I’d like to draw some interesting comparisons to Escape to Witch Mountain. I only recall watching it once as a child, but just about everything about it was burned into my memory so vividly that I always considered it a personal favorite, even though I didn’t feel the need to rewatch it as an adult until recently. When I did, I was flooded with childhood memories. The bully. The feeling of homesickness and abandonment (even though that was just a fear of mine, never a reality). The inability to express one’s thoughts and feelings verbally. The longing for something indescribable. It’s all there.
I don’t mean to say that Escape to Witch Mountain is perfect, but it is a wonderful exploration of childhood fears and yearnings. It’s about a couple of orphans who want to find a place where they belong. I will liken it to things of a spiritual nature as a way to illustrate them in an artful manner.
Tony and Tia Malone are orphans who can’t remember where they came from, who their parents are, or how they ended up where they are. Tia has fractured memories about these things that are extremely hazy, but they come into focus little by little through the course of the film. Tony and Tia both have special gifts that allow them to do amazing things. Tia is telepathic and can see visions of the past and future. Tony has telekinetic powers and can also subconsciously predict the future. They experience a touch of homesickness, and they later remember that their last name is actually Castaway because they were shipwrecked (in a way) years ago.
We’re each born with unique talents that we cultivate in our lives, and we sometimes achieve extraordinary things with them. And yet, aren’t we all strangers in a strange land? Have you ever felt a peculiar homesickness for a place you can’t explain or identify? My wife often describes herself as feeling that way, and I can relate at some level. For me, it’s often more of a sense of déjà vu, as if I’m doing something I’ve done before but can’t remember when. Like Tia’s memories, what I’m talking about will come into greater focus later on.
Tony and Tia try not to be selfish with their special powers. Tia scolds Tony for using them to beat up a bully who wanted to fight him for supposedly cheating in a baseball game. She doesn’t want him to draw too much attention. However, she can’t help defying her own warning when she spots an opportunity to prevent a tragedy. She sees a well-dressed businessman named Mr. Deranian about to get into a car, and she pleads with him not to do it because something terrible will happen to him if he does. He takes her advice and thanks his lucky stars he did because seconds later a tow truck suddenly crashes into where he was about to sit. Unfortunately, this act of kindness on Tia’s part is repaid with a series of lies, deceit, and attempts to use her and her brother. It turns out all right for them in the end, though.
Unfortunately, not everyone plays by the same rules in life. A good person knows that honesty and decency are moral absolutes that are essential to happiness and prosperity. However, some people lie, cheat, and engage in other nefarious activities to achieve success. But it never lasts long. Perhaps these people can lie to themselves in order to believe they are happy for a time, but the truth is that wickedness never was happiness. This is why the people who scream the loudest about not wanting to be judged and demanding acceptance of their lifestyles are always so miserable, while those who quietly go about their lives doing good and being happy never boast about themselves or demand others’ acceptance of their choices. The former life is built on a sandy foundation while the latter is built on a rock.
Who Is the True Ruler?
Mr. Bolt is an evil man who wants to take advantage of Tony and Tia’s abilities in order to make money. He tells his employee Mr. Deranian to forge documents to make it look like he is the kids’ uncle and then bring them to his home, which is built like a fortress. Once Tony and Tia become familiar with the house and the compound surrounding it, Mr. Bolt points to a window and boasts that he owns everything in sight. Tia jokingly notes that she can see the sky. He has no retort, but he simply walks away.
In this world, Satan seems to be in charge. He claims this world as his own, yoking everyone on it in the bondage of sin. But let’s not forget that there is One much higher than Satan who looks down on the world (His creation) and who is not under his control. Indeed, when we refuse to acknowledge Satan as our master or the ruler of this world (i.e. being in the world but not of the world), he is rendered powerless, especially as we cling to the true Master.
Tempted by Worldly Comforts
As soon as they arrive at Mr. Bolt’s home, Tony and Tia are given their favorite flavors of ice cream and are shown around their spacious game room and living quarters. They find more toys and treats than they have ever seen in their lives. They’re spellbound for a time by these unexpected rewards for seemingly no reason, but they soon realize that they feel empty inside. These worldly comforts fail to silence the yearning they feel to find their true home.
It’s easy to get distracted by all that this world has to offer. Fun, games, temporary pleasures. It can seem exhilarating for a while to give in to our basest desires because, after all, you only live once. But the fact that we only live once shouldn’t inspire us to waste our lives chasing after temporary thrills. It should remind us how precious our lives are and that we should spend them seeking the reason why we’re here. All of us have a purpose we’re uniquely qualified to accomplish, just like Tony and Tia.
We Are Watched
Over dinner, Mr. Bolt tells the children he’s been watching them closely with hidden cameras. He knows they have marvelous powers beyond those of mortal men. He wants them to spill the beans about themselves. The trouble is that Tony and Tia don’t understand where their powers came from or exactly how they work either, not that they would want to tell Mr. Bolt anything if they did. When he presses them, they command him to be quiet and leave, which he promptly does out of possibly fear, shame, or some persuasive power the children have.
I’d wager Satan knows us better than we know ourselves. We can’t see him, but he can see us. He knows what we’re capable of, even if we’re still figuring it out. He’d like to use our abilities for his own selfish, evil purposes. Or if he can’t, then he’d like to destroy us before we can accomplish good purposes with our talents. We don’t have to remain under his power and influence if we prefer to be free. We can command him to leave anytime by simply calling upon the name of Jesus Christ, and he won’t be able to disobey.
The children don’t stick around to try to convince Mr. Bolt, Mr. Deranian, or anyone else on the compound to be better or otherwise change their minds. They quietly flee, guided by a map hidden in a star case Tia has had since her earliest memory.
It’s a good idea to share sacred things with all who will listen, but we don’t have to cast our pearls before swine. Eventually, we will all have to flee spiritual Babylon, guided by scriptures, prophets, and the Holy Ghost. That’s the way it goes with most scriptural stories. Moses wasn’t commanded to convert Egypt but to bring Israel out of Egypt.
During their escape, Tony and Tia meet a number of animals who seem unruly and even dangerous at first, but Tia is able to speak to them telepathically and turn them into allies. She does that with a horse that seemingly couldn’t be broken, as well as a bear. Plus, a friendly cat they call Winkie comes in handy on several occasions. When they first meet an old widower named Jason O’Day, he wants nothing to do with them. But they’re able to win him over with a combination of their kindness and mysterious gifts. He is the primary reason why they manage to arrive at their final destination safely. Unfortunately, not everyone responds well to their gifts. For example, a sheriff organizes a mob to hunt down the two so-called witches and stop them from reaching Witch Mountain.
In life, we will come across many people who are eager to help us and quite a few who wish to do us harm. It’s not always easy to tell which is which at first. Tia can see through Jason’s angry exterior to find the soft, gentle heart inside. We can pray for the spirit of discernment to tell friend from foe, and we can listen carefully for quiet little feelings we get about people. I think we would see a lot more successful marriages if everyone did this with potential spouses, getting to know someone very well before sharing their most intimate selves with them.
Not of This World
Near the end of the film, Tony and Tia finally remember that they are aliens who crash-landed on Earth and were separated from their fellow castaways in the aftermath. Tony even recalls how to get in touch with his long-lost uncle who he thought had died to save himself and Tia from drowning. He turns out to be alive and ecstatic to hear from Tony.
We, too, are heavenly beings experiencing mortal life on this Earth with no memory of what transpired before we were born. Thankfully, we always have direct lines of communication to God through prayer, scripture, and revelation. The uncle reminds me of Jesus Christ, who also laid down His life for us and took it up again to give us hope of a better future.
Baring His Holy Arm
The uncle tells Tony that he’s planned a powerful demonstration that will finally convince Mr. Deranian and Mr. Bolt that Tony and Tia are outside their power forever. He does this by performing two impossible feats. First, he makes Jason’s RV fly high into the air after Mr. Deranian tried to cut them off with his car. Second, he magically turns Mr. Bolt’s helicopter upside down and forces it to land, propellers first. Then the uncle comes out of hiding and brings Tony and Tia aboard a spaceship where they travel somewhere safe.
God doesn’t often bare His holy arm in the eyes of the world. Miracles are usually small and personal. But sometimes, like when Moses parted the Red Sea, God performs spectacular miracles in the eyes of the world to the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked. He will do great works like that once more very soon. The reason He has not done things like that yet is because He’s giving us all a chance to exercise faith despite not seeing the whole picture clearly. By the time He shows His power in great glory, it will be too late for those who haven’t learned to hear Him without seeing Him. Many will be taken home to heaven like Tony and Tia, while the world will be turned upside down for those who had their priorities backwards.
In the spirit of last week’s article, I hope I haven’t given the impression that the filmmakers intended to say all of these spiritual things. They were simply adapting a book into a film under the watch of studio executives aiming to please audiences with a bit of escapist entertainment. But that doesn’t mean I can’t use it to illustrate abstract points that become easier to understand by seeing them in action.
Escape to Witch Mountain will always be one of my favorite films because of the ineffable feelings and memories it manages to capture in my mind. Whatever it means to others, everything I’ve tried to convey above is what it means to me.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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