It appears that “Risen” was just the beginning.
Two weeks after the Joseph Fiennes historical drama hit theaters (and has raked in more than $20 million so far), Christianity will be hitting the box office big time. While faith-based films have begun making more of an appearance since the success of “God’s Not Dead,” I can’t remember seeing so many films about Christ or Christianity releasing so closely together. Whether a major release, a one-time event or a television special, it appears that there’s going to be a lot of religious talk at the movies in coming months. Let’s take a look at a few of these before I offer some brief thoughts.
The Young Messiah — March 11
Miracles from Heaven — March 16
The Passion (Fox) — March 20https://youtu.be/jhTLwlOMBEo
Easter Mysteries — March 20 (one-night only event)
God’s Not Dead 2 — April 1
The Story of God — April (National Geographic)
There’s a lot coming out. As someone who writes about faith, film and television, I find it exciting. There’s going to be a lot to delve into and write about in the coming month (and that’s in addition to my Lent series about films about Jesus, as well as regular releases like “10 Cloverfield Lane” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”). And I’m very glad to see that there’s a lot of diversity in here; these aren’t all simple faith-based dramas. There’s television spectacle, documentary, historical drama and theater in the mix. For someone who usually is very wary of art that claims to represent my faith, I find myself excited to see many of these.
Of course, there’s the expectation by many that just because many of these works carry a faith-based or Christian label, we should be lining up to see and support them without criticizing. If you’ve been following me long enough, you know I don’t believe that’s the case. I believe that if Christians want their work to stand alongside the best of Hollywood, they have to open it up to the same criticism. I don’t believe in going soft on a film just because it talks about something I believe in, and I believe that a bad film about faith that handles its message poorly or clumsily can actually be a very dangerous thing. We’re told in Scripture to test all things, and I believe that there’s definitely a place for Christian film criticism to do just that.
And yes, there are some movies listed above that I’m kind of dreading. “God’s Not Dead 2” looks to be a piece of persecution porn. And while I think Jennifer Garner is a very capable actress with the right material, “Miracles from Heaven” looks like it could be another saccharine release from the “Heaven is for Real” producers. I’ll admit my eyebrow arches a bit whenever I hear of movies like this, and I want to spend some time later this week delving deeper into some of the problems I have with faith-based movies.
But what surprises me are how many of these movies actually look interesting. There’s a very striking look to the “Young Messiah” trailer, and the film is based on a highly regarded Anne Rice novel about the early years of Christ. Now, it could be as much of a dud as “The Nativity Story” was a few years back. But given that we’ve never seen a movie about the early years of Jesus, I’m curious to see the approach this movie takes, and hopeful that it will be a refreshing take on the story.
I’ll be having more about “Easter Mysteries” here in the coming weeks, I hope. And I have to admit that I’m curious about this. It looks like a rather compelling bit of theater, and the music just in that short clip sounds like this isn’t just your standard Easter cantata. These one-night-only events from Fathom are sometimes really interesting, and I’m very eager to see what, exactly, this is.
I’m a bit worried about what Fox’s “Passion” event is on March 20. I know it’s going to be a live event hosted by Tyler Perry (there’s the problematic part) in which a giant, glowing cross is walked through New Orleans. As someone who’s always curious about live TV — particularly live TV that is going to feature both Seal and Michael W. Smith —I’m fascinated by this, even if it could be a trainwreck. And Morgan Freeman exploring God sounds very intriguing; I’m hoping to have more writing on this for you as it gets closer.
So, there’s a lot coming out. And while I don’t plan to tackle every bit of faith-based drama that comes down the pike, I do plan on seeing as many of these as I can. I find the intersection of art and faith to be a thing of great interest, and I’m eager to see what works and what doesn’t.
And on personal note, thank you to all the readers who have visited during the first month of this site. I’m encouraged by the interaction I’ve seen, and I’m going to try to keep content coming pretty regularly. I’m still working out a schedule I’d like to stick to, and I have a few special things I want to write in the coming weeks. But thanks for reading thus far. I’m eager to see where we go next!