Son of God, Noah, and All the Rest: Why I (Probably) Won’t See Any of the New Hollywood Bible Movies

March 19, 2014

Son of God…11174993_det

Noah…

Exodus…

Mary, Mother of Christ…

Resurrection…

It has been almost six decades since The Ten Commandments arrived in theaters.  Today, the film is considered to be one of Hollywood’s last great biblical epics.  In the history of Hollywood, The Passion of the Christ is exactly canon by most insiders’ standards.

Now, seemingly out of the blue, Hollywood is taking a page Passion’s script, and we are experiencing a rash…er…renaissance of biblical movies.  Son of God provides the theater counterpart to The Bible.  And along with the aforementioned films, there are others.  Will Smith is rumored to be making a movie based on the story of Cain and Abel.  Brad Pitt is said to be playing Pontius Pilate in another film.

All of these films promise that we will “believe,” that these will build our faith, et cetera, et cetera.  And you know that plenty of these films will have lots of support from the most influential pastors.

But I’m just going to say this.  I’m not judging anyone who wants to see these movies.  But I’m not going to see Son of God, Noah or any of the rest of these.  And I’m not holding my breath for a true Hollywood biblical renaissance.

A Miraculous Divide of Opinion

On one side of the coin, or ticket as it were, you have films like Son of God.

Son of God has a lot going for it.  It’s the same actor playing Jesus as in The Bible miniseries.  In fact, some of the same people are behind the film.  This is a film that I do believe is created with sincerity and belief in Jesus.  And it’s had a lot of support from pastors.

Yet…

The film has a 23% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Critics hate it.

But it has a 79% user rating.  Audiences love it.  But that amounts to a rather miraculous fifty-six percent difference of opinion.

Now, let’s say that a lot of those critics were just struck blind by their hostility towards all things Christian.  Let’s say that half those reviews were unnecessarily harsh. And let’s say half the users were unrealistically glowing because they were just enamored with handsome Jesus.  If the two numbers meet in the middle, you still end up with a 51% “rotten” rating.  By no means a scientific method.  But we know that Christians are notorious for giving crappy Christian movies a free pass because they are “one of us.”

Doing this does nothing to advance Christian artistry and influence in culture.  Churches buying out theaters to watch movies and people giving movies a 79% rating that don’t deserve it does not spread the gospel.  It’s preaching to the choir, and preaching a lousy sermon at that.

And are the critics really that prejudiced against movies about the Bible?  The Ten Commandments currently is rated 91% (higher than 11168921_detthe 86% user average) and most reviews come from the mid to late 2000s.  So maybe, just maybe the critics actually know a good movie when they see it.

Please Take My Money and Pander To Me!

On the other side, you have movies like Noah.  They’ve had to truck in pastors to act as consultants, focus group the film to see how Christians will react.

Why?

Because it doesn’t seem that anyone on the set actually believes the story they are telling.

I don’t know the hearts of the men and women in Hollywood.  But I know that as they sell us movies with taglines like, “You Will Believe,” there is one overriding force that drives the entire movie industry…

Money.

Hollywood is not making Biblical movies in order to build your faith (I don’t know what kind of faith you have if you walk out of a movie feeling more faithful anyway.)  Hollywood is selling movies in order to make money.  After six decades of ignoring the Christian community, they suddenly realize that we are an easily duped, gullible cash cow with a very short memory.

Yes, I may, may see one or more of these films because I am always willing to be proven wrong.  But right now, I just don’t feel like seeing how a bunch of people, much less non-believers treat my Lord for profit.  I don’t feel like waving my fistful of dollars and saying, “Take my money!  I have low standards, especially when it comes to how my God is depicted in major motion pictures!”  I would rather see well-made, truly emotional movies like Her that actually get to the core of human brokenness.

The Acting Role of a Lifetime

Christians, we have a long way to go to be a relevant cultural influence again.  This spate of biblical movies is not our Promised Land.  I am not holding my breath for a true renaissance of biblical epics.

Besides, most of these movies will be seen by us, not the people who are still outside our circles.  And the truest, most powerful depiction of Christ that will build someone’s faith still doesn’t happen on the big screen.  It happens when you and I show the love of Jesus to people.

But we have to be convincing.  It can’t be canned.  It can’t be phony or stilted. You and I have to become Christ for people.

Don’t leave it to a paid actor to portray your Lord for you.  You have the role of a lifetime waiting for you.

What do you think?  Have you been looking forward to these movies, or are you going to avoid them like a plague?

8 responses to Son of God, Noah, and All the Rest: Why I (Probably) Won’t See Any of the New Hollywood Bible Movies

  1. I’ll probably go and see “Noah”, but that’s because I think Russell Crowe is a darn good actor.

  2. I agree that most “Christian” movies are produced poorly. HOWEVER, one fact that you fail to take into account in talking about the positive reviews of The Ten Commandments (by mid 2000′s) is a bit speculative and, like most of your article, is based on your opinion. (An exact date of the positive reviews might lend a bit more believable viewpoint.) That being said, the mid-2000′s was still nearly a decade ago. We do live in a culture that is becoming more hostile toward “orthodox Christian” (not the “Orthodox Church, rather “right”) teachings every year. (I know this because I am currently completing a Doctorate in Youth, Family and Culture.)
    I am pained at how you, also supposedly a Christian(?), label fellow believers as easily duped and gullible. What is wrong with watching a “Christian” themed movie (even if it is inaccurate) compared to watching all the other movies filled with sex, nudity and violence? I am concerned that Hollywood would get a hold of some of the biblical stories and add these elements, but hey, let’s be real – those elements ARE in the Bible anyway!

    • If you’re getting into the pastoring business, please do your future parishioners (especially if they’re going to be kids) a favor and drop the whole “are you even really a Christian?” baloney. Matt has described himself as a Christian on this blog. You have no right to accuse him of being otherwise just because he wrote something that you didnt like.

      In the end, God is the only one that gets to say whether someone is “really a Christian” or not. You are not God, as far as I can tell. Statements like that are the pretty much the height of arrogance. You would do well not to inflict them on future members of your flock.

    • Yo, the Bible had mad “sex, nudity, and violence”. The Passion of Christ was a gorefest, but at least it was a mostly honest telling of the story. The standard of a movie worth watching should not be statistics about witch body parts we see, or how many pints of fake blood. Nudity especially seems like a ridiculous taboo.

  3. I agree with you on most of this. I probably won’t see those movies, but then I don’t really watch movies unless I see them on Netflix and even then I probably wouldn’t watch them especially if they got poor ratings. I can’t stand when the Christian community gets behind something just because it’s “Christian.” I’ve been encouraged to watch a number of Christian comedians because they were “hilarious,” but turned out to be embarrassingly not funny. (There are some genuinely funny ones though, Tim Hawkins and Michael, Jr. come to mind.)

    Where I disagree is with your statement “I don’t know what kind of faith you have if you walk out of a movie feeling more faithful anyway.” – I have walked out of a number of movies with a stronger faith or a better picture of Jesus. I can’t say any of them were necessarily Christian, but one I’m thinking of was Saving Private Ryan, I sobbed and sobbed at the end of that movie thinking about the sacrifice the guy made to save Private Ryan when compared to the sacrifice Jesus made to save me. They are very different situations, but that’s all I could think of when I watched that movie – Jesus did this for ME.
    Kate Hall recently posted..I’ve Decided to Take a Break from Blogging…and Twitter (Maybe)

  4. Couple of thoughts–

    Sorry, it’s probably just me, but “The Ten Commandments” is not a “good movie”.
    It’s a big overblown spectacle (and pretty darn fun to see on the big screen if you ever get the chance), but it’s very dated and campy. Sure, I love watching it every year (I’ll never get tired of Yul Brynner) but you have to admit that it’s chock-full of Hollywood cheese (“Moses, Moses, Moses!”) and I think the only reason it’s lasted as long as it has is by having the good fortune of being shown on TV around Easter/Passover every year.

    The other thing that bugs me is this–isn’t it a bit presumptuous to keep characterizing Hollywood and the movie industry as being full of “unbelievers”? I find that problematic because 1) how can young Christians be encourages to get into moviemaking (and other arts, for that matter) if all they hear is “that community is full of nonbelievers! They’ll steal your soul and turn you gay!” 2) considering that
    a majority of the movie industry was founded by Jewish people (and there are still quite a few Jews in Hollywood), assuming everyone there is a “nonbeliever” is, well, let’s say it’s a bit much and 3) I’m a bit tired of the whole assumption that unless someone is as obnoxiously “Christian” as, say, a Kirk Cameron, they must be a “nonbeliever”. You and I don’t know anything about the spiritual state of Darren Aronofsky or Russell Crowe or Anthony Hopkins or anyone else involved in
    that movie. Who are you to say who’s a “nonbeliever” and who isn’t?

  5. True, love of money is bad and evil and yucky- how then should we respond to Christian book stores? Im pretty sure all things Nashville and Zonder-Nelson (Bible publishers) run on the same green currency Hollywood does. So what gives?

    I think the beautiful thing about God is how this is still his world- and he can pop up in all sorts of wonderful places- including movies. Even (dare I say) if pastors don’t like it and the script isn’t verbatim flannel-board scripture…

    points to ponder…

  6. I was under the impression that Noah was self I consciously abstract in its message – using the framework of a well known story to tell a different one. Aronovsky (sp?) is not exactly a cheesy artless director. I’m interested in what story he’s trying to tell – not in its Biblical correctness.

    I agree that Christians should not support avoid the artless commodification of Christianity. But different people will have different ideas about what art is.

    I liked Her too. I’m not sure it had anything to do with Christianity.