Coming attraction: God

Bible-based movies are proliferating on movie screens this year. The Hollywood Reporter has a preview:

Exactly a month before Noah and his ark arrive, another Bible-based movie is hitting the big screen, and this one already has earned the stamp of approval from religious leaders.

Son of God 
(Feb. 28, Fox) features a mix of new and used footage from History’s hit miniseries The Bible – which averaged 11.4 million viewers during its five-week run and became the top-selling miniseries on DVD of all time — to tell the story of Jesus Christ. Husband-and-wife producers MarkBurnett and RomaDowney involved key Christian figures in the production, including evangelical pastor RickWarrenand Rev. SamRodriguez, president of the Hispanic Evangelical Alliance.

“We took this very seriously, so we involved all of these advisers from the very, very beginning,” says Burnett of the film, which stars DiogoMorgado as Christ. Son of God already is being added to the curriculums of at least three Christian and Catholic programs in the U.S. And Burnett, the reality TV mogul behindSurvivor and The Apprentice, appeared with Downey at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 6 to preview 30 minutes of footage and pass out posters.

Fox has another Bible-based movie coming Dec. 12. Exodus, directed by RidleyScott and starring ChristianBale as Moses, follows the Israelites’ journey out of Egypt. Details are scarce, but sources tell THR that Scott, an avowed agnostic, has chosen an unconventional depiction of God in the film. If so, it faces the same challenge in wooing religious audiences as Noah does.

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The paper also looks at efforts to market “Noah” to a faith-based audience: 

Paramount, nervous about how audiences would respond to [director Darren] Aronofsky’s fantastical world and his deeply conflicted Noah, insisted on conducting test screenings over the director’s vehement objections while the film was a work in progress.

Friction grew when a segment of the recruited Christian viewers, among whom the studio had hoped to find Noah‘s most enthusiastic fans, questioned the film’s adherence to the Bible story and reacted negatively to the intensity and darkness of the lead character. Aronofsky’s Noah gets drunk, for example, and considers taking drastic measures to eradicate mankind from the planet. Hoping to woo the faith-based crowd, Paramount made and tested as many as half-a-dozen of its own cuts of the movie. “I was upset — of course,” Aronofsky tells The Hollywood Reporter in his first extensive interview about the film’s backstory. “No one’s ever done that to me.”

…Moore says Aronofsky’s Noah is not in the more literal vein of the blockbuster Bible series produced for the History channel by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. “They’ve been very effective in terms of communicating to and being embraced by a Christian audience,” says Moore. “This movie has a lot more creativity to it. And therefore, if you want to put it on the spectrum, it probably is more accurate to say this movie is inspired by the story of Noah.”

At the same time, he says the film reflects “the key themes of the Noah story in Genesis — of faith and hope and God’s promise to mankind.” The studio is aware that a vocal segment of Christian viewers might reject the film over accuracy. Still, Moore says, “Our anticipation is that the vast majority of the Christian community will embrace it.”

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