New York Post: “‘September Dawn’ succeeds completely at failure; the unified incompetence of its writing, directing and acting suggest a man who manages to be on fire and drowning at the same time, just as the bus runs him over.”
New York Daily News: “‘September Dawn,’ written by an evangelical Christian, may be the worst historical drama ever made.”
New York Times: “The maudlin, grotesque western ‘September Dawn,’ . . . apes ‘Schindlerâ€™s List’ in hopes of creating a Christian Holocaust picture.”
Washington Post: “It’s a soap opera posing as moral outrage.”
Newsday: “[a] bombastic, slow-drying dramatization with lead-weight dialogue and a turgid romantic subplot.”
Arizona Daily Star: “[September Dawn] can’t shake the implication that it’s some sort of attack piece on the Mormon religion”
Los Angeles Daily News: “even if Cain and co-screenwriter Carole Whang Schutter hold no animosity toward the LDS, the flat-footed fakiness of their story prevents ‘September Dawn’ from feeling historically accurate.”
Baltimore Sun: “such ham-fisted earnestness does no one any good, least of all those who believe there’s a big difference between historical fact and emotional screed.”
Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert): “If there is a concealed blessing, it is that the film is so bad.”
According to Rotten Tomatoes (an excellent website, in case you’re unfamiliar with it), September Dawn recieved positive reviews from only 15% of critics and an average rating of 3.5 on a 1-10 scale, making it one of the ten worst movies of 2007.
As I read the reviews, I realized that for many people, this review would be the only thing they would ever read or see about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and one of relatively few things they would read about Mormons. Though they hate the movie, the critics offer widely differing summaries and conclusions about MMM as background, with some accepting the movie’s depiction of events and some ridiculing the movie’s version as giggles-inducing preposterous. It should be unsurprising that few of the reviewers demonstrate actual knowledge of the MMM history and surrounding controversy. Roger Ebert, for example, though he wrote one of the more thorough and thoughtful reviews, still doesn’t know that John Voight’s leading character, Mormon Bishop John Samuelson, is fictitious.
While most people will fortunately never see the movie, for others, including some of the approximately 120,000 people who saw it this weekend, the movie will damage their respect for Mormons and the church.