First Look: Russell Crowe as Javert (aka Satan) in Les Miserables

Last week, we showed you Hugh Jackman in costume as the destitute Jean Valjean in the musical adaptation of the Broadway hit “Les Miserables.”

Now, thanks to the Daily Mail (which has more pictures), there are first pictures of Russell Crowe as Valjean’s nemesis, the police officer Javert.

I used to think of Javert as getting the short end of the stick. After all, he is only doing his job, and doing it well. But as I have matured, I’ve realized the genuis of Victor Hugo, the author of the magnificent novel on which the story is based.

I now see that Javert is Satanic.

Lest you scoff at my use of a dramatic word, I mean that in a theological sense. Javert, with his unyeilding cleavage to rules and regulations, his rejection of compassion, and his total abandonment of grace, is exactly a picture of Satan, the one who sees you as nothing more than a list of your transgressions and hates you for them.

Some so-called Christians should take note.

As such, his correct but merciless outfit and lack of humor or joy fit perfectly. Contrast that with the utter humanity of Jackman as Valjean. The movie will make the case, as the book did, that even a destitute, dirty, starving, desperate, and criminal nobody like Jean Valjean is beautiful and worthy of receiving and extending mercy.

I cannot wait for this movie. I’m getting verklempt already. It opens December 14.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • J

    Oh come now, Becks, Satanic is inaccurate. Javert doesn’t falsely accuse or tempt. He’s not wrong or deceitful about his facts. He’s just inexorable about them. He is a Pharisee and a good Pharisee at that. Javert is man under the Law. Valljean is man under Grace. Calling Javert “Satanic” actually weakens the story because it separates Javert from mankind, and for the story to have full effect, readers must realize that we are more like Javert than we care to admit. (Also, Satan, you’ll notice, has so far resisted killing himself because he doesn’t think he’s wrong. The one who kills himself is the man who sees himself condemned by the weight of the Law but cannot bring himself to accept Grace.)

    I completely agree with you though about being unable to wait for this movie!

    • Rebecca Cusey

      If we can’t call Javert Satanic, we can’t call Valjean Christ-like. Both are types of bigger and more complex personalities or ideas.

      I very much think the primary characteristic of Satan is that he is without grace. Rules he understands, but he can’t get over the idea of God forgiving sins. I think that is what motivates him in the stories to tempt and destroy.

      Also, I don’t think it’s incorrect to interpret the Pharisees of Jesus’ time or our own time as types of Satan, either. Didn’t Jesus call them “vipers” and “whitewashed tombs?” Yes, he is very Pharisaical, but that is ultimately a Satanic mindset.

      In related news, I haven’t typed the word “Satan” this much since Comparative Religion class in college.

  • Juliia Schwendenwein

    I can 1000000% assure you thet the fucking devil wont help the Good one
    to save an innocent person (Marius) , and kill himself because of his
    bad feelings. I assure you this! I promise this, I swear this! cus the
    devil knows NO MERCY! He is a liar! Javert good a kind of bad feelings
    what made him kill himself, the devil is THE EVIL in person! And, does
    he have bad feelings?NO. In the movie, you see Javert praying! In the
    novel not, but Javert isn’t even a bad person. I mean, calling someone
    “the devil” is a little bit dared. Since when is Javert selfish? He
    chases Valjean to serve the law, not himself. The devil destroys peoples
    lifes out of fun, and lies to chase people into his hell. The devil is
    not able to love! And I am sure, Javert does. Dude, please, don’t say
    that sb. is the devil himself. I mean, since when has Jesus (if u call
    javert the devil, then u woould compare valjean with jesus) nothing to
    blame the devil for? Uhm, Jesus lives to defeat the devil! Please, don’t
    say shit like “Javert is tthe devil”, alright?
    God JHWH bless you!

  • Gargy

    As a disclaimer, I’m going to focus on the novel in this argument, as it is the source material.

    I think both Satan and Javert would be insulted by such a comparison. Humans are creatures of duality by nature, and thus everyone has a little bit of God/Christ in them, and a little bit of Satan in them. Yes, even Jean Valjean does have those darker moments: his hatred for humanity in the beginning, his contemplation of murdering the bishop, stealing from a kind bishop and a small child (who he also threatened), considering letting Champmathieu suffer a life in the bagne in his place, threatening Javert during the arrest scene, and his initial hatred of Marius. Javert, on his darker side, has a lack of mercy, a lack of compassion for people who break the law, and probably his worst side was brought out when he was upset during Jean Valjean’s arrest, where he tactlessly raised his voice at Fantine and exposed truths to her that she was better off not knowing.

    Now, what makes Javert different from most humans is his black and white morality (incidentally, black and white morality in adults is a large indicator of mental illness, and in Javert’s case psychologists could find a minefield of material to work with when it comes to his mentality, but that is neither here nor there). Most humans slip into moral grays when it comes to even their own world views and beliefs, and thus are hypocrites. What makes Javert odd is that he is so fettered to his own beliefs, that he is strictly “white” in terms of them, and therefore not a hypocrite. He never once commited a wrong in terms of his own morals, and what makes this so extraordinary is that his morals are incredibly strict and unchanging, and consistent. in a way, it’s not human. Javert does not even realize that black and white morality cannot by nature apply to humans; he fully believes criminals are bad and law abiders are good (and this is most likely a repurcussion of his childhood as a child of criminals). Javert abides by the law of angels: “to commit the least possible sin is the goal of humans, to never sin at all is the dream of angels.”

    Regardless of Javert’s unnatural and unhealthy mentality, he DOES have a good sense of what is right and what is wrong: murder is wrong, thievery is wrong, violence is wrong, dishonesty and deception is wrong, slander is wrong, breaking the law is wrong. And he does abide by this. Shall we go into more detail?

    Satan is often grouped under the category of “Chaotic evil.” He is a liar, slanderer, he tempts people into violence, laughs in the faces of the good who are being persecuted, egging people on to violence. He is not fond of humans. He is seen in pop culture as the personification of evil. He is unfettered by things such as morality and duty. He is the god or pleasures. He doesn’t care what he does as long as it pushes his agenda forward.

    Now what about Javert? In the novel, Javert refuses to tell a lie even if it means his death. In the barricade scene in the novel, he arrived with an unloaded gun (nonviolence), kept quiet (thus did not lie), and when Gavroche recognized him and Enjolras questioned him, he immediately replied with the truth: he is a law enforcement officer named Javert. He does not resist them with violence like he does in the movie, even though Enjolras says he’s going to kill him.

    In the resignation scene, Javert admits his perceived wrong doing to Madeleine, and feels guilty about slandering who he believes to be a good man, and for thinking he was bad in the first place. He demands punishment for this. This shows that he is not a hypocrite and does not slander good names. He takes no joy from it. He is willing to own up to his mistakes and not only accepts punishment, but demands it.

    Javert refuses to use violence even when threatened with violence. Valjean threatened him; he just stood back and waited. In the Gorbeau Tenement scene, he walked in on a group of notorious murderers and torturers who were armed and did not even so much as draw his sword. Two of them tried to kill him. He eventually subdued them all with just words.

    Javert helped Jean Valjean save Marius, and was willing to let Jean Valjean go when he realized he was a good man. The whole point of Javert’s suicide was that this was the first time Javert’s duty got in the way with his morals. He decided as soon as he took Valjean home that he would set him free because he is good, but once he reached the bridge, he realized that he would be failing in his duty, and that no matter his choice, he would be a bad person in his own world view. He knew the only way Valjean would be free was if he was gone–as long as he is living, he must obey his duty. Thus he resigned from the police force, wrote down suggestions for improving the lives of prisoners, and killed himself, thus resigning from both God and the Law since he felt he could choose neither. Interestingly, he combined both justice and mercy in his final act.

    Now do you think Satan would have given a rat’s ass about the safety of a good man in Javert’s case? Satan would laugh about it, knowing well Jean Valjean was good and would be ruined, and would be happy about it simply because he is good. Satan would not kill himself and risk eternal damnation for a single good man. Satan would not devote his life to crushing evil, he would egg it on. Satan is not fettered by morality as Javert is. Satan is known in religion/literature as a liar and slanderer. He manipulates events for the worse, he took everything from Job hoping that Job would make the wrong choice, directly involving himself in people’s choices to commit evil. Javert the man does not do this in the book, and thus viewing him in such a light is vastly inaccurate. Hugo described him as being noble, honest, and all the evil of good, not a liar, slanderer, and pure, chaotic evil. The law does not begin nor end with a single police officer.

    And if we’re going down the religious route, Hugo actually does compare Javert to Michael, and compares him to an angelic being numerous times. Just as Javert has some Satanic qualities (like every human), he also has Godly and angelic qualities. It’s made sufficiently clear that for all his flaws, Javert is a force for good, and represents God’s justice while Jean Valjean is God’s mercy. They both possess qualities the other lacks. Justice and mercy must be balanced carefully. Both of them show extremes. Javert unhesitatingly owns up to his wrongs, stands up for the innocent (in terms of his world view); he grew up in poverty among criminals and never slipped up as Jean Valjean did, Javert does not lie. Jean Valjean shows the mercy and forgiveness that Javert lacks.

    So, to sum up, I believe both Javert and Satan would be insulted by such a comparison. I can understand liking evil villains in literature, but Javert is an antagonist of an entirely different sort, and he is the wrong place to look for such qualities. Many villains wish they were as evil as Satan, and Satan would shake his head at the notion that Javert is as bad as him “Yeah, right!” But he probably wouldn’t care anyway.


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