There has been a lot of talk lately about how much we should mix church and Hollywood. If producers made movies to generate good reviews, they would likely make another Biblical movie. Like it or not, in the show business world, there is no such thing as bad publicity. For every negative review that was written about Noah, with Russell Crowe, a few more tickets were sold, because the more people that talk about the movie, the more people that think about the movie, which then leads to more people watching the movie. It seems Hollywood has learned a lesson here, and so they will continue to make Biblical movies.
There are a few different categories of Hollywood biblical movie, but Noah is a Biblical epic, and I thought it might be fun to suggest a few more stories to be used for upcoming movies.
First, I thought it might be necessary to spell out just what exactly constitutes a Biblical epic. It is a story of a grand scale, with some supernatural act, and preferably some violence (or at least the possibility of adding violence without fundamentally altering the story.) The story needs to have a grand central figure, like Jesus, Moses, or Noah. There needs to be an enemy and a means by which that enemy is overcome. There is no shortage of Bible stories that fit this description, but there are a few more criteria that a contemporary Hollywood movie needs. It isn’t enough anymore to hate an enemy because the Bible says we should, the movie has to make the enemy hate-able. To me, that was the biggest challenge of making a movie based on the story of Noah, is that you have to inevitably kill off a whole bunch of people, and for the audience, even a Christian audience to be comfortable with that, you have to make them pretty evil, and you have to make Noah really, really good. (BTW, if it strikes you as odd that I’m suggesting a Christian audience is more pre-disposed to hating an enemy and generally more comfortable with killing off hordes of people, GOOD, that should strike you as odd. Even though it’s true, it SHOULD strike you as odd.) Also, there needs to be room for an extra-biblical twist, a side story or point that isn’t in the Bible, but allows the director/studio to have fun/make a point/generate controversy.
So, here are my three suggestions for upcoming Hollywood movies in the category of Biblical epic.
Gideon – you may not know this story, but you should, and you will after the major motion picture comes out. Gideon is an unlikely military leader called out of obscurity by God to lead an Israelite army against the oppressive Midianite forces. He tests God to see if He is really there, and God answers. Gideon assembles an army, and God intrevenes and says the army is too big. Then Gideon, his small army, and God drive the enemies away in dramatic fashion and the Israelites can live in peace.
Passage: Judges 6-7
The hero: Gideon
The enemy: The Midianites
Why we can hate them: The Israelites are dying of hunger because the invading Midianite hordes keep stealing their grain and gold, etc.
Extra-biblical twist: Without too much reworking the behaviour of the of the Midianite army could be written to look suspiciously like another country that has military forces in that part of the world.
Acts of the Apostles – this is a collection of stories about how the church evolved from a group of people who literally followed Jesus to a religious movement encircling the Mediterranean. From Paul’s conversion, to surviving shipwrecks, to his persuasive arguments, this movie would follow his life as he goes from church to church to try to build up a movement.
Passage: Most of the book of acts, and snippets from Paul’s letters
The hero: Paul
The enemy: Paul (I know it sounds like a trick, but he struggles with himself a lot, so that could be the theme here, does he use his own arguments? does he interpret the earthquake as a miracle so he can escape and allow the jailor to kill himself? does he let the fame get to his head? etc)
Why we can hate them: Of course we love Paul, but he writes a lot about falling into patterns of temptation, and this movie could be written to draw out that pattern, making us hate his (and our own) propensity to fall into those patterns that threaten to undermine everything that he was doing
Extra-biblical twist: Two options here (among many) 1.) What is the thorn in Paul’s flesh? Scholars have speculated it was a physical ailment, a recurring sin, a disagreeable wife, his sexual orientation, etc. Pick one, run with it, make it a big deal, and people will talk about your movie or 2.) add a compelling female character. Paul is often accused of being a mysogynist, so seeing him empower women in his life would create fodder for conversation at least
Patmos – in what would be the most controversial and talked-about biblical movie ever, an exiled former slave sits on a slave trading island shouting condemnation toward the dominant empire of the day. He records his visions and predictions into what we would later call the book of Revelation. Who was he? Where did he come from? How did the culture of his day influence his writings? What symbols and images did he borrow?
Passage: the whole book of Revelation
The hero: John of Patmos
The enemy: Rome, the whore of Babylon
Why we can hate them: They devour everything in their path and slander every religion they can
Extra-biblical twist: Make John a divisive character so that his life takes on the identity of his writing, ie. some churches love him, some ignore him, and some build everything they know around what he teaches them.