Expelled Review I

4/26/2008 | 1:42 PM | Evolved Rationalist

Yesterday, I decided to finally watch the Expelled crocumentary with an atheist friend to see what all the fuss was about. Below is my friend's review of the movie from a film-making perspective. My review will be posted later, so don't worry about me deserting this blog. Expelled was too boring even to be made into a laugh-fest, and I would recommend that you do not waste your time watching this theistarded shitshow. ---Evolved Rationalist

Well, technically...
By John Ray

Cinematically, Expelled gets off to a lovely start. First-time director Nathan Frankowski chooses a nice, rich level of contrast and uses it to create some sparkling opening shots of our nation’s capitol. Those who knew what they were in for when they walked into the theater (presumably, most of the film’s so-far few attendees) were given an artistic visual rough outline of where the film was going. By the time we see Ben Stein taking a deep breath, looking indeed like “the little investigative journalist that could” in his trademark adorable little sneakers, the audience is practically eager to believe whatever he has to say.

Then he starts talking and the effect is ruined.

Suddenly, one can’t help but notice that the number of elaborate camera moves – from behind as well as in front of the stage – reveal that his whole opening spiel is farcically stilted, completely staged. And all of a sudden, as Ben Stein does his best to sound like he has emotions and can still write a speech like he used to for Richard Nixon (neither of which he accomplishes), those shots of Washington aren’t aesthetically striking anymore; they’re insulting. They’re being used to help along a clunky narrative that immediately seeks to package core American values into a cheesy, cardboard retooling akin to your high school commencement in its blandness and rhetorical uselessness. And, of course, there is ‘the enemy within’ implied in every word. The lifted 50s-style propaganda clips interspersed throughout are almost fitting. Almost.

It goes without saying that Ben Stein’s voice is only amenable to listening to in a comedic context, where his nasally drone is limited to either the “Anyone? Anyone?” we all know so well or the deliberately silly role of disinterested know-it-all in Win Ben Stein’s Money. You cannot listen to Ben Stein speak for more than two sentences consecutively without becoming uncomfortable. Never mind that he has evidently lost the ability to pronounce syllables correctly, sliding over them lazily so that “whatever” becomes “whever” and so on. All bad narrators are guilty of rushing their lines; Stein was a uniquely poor choice in that he is incapable, incipient speech impediment or no, of talking in a way that makes you want to listen.

And boy does he talk.

Ben Stein’s turgid drone drags us through an hour of repetitive, hollow sob stories interspersed with Ben Stein doing his worst to sound surprised at every tragic tale of persecution. Frequenters to this blog already know that none of their sob stories are true, but in a cinematic context, that’s almost beside the point.

Before the interviews get going, we get a clip of the dark, scary Richard Dawkins, staged in a poorly-lit study of some kind where his only visible features are a Gollum-esque glow in his eyes and the hairs on his upper lip. But before one can even smirk along with Frankowski’s ability to use lighting as a narrative tool, the camera – which starts to stagger with increasing frequency between shots, suddenly making us feel like we’re in an episode of 24 – cuts to the interviews of Stein’s cohorts, where it’s pretty much the same thing. Everyone, good guy or no, is either under-lit or, in the case of Guillermo Gonzalez, so overexposed he’s unwatchable, even though he’s about the only articulate subject they could find – aside from some French academic, whose opinions are so dry and baseless that he appears to be about the only person on earth who’d be comfortable having a conversation with Ben Stein. In fact this is so apparent that Stein actively goads him on, turning his own narrative role from that of the inquisitive newbie into the chubby-cheeked master of ceremonies.

Frankly the best interview shot was of atheist Daniel Dennett, standing against a large column in what was almost a dark, washed-out replication of that beautiful Charles Darwin photograph many know so well. Oops!

The interviews are the bulk of the message – yes, six played-up sob stories are meant to indict every place of biology research on earth – and expose yet another technical flaw with the movie. Someone didn’t edit things properly because the quality and timbre of the interviewees’ microphones tend to jump at random moments. It takes only a second to readjust your ears, a reflex that viewers of Expelled now wish they lacked, but in the mean time it makes one wonder if the production company handed over the sound editing to the interns or something along those lines.

And, of course, there are the absurd splices of b-roll footage spaced between almost every sentence. Someone talking about being “bullied” leads in to a black and white take of someone being bullied. In my time in the visual arts I had not heard this referred to as a “Lord Privy Seal,” but now that I have, I find it extremely apt. Richard Dawkinsreview already covered this hysterical bit of terrible directing in detail so I won’t bother here. It can’t be stated enough how much this effect will have you laughing throughout this film, when you aren’t bored to tears at least.

There’s one final basic lesson most people learn in their first semester of film school that Frankowski evidently never got: nobody wants to watch a movie about a guy walking. Every new interview requires at least five minutes of Ben Stein getting there, meandering along at a pace to match his voice, slow and dull.

By the time it gets to the Nazi propaganda, you’re only slightly surprised by it. At this point, after so many absurd directorial choices, technical gaffes, caricatured interviews, and cheesy narrative wearing a transparent mask of outrage, you feel so much like you’re watching the latest version of Loose Change that a conspiracy theory blown so comically out of proportion is by this point merely expected. Evolutionary biology equals Social Darwinism and understanding evolution is a “necessary condition for Nazism.” You don’t say. The framing of these claims is so bad that they don’t even scratch the surface of a credible criticism of mainstream science; they work against the movie’s intentions.

You only start to feel insulted when Ben Stein decides that the Holocaust is his “personal” reason for “investigating” evolution, and trust me, you feel really insulted. No, Ben Stein, your movie is not a personal crusade on behalf of your lost ancestors. No, Ben Stein, periodically putting your head in your hands while walking around Dachau at inappropriate points in a conversation does not endear you to an audience that you’ve already openly belittled, bored, and been dishonest with. NO, Ben Stein, you’re not poignantly reflecting on the dangers of pseudoscientific dogma. You, sir, are whoring out the horrific tragedies of the Holocaust in the name of your pet political agenda. I hope this is the first and last time the words “prostitute” and “Holocaust” can ever be associated by the same sentence, but so long as Intelligent Design marketers have seats to fill, that prospect seems dim.

For fill seats they have not. This movie was a box office failure, which would just be rather fitting along the same pattern as every other aspect of the production. The overt attempt to rap up the movie by comparing curmudgeonly skeptics like Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins to Nazi experimenters and deliberate enforcers of a religious dogma of ‘scientism’ will put half the audience in hysterics. The other half of the audience will just sit there quietly scratching their heads and wondering to themselves if they’re really meant to believe this crap. When I saw this movie, that “half” of the audience, rounding, was four people. It was a fitting show, for the only way to meet deafening stupidity is with a deafening silence so that the words can be heard loud and clear, the better to be mocked, ridiculed, and recognized for the sham that they represent.

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  1. tm |

    Bad science and bad flimmaking. The only better thing that can happen to them would be if they get their sued.

  2. Anonymous |

    There were only four people watching the movie apart from you two? Were they students?

  3. Evolved Rationalist |

    There were four senior citizens watching the movie with us.

    According to Chris Mooney, Expelled was a major success. You be the judge.

  4. homeopathy sux |

    Shalini, please tell me you didn't pay Ben Stein for the movie. Don't give Ben Stein money!

  5. creationist |

    Thank you Jesus that the ID scientists are exposing Darwinist lies although ID is wrong about the old earth!!!

    I am a scientist at AiG who cannot publish in Darwinist journals because the Darwinist persecute me and don't let me publish, and then they lie and say that I am not a real scientist although I have a PhD from Liberty University those Darwinists still don't respect me!!!!!!

    Shalini Sehkar exposed as a Nazi Darwinist because she supports eugenics!!!!

  6. Anonymous |

    I knew it was a matter of time before 'creationist' starts his rants about Nazi Darwinist and graduating from Liberty. Seriously, get a life.

  7. creationist |

    You Darwinists are jealous because I am a real scientist!

  8. creationist |

    Darwinism is not science, it is a religion and religion should be out of science classrooms. Creation is the real science because it is the truth!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. darwin |


    Will you please just shut the fuck up and stop being an annoying troll? Thanks.

  10. creationist |

    I am not a troll!! SHALINI SEHKAR is a troll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I am an AiG scientist, not a troll!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. christislord12 |

    Hallelujah for people like Ben Stein and Creationist from my favorite ministry! I pray that G-d will save the science worshippers from their false religion of evolution! Thank you Ben Stein!!

    Although he is a Jew, I am still praying for him!!

  12. ewtbrttvdrhrthb |

    hey john is shalini sucking your dick you are as bad as her terrible asshole athiests go fuck yourselfes stupid

  13. quercus |

    Wow, the trolls are out in full force again. I totally agree that Expelled is too boring to even laugh at, but my girlfriend and I watched it with some friends and we laughed and pissed off the ten or so fundies.

    EXPELLED: An amazing flop has never looked so good!

  14. John Infidel |

    Why did you put yourself through the horror of watching Expelled? You would have had to clean your brains out after the movie!

  15. Anonymous |

    Are you still okay after watching the movie? You must have had to do some serious head-banging after that.

  16. Anonymous |



  17. hbbtk |

    In the Dawkins-Myers post-Expelled discussion, Dawkins mentioned the bad flimmaking in Expelled. I wonder how such a big-budget documentary ended up with total shitty crap like this.

  18. John |


    Liberty University is not an accredited university which means that any piece of paper you get from there is absolutely worthless. Never mind that if your analytical skills and typing as demonstrated here on this blog wall are as good as your ability to synthesize novel information in a laboratory, there should be absolutely no mystery as to why nobody wants to get within a hundred yards of your "work."




    Thanks for the insight! You're a credit to your side in this debate. Bravo for the deep thought.

    Thank you all for being the proverbial fish in a barrel. Keep this trash coming, you're your own worst enemy.


  19. charlie |

    The trolls here demonstrate how accurate the tagline 'No Intelligence Allowed' is.

  20. Anonymous |



    HBBTK IS ALSO AN IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Evolved Rationalist |


    Thanks for the display of the typical YouTube theistard intellect. You could be the next big thing in Christianity!


    I would like to see your paper that was rejected for publication by those 'evil Darwinists'. Drop me an e-mail at blog[at]evolvedrational[dot]com


    Epic fail. FAIL.

  22. Anonymous |

    Nice review.


  23. Anonymous |

    On the other end we have the dogmatic, intellectually polarized scientist, refusing to acknowledge anything that cannot be tested empirically and often drastically overlooking great gains science could make if it were possibly just a bit more open-minded towards the evidence for religious, spiritual, or metaphysical aspects behind human existence.

  24. John Murphy |

    On the other hand, there is at least one honest advocate of evolution out there...

    "Evolution is unproved and improvable, we believe it because the only alternative is special creation, which is unthinkable."

    (Sir Arthur Keith)

  25. sciencefreak |

    John Murphy,

    Science does not depend on quotes. If you don't understand how science works, you should shut up about it or better yet, get an education.

  26. homeopathy sux |


    What will the evidence for that be? We are waiting.

  27. n |

    Why waste time watching Expelled?

  28. John |

    The superstitious have had several thousand years to find a shred of evidence for "religious, spiritual, or metaphysical aspects behind human existence" and so far have failed utterly. You weren't "expelled," you flunked.

  29. Anonymous |

    John Murphy,

    That Sir Arthur Keith quote is a classic used by creationists. It is also quite fictitious. Better brush up on your quote mining.

  30. Anonymous |

    "John Murphy,

    That Sir Arthur Keith quote is a classic used by creationists. It is also quite fictitious. Better brush up on your quote mining."

    Alright, well someone said it you idiot.

  31. Anonymous |

    Hi, I got here via a link from another website, so I'm a first timer. Great review - and a real review, covering substance, cinematography, etc.

    The "creationist" with the Liberty U degree looks to me to be a spoof - I wouldn't get too twisted about this person's comments. However, since it is my first time here I might be wrong.

  32. creationist |

    Shalini Sehkar EXPOSED as a Nazi!!!!

  33. Evolved Rationalist |


    The post was written by John Ray. Go back to remedial comprehension (and science) class.

  34. Anonymous |

    "That Sir Arthur Keith quote is a classic used by creationists. It is also quite fictitious. Better brush up on your quote mining.

    Alright, well someone said it you idiot."


    Go see the Quote Mine project on talkorigins. Please educate yourself before calling someone else an idiot.

  35. Cetacea |

    "Evolution is unproved and improvable, we believe it because the only alternative is special creation, which is unthinkable."


  36. Ponder |

    That evolution happens is a fact. How it happens is the theory, which frankly is looking pretty good. God? We have no need of THAT hypothesis. Natural processes beat "A magic man done it!".

    Belief in biological "Darwinism", as some call evolution, is no indication of a belief in social Darwinism. Indeed, being a rational being, a scientist is more likely to reject it. Secular morality.

    Expelled? Nothing more than a petty whine. Certain people on this comments list? Fools who can only counter their own insecurity by using pointless and flimsy arguments against those who don't buy into their Bronze Age wish-fulfillment fantasy.

    Keep up the good work Rationalist.


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