Monday, November 10, 2014

The Brick Bible: The New Testament

Originally, I meant to write reviews of both the Old and New Testament Brick Bibles at the same time, but I had to return the Old Testament to the library because someone else needed a religious LEGO fix.  I have extremely vivid memories of that book, but I'd like to have it in hand while writing my review.  Hence, I give you my impressions of The Brick Bible: The New Testament.  You have to wait for LEGO smiting of the Israelites until I can get my hands on the OT again.

Before reviewing this Bible version I would like to throw out there that I am Christian and that I have read the Bible through several times before.  I fully recognize that the Bible includes blood, gore, and sexual content. However, I'm looking at this version critically because it claims to be a full retelling of the Bible. 

Many people find the Bible a hard book to read, and I can see why a LEGO Bible would have appeal.  Powell Smith has stated that he feels it's important for people to read the Bible, even if they are atheists, agnostics, or a member of another religion.  That's true.  Even if you read it solely for literary value, you cannot deny that it is a seminal book in human history.

Although I have to admire Powell Smith's seemingly single-minded determination to craft these extremely intricate LEGO ... what do I call them ... dioramas? ... I'm not in awe of his storytelling or adaptive abilities.  One big problem that this book has (and which TBB:TOT also has) is that Powell Smith does not include all of the books of the Bible.  Obviously, it would take a Very Long Time to do all of the books, but really, a lot of them could have been done in a few panels (the book of Philemon, for example: "Hey Philemon, take your slave back and don't get mad at him.  He converted to Christianity just like you!"  No big.).  Instead, you get a cherry-picked version of the Bible that conforms to how Powell Smith sees the Bible: full of Sexytimes and Smiting.

And that's really the issue I have with this: the author focuses so much on any bit of violence or sex that there is in the Bible that anything positive gets steamrolled.  I also found BB:TNT to be more confusing than the OT version, as Powell Smith takes all four Gospels and tosses them into a blender, and he ends up repeating the same account because it's from different books.  Although some of the LEGO work is really cool (Powell Smith is MUCH better at inanimate scenes than people, let me tell you that), most of the time it's just plain silly.  A lot of this has to be seen to be believed, so if you have free access to a copy, it's worth a look (although, as I mentioned before, The New Testament is much more difficult to follow, which is odd, because usually the story of Jesus and the foundation of Christianity is pretty cut-and-dried).

Let's go!

Part 1: The Gospels

The angel Gabriel walks in on the virgin Mary primping in a mirror and tells her that she's going to be pregnant!  She asks, "How?" and in pops the Holy Ghost, who is literally a ghost LEGO.  I use the term Holy Spirit, but I know many Bible translations use "ghost."  However, I'm pretty sure that the Holy Spirit/Ghost shouldn't look like it could be on a box of Boo Berry.  I was thinking more of a vague smudgy thing that sparkled ... but then you wouldn't get such visuals as the Ghost going into people.

Mary pops off to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  In this account (Luke 1), the main point is that Elizabeth, who is much older, is also miraculously pregnant, and when Mary enters, the baby in Elizabeth's womb jumps for joy.  This baby is John the Baptist.  I mean, that's pretty neat.  Instead, Powell Smith does a very drawn out reenactment of Elizabeth's praise of God.  Missed opportunity.

Joseph and Mary go to Bethlehem where Mary gives birth to a LEGO head that is larger than her own body.  Ew.  When King Herod orders all the young boys in Bethlehem to be killed, it's quite graphic.  Lots of LEGO blood.  Later on, John the Baptist shows up, and his LEGO face basically makes him look like he's on acid.

After Jesus gets baptized, he's tempted by the Devil, who looks like Severus Snape and Dracula had a son.  He gathers his disciples, one of whom (the apostle/Saint John) is a pirate.  Seriously.  He has an anchor tattoo on his bare chest.  Powell Smith also confuses Matthew and Levi as being two separate people, when they're in fact one and the same.

The depiction of the Sermon on the Mount is actually kind of hilarious.  Powell Smith uses two Gospels together, so it might read a little differently than you know it.  For example, "Blessed are the poor" shows a man grabbing a giant drumstick out of a garbage can and then going to heaven (yay!) but "Woe to you who are rich" sends the guy straight to fiery Hell.  Jesus also pushes a rich man off of a cliff (I am not making this up).  The Pharisees don't like Jesus' speech much, and they also happen to be dressed like ninjas.

The interpretation of "turning the other cheek" is also really odd.  A guy is being beaten with a baseball bat.  He's supposed to a) keep getting beaten, b) give the bad guy a cake, c) give the bad guy money, and d) also a Lamborghini.  If he doesn't do all this, he's going straight to Hell.  Um ... I don't think that was the point, but, hey, the author got to build a fancy car out of LEGOs, so.  Jesus implies that family members are going to be literally slaying each other with pitchforks, shovels, and other garden implements.

Although the part where Jesus walks on the Sea of Galilee is done very well, we get right back into Hell pretty quickly after that.  When Jesus heals a demon-possessed boy, Powell Smith inserts a totally different scripture about demons that implies that Jesus healed the kid only for him to be possessed by seven demons instead.  Go back.  Check your sources.  This makes Jesus seem like a really horrible guy.  He tells you that if you insult your father and mother, you're going to be sent to the electric chair (so sayeth the picture).

You know the part about cutting off your leg or hand or pulling out your eye so that you'll be saved?  Yeah, a guy ends up with a peg leg and a hook, but then he goes to heaven.  Why did he have to cut off those limbs?  Well, he evidently had issues with simultaneously kicking his boss and groping his coworker's butt.


Eventually, the ninja Pharisees pay Judas to betray Jesus, who's then tried, killed, and resurrected.  There's a nude fishing scene that's particularly ... fun.

Yay!  We made it to Part II: Acts of the Apostles

The apostles perform "signs and wonders" which are depicted as pulling rabbits out of top hats.  Because people living in 1st Century Judea totally had top hats.  The rest is all pretty straightforward: persecution, Saul gets converted, King Herod gets bashed over the head by an angel (wait, what?) and the Holy Ghost pops in to send Paul and Barnabas off to pull more rabbits out of more anachronistic top hats.  There's also an extremely creepy circumcision scene with Paul and Timothy.  I'm not sure if the author really understand that circumcision and castration are not the same thing.  Ouch.

Now, the showpiece, right?  Part III: Revelation of John.  God tells Jesus, and Jesus tells an angel, and an angel tells John (now dressed as a caveman and not a pirate, thank goodness) in a celestial game of telephone what's Going To Happen.  The four living creatures who have eyes all over are really excited and happy looking, because LEGO stick-on eyes are ... happy and excited-looking.  John has a temper tantrum when no one can open a scroll, but the a GIANT LAMB with its head partially off and its chest covered in blood shows up.

Clearly, the whole, "See, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" line regarding Jesus doesn't apply here.  Nope.  It is really a giant "lamb" that looks more like an angry polar bear on two feet.  Much smiting follows.  All the fire effects here look quite nice, but to have them in like every single panel is a bit of overkill.  Also, a lot of blood.

Revelation 12, where Michael the Archangel battle the Dragon, involves angels with machine guns.  'Nuff said.

Then, the famous beasts of Revelation appear.  One of them appears to have the head of a Gamorrean from a Star Wars LEGO set.
Fear the pig-beast!
Angels slice people up with sickles with gleeful expressions, and then stomp on their bodies in God's winepress.  Then more stuff happens, the angels come back with horses and machine guns, fight the beasts and Satan, and yay!  They win!  Then all the "souls of those who were decapitated for their testimony about Jesus" come back to life as priests, because obviously the only people who were executed for being Christians were men.  Duh.  

Scene: THE FUTURE.  Humans live in space with flying air bubble cars.  Unfortunately, Satan shows up and starts another battle.  God zaps him with fire and tosses him in the the fiery lake.  Space people rejoice!  Unless they're in like the four pages of all the people who go to hell, in which case, they are not happy.  

Final scene: Jesus says he is coming as a thief.  So he puts on a cap, busts in through someone's window, and takes the homeowner utterly by surprise as he sips coffee in the nude.  As you do.

The end.  

I mean, I skipped summarizing a lot of it, but a lot of the LEGO heads are either hilarious or inappropriate or both, although there is a lot less nudity in general than there was in TBB:TOT.  There were a lot of positive parts that the author could have put in, but he really focused on making Jesus seem like an awful person and highlighting every single instance of blood, death, plague, or general smiting in the Bible.  Yeah, that stuff comes up, but it's really not like Smiting-R-Us.  

It's an interesting read if you have read the Bible, because then you go poking around to see what matches up and what doesn't, but if you're not familiar with the text at all, I wouldn't recommend this as a substitute.  Because then you'll think that Saint John was a pirate.  




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