As we head into the last seven days before the film’s release, there is, yes, more news to report than you could shake a stick at. I couldn’t possibly link to it all, so here’s a summary from the last couple of days.
Leading the pack is a threat of legal action from computer animation company XVIVO. As succinctly reported at the NCSE site,
XVIVO, the animation company which produced an award-winning animation of “The Inner Life of the Cell,” charged producers of a forthcoming “intelligent design” film with copyright infringement. In a letter to Logan Craft, chairman of Premise Media Corp., the producer of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (featuring Ben Stein), XVIVO claimed that a segment of Expelled portraying the complexity of the cell is patterned upon segments of their well-known animation, produced on behalf of Harvard University. … XVIVO demanded that Premise Media “remove the infringing segment from all copies of the ‘Expelled” film prior to its scheduled commercial release on or before April 18, 2008.”
The NCSE article links to a PDF of the original letter.
As the letter itself points out, the charge is based not the on the film per se, but on the contents of a promotional DVD for the film. Having seen all three (the original Harvard footage, the promotional footage in question, and the sequence as included in the final cut of the film itself), I am highly doubtful that the claim against the film has merit. My recollection is that the sequence in the film is markedly different from both the Harvard material and the promotional piece. Further, whether XVIVO is the actual copyright holder of the original material is in doubt. (I’m also not sure whether distribution of the promotional material would be actionable, even if copyright infringement occurred in that case.)
I have been waiting to report on this until comment from a major news organization that could do a much better job of investigative reporting than I could, but thus far no one is touching the story. That’s rather puzzling, as the threat of injunction against a major film release when over 1000 prints of the film have already been struck is pretty newsworthy.
Not much to add at this point, other than a pretty irate open letter from XVIVO head David Bolinksy to “the anti-ID community which is giving XVIVO support in our ideological battle against the microcephalic apostates of ‘Intelligent Design'” and an intriguing blog comment from William Dembski: “Before you think the producers of EXPELLED are idiots, you might think that they are chess players who have seen several moves ahead.”
Meanwhile, the bad reviews continue to trickle in. (We’ll start rolling out our own reviews on Wednesday.) For samplers: Variety concedes that the film makes a few good points but isn’t too keen on the film as whole (“a flimsy attempt to discredit Darwinist theory” and a “probable punching bag for film critics and evolution proponents alike”), while Time is pretty sour on the whole deal. It’s interesting to note that P.Z. Myers took exception to this following bit from the Time review:
In fairness to Stein, his opponents have hardly covered themselves in glory. Evolutionary biologists and social commentators have lately taken to answering the claims of intelligent-design boosters not with clear-eyed scientific empiricism but with sneering, finger-in-the-eye atheism. Biologist P.Z. Myers, for example, tells Stein that religion ought to be seen as little more than a soothing pastime, a bit like knitting. Books such as Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion often read like pure taunting, as when Hitchens pettily and pointedly types God as lowercase god. Tautology as typography is not the stuff of deep thought. Neither, alas, is Expelled.
On the promotions front, Motive Entertainment still hasn’t delivered on the promised podcast and transcript of the March 28 telecon that Myers crashed. Motive told me the following:
Our apologies that you haven’t been sent the transcript from the phone call yet and I certainly hope it doesn’t make you look bad in any way. … We have not had permission to release the transcript. I would imagine that you can understand that I cannot do anything with it without permission from my client and there were some details with this last call that have made it different to work with.
They were going to try to get the transcript to me by the end of the day yesterday, but that has not happened.
Finally, I was kind of surprised when I saw the film that the discussion of Nazism explicitly addressed eugenics (since the U.S. also practiced eugenics, and right into the 1960s) and pandered to the Pro-life crowed (the film pointed out that Margaret Sanger, who founded the American Birth Control League, forerunner of Planned Parenthood, was an advocate of eugenics). Not surprisingly, I suppose, I ran across a press release announcing a “Right to Life Movie Marathon” featuring Expelled. The American Right to Life site reports that the marathon:
will be held at Colorado’s Arvada Olde Town 14 movie theater from Friday April 18 at 11:30 a.m. through the last showing Sunday evening. If you’re in Colorado, please pick a convenient showtime to visit our marathon and watch the movie with our members!
ARTL is sympathetic to Expelled because “a number of school shooters from Columbine to Finland justify their own wicked actions as being authorized by evolution and ‘natural selection‘ giving them the right and even the obligation, as Klebold and Harris said in their basement videos, to murder those they deem weaker or inferior.”
In related news, Pro-Life Pulse‘s Jill Stanek reports on her extensive interview this week with Expelled Associate Producer Mark Mathis. I was impressed by Stanek’s willingness to press Mathis on certain issues, given that the publications for which she writes are clearly aligned with the Expelled cause. Good (if not hard-hitting) journalism.