When you think about it, it is only liberal Hollywood that has been responsible for shutting out the ever-growing population of Christian, and/or very religious potential movie goers. With purity balls taking place all over the country, the ever-widening exodus away from science and towards creationism, Hollywood would be remiss in not taking advantage of this untapped segment of the population.
Enter Noah. Darren Aronofsky’s CGI epic is being sold as both a geek cred movie (they flew several key leaders in the film geek community down there to get an early look) and one that hopes to tap into the ever-growing demand for movie fiction and religious fiction to meet. And why not. Movies aren’t real anyway, most of them, so why should “reality” play a part when it comes to movies. They are movies, most of them. They are mythological at times, inspiring at other times and have taken the place OF religion, probably, for many of today’s youth.
Oscar, though, he’s not keen on religious films particularly. This is perhaps due to those films being primarily Christian based. And in Christianity, as Noah’s story backs up, you are either with Christ or you’re against him. Where does that leave Jews? If you buy the theory that most of the Oscar voters are Jewish, of course. No one has ever really proven that but it is largely assumed and taken as a given by many.
Does the “Jew thing” keep them from acknowledging Jesus movies? I don’t know. Passion of the Christ made $83 million in its opening weekend, eventually earning roughly $370 domestically and around $600 million internationally. Remember Lynda Obst’s book about how only international box office really matters anymore? While the Christian dollars are highly sought after here, it isn’t too much of a shocker that Noah is already playing widely in Mexico.
I will take a wild guess in the assumption that most Oscar voters probably agree with Bill Maher:
I have not seen the upcoming Noah movie, and I understand by their own admission the producers have taken many liberties with the text. (With virtually Bible movies, it’s hard not to quip, “The book is better.”)
But [SPOILER ALERT] one liberty the producers have apparently taken with the text is that a character sneaks on the ark. Noah finds out and kills him! (This is in early versions seen in pre-screenings. Hopefully, the producers will cut it.) That implies that Noah and God were trying to keep people off the ark. But that’s not at all in the spirit or text of the Noah story.
The Bible says it took Noah and his sons 120 years to build the ark. That was a long time for his neighbors to see the storm coming—and repent, if they wished. It also says (in St. Peter’s second letter) that Noah was a “preacher of righteousness.” To whom? The animals on the ark? No, presumably to those around who could see the coming judgment as Noah was preparing the ark.
So to imply that Noah and God were trying to keep people from being saved is a sad distortion.
This reminds me of something Jesus said, right after He made the famous statement of John 3:16. (For God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life). He said: For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it.
The world is already condemned. For there is no one good. No, not one. But Jesus (who is fully God and fully man) lived a perfect life and then voluntarily received the due penalty of our sins on Himself. He became sin for us—and for that horrible moment—God forsook Him.
But God raised Him from the dead on that first Easter Sunday. He will one day come back to judge the living and the dead.
Noah’s ark is a symbol of the cross. You’re in or you’re out. Therefore, choose wisely.
It’s like the Passover lamb. Jesus was killed on Passover, the ancient Hebrew celebration when they took the blood of an innocent lamb (without breaking its bones) and put the blood on the top and two sides of their doorway (indirectly forming the sign of the cross). They were either covered by that blood or they were not.
It was interesting to note in the recent Son of God movie that as Jesus was being crucified in the background, you could see a Passover lamb being slain in the foreground.
Seven hundred and fifty years before Jesus, Isaiah said it all, “All we like sheep have gone astray…But the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” I pray for Bill Maher to see this one day.
There is little point in denying the brittle disdain Hollywood has for Christian movies. This would ordinarily spill out into the rest of the blogosphere but you just never know where those slippery slopes are going to pop up next. That it’s Darren Aronofsky making Noah and not, say, oh I don’t know, John Lee Hancock that gives the movie immediate geek cred, and potentially film critic cred as well. One could possibly consider it along the lines of The Last Temptation of Christ as opposed to the Passion of the Christ.
The Last Temptation of Christ cost $7 million and made only $8 million. It earned a single Oscar nomination for Best Director — not even for Peter Gabriel’s exceptional score, one that is probably among the best film scores of all time. That’s not hyperbole in this case. The film was a passion project for the Catholic director, who really did struggle internally with all of this stuff. I don’t know, despite Darren Aronofsky’s religious symbolism in his film, that he is that closely aligned with the story of Noah or with the stories of the Bible, which function best when not taken, cough cough, literally.
Money talks, apparently, as Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ earned three Oscar noms to Scorsese’s one, though they were tech nods – ironically, score was among them, along with cinematography and makeup.
Where Noah’s fate rests is another story. There are going to be Christians who protest the film but nowhere near how they protested Scorsese’s movie. No doubt Paramount is hoping that, as we approach Easter, Christians will do what they hardly ever do – pay cold hard cash to go, in mass, to the movie theater.
Paramount is taking no chances letting those potential dollars slip through their fingers:
“To Faith Driven Consumers, changing a Biblical story like Noah by superimposing a revisionist message does not make the story more compelling,” wrote Chris Stone, whose group claims to represent an estimated 46 million Christian consumers who collectively spend $1.75 trillion annually. “People of faith generally, and Faith Driven Consumers specifically, are the core audience for ‘Noah’ and other films in this genre. . As such, our community is deeply engaged on this topic.”
In response to concerns and pressure from Christian groups, filmmakers reputedly tweaked the film and added a statement to promotional material explaining that the work is “inspired by” the biblical story of Noah and is “not a line-by-line retelling.”
If the rollout in Mexico is any indication – pic’s opening box office is on par with Gravity’s opening, and Gravity had Alfonso Cuaron, a native to Mexico, directing the film. Perhaps endorsement by the largely Catholic country will help soothe anxious Christians here about the possible misread of what they think is the “real” story of Noah.
The last thing Paramount wants, however, is another Last Temptation of Christ disaster. They really want it to be Passion of the Christ. But there is the sticking point of Aronofsky himself – one of the Gods Among Directors to film critics, fanboys, geek bloggers and so on. His reputation alone seems to ensure the kind of pass a no-name director wouldn’t get in a million years. That it’s Aronfosky, this film might finally be the crossover that will gain Christian dollars without losing artistic credibility.
Perhaps this review in the National Catholic Register says it all:
Darren Aronofsky’s Noah pays its source material a rare compliment: It takes Genesis seriously as a landmark of world literature and ancient moral reflection, and a worthy source of artistic inspiration in our day.
It is not a “Bible movie” in the usual sense, with all the story beats predetermined by the text, and actors in ancient Near Eastern couture hitting their marks and saying all the expected things. It is something more vital, surprising and confounding: a work of art and imagination that makes this most familiar of tales strange and new: at times illuminating the text, at times stretching it to the breaking point, at times inviting cross-examination and critique.
For many pious moviegoers, I suspect some of the film’s more provocative flourishes will be a bridge too far. Less pious viewers, meanwhile, may be put off by the biblical subject matter. Have Aronofsky (raised with a Jewish education) and co-writer Ari Handel made a film that’s too religious for secular viewers and too secular for religious ones? Who is the audience?
Well, I am, to begin with. For a lifelong Bible geek and lover of movie-making and storytelling like me, Noah is a rare gift: a blend of epic spectacle, startling character drama and creative reworking of Scripture and other ancient Jewish and rabbinic writings. It’s a movie with much to look at, much to think about and much to feel; a movie to argue about, and argue with.
It’s certainly not the picture-book story that most of us grow up with, all cheerful ark-building, adorable animals and a gravely pious, white-bearded protagonist. Noah, played by a flinty, authoritative Russell Crowe, is the hero, but that doesn’t make him saintly. Or, if he is saintly, it’s worth recalling that some of the saints could be off-putting, harsh, even ruthless. We want our heroes to be paragons of virtue and enlightenment. Yet when you get down to it, the difference between Moses or David and corrupt Hophni and Phineas is one of degree, not kind. We are all made of the same fallen stuff.