We are in a season where movies with biblical themes are being released like crazy. Son of God just got released. Noah is being released this week. Exodus is also going to be made into a movie and another will be made about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Hollywood all of the sudden realized that there is significant money to be made in the Christian audience.
This can be both good or bad depending on how the production of these movies go. Because Noah is coming out this week and also has already been the center of all kinds of controversy, I wanted to gives us something to think about related to when Hollywood makes a movie based on the Bible.
6 Things to Consider When Hollywood Makes a Movie Based on the Bible
1. If you’ve read the book, the movie will never be as good.
This is always true whether it’s Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, or the Bible. People who are passionate about the original story are going to notice every point in which the film deviates from the original work. This is just the way that films are; in order for Harry Potter to be made into a movie, the screenwriter had to decide how to best tell the story on the big screen and unfortunately that means some things change. In order to make a movie like Noah, the screenwriter has to make some decisions about how he will tell the story.
2. It’s not going to be 100% accurate.
Some things are simply going to change as Darren Aronofsky had to adapt his story to make sense on the big screen. Noah was 600 years old when he built the ark; I’m pretty sure Aronofsky wasn’t able to cast a 600-year-old in the making of the film so it’s inevitable that the story on the screen will deviate at least slightly from the original. This isn’t meant to say it’s good or bad that it deviates, just the reality. Whether or not the deviations will harm the telling of the biblical story is yet to be determined.
"The film completely accepts the text, the four chapters in Genesis, as truth – just like if I was to adapt any book, I'd try to be as truthful to the original material as possible. It's just that there's only four chapters, and we had to turn it into a two-hour long narrative film.” - Darren Aronofsky
3. A Biblically accurate movie can’t replace conversations.
Let’s say your unbelieving friends do decide that because of all the hype surrounding the new Noah film that they’d like to check it out. Even though they’re not into the whole Bible thing, the action of another end-of-the-world type film seems intriguing to them so they check it out. No matter how biblically accurate the film is, your friend isn’t becoming a Christian because of the movie. The story might be compelling, intriguing, raise important questions, and might even accurately portray the story of Noah, but it is not going to have the conversations that you need to have with your friends, neighbors, and co-workers about Christ. And if the movie isn’t biblically accurate, well, you’re going to need have conversations anyways, so why not have a starting point to the conversation.
4. Hollywood usually puts out garbage; this is a step in the right direction.
Magic Mike was a box office hit; Fifty Shades of Grey is sure to be at the top of charts when it comes out. And Noah… Paramount studios is putting a butt-load of money into promoting this movie so that it can be one of the best. Compared to Magic Mike or Fifty Shades of Grey is it really that bad, even assuming it’s not 100% accurate? Let’s even assume that it isn’t biblically accurate; a movie is raising spiritual conversations in an entertaining way and not just adding to the garbage already out there.
"Whatever extra-Biblical elements there are in the film, that doesn’t overcome the fact that Paramount Studios is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to produce and promote a Bible story. This will be a national conversation that millions will participate in, and Noah will be water cooler conversation for the next 6 months. What an opportunity for the Christian community! Instead of condemning it outright, let’s join the conversation. Rarely does an event come along that begs us to present our side of the story. But if we don’t see the movie, we’ll be wasting the opportunity.” - Phil Cooke, Hollywood Producer
The only way I could see this not being a step in the right direction is if the film is so off in the theology that it presents something that is completely contrary to the message of the Bible.
Update: I still haven't seen the film, but have heard a variety of opinions already. Here are a couple posts that seem to speak to whether or not this is indeed a step in the right direction.
- 4 Things I Liked and 3 I didn't about the new Noah Movie
- Is the Noah Movie actually Gnosticism?
- No, Noah is not Gnostic
5. Christian films aren’t exactly good either.
While the Christian film industry doesn’t put out garbage like Magic Mike and Fifty Shades of Grey, it is not exactly known for creating great films. On most days, I would rather take a Hollywood produced, high quality film based on a story from the Bible, over a poor quality, mediocre Christian film that teaches poor theology.
6. We should always be checking our sources anyways.
This isn’t just true of the movies we watch, but it should also be true with the books we read, the sermons we listen to, and the pastors we listen faithfully to. When the Apostle Paul taught the Berean Jews, how did they respond? Acts 17:11 says, "Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” This is the Apostle Paul we are talking about. He wrote most of the New Testament. And the Jews check their source to make sure what he was saying is accurate.
We should do this too. We should always be checking what our pastors say, what the popular authors are saying, and what the movies are teaching when they claim to teach the Bible. If you’re finding the inaccuracies in the movie, good… that’s what you should be doing if you are are a Christian.
What other thoughts come to your mind when thinking about Hollywood making your favorite Bible stories into films?