Is Hollywood rediscovering the greatest story ever told?
In a year in which The History Channel’s “The Bible” was the most-watched miniseries on cable TV; the Pope was Time magazine’s “Person of the Year”; Bill O’Reilly’s book, Killing Jesus, is a New York Times best-seller; and the faith of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson is the talk of the country, perhaps it’s not surprising that major motion picture studios are preparing to release Biblical blockbusters in 2014 about Jesus, Noah, and Moses, to name just a few.
When I took my family to the movies this week, I was intrigued to see trailers for three faith-based films, each one of which was genuinely intriguing in their own way:
- Son of God will release just before Easter and will re-tell the story of the birth, life, ministry death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
- Noah is a $125 million extravaganza starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins and Jennifer Connelly about the catastrophic judgment of mankind recorded in the Book of Genesis and one man and his family who are saved. It releases March 28th.
- Heaven Is For Real will release on April 16th, based on the New York Times best-selling non-fiction book about a boy who dies, but after being brought back to life by a team of doctors tells his family that he went to heaven while he was dead and describes what he saw in vivid detail.
I can’t vouch for the theology of each of these films based solely on the trailers. But I can say their production values are top notch and just seeing these sneak previews (especially amidst trailers for other soon-coming films that are violence- and sex-ridden trash) was both surprising and encouraging. It got our family talking about this intriguing moment in which so much of our culture seems vehemently opposed to Biblical faith, yet man other Americans seem truly curious, and at times even hungry, to know if the Bible has answers to life’s deepest and most important questions.
This was also the topic the other day on the Fox News program, “The Five.” They had an engaging and lively discussion about this question, “Is religion making a comeback in American culture?” They talked about the films that are coming out, but also about their own personal views of the culture and the curiosity and hostility towards Christianity and the Bible. The segment lasted about 12 minutes. I’d encourage you to watch it and discuss it with family and friends. Bob Beckel’s comments were particularly intriguing.
Finally (for now), I read this article in the Telegraph giving the inside scoop on a slew of Bible-based films in production or about to be released. Here are some excerpts, but I commend the entire article it to your attention.
Superheroes are being elbowed out by Noah and Mary as Hollywood makes 2014 year of the biblical epic
By Nick Allen, The [UK] Telegraph, December 25, 2013
- The saint-like image of a hooded woman looms out from the movie poster, her arms outstretched as a divine light bursts from the sky. A message written above is simple and unambiguous: “You Will Believe.” So goes the promotional campaign for the forthcoming Hollywood blockbuster Mary Mother of Christ….whose title character will be played by Odeya Rush, a 16-year-old Israeli-born actress, is one of a series of unashamedly Christian biblical epics due to appear next year, marking an unprecedented overture by Hollywood to America’s evangelical heartland.
- In March audiences will be treated to Noah, a $150 million special effects-laden extravaganza, in which Russell Crowe will build an ark and rescue mankind from the Great Flood. Harry Potter actress Emma Watson will play his adopted daughter, and Sir Anthony Hopkins is portraying Methuselah. The ark was built on Long Island, New York.
- Noah will be followed by Sir Ridley Scott’s Exodus, in which Christian Bale, as Moses, will part the Red Sea. Scenes from ancient Egypt have been reconstructed in southern Spain, with Bale wielding a bow and arrow and Sigourney Weaver playing the Pharaoh’s wife.
- Another movie of Moses’s life called Gods and Kings is also planned. Steven Spielberg was due to make it but has been replaced by Ang Lee, who won the Best Director Oscar this year for Life of Pi.
- Meanwhile, Son of God will tell the story of Jesus’s life, with Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado in the lead role.
- Will Smith is said to be planning a film based on the story of Cain and Abel.
- Brad Pitt is rumoured to be playing Pontius Pilate in a separate project.
- There will also be Resurrection, in which a Roman soldier is sent to investigate Christ’s death. It has been likened to “Gladiator, with a mystery bent.”
Phil Cooke, a film-maker and media consultant to Christian organizations, said Hollywood’s epiphany had financial, not spiritual, origins.
“What’s happened is they’ve understood it’s very good business to take Christians seriously, and this is a real serious market,” he said. “For years Hollywood bent over backwards to reach special interest groups, be it feminists or environmentalists. It has finally realised that there are 91 million evangelical Christians in America.”
For their part, studio executives have taken something of a leap of faith that films in which religious figures save the world will bring big box office receipts.
That faith is based in no small part on the success of The Bible, a television mini-series shown on the History channel earlier this year, which averaged 11.4 million viewers and became America’s most watched cable show of 2013….