Evangelicals and their (Bad) Movies

Evangelicals and their (Bad) Movies February 18, 2014

Russell Crowe as Noah.

I had thought we were past this. Honestly. Movies that are blatantly written and produced for evangelical audiences suck. Think Left Behind or Fireproof or The Christmas Candle.

Mainstream movies that are successfully marketed to evangelicals also tend to suck. Think Evan Almighty. The Passion of the Christ is an obvious exception, and it unfortunately convinced Hollywood marketers that evangelicals can make a movie a blockbuster. But, in general, evangelicals cannot make a movie a hit.

Now it’s happening again.

On the one hand, we’ve got Son of God, a new movie from Mark Burnet and Roma Downey. I’m guessing it’s going to suck. Nevertheless, pastors like Rick Warren are doing what they can to ensure its success:

Christian leaders, including megachurch pastor Rick Warren, plan to rent every screen in numerous multiplex theaters across 10 cities for the premiere of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s upcoming Jesus film, “Son of God,” on Feb. 27.

The unusual move reflects the confidence Christian leaders have in Burnett and Downey’s work in the wake of “The Bible,” a hit miniseries on the History channel…

Many religious leaders are citing the movie as a natural opportunity to evangelize. Warren may have a vested interest in the film, since he wrote a curriculum tied to the movie and published by LifeWay Christian Resources.

When you’ve got to rent theaters for your movie, it’s never a good sign.

Meanwhile, another studio is attempting to woo evangelicals with Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. But evangelicals aren’t having any of it. Aronofsky’s Noah is too dark, too conflicted, and, after the arc lands, too drunk. Against the director’s wishes, Paramount has been showing various versions of the film to audiences of evangelicals, and it hasn’t been going well:

In some cases, Moore says, “people had recollections of the story that weren’t actually correct.” For example, there was Noah’s ability to open and close the door to the ark. “People said the door to the ark is supposed to be so big that no man can close it. Well no, that’s not actually what it says. What it says is that God ultimately shut the door of the ark when the flood comes, so it wasn’t Noah shutting the door on the rest of humanity — it was God making a decision.”

And then there’s the scene — which actually is in the Bible — in which Noah, back on land after the flood, gets drunk by himself in a cave. “But most people do not remember or were never taught the fact that after Noah’s off the ark, there is a moment in the story where he is drunk,” says Moore.

Did you catch that? A story that generations of Christians (and Mormons) used to enslave and subjugate Blacks has been totally forgotten by evangelicals (and surely by all Christians). What the Bible actually says is fascinating, and I look forward to seeing how Aronofsky hews to the text, and how he embellishes it. I might see it several times, especially if it’s good.

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