"There are compelling economic reasons for Hollywood to embrace the Good Book"

Hollywood’s New Bible Stories


Floods, plagues, burning bushes and parting seas, Bible movies make great vehicles for big-budget special effects, a key selling point for a wide swath of audience members

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Jim's picture

Here are the reasons:


  1. biblical stories are easily recognizable to both domestic and the all-important foreign audiences
  2. they’re free: Studios don’t need to pay expensive licensing fees to adapt stories and characters already in the public domain.
  3. Bible movies make great vehicles for big-budget special effects

In addition to “Noah,” Time Warner’s Warner Bros. Pictures is developing a movie about Moses, tentatively titled “Gods and Kings,” which Steven Spielberg is in talks to direct, according to people familiar with the matter. Warner Bros. also recently acquired the script for “Pontius Pilate.” Another Moses project, “Exodus,” is in development at News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox, with Chernin Entertainment producing and Ridley Scott expected to direct. (News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.) Sony Pictures is developing “The Redemption of Cain,” a supernatural film loosely inspired by the fratricidal tale of Cain and Abel, a project slated to be Will Smith’s directorial debut. And Lionsgate will distribute “Mary, Mother of Christ,” which is being billed as a prequel to “The Passion of the Christ.”

JobK's picture

They will represent Judaism and Roman Catholicism, not Protestant Christianity, and certainly not conservative evangelical or fundamentalist Protestant Christianity. “Pontius Pilate”? Meh. Dino De Laurentiis made "Barabbas" back in the day. Wake me up when someone makes a mainstream movie on the apostle Paul, which will require them to actually mostly follow the New Testament text instead of Roman Catholic tradition or whatever fiction some novelist or screenwriter chooses to make up. I used to watch those old Hollywood Bible stories when I was growing up and again when they used to rerun them on TBN in my Pentecostal days, and noticed how A) they avoided the New Testament doctrine like the plague - and when you consider the numbers and influence of Jews in Hollywood then and now this was no accident - Cool and in a lot of cases it seemed like they were subversive, using the claim that they were adapting Bible stories as an excuse to get away with more questionable content than the censors in those days would have otherwise allowed. When you consider how much illicit (by 1959 standards) they were able to pack into "Solomon and Sheba", you can see these guys exploiting Bible content to get as close as they can to an X rating, and snickering at Christians who would be appalled at and protest that sort of content were it portrayed in any other context (i.e. the torture violence in "The Passion Of The Christ"). 

Also, do we want Ridley Scott, a God-hating atheist who has mocked Christianity in several of his films (Prometheus, Kingdom of Heaven) handling the story of Moses? Don't think that you are going to see Christophanies or Christ-prefiguring typology from that fellow. And wow, I suppose the Scientologist Will Smith (who had to reject his middle class two parent Baptist upbringing to make it in Hollywood I guess) directing that old Gnostic "redemption of Cain" canard is supposed to be progress in the culture war, I guess. 

Solo Christo, Soli Deo Gloria, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Sola Scriptura

Wayne Wilson's picture

Many of the early Hollywood biblical pictures were excuses for sensuality and titillation. DeMille was certainly guilty of that before the Production Code tamed him.  And while the Production Code did tap down the sensuality, it was part of the Code to not attack any of the major faiths, so errors in story-telling creep in, as in The Robe, an otherwise fine film, where Judas is paid off by the Romans, not the Jews. 

And there were some truly excellent films from that era ---- William Wyler's Ben-Hur being the best artistically, while keeping faithful to the gospel .  And although many things about it drive me crazy, The Greatest Story Ever Told has great beauty and some wonderful moments, and it came from another of Hollywood's best directors.  Different days.

But the current list?  Not much there to celebrate, I'm afraid.  And I agree about Ridley Scott and Moses.  I will pray that never makes it to the screen.