It’s fair to say that Christianity is not exactly on the upsurge in this age of scientific and technological advancement, but in a twist of events as inexplicable as an immaculate conception, people everywhere are making films about it. The tales from the Old and New Testaments have been adapted into feature length format time and again, but evidently Hollywood thinks there’s still a bit of life and a few moral lessons to be trodden out of them. Upcoming works like Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and Ridley Scott’s Moses movie Exodus are two of the more significant biblical resurrections next year, but there are also smaller productions on the horizon like Jonah and the Whale and Son of God.
There does not seem to be a huge demand for these films, nor can anything new be said with them. On the basis of the Noah trailer and interviews with Ridley Scott about ProMoseus- sorry, Exodus- they are being tackled with complete sincerity, political correctness and reverence for the source material in spite of both directors’ agnosticism. While they will no doubt be’ inspirational’, and ‘epic’ in terms of narrative and scale, they seem to offer no new angle on the age old parables. Not only is it totally unnecessary, making a ‘religious’ film is plain lazy.
There are a limited number of religious films which manage to avoid insipidity; a prime example is Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004), which made a lot of people rather cross (sorry) upon release. Largely passed off as Jew bashing torture porn, Mel Gibson managed to glean some interesting material out of the historical event/story of Jesus’ death and ponder on the remarkable endurance but inherent fallibility of the human race. Ambiguous, controversial and even irreverent religious films like Life of Brian (1979) and The Exorcist (1973) are infinitely more interesting than the overblown, CGI, cookie cutter crap that seems to be so popular at the moment.
Ultimately, the major film companies need a spark of originality. Even large, exciting projects like the MARVEL movies (which feature plenty enough religious imagery to go round) or the new Star Wars films are drawing on a huge universe of comics and fan fiction. Let’s have more films with refreshing scripts, which tackle new and interesting concepts and aren’t merely hackneyed reworkings of some comic book or religious tome. The world of Sci-Fi has unlimited potential and even an intelligent remake (see Dawn of the Dead (2004), The Departed (2006), or 2010’s True Grit) is preferable to leviathan time wasters like Noah and Jonah and the Whale.
Here’s a Son of God trailer… personally I’d rather see a film about Son of Sam , whose feats of arson and dairy consumption are arguably as miraculous as any of Christ’s magic displays. Or what about film about Jesus starring Will Arnett (Gob from Arrested Development)? Now that I would pay to see… ‘’Sure, the guy in the two hundred talent sandals is gonna let you wash his feet…COME ON!’’
Now take a look at this trailer for Darren Aronosfky’s Noah. For such a non-mainstream director, this film is hardly pushing the boat out creatively.
And lastly a peak at the set of Exodus – hopefully Ridley wraps it up sharpish and gets cracking on Blade Runner 2.