Watching both films during opening weekend gave me a perspective that I hadn’t expected. Logan had a powerful message about self-sacrifice and unconditional love that many faith-based filmmakers would die for. The Shack on the other hand had a montage of messages that caused me to forget the one that seemed important to me at the time. The convoluted messages weakened the entire story.
Logan had great actors playing at the top of their game. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart both hit grand slams with their multi-dimensional characters. The Shack also had greatness in Oscar® winner Octavia Spenser, but she was limited by playing a one-dimensional character, as was Sam Worthington.
The greatest weakness displayed by The Shack came from the writer breaking the cardinal rule of screenplay adaptation. The main story in the book (plot A) was about Mac’s journey from justified hatred to forgiveness, working through his abusive childhood and the loss of his daughter to a pedophile killer. The secondary story (plot B) was about the search for his kidnaped daughter, the serial killer, and finding closure from the crime.
For a successful adaptation to work on screen, plot-B must become the main story and plot-A must become the secondary story in order to create direction, action and pacing. By not doing this, the audience finds themselves eavesdropping on a man’s slow, methodical therapy session for the majority of the film. Had the writer switched the plotlines the story would’ve turned into a great thriller with multi-dimensional characters.
Instead, the writer decided to stay true to the book, which can’t be done properly in another medium. This decision killed the film from taking off as a general audience hit and confined it to a faith-based audience. When a show like the Lion King is taken from a successful film and turned into a Broadway hit, no one questions the necessary story transformation of the film and stage media.
But, some forget the differences between a book and film, which requires just as much transformation to shift the story from one medium to the other. The physical medium itself requires story changes to keep faithful to the original work.
Logan also held steady to its Marvel canon, while The Shack broke its biblical canon 11 times according to Berean Research. This breaking away from its beloved truths sent some panicking and protesting. Many true faith-based fans avoided the film for that very reason, and who can blame them? No one wants to watch a Star Trek movie that breaks the beloved Roddenberry canon.
Yet, there are plenty of churches that agreed to watch the film in support of the slow growing faith-based pool of films, so it should land around $60-70MM when all is said and done. But, had the story been structured for the medium with multi-dimensional characters, the story would have come in around $200-$250MM based on similar structured stories from the past.
I fully enjoyed Logan because it was a solid story with a Judeo-Christian worldview and phenomenal acting. I did not get my monies worth from The Shack because it was a poorly structured story, its message was an eclectic mix of several religions, and the talent was wasted with one-dimensional characters.
While I would’ve preferred a PG-13 version of Logan instead of its R-rating, I whole-heartedly enjoyed the story. The best part was watching the characters struggle with the human condition. At first Logan took the selfish route to alleviate his own pain, yet deep inside he still chose to help the professor. Then by the midpoint Logan is faced with the reality of love and its true meaning. After fighting with his internal issues, he succumbs to his heart and accepts what is true and right. He charges forward into act 3 demonstrating unconditional love through self-sacrifice for others—dying for his daughter and her friends.
The Shack could have been just as powerful, but the filmmakers chose a different path. It’s too bad people are supporting those bad choices, as the filmmaker will continue to make the same mistakes going forward because of his “success.”