What's the Deal With All These Bible Movies?
Son of God
There's one thing you can say about Hollywood: When they get on a kick, it's like a soccer championship death match. In recent years they've given us vampires and not just a few but an entire cemetery's worth. Then zombies became hip, and it was all brain eating all the time. Adapting young-adult novels about ass-kicking girls is currently in fashion, but this next trend is something to behold, literally -- no, figuratively. Hollywood's moved on from the undead to the holy dead. The year 2014 is officially becoming the year of the Bible movie.
Last week the mini-series turn big-budget movie Son of God hit the silver screen to massive audiences, raking in a whopping $26 million for its opening weekend. The movie is basically a conglomeration plus some of last year's History channel ten-part series The Bible. Son of God follows Jesus and all of his crazy antics as told in the books of Revelations and Genesis.
While the critics don't seem to be too keen on this cinematic interpretation - the movie received a 23 percent favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes -- the viewing public is really, really into it. The movie's success may be due to the fact that the last time we saw Jesus on the big screen was during Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. Passion pulled in over $485 million, but its anti-Semitic undertones and the fact that Gibson turned crazy on all of us, left a bad taste in moviegoers' mouths. Son of God will do no such thing as it is being described as a very tame and family friendly version of the story.
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Just as Hollywood is wont to do, they are already rolling out more biblical films. Darren Aronofsky's Noah , the story of the man and his ark, is due to be released at the end of this month. Noah is already causing waves (zing!) as its been said that the story moves considerably away from the written text. There are also some Christian organizations unhappy with the way the film is being handled because maybe Noah, the guy who made an ark because the entire world was to be flooded, has a hidden agenda of climate change, which we all know is just not true. (I know there's some irony going on here but I just can't... oh OK.) But given the success of Son of God , perhaps purists will overlook all that and just be pleased that this story is finally being told.
Noah is a bit more action flick than Son of God, but even it is not going to be as Michael Bay-esque as Ridley Scott's upcoming blockbuster hopeful Exodus, which is due to be released in December. Shot in 3D and starring Christian Bale as Moses, Exodus follows the story of the escape of the Israelites from Egypt. Entertainment Weekly is describing the movie as "Think Gladiator, not The Ten Commandments." I can already see Bale fighting a massive CGI burning bush that's about to encapsulate a group of screaming, naked children. You kick that bush's ass, Moses!
There are more biblical-based films rumored to be in the works, a Cain and Abel project, David and Goliath and there's even tell of a Pontius Pilate movie coming down the pike.
To quote Jerry Seinfeld, "What is the deal with that?"
If you think about movies being reflective of some kind of societal sentiment - we are all turning into zombies soon! -- what can be said about all of these Bible-based movies? True that according to the most recent Pew report 78 percent of Americans call themselves Christian, but the real growing trend is in non-religion, especially in the younger demographic.
"Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with any particular religion." And the number of non-affiliates has doubled as per the number of those people that said the same as children.
Despite these numbers, it would be difficult to say that there is a lack of religion currently in this country. From a cultural perspective, it feels like there is a rise in religion, or at the very least there has been a rise in the voices of religious groups. The Arizona bill 1062, which attempted to deny equal rights particularly in the gay community, may have been vetoed, but it was still a very real possibility. That is nothing to sneeze at. The religious right has been incredibly successful in pushing forward various agendas in terms of abortion and muddying the line between church and state.
We may be losing our religion in this country, but those that have found theirs are incredibly loud and they have lots of money. Bible movies come at a perfect time.
So, are we headed for an onslaught of religious media? Will there soon be a WB show all about Abraham's son Isaac and his teen-angst daddy issues? How about a Disney cartoon called "Adam and Eve" with the snake voiced by Sinbad? Or maybe a live-action Daniel in the Lion's Den where CGI lions speak like that movie Babe?
The year of the Bible film is only just beginning. "Not that there is anything wrong with that," to quote Seinfeld again.
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