By Tom Quiner
When is a Christian film not a Christian film?
When it changes the Bible narrative upon which it is based.
Two upcoming films to be released in time for Lent take on a couple of epic biblical characters: Jesus and Noah. They are generating a very different buzz leading up to their premiers.
“Son of God” opens this Friday. There’s an interesting story behind this film. The film was produced from the “leftover scraps” from the popular “The Bible” mini series produced for cable television’s A & E channel by Roma Downey and her husband, Mark Burnett.
As I wrote last Fall, I found “The Bible” a mixed bag. They focused too much on action and violence at the expense of message. Because of the epic topic they were tackling, by necessity some important stories were left out or short changed.
On the other hand, I appreciated their sincere and honorable attempt to convey the meaning of the Bible in an entertaining way, even if it didn’t quite work for me. It clearly DID work for many others based on the smash ratings it received.
The “Son of God” doesn’t feature any big-name stars. Ms. Downey plays Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Although she starred in the television series, “Touched by an Angel,” Ms. Downy isn’t exactly an “a list” actress.
Despite the lack of stars, the buzz is tremendous for “Son of God.” The film’s trailer has had a remarkable 5 million views on various YouTube channels. BoxOffice.com projected a $13 million opening for “Son of God” a couple of weeks ago. Now industry sources think it will actually exceed $20 million, not bad for a $22 million film.
The Christian audience will support a film like this when they trust the intentions of its director and producer. When Christians like a film, they support it in droves. Just ask Mel Gibson whose film, “The Passion of the Christ,” knocked down $83 million on its opening weekend a decade ago.
By contrast, the upcoming “Noah” is generating bad buzz.
Christian audiences who have been to advance screenings aren’t excited about it. Why? Because the director has taken liberties with the story. He has turned it into an action movie. And he has turned Noah into an “eco warrior.” The film’s producer, Darren Aronofsky, describes Noah as the “first environmentalist.”
Evidently, Christian and Jewish viewers at advance screenings voiced displeasure that the film left out a key element: the Bible. A blog called Beginning and End criticized the film in this way:
“[I]t’s clear that Noah is not a Christian film. Yet when this movie hits the theaters, it will not stop the film company behind [it] from marketing the movie to churches and the Christian community in hopes of conveying the idea that it is a movie celebrating a Biblical story when it is not. Do not be deceived.”
Evidently there has been wrangling over the final cut of the film between the director and producer over how to assuage their religious audience.
“Noah” has a big, $125 million budget and major stars like Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, and Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” fame and will be out in March.
I plan on seeing “Son of God.” I am undecided on “Noah” based on what I have learned above.
I love faith-based movies, especially during Lent. I suspect “Noah” may not fit the bill.