doing so is to "keep them on their toes". Loki experiences a role reversal when Bartleby snaps. He is played by Matt Damon.
  • Azrael — a muse who was sent to Hell after hiding during the war between God and Lucifer. He plots to wipe out existence itself by getting Bartleby and Loki back into Heaven: his reasons for doing so is that after spending millennia in Hell, Azrael would rather destroy existence and himself along with it than go back there. His minions are the Stygian Triplets and Noman the Golgothan. Azrael is actually the name of the Islamic angel of death. He is played by Jason Lee.
  • Jay and Silent Bob — two stoners/dealers/prophets from New Jersey who join Bethany on her quest after saving her from the demon triplets. They originally joined in the hopes Bethany would have sex with them, then because she would pay them, and finally to help save Earth. Both do, in fact, help save the world: Bob finds the article about Cardinal Glick and Jay inadvertently reveals where God has been hidden all this time. They are played by Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith.
  • Metatron — the voice of God, as God's voice cannot be heard by humans without their heads exploding (Metatron muses that 'it took us five Adams to figure that out!'). A wise yet cynical Seraph, Metatron's demeanor is usually ruined by one thing or another getting on his clothes. He is played by Alan Rickman.
  • Serendipity — a muse who got a body on Earth so she could get credit for her work, only to find that her powers of inspiration couldn't be used for personal gain. She instead began work as a stripper (though she lacks female genitalia). She tells Bethany that God is really a woman, and she wrote the Bible to reflect this, but those actually doing the writing were all men and thus changed the entire book to put women in a more unfavorable light. It should be stated that in spite of her indignant stance on God's feminity, both Rufus and the Metatron state that God is neither male nor female, but is simply 'God'. She claims to be responsible for 19 of the top 20 movies of all time: someone sold their soul to Satan to inflate the grosses on Home Alone. She is played by Salma Hayek.
  • Cardinal Ignatius Glick — Cardinal at a church in Red Bank who launches a campaign for a new form of Catholicism called "Catholicism Wow!" Bethany best describes him as, "The kind of asshole who'd bless his golf clubs for a better game". He is played by George Carlin.
  • The Golgothan "Shit Demon" — Hell's Chief assassin, an "excremental" formed out of the excrement of all who were crucified at Golgotha when they died. He can fire explosives balls of feces from his hands as projectiles, and is strong enough to easily defeat five humans in combat. He is summoned by Azrael to attack Bethany, but is defeated by Silent Bob with air freshener ('knocks strong odors out'). He is voiced by Ethan Suplee.
  • Stygian Triplets — three teenagers brought from Hell by Azrael to aid in his machinations. They wear roller skates and wield hockey sticks. In a deleted scene, they are revealed to have murdered a toddler by smashing its skull in while they were still alive, just to see what it looked like. They were killed in a car crash on the way to a detention center. Jay, Rufus and Serendipity defeat the three by dunking their heads in blessed water (courtesy of Bethany). They are never shown talking, but they do seem to emit an audible sound similar to buzzing insects such as flies or locusts. They are played Barret Hackney, Jared Pfennigwerth and Kitao Sakurai.

Controversy

Although there was no opposition to the film while the actual filming and pre-production was taking place, the following months of post-production and publicity were plagued with controversy over a perceived anti-Christian message in the film.

In an interview, Smith said: "You gotta find the line, and then cross it".

Over time, the filmmakers received over 300,000 pieces of hate mail, which Smith posted on his website. Among these were "two-and-a-half" death threats. Smith explained this in his movie An Evening with Kevin Smith: One of the letters was threatening to start with, then became more friendly further on. The Catholic League in particular attacked Disney and Miramax, the original distributors, for being anti-Catholic. The film was originally scheduled to come out in November of 1998, but was pushed back to November of 1999 in the hopes the controversy would die down. When that didn't work, Disney sold the film's distribution rights to Lions Gate Films.

When the film actually came out, Kevin Smith and his friend Bryan Johnson participated in a protest at the Sony Multiplex in Eatontown, New Jersey, carrying a sign which read "Dogma is Dogshit." A news crew captured the incident and broadcast an interview with Smith (though he wouldn't give his name) on News 12 New Jersey that can be found on Youtube

Disclaimer

The film opens with the following disclaimer:

''Disclaimer: 1) a renunciation of any claim to or connection with; 2) disavowal; 3) a statement made to save one's own ass.

Though it'll go without saying ten minutes or so into these proceedings, View Askew would like to state that this film is from start to finish a work of comedic fantasy, not to be taken seriously. To insist that any of what follows is incendiary or inflammatory is to miss our intention and pass judgment; and passing judgment is reserved for God and God alone (this goes for you film critics too... just kidding).

So please before you think about hurting someone over this trifle of a film, remember: even God has a sense of humor. Just look at the Platypus. Thank you and enjoy the show.

P.S. We sincerely apologize to all Platypus enthusiasts out there who are offended by that thoughtless comment about Platypi. We at View Askew respect the noble Platypus, and it is not our intention to slight these stupid creatures in any way. Thank you again and enjoy the show.

DVD

In 2001 a two-disc special edition DVD of the film was released with numerous extra features including:

  • Commentary by director Kevin Smith, actors Ben Affleck, Jason Mewes and Jason Lee, Uber-producer Scott Moiser and View Askew Historian Vincent Pereria
  • Commentary by director Kevin Smith, Producer Scott Mosier and View Askew Historian Vincent Pereira
  • Complete Set of Storyboards from Three Major Scenes
  • 100 Minutes of Deleted Scenes with View Askew Crew Intros
  • Cast and Crew Outtakes
  • Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash Spot
  • Saints and Sinners Talent Files

The deleted scenes include one where Loki explains to Silent Bob his take on Star Wars and how it is actually about religious conflicts.

The DVD was originally scheduled to include a documentary called Judge Not: In Defence of Dogma, which detailed the protests and controversy surrounding the film. Because the documentary portrayed The Walt Disney Company quite negatively in their handling of the film, Disney threatened legal action, forcing the featurette to be removed. The documentary was eventually released on the DVD for Vulgar. For the same reason, all references to Disney on the DVD's running commentaries are censored.

In a 2005 radio interview, Smith announced the possibility of a new edition of the DVD in the coming years.

In an interview, Smith said that Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the home video distributors of the film, wants to release an extended edition DVD, much to his surprise.

Sequel

In late November 2005, Smith was asked about a possible Dogma sequel on the ViewAskew.com message boards. His response:

"So weird you should ask this, because ever since 9/11, I have been thinking about a sequel of sorts. I mean, the worst terrorist attack on American soil was religiously bent. In the wake of said attack, the leader of the "Free World" outed himself as pretty damned Christian. In the last election, rather than a quagmire war abroad, the big issue was whether or not gay marriage was moral. Back when I made "Dogma", I always maintained that another movie about religion wouldn't be forthcoming, as "Dogma" was the product of 28 years of religious and spiritual meditation, and I'd kinda shot my wad on the subject. Now? I think I might have more to say. And, yes - the Last Scion would be at the epicenter of it. And She'd have to be played by Alanis. And we'd need a bigger budget - because the entire third act would be the Apocalypse. Scary thing is this: the film would have to touch on Islam. And unlike the Catholic League, when those cats don't like what you do, they issue a death warrant on yer ass. And now that I've got a family, I'm not as free to stir the shit-pot as I was when I was single, back when I made "Dogma". I mean, now I've gotta think about more than my own safety and well-being. But regardless - yeah, a "Dogma" followup's been swimming around in my head for some time now."

Smith later commented he was amazed that the post was picked up by the press and noted that he had only thought about it and had not actually written anything yet. Smith also stated that even if the project ever formulates, it is a very long way off.

A one-shot comic featuring Bartleby and Loki was announced by Smith in 2000. It was going to be a 50 (or so) page story detailing how these two angels confronted God and were kicked out of Heaven and forced to stay in Wisconsin. As of February 2008, the comic remains on Smith's agenda, but has not been worked on.

Connected To

View Askewniverse References

  • The "Got Nails?" poster in the train when Silent Bob throws out the two angels is the same as the one which is outside of the QuickStop in the films Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Clerks II. Silent Bob also has a Zippo lighter featuring the fictitious company.
  • On the train, Jay can be heard describing the events of Mallrats to Bartleby and Loki.
  • On the train, Rufus is seen wearing a Mooby shirt, the restaurant/corporation seen in this movie, as well as in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and Clerks II.
  • On the train when Rufus wakes up he mutters the words "poopie trim", that is the same phrase Willam Black mutters in Mallrats.
  • After the climactic scene at the church, Jay suggests to Silent Bob that they travel to QuickStop, the New Jersey convenience store that acted as the chief filming location in Clerks. and was seen again in Chasing Amy. The duo are standing in front of the QuickStop in the subsequent View Askew film to Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
  • Azrael (Jason Lee) says to one of the Stygian Triplets "One side, Red." Lee's character in Mallrats said the same line while pushing through the crowd in front of the mall comic book store.
  • God in human form (Bud Cort) is seen outside a skeeball arcade. Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams' characters played skeeball at a boardwalk arcade in Chasing Amy.
  • The newscaster played by Brian O'Halloran in the airport scene, when Loki is reading the newspaper article, is named Grant Hicks, a reference to Gil, Jim, and Dante Hicks who were all played by O'Halloran in Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Clerks, plus the other View Askewniverse movies. These four people are known as the Identical Hicks Cousins, according to Kevin Smith, because they all look the same but are not brothers.
  • When Loki and Bartelby try to get tickets to New Jersey, there is a sticker on the window that says 'DERRIS', a reference to View Askew regular character Rick Derris. The "DERRIS" bus line is seen again in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
  • At the end of the credits, it says "Jay and Silent Bob will return in Clerks 2: Hardly Clerkin". While the actual Clerks II was not released until 2006, the characters of Jay and Silent Bob followed their appearance in Dogma with appearances in the short-lived Clerks: The Animated Series. Film-wise, their next roles were in the 2001 comedy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
  • The clerk at the gun store where Loki looks to purchase a weapon for his killing spree, is Jeff Anderson from Smith's other movies Clerks and Clerks II.
  • In Dogma after Loki fires a shot in a bus, causing it to stop and the passengers to flee, he walks out calmly singing "Whose house... Run's house!", a line from Run DMC's "Run's House". This same song is played in the club in Chasing Amy, in the scene where Holden McNeil finds out the girl he loves (Alyssa Jones) is in fact lesbian.

References to other media

  • When Loki (Damon) is trying to talk the nun out of Christian faith in the beginning, he refers to "The Walrus and the Carpenter" from the book Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll.
  • Bartleby and Loki refer to Krush Groove and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on the bus.
  • Silent Bob says to a shocked passenger, after throwing the two angels off the train, "No ticket," a direct reference to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when Jones throws a German officer out the window of a Zeppelin.
  • The Metatron (Rickman) refers to The Karate Kid movie series, saying, "Wax on, wax off," when God (Morrisette) places her hands over Bethany and resurrects her.
  • The Metatron also refers to The Six Million Dollar Man, telling Bethany, "She can rebuild you. She has the technology. She can make you better, stronger, faster."
  • When Rufus (Rock) first falls out of the sky, Jay comments, "Maybe he has a message written on him, like in Con Air!" In the movie Con Air, Dave Chappelle's character was killed and a message was written on his body, which was then thrown out of an airplane to alert the authorities that it had been hijacked by its prisoner passengers.
  • In the scene when Bartleby and Loki confront Cardinal Glick in front of the church, Glick asks a police officer named McGee to remove them, to which Bartleby replies, "Mr. McGee, don't make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." In the TV series The Incredible Hulk, one of the main characters was a reporter named McGee, and "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" was a frequently recurring line.
  • Typical of Kevin Smith's movies, this movie features a Star Wars reference: in the diner scene, after Bethany asks Jay if he will take her to New Jersey, he says to Bob, "This is just like Star Wars. I'm Han Solo, you're Chewie, she's Ben Kenobi, and we're in that fucked-up bar!"
  • There are several references to films by John Hughes, including Sixteen Candles, Weird Science, and The Breakfast Club, all mentioned by Jay during the diner scene when he speaks of searching for Shermer, Illinois. The character Serendipity (Hayek) also references Home Alone, saying that it is "the only one of the top 20 highest grossing films" that she did not inspire.
  • In the DVD version, Chapter 12, timestamp 43:55, Rufus is telling Bethany a secret from her past that nobody knows about. The boy's name is Bryan Johnson, which is the actual name of one of Kevin's best friends (he plays Steve-Dave) and Anthony Michael Hall's character in The Breakfast Club.

Production

  • The "Mooby's" restaurant used in the movie was a remodeled Burger King location in Pittsburgh. The store, as well as numerous other Burger King locations nationally at this time, closed down unexpectedly shortly before filming as a result of the company's financial problems at the time.
  • Before shooting, Kevin Smith warned Jason Mewes that he needed to be on point due to the involvement of "real actors," such as Alan Rickman. As a result, Mewes memorized not only his dialogue, but the dialogue for every character in the entire screenplay, much to Smith's surprise.
  • Kevin Smith originally approached director Robert Rodriguez to direct the film. Rodriguez turned him down, citing the fact that the film seemed too personal, and suggested that Smith should direct it himself.
  • Two prominent Pittsburgh buildings are used in this movie: the U.S. Steel Tower (Mooby Inc.), and The Grand Concourse (the fancy restaurant). The conference room massacre-scene was filmed in the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. All the props in the room were fakes, except for the phone that Loki (Matt Damon) threw a knife into.
  • The "Wisconsin" airport scene in the beginning of the film was actually shot at Pittsburgh International Airport, complete with cheesehead stands.
  • There is no church in McHenry, Illinois that looks like the one featured in the movie. The same church is seen in the Blues Brothers movie, though, which takes place in Illinois, as well.
  • Alanis Morissette plays God in Dogma; she also wrote and recorded the song "Still" for the movie. "Still," and the film's orchestral score by Howard Shore. were released on the album Dogma: Music from the Motion Picture.
  • Jay makes a reference to The Piano when he first sees God (Alanis Morissette). Holly Hunter, who starred in (and won an Oscar for) The Piano, was approached at one time to play God. Although she declined the part, Kevin Smith chose to keep the line in the movie.
  • According to Kevin Smith's comments on the Dogma publicity stills on the film's official website, there was going to be a final faceoff between Silent Bob on one side and the redhead Triplet and the Golgothan on the other side in the hospital. The Triplet would come back with a burned-out face, and at the end of the battle, God would turn the Golgothan into flowers. The scene was dropped from the final cut of the film.
  • The scenes shown outside of the abortion clinic were in a city outside of Pittsburgh called New Kensington. The place was actually a private doctor's office, but had been without a tenant for years.

References

External links

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