The temptation when making a movie about a major turning point in history is to make it all about one person, usually a man, and to frame it as that one person’s great struggle.
The genre – which was very popular in the silent era and then, again, during the post-war boom of the 1950s and early 1960s – never went away entirely. Low-budget films like The Last Temptation of Christ and The Passion of the Christ have offered radically different, even opposite, interpretations of the life and death of Jesus. And there has been a steady stream of Bible films on television going back to at least the 1970s.
But when Paramount Pictures releases Noah – starring Russell Crowe and rumoured to have cost over $125 million – in March, it will mark the first time that a big-budget live-action Bible epic has been made for the big screen since Richard Gere starred in King David back in 1985. (The Prince of Egypt, released in 1998, was also a major Hollywood production, but it was an animated film, and so arguably doesn’t quite belong in the same category.)
Ever since Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy made nearly three billion dollars worldwide — and earned seventeen Oscars between the three films, to boot — it has been a given that someone, somewhere would make a prequel based on the book that introduced the world to Hobbits in the first place.
But there were certain obvious questions hanging over the inevitable follow-up.
Avatar came out on Blu-Ray and DVD last week, so now is as good a time as any to post the following article, which I wrote for the March issue of the Anglican Planet after they asked me to expand on some ideas that I had hinted at in my review for the January issue of BC Christian News: