“So, what do you think he looks like?” Willie chuckled as he approached.

“Who?” asked Mack.

“God, of course. What do you think he’ll look like, if he even bothers to show up, I mean? Boy, I can just see you scaring the living daylights out of some poor hiker–asking him if he’s God and then demanding answers an’ all.”

Mack grinned at the thought. “I don’t know. Maybe he’s a really bright light, or a burning bush. I’ve always sort of pictured him as a really big grandpa with a long white flowing beard, sort of like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings.” (75)

The movie The Shack is built on a story much larger than the novel itself.

William Paul Young’s book The Shack was originally a gift he wrote for his family in his spare time while working three jobs. However, several friends got a hold of a copy too, and he was goaded to publish. After seeking assistance from Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings, the trio polished the novel and sought publication only to be turned down by 26 publishing companies, both secular and Christian. Not to be deterred, they then started their own publishing company–Windblown Media. Young quit his jobs and Cummings maxed out 12 personal credit cards to keep things afloat. Over 20 million copies sold and an upcoming movie later… and it appears Windblown Media will be around for a while.

So why did so many people reject the novel that has become such a huge success?

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The main character Mack has it all. A fine family, nice house, good neighbors, and only a few things haunting him from his past. The American dream. Then one day on vacation while camping in the woods something horrendous happens to his daughter, Missy, and “The Great Sadness” descends on his life. He’s not the same guy anymore. Until he gets an invite from “Papa” to go to the shack where it all happened and ends up confronting the Trinity in the form of a black woman, middle-eastern guy, and an Asian woman.

Then everything gets turned on its head.

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It’s simple and controversial: The Shack shatters and rebuilds human preconceptions of a traditional Christian understanding of God, and that is force with which no one should  reckon lightly.

What They Will Do:

The producers of the film  The Shack will try to capture who they perceive the book The Shack‘s readers are and present a film that brings to life how they interpreted the book.

As the driving force behind Life of Pi and The Blind Side, they’re going to try to hit a similar audience sweet spot… albeit slightly older considering the subject matter. It will be sprirtual without being preachy. Contain some movie stars and fantastical elements without distracting from the story they’re trying to tell.

That said, they’re bringing in eye-catchers such as Tim McGraw to do more than sing as one of the main character’s closest friends. (Don’t worry–he sings too! Couldn’t let all of that golden vocal charisma go to waste.) The producers and director are also hoping to ride on the good vibes of Oscar nominee, Octavia Spencer, in order attract audience members outside of the 20 million book owners.

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But as Young wrote in his book, “Sometimes honesty can be incredibly messy.” Expect the honest translation of a great idea in print to film to be a bit messy too.

What They Won’t Do:

Despite attempting to catch a wider audience, the creators of The Shack (2017) are not going to step back from the theology presented in the book.

So, if you’re expecting a presentation of the Christianity and the trinity according to John Calvin, you’re probably in the wrong movie. As evidenced by their casting, the creative force behind the film are fully embracing the exploration of how we work through tragedy and the ramifications of meeting God in the form of one black woman, a middle-eastern guy, and an Asian woman.

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I also don’t think they’re going to try and make it “realistic” by providing a factual explanation for everything presented in the movie. That is the magic of story. Some things just don’t require an explanation.

What They Should Do:

This story is as much about the tragic circumstances a man if forced to experience and how he keeps as it is a story about how to forgive.

The film should keep some of the original dialogue regarding forgiveness in the movie. The tone of the dialogue was the fresh idea that Young presented in his book–part spiritual guidance on the topic of forgiveness, part story. The book confronts readers on a deeper level than most stories.

Forgiveness in no way requires that you trust the one you forgive. But should they finally confess and repent, you will discover a miracle in your own heart that allows you to reach out and begin to build between you a bridge of reconciliation.

Without keeping that level of confrontation and questioning in the dialogue of the film, the spirit of the story would be lost.

What They Should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO:

The Shack is not and should never be an episode of Criminal Minds or Law and Order: SVU. 

Yes, there is a tragedy involving a little girl and dastardly guy. Yes, the book “solves the mystery” and provides some resolution to this secondary plot element.

But what happens to Mack’s little girl is just that: A secondary plot. The creators should not try to enhance the action by making this a crime drama. More time should be spent with Mack reconciling his soul in the woods than chasing down criminals and following the police investigation. To ignore the personal journey of the main character would be murdering the original intent of the author when he wrote this book.

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Because this is a story about something much greater: Healing. And frankly, couldn’t we all use a little of that?

Wish List Item:

I want to see this film bring to life the conversation between Mack and Willie when they compare what God looks like to Gandalf from Lord of the Rings in all of his white-bearded, regal glory.

Chances of this happening:

I’d give it about four mysterious shacks in the woods out of ten.


The Shack will begin showing in theaters on March 3, 2017. 

All Media Rights belong to Gil Netter Productions, Windblown Media, and Summit Entertainment.

Feature image retrieved from: http://theshackbook.com/is-the-shack-heresy-part-2/

Quotations from:  

Young, William Paul. (2007). The shack: Where tragedy confronts eternity. Windblown Media: Newbury Park, California. Print.