In light of the upcoming Noah movie starring Russell Crowe, the Wall Street Journal is running an article on the resurgence of Biblical epics in Hollywood. The article begins by highlighting many of the benefits of using Bible stories as source material:
There are compelling economic reasons for Hollywood to embrace the Good Book. The studios are increasingly reliant on source material with a built-in audience, something the Bible—the best-selling book in history—certainly has. And like the comic-book superheroes that movie companies have relied on for the past decade, biblical stories are easily recognizable to both domestic and the all-important foreign audiences. What’s more, they’re free: Studios don’t need to pay expensive licensing fees to adapt stories and characters already in the public domain.
The movies also have unique marketing challenges:
“There’s creative interpretation that goes into things that aren’t directly addressed in the underlying material, and so you always run the risk that people take exception to those stories,” Mr. Moore said.
Once that process is complete, the challenge shifts to getting both mainstream moviegoers and religious audiences into theater seats, a process that relies both on specialized marketing to those eager for a faith-based film as well as marketing that appeals to those searching for a “popcorn” movie.
The marketing issue in a way highlights one of the central worldview questions at play here and that is whether the biblical materials are historical narratives with eternal significance or just good fun marketable action-adventure stories.
Now sure, there are heaps of Biblical stories which translate well to the big screen. Think of Charlton Heston and The Ten Commandments, which won the Oscar for Best Special Effects in its day. And I reckon the story of Ehud in the book of Judges would make for some cool (and bizarre) action scenes. They’re exciting stories, and the listeners were meant to get excited when they heard them. For the Israellites, these stories are about being freed from a foreign king, and specifically, God’s hand is seen to be at work. (So I might say they are both significant and exciting stories.)
Similarly, the reason that Christians (ought to) highly value the treatment of the Old Testament materials is because of what the stories mean. When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, he explained to them that all of the “Scriptures”, what we know as the Old Testament, are actually about…him:
27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
The Old Testament points to both our need for redemption from the curse of sin while looking forward to a king, Jesus, who achieves that redemption for us and invites us into his kingdom. And if we’re making comparisons with superheroes, this one offers a CleanSlate freely without any strings attached:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Read the rest of the WSJ article here.