Thursday, 27 February 2014 18:24

Faith on the Silver Screen

Written by  Bob Crittendon
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A recent article by Andrew Romano of The Daily Beast, “Hollywood Declares 2014 the Year of the Bible,” posed a pop quiz:


How many of the top 15 highest-U.S.-grossing movies of all time - adjusted for inflation - star comic-book characters?

Answer: Zero.


And how many are based on the Bible?

Answer: Two.



Romano informed readers that in the late 1950s, The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur teamed up for $1.795 billion in adjusted domestic ticket sales. That’s more than Avatar, The Dark Knight, and Transformers combined. 


He points out that over the next 11 months, counting forward from the article’s release in January, “Hollywood is planning to release more big Biblical movies than it put out during the previous 11 years combined, and the trend shows no sign of slowing down in 2015 (or beyond).”


He identified that 20th Century Fox would be first out of the gate with Son of God, a Jesus biopic culled from the History Channel’s hit 2013 miniseries, The Bible. (A sequel to The Bible, titled, A.D. is set to air next year on NBC.)  It was released to theaters on February 28th.  This month, Paramount is up with Noah, director Darren Aronofsky’s epic re-imagining of the life of the Old Testament’s most famous ark-builder (played by Russell Crowe).  Coming in December: Mary (Ben Kingsley, Julia Ormond) and Ridley Scott’s Exodus (Christian Bale, Aaron Paul).  Other faith-based projects possible from Hollywood include a Cain and Abel movie directed by Will Smith and a Pontius Pilate picture starring Brad Pitt as the titular villain.


Keep in mind that practically speaking about these theatrical releases, not all depictions of Bible characters are going to square with the Scriptures themselves. You may even encounter a mischaracterization or two or more.  I do think that these films can bring an awareness of these stories, giving moviegoers the chance to be exposed to the glorious narrative of the Bible.  We can engage people with respect to the true Biblical account and its meaning for them.  Perhaps people will be encouraged to study God’s Word and discover more about Him. 


For Christians, as we consider these stories and characters, we can ask ourselves some questions about their application to us – for instance, what qualities does a person possess and do I want to model those (or not)?  Sometimes, characters can provide a cautionary tale for us or remind us that God redeems and uses flawed individuals to carry out His mission.


Movies can be used to present compelling stories that can entertain us and maybe even challenge us to reflect on God’s principles.  Think about how Jesus used the power of story.  He spoke in parables and He gave wonderful examples in order to challenge and engage the listeners, but there was always a lesson in mind.  


There is no shortage of films coming to theaters in the next few months that are intended to present a Christian worldview perspective using the context of a dramatic story.  In March, the long-awaited film sharing the name of a Newsboys song and featuring a cameo by the band, God’s Not Dead, will make its debut – with Kevin Sorbo playing a skeptical college professor who squares off against a Christian student, played by Shane Harper.  There’s also an appearance by Willie and Korie Robertson from Duck Dynasty.


In April, on Easter weekend, Heaven is for Real debuts.  It’s based on a Christian best-seller about a young boy who claims to have experienced heaven.  It stars Greg Kinnear as the father, and is directed by Randall Wallace, a Christian who has been involved with Braveheart, We Were Soldiers, andSecretariat.   


Mother’s Day weekend, in May, marks the release of Moms’ Night Out, a comedy which is the latest from the Erwin Brothers (October Baby).  Kevin Downes, one of the four leads in Courageous, is one of the producers.  Alex Kendrick and Robert Amaya from Courageous appear.  Co-executive producer Patricia Heaton stars in the film, along with Sean Astin, Sarah Drew, and Trace Adkins.  


The wider theatrical release of Alone Yet Not Alone is coming in June.  It’s the story of two young sisters whose family had fled a tumultuous Germany to start a new life in Pennsylvania and is set in 1755, against the backdrop of the French and Indian War.   The title song from the film, sung by Joni Eareckson Tada, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, but that nomination was rescinded after (questionable) allegations that one of the songwriters inappropriately lobbied Academy members.  


These films present some potentially excellent entertainment choices that are consistent with our faith.   While I think some of the Biblical epics may be a mixed bag for Christians, there are some great possibilities in some of these others, produced by filmmakers who share our faith perspective.




Last modified on Thursday, 27 February 2014 18:27
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