Sitting down to watch a good film is one of the things our family loves most. So we had high hopes when we got the chance to watch the new CGI animation of John Bunyan’s 1678 classic novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress.
The story follows the character Christian on his journey from the ‘City of Destruction’ to the ‘Celestial City’. It's an allegory of the Christian walk, from the recognition of sin to salvation, and then, finally, to heaven.
Those who are already familiar with the story should be reassured to learn the film sticks faithfully to the key characters and plot of the book. Some scenes are missing, to allow for a decent running length (105 minutes), but overall the story feels both cohesive and close to the original.
My brother is ten and I am 13. We do not know the exact target audience of the film, but one website told us it was recommended for children from around the age of eight. However, as this is an allegory of the Christian life, there are some mature, or more serious, themes that are covered, which younger viewers might find distressing. These include a graphic depiction of despair – hinting at the taking of one’s own life.
Scarier scenes include fierce dragon-like demons, a battle with an arch demon (Apollyon) and hints of the death sentence of a core character – however the latter was dealt with far more sensitively than the 1978 film adaption, which traumatised my Dad when he was a child! Parents and carers may wish to review the film first before letting younger children see it.
This film brings the classic story to a new audience. The ideas presented about the Christian life in The Pilgrim’s Progress are key, but a 17th Century book isn’t a helpful way to convey them to younger people. But through this animation, the important messages of the book are presented in a way the whole family can understand and enjoy.
When it comes to production values, Pilgrim's Progress does not reach the heights of Pixar or other big budget animation studios (it looks a little dated). And some of the dialogue and voices were a bit mismatched to their characters.
Some might be disappointed that the frequent mentions of, and direct references to scripture that John Bunyan used are also missing from this film. In the book, scripture was quoted consistently throughout, as well as symbolised through many aspects of the story. However, clear gospel themes that did stick out in the film include the depiction of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and, at the end, water that signified death and new life. In the film, Christian’s burden rolls into a tomb as he is released from it at the cross. It's a brilliant way of underlining how Jesus is the only way to true freedom and salvation, and that our sins were buried with Christ when he died.
Overall, this is an entertaining film that presents key Christian ideas and vital themes in a way children can understand. It is an accurate recreation of the story and one the whole family will enjoy.
Emily Musters is 13 and loves reading, writing and art. She aspires to be a crazy cat lady and is the daughter of regular Premier Christianity contributor Claire Musters
Pilgrim's Progress will be showing in selected UK cinemas from 25 October