Zeitgeist is epic in scale. Its overall argument, if I've understood it, is that the tiny minority of the 'haves' of the world have for centuries been insidiously manipulating the 'have-nots' for the personal gain and continued influence of the former. The program is split into three distinct parts: the first covers religion, the second the events of September 11th, and the third the influence of the big money-men on the events of the past three hundred years or so.
The religion-based first third of the film ties a broad link between the origins of Christianity and far older western astrology. The highlight of this section is it's comparisons of the Christ mythology with messianic characters from other religions. These show us that much of his story, such as the virgin birth, the 25th of December birthday, the cruxifiction and the resurrection are fundamental parts of other, forebearing faiths. More dubious is it's attempts to square elements of Christian scripture with astrological zodiac doctrine that had long since preceeded the rise of Judeo-Christianity.
The 9/11 section of the film asks difficult questions about what is believed about the events of that day. Why, for instance, if the plane which crashed into the Pentagon was vapourised by the heat of its own explosion, was it possible for the FBI to fingerprint-ID the terrorists who flew it into the building? Why is it that some of the 19 people named by the US Government as being involved in the hijackings are still alive and well and curious to know why the finger has been pointed at them?
That said, although the 9/11 section casts serious doubt on the official position, its ultimate conjecture that, "it looks like it might be an inside job, therefore it must be one" is weak.
For me, the most convincing part of the film was the last third. This was a more focused look at the money-men behind government policy, past and present. It explains the role of central banking, showing how banks lend and sell money to the governments of the world with interest, thus putting them in debt to the banks and requiring them to borrow more money in order to pay that debt, in an endless, vicious cycle. It goes on to suggest that the bankers have orchestrated all the major wars of the past 100 years or so, including the 9/11 attacks as a casus belli. It's during war that governments need to borrow most from the banks, thus war is the most profitable time for tycoons. These claims are backed up with quotes from as far back as the American Revolution, when statesmen warned of the dangers of putting capital power in the hands of a few men at the expense of the freedoms of the many.
Sadly, the last third of the film deteriorates into a vague attack on mass-consumerism, loosely linking it to the plans of the bankers to keep us entertained and docile whilst they consolidate their grasp on the world. If Zeitgeist is to believed, it's final message is that we can look forward to a one-world, one-government order, controlled by the bankers, with us mutely towing the line as microchipped sheep.
Zeitgeist contains all the hallmarks of classic conspiracy hokum: wild, poorly substantiated claims of hidden, impossibly powerful forces manipulating us. The third of the film dealing with religion seems strangely incongruous alongside the other two, although it is roughly hinted that since Christianity itself is highly dubious, it is only sensible to think of it as a tool of the ruling elite to keep the proles in brain-dead submission.
Negative points aside, Zeitgeist is a well-produced piece of television that makes you stop and think seriously and cynically about the powers that be - not least about the manipulative potential of television itself - and that can only be a good thing. Whether or not Zeitgeist would stand up to such rigourous scrutiny itself is another matter.
NOTE: This was written in Jan 2008 before the film was available for review on Amazon.