By now I’m sure you’ve heard the uproar over the $125-million Paramount Studios production, Noah. The controversy seemed generated mainly from one source, an organization known as Faith Driven Consumer, which raised concern about the film’s commercial viability if Christians didn’t support it. Their poll question asked Christians if they would reject the film due to a reported inclusion of an environmental message and other messages that took away from the true biblical account. The controversy has traveled the Internet and has perhaps best served the religious-themed movie by begetting curiosity. (If I were paranoid, I’d be suspicious that Paramount publicists fueled the speculation, if not created it themselves.)
A lesser controversy concerns the Son of God film. An extended episode from The Bible, a 10-segment special that ran on the History Channel in 2013, Son of God will run in multiplexes in at least 10 cities with ALL their screens showing the religious film the evening of February 27. The film then opens nationwide on 3000 screens the following day. The series drew ratings that marveled everyone, including studio heads. So, cynics are asking, is this a case of producers using a strategic marketing plan merely to further fill their own coffers?
I’m not sure what has motivated the makers of Noah or those of Son of God (though I tend to believe that the makers of Son of God for the big screen did so out of spiritual motivations). But who cares?
Whatever the makers’ incentives, the fact remains that we have a production dealing with an Old Testament man of God and another theatrical release built around the Savior of the world. Seldom do we see biblical tales playing in cinema complexes otherwise occupied by crude comedies, voyeuristic romances and senseless actioneers. These two films will do something other movies in the theaters won’t…spread the Word of God.
On a press junket last year for the TV miniseries The Bible, I spoke with Roma Downey. She was nearly giddy concerning the production.
“Just think about all the people who don’t know the Bible,” said the former star of Touched By An Angel. “We pray they will become interested in God’s Word and that believers will be reminded to make Bible study a part of their daily lives.”
After the segment from The Bible featuring the life of Jesus aired on the History Channel, another controversy had come forth…
“Someone made a comment that the actor who played the devil vaguely resembled our President, and suddenly the media went nuts," Downey said to The Hollywood Reporter. “The next day, when I was sure everyone would only be talking about Jesus, they were talking about Satan instead.
“It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the devil is on the cutting-room floor…For our movie, Son of God, I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus. I want His name to be on the lips of everyone who sees this movie, so we cast Satan out.”
Does that sound like someone who just wants to make money off this project? No. From those I’ve met who know Roma and her producer/husband, Mark Burnett, the consensus is that they are both devout in their faith and truly burdened for the lost.
As to the film Noah, when I first heard about the environmental theme, and, knowing Tinseltown’s penchant for style over substance, I reread the account of the flood found in Genesis 6-10. The knowledge of this soon-to-be released motion picture (March 28, 2014) had me reading the Bible in order to separate Hollywood fiction from biblical fact.
Will this movie get others to also study God’s Word? Yes. Films such as Son of God and Noah can be a stimulus for spiritual exploration by those who never have. And these movies may ignite in churchgoers a rebirth of interest in scripture study.
I suspect most of my readers have seen several films about the Christ (King of Kings, Jesus of Nazareth, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Jesus, The Passion of the Christ, just to name a few), but The Passion of the Christ was released back in 2004. A new movie-going generation has yet to be introduced through the cinema to the story of Jesus’ earthly mission. Until now.
While I’m careful about telling readers which films to support, let’s remember that in the entertainment business, the success of a production is weighed in measures of gold. If these films do well at the box office, it sends a message to media moguls that there may be further audience interest in biblical principals and perhaps biblical principles.
My advice: if you’re going and taking an unbeliever to see Noah or Son of God, read the stories and study their significance. These films will cause conversation. Be prepared to converse.
In addition to writing for Baptist Press, Phil Boatwright reviews films for www.previewonline.org and is a regular contributor to "The World and Everything In It," a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.