The Battle of the Bible Films — the article’s up!

My article on the Bible-movie revival is now up at the Christianity Today website; it will also be in the print edition of the magazine. The article looks at the fitful attempts made by the studios to cash in on the success of The Passion of the Christ since it came out a decade ago, it looks at the three Bible movies coming out this year — Son of God, Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings — and it looks at what might be next if Noah and Exodus are big-enough hits. It also includes soundbites from publicist Jonathan Bock, director Darren Aronofsky (Noah) and screenwriters Stuart Hazeldine (Paradise Lost, Gods and Kings) and Barbara Nicolosi (Mary).

Box-office update: Noah might get edged out of the top ten, Heaven Is for Real does better than expected, Son of God and God’s Not Dead begin to see some action overseas

Noah may or may not be in the top ten in this, its fourth week of release.

Deadline reports that Noah is virtually tied with God’s Not Dead and newcomer Disneynature’s Bears for the #9 spot, with a weekend haul of $4.8 million each. Box Office Mojo gives Noah the edge with an estimated $5 million, while Leonard Klady says God’s Not Dead is well behind the other two, with only $4.3 million.

In any case, one of those films will end up outside the top ten, in the #11 spot, when the final figures are released tomorrow. If Noah turns out to be that film, then it would have one more thing in common with Son of God, box-office-wise, as that film fell out of the North American top ten in its fourth week of release, too.

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Review: Transcendence (dir. Wally Pfister, 2014)

Transcendence is, in theory, the sort of film I ought to like. It’s a science fiction film with big ideas about the increasingly blurry line between humanity and technology, and it addresses the question of whether some creations can ever outgrow or improve upon their creators. The film also has some fantastic production design. It’s a treat to look at.

But in execution, the film — the first to be written by Jack Paglen and the first to be directed by Wally Pfister, a cinematographer who has shot all but one of Christopher Nolan’s films — leaves a lot to be desired, almost as though the ideas at play were simply too big for the filmmakers to really get a handle on.

Most significantly, the film sets up a conflict but can’t decide whose side it’s on — which makes for a curiously subversive bit of entertainment but also leaves the story feeling quite muddled, especially in its final moments.

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Noah news round-up: Oscar buzz & an environmental panel

It seems like the Oscars happened just last month. Oh, wait, that’s because they did happen just last month. So we have almost a year to go before the next batch of golden statues are handed out. Still, why wait to campaign for next year’s awards when you could start right now!

Two weeks ago, Pete Hammond wondered whether critically-acclaimed films like Noah and The Grand Budapest Hotel might have a shot at the Oscars, despite the fact that they were released so early in the year. Now comes word, via Deadline and Variety, that Paramount has already started its campaign for Noah.

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Ethnic diversity, or the lack thereof, in the new Bible movies

One of the issues that some people have had with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah — it was never a big-enough deal to become a full-fledged controversy, per se — concerns the ethnicity of the actors.

The film depicts the annihilation of the entire human race, except for one family that will go on to produce the entire human race as we know it today — so it seems a little odd to some people that pretty much every character we see in this film fits into a single ethnic category, i.e. Caucasian.

It seems even more odd when one considers that the human race was entirely dark-skinned at first, and that lighter skin was a later genetic mutation that emerged as certain population groups moved “into areas of low UV radiation”. The film flips this around by positing that the entire human race was light-skinned at first, or at least right after the Flood, and thus darker skin must have evolved later.

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The silence, justice, mercy and love of God in Noah

Questions of personal taste aside, most of the problems that people have had with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah don’t stand up to all that much scrutiny. Does the film reflect a Gnostic theology? Not at all. Is the snakeskin worn by Adam and his descendants necessarily evil in the Jewish tradition? Not at all. Were the righteous people who lived before the Flood vegetarian? Actually, yes. And so on, and so on.

The one complaint that arguably does have some merit is the one that says God does not speak in this film. God talks a lot in the biblical version of this story, but in the film he is silent, communicating through visions and signs that are open to more than one interpretation, and leaving some pretty crucial decisions to Noah himself.

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