Dogma (1999)

Film and Plot Synopsis

Bethany Sloane is a woman at a crossroads after a disease left her unable to have children. However, destiny soon calls and she must help thwart the return of two fallen angels who seek to return to Heaven even if it destroys the world. As she embarks on her quest, she finds solace in the companionship of two prophets, Jay and Silent Bob, along with the enigmatic 13th Apostle, united in their mission to obstruct the celestial ambitions of the angels.

‘Dogma’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Dogma (1999)The movie begins by showing an older homeless man (Bud Cort) on an empty boardwalk in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He is attacked and brutally beaten by three enigmatic pre-teenagers wearing street hockey equipment.

Elsewhere, in the town of Red Bank, Cardinal Glick (George Carlin) is delivering a presentation at a church. He’s sharing details about the numerous changes planned to revitalize the declining image of Catholicism. These changes involve introducing a new, more inspiring representation of Jesus known as the Buddy Christ, along with the re-dedication of a historic church that’s been standing for a century. With the backing of the Pope, anyone entering the church on the day of the re-dedication ceremony will receive a complete pardon for all their sins through a plenary indulgence, effectively starting anew with a morally untarnished slate.

This captures the attention of two fallen angels, Bartleby (Ben Affleck) and Loki (Matt Damon), who are loitering at an airport terminal. A newspaper clipping arrives, informing them about the upcoming church re-dedication. Loki, once the angel of death, and Bartleby, a Grigori or fallen angel, had convinced Loki to abandon his role. This decision led to their expulsion from Heaven, condemning them to an eternity in a place even worse than Hell: Wisconsin.

Unwilling to endure another thousand years in Wisconsin, Bartleby and Loki view the plenary indulgence as a potential loophole to reenter Heaven. Upon careful analysis, their plan appears flawless. Loki also believes that he can regain God’s favor by reclaiming his former position as the angel of death. This involves eliminating individuals whom God considers sinners, notably the creators of a popular children’s show titled “Mooby the Golden Calf.”

With their objectives set, the two embark on a journey to New Jersey. Along the way, they engage in various killings.

Next, we are introduced to Bethany Sloane (Linda Fiorentino), a Catholic woman grappling with a crisis of faith. Her husband departed when a disease ravaged her uterus, dashing her hopes of becoming a mother. Residing in Illinois, she toils at an abortion clinic frequently targeted by Catholic pro-life demonstrators. Preferring her job over socializing, Bethany shuns dating and interactions with her colleagues.

Azrael (Jason Lee), a demon, also enters the scene. He’s responsible for the trio of kids mentioned earlier, known as the demonic Stygian Triplets. Infiltrating a home, Azrael eliminates the homeowner. He selected this residence due to its central air conditioning—an indulgent sin. He instructs the Triplets to locate and eliminate the last Scion.

During the same evening, as Bethany prepares for sleep, she encounters the Metatron (Alan Rickman), an angel serving as God’s messenger. The Metatron informs her about Bartleby and Loki’s scheme to regain entry to Heaven. This conversation exposes a flaw in their plan: if they exploit the plenary indulgence loophole to sneak back into Heaven, it would prove that God is fallible, resulting in the erasure of all existence. God tasks Bethany with preventing Bartleby and Loki from entering the church. The Metatron also reveals that two “prophets” will aid her in this mission. Though hesitant initially, Bethany gradually comes to realize the gravity of the situation.

Bethany swiftly packs her belongings. In the parking lot of her apartment building, as she readies herself to enter her car and drive to New Jersey, the Stygians launch an assault on her. Just as they’re on the brink of overpowering her, a pair of saviors intervenes, causing the Stygians to retreat. These unexpected heroes are Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith). Over a late-night meal at a nearby diner, Bethany discovers that Jay and Silent Bob are two drug dealers/stoners hailing from New Jersey. They ventured to Illinois in hopes of locating Shermer, the fictional town from John Hughes’ movies. Bethany recognizes them as the prophetic figures mentioned by the Metatron. She implores them to take her along to New Jersey, and Jay, assuming Bethany’s intentions are romantic, agrees to her request.

Jay’s exuberance behind the wheel causes Bethany’s stick-shift car to break down due to improper gear usage. Stranded in a desolate area by morning, Bethany contemplates returning home. But her plans shift dramatically when a mysterious African American man plummets from the sky, landing naked on the road. This unexpected arrival is Rufus (Chris Rock), the 13th apostle excluded from the Bible due to his race. In exchange for aiding the trio in thwarting Bartleby and Loki, Rufus seeks acknowledgment in the Bible and the revelation of Jesus’ true racial identity as black. He humorously claims that Jesus owes him twelve dollars. Meanwhile, Jay and Silent Bob head to a strip club to dispel any doubts about Jay’s sexuality, and the group crosses paths with Serendipity (Salma Hayek), a stunning muse turned stripper.

Simultaneously, Azrael grows displeased with the Stygians’ inability to eliminate Bethany. He resolves to dispatch something considerably more potent.

In Pittsburgh, Bartleby and Loki stride into the boardroom of Mooby the Golden Calf’s production executives. They meticulously outline the grievous sins of each person present and draw a parallel between the golden Mooby cow used as the company’s emblem and the Golden Calf from ancient Biblical times. With a swift and fatal act, Loki shoots and eliminates everyone in the room, except for a woman he deems innocent. Though she’s drenched in blood and terrified, she emerges unharmed, narrowly avoiding a potentially fatal gunshot from Loki due to her failure to say “God bless you” after his sneeze. Bartleby intervenes, preventing further harm.

Meanwhile, at the strip club in Illinois, after an extensive theological dialogue with Serendipity (who asserts that God is female), the group is ambushed by a demon known as the Golgothan. This peculiar demon is composed entirely of human waste, referred to as the “Shit Demon.” It wreaks havoc in the club, causing casualties, including a gangster rap group Jay and Silent Bob had befriended. However, Bob defeats the demon using an odor-neutralizing spray. While the rest of the group continues their journey, Serendipity stays behind to interrogate the peculiar entity.

Somewhere in Pennsylvania, Bartleby and Loki attempt to board a bus but encounter difficulties securing tickets. Azrael then confronts them, cautioning against the individuals attempting to hinder their entrance into the New Jersey church. Azrael emphasizes that these opponents aim to eliminate them, urging Bartleby and Loki to maintain a low profile.

On a train, Jay and Silent Bob cross paths with Bartleby and Loki. Over drinks, Bethany and Bartleby strike up an unexpected friendship, engaging in a conversation about the loss of their faith. A tipsy Bethany, unaware of Bartleby’s true identity, divulges their plan to thwart him and Loki. In an abrupt twist, Bartleby erupts in a fit of madness and attempts to assassinate Bethany right then and there on the train. Rufus, Jay, and Silent Bob step in, eventually throwing the two angels off the train.

While taking refuge in an underground parking garage for the night, Loki contemplates Rufus’ warning about the grave repercussions of their scheme. He wrestles with the decision to proceed. Bartleby, his anger further ignited, undergoes an epiphany prompted by Bethany’s revelations on the train. This realization centers on how God exhibited more patience with humanity than with angels and how it’s unjust that angels were banished for dissenting against God’s plan, while humans were granted the freedom to choose. Bartleby remains resolute in their course of action, even if it leads to the annihilation of all existence. In response, Loki likens Bartleby’s behavior to that of Lucifer during his confrontation with God.

Simultaneously, while the group separates from the train to shake off pursuit, and as they camp amidst the woods, Bethany grapples with the escalating gravity of the situation. She presses for an explanation regarding her role in thwarting the angels. In response, Rufus divulges the hidden truth about Bethany: she is the last Scion, the sole surviving blood relation of Jesus. The weight of this revelation overwhelms Bethany. She becomes convinced she can’t bear the mission and vents her frustration by cursing God’s name. At that moment, the Metatron descends from Heaven once more. He shares that Jesus reacted similarly upon learning about his own identity but ultimately discovered the strength to follow through. Inspired, Bethany resolves to persevere with the mission.

Later, the Metatron reunites with the rest of the group at a local eatery in New Jersey. He discloses that God has gone missing during one of his customary vacations, during which he assumes a human form and enjoys leisure activities along the New Jersey coastline, such as playing Skee-Ball. Baffled by this unexpected turn of events, the group finds themselves at a loss on how to counter Bartleby and Loki. Jay suggests a potential solution: convincing Cardinal Glick to call off the re-dedication ceremony, thereby nullifying the loophole. The group approaches Cardinal Glick, but he remains skeptical of their story and adamantly affirms that the ceremony will proceed as planned. He dismisses them discourteously. Jay responds by swiping one of the Cardinal’s golf clubs.

As Bartleby and Loki draw nearer to New Jersey, Bethany and the others gather in a bar, deliberating their next steps. Suddenly, Azrael appears accompanied by the Stygian triplets. Azrael fatally assaults the bartender and takes the group hostage, biding their time until Bartleby and Loki arrive at the church.

Meanwhile, Bartleby and Loki make their appearance at the re-dedication ceremony. In a resounding declaration, Bartleby proclaims that all attendees stand condemned by God and must now atone for their sins with their blood. Coercing the unwilling Loki to participate, Bartleby unveils his wings and commences a relentless onslaught, mowing down everyone present at the ceremony with rapid-firing machine guns.

Simultaneously, at the bar, Azrael unveils his plan to the group. Having been a muse himself, he recounts his refusal to engage in the Heaven-Hell war, leading to his condemnation to Hell as a traitor. He spent countless millennia endeavoring to escape Hell, only to conclude its impossibility. Discovering the Catholic Church’s intention to transform the Red Bank church into a gateway of forgiveness for a single day, Azrael resolved to manipulate Bartleby and Loki into annihilating existence by luring them into the church. He admits that he’d rather cease to exist than return to Hell and is more than willing to bring everyone down with him to avoid that fate. Silent Bob seizes the stolen golf club and confronts Azrael, eventually striking him. Strangely, the blow causes the club to penetrate Azrael’s chest, resulting in his demise. Demons can only be vanquished by instruments of God, and the group speculates that the Cardinal inadvertently blessed his clubs for better golf performance. Armed with this insight, Bethany blesses the sink, and the team uses the holy water to overcome the three Stygians. They subsequently set off for the church.

Upon reaching the church, they encounter the aftermath of Bartleby and Loki’s violent rampage. Yet, since the two angels are still extant, the group concludes that they haven’t yet entered the church. Loki eventually arrives, inebriated and bereft of his wings, now human. Loki and Serendipity share a warm reunion akin to old friends. Confronted by Bethany’s anger over the bloodshed, Loki explains that it was Bartleby’s scheme and that he himself had reservations about the killings. He intended to pass through the church archway quietly, end his life, and conclude the matter. However, when their ammunition was depleted after slaughtering the initial attendees, Bartleby began seizing bystanders and casting them to their deaths in front of the church.

Descending from the sky, Bartleby addresses the group, explaining that he awaited their arrival before entering the church to eliminate them. Serendipity endeavors to convince him that Azrael manipulated him, but Bartleby is already cognizant of this fact. He reveals his indifference and clarifies that his objective no longer revolves around returning to Heaven. Disillusioned by God’s unequal treatment of angels and humans, he now seeks to obliterate existence, which he regards as a flawed experiment. Loki attempts to dissuade Bartleby, resulting in Bartleby’s disappointment in him. Their dialogue ends with Bartleby fatally stabbing Loki. The group then rallies to thwart Bartleby’s intentions. Jay endeavors to assist by using a machine gun to shoot off Bartleby’s wings, inadvertently making him human and allowing him to regain access to Heaven upon death.

Bethany, having heard news about the homeless man assaulted by the Stygians at the beginning, has a realization: the man is God incarnate. Unplugging the man’s life support with Silent Bob’s assistance, Bethany releases God from the body. Yet, the force of God’s departing spirit proves overwhelming, causing Bethany’s demise and a wound resembling Christ’s crucifixion wound to manifest on her lower right abdomen.

As Bartleby opens the church doors, he confronts God (Alanis Morissette) and the Metatron standing before him. Overwhelmed by God’s presence and recognizing his own failure, Bartleby tearfully expresses remorse. God silently forgives him, prompting the Metatron to instruct those “not from another plane of existence” to cover their ears. Following this, Bartleby thanks God for her forgiveness. God’s scream leads to Bartleby’s head and chest exploding.

With existence preserved, joy reigns. Silent Bob arrives with Bethany’s lifeless body, and God promptly restores and revives her. Bethany awakens, relieved that all is well. Jay, perplexed by the situation, receives a profane response from God who kisses him on the cheek, causing him to faint with a blissful grin. God surveys the aftermath caused by Bartleby and Loki with a mixture of pain and sadness. Afterward, her smile banishes all traces of death and carnage. Bethany expresses gratitude to God, and her faith is renewed. The Metatron then discloses Bethany’s pregnancy—God’s healing was thorough—taking Rufus and Serendipity with him and God back to Heaven. As the film concludes, Bethany surprises Jay and Silent Bob with the news of her impending motherhood, accompanied by the caveat that they abstain from sex. Jay humorously responds that it would be safe until the third trimester.

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Our Rating

Lions Gate Films released Dogma on November 12, 1999. Kevin Smith directed the film starring Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, and Linda Fiorentino.

User Rating: 3.95 ( 3 votes)
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