A supernatural superhero reigned supreme at the box office this weekend, while films aimed at younger and older audiences also did well in their box-office debuts.
Variety magazine’s chief film critic has seen Doctor Strange, and he calls it “Marvel’s most satisfying entry since ‘Spider-Man 2’ ”. That’s high praise, considering Spider-Man 2 came out four years before Iron Man, and thus four years before the invention of what we now know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Box-office update: Poor July 4 attendance affects two movies with a faith hook that are not “faith-based” movies
From the controversy surrounding Alone Yet Not Alone in January to the release of Moms’ Night Out in May, there’s been a lot of talk this year about “faith-based” movies, a genre that apparently covers everything from low-budget Christian propaganda to big-budget Bible movies with a distinctly Jewish sensibility. Curiously, though, one of the most faith-oriented films of the year came out this past week, and no one thought to group it in with the rest.
Well, perhaps it’s not that curious. Deliver Us from Evil, based on a book by retired NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie and directed by horror-movie expert Scott Derrickson, may have been made by openly Christian people — see this featurette on Sarchie and my 2005 interview with Derrickon for more on that — but the film is rated R, and it earns that rating with lots of four-letter words and disturbing images. So for those who are inclined to think that “faith-based” films are synonymous with “family” films and the like, there was never any question of putting this film in that category.
Seven months ago, we learned that MGM was developing a new adaptation of Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, the classic Lew Wallace novel that had previously been adapted by the studio in 1925 and 1959. Now comes word that Timur Bekmambetov — the Kazakh director of Night Watch (2004), Wanted (2008) and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) — is in talks to direct the film, apparently because the studio feels he has “a strong grasp on the story’s themes of revenge and redemption.”
At first glance, Bekmambetov — who specializes in heavily stylized adaptations of comic books and horror-fantasy novels — would seem an odd fit for this story, given the ancient setting and the sincerity or earnestness with which earlier films have tackled the novel’s themes. But this news sort of makes sense in light of the fact that studios have been trying for years now to imitate the success of 300 (2006), a heavily stylized adaptation of a graphic novel about the Persian invasion of Greece.