Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Is the Bible the New Comic Book? Hollywood's Growing Interest in the Old Testament

Anyone notice a certain trend in the movies lately? It has to do with God. And no, I'm not talking about those hyper-Christian heaven-is-for-real movies, because they've always been around. But Old Testament, heavy-hitting, weeeird story stuff.

Seriously. Murder, animal sacrifice, the discovery of alcohol,
and much, much more!

In a time where there is literally nothing new under the sun, Hollywood seems to be investing more and more into big Bible sagas. In the sea of sequels, prequels, and "re-imaginings" there is a growing force in movies like Noah (directed by Aronofsky) and upcoming flick Exodus: Gods and Kings (directed by Ridkley Scott), I feel like we're going to see a bunch more movies of this caliber on the horizon.

But why?

With the indie industry taking over the consumer demand for films that are different, quirky, and a little more edgy, Hollywood seems to be running out of formulas that work with a larger audience. I'm actually a bit astonished that it has taken Hollywood this long to discover their missing ingredient. Anyone who has ever read the Old Testament knows that the stories in there are straight-up crazy a good 70% of the time. Murder, war, floods, famine, plagues, and everything else that you can think of is covered in those beginning books -- and in every top grossing movie in the past several decades. You can do a disaster movie, you can do a drama, you can do an ethical movie, you can do a religious movie (obviously), and the list goes on and on. There's a ton of plot flexibility with the Bible and they should be taking advantage of it.

Oh, and they are.

The other thing is the fact that no one has really tackled anything other than a straight reading of the Bible in the past couple of decades. Epics like The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur are of course classics, but a little dated. In this day and age, when we can design an entire world from scratch via computer, the time has never been more ripe for a fresh imagined look at what the world looked ike at the beginning of recorded time. They definitely took advantage of this in Noah, where some pre-Ark creatures and scorched landscapes came into play, creating a world that this both familiar and alien. Hearkens back to films not unlike The Lord of the Rings saga or even like the series Game of Thrones.


That's the other cool thing about delving into the Bible for some new film fodder: it's both familiar and unfamiliar. The book is so old that in a lot of ways it can adapt to fantasy and space flicks that have become so popular as of late. The writing in the Old Testament can be incredibly sparse, which allows a lot of room for imagination. While most other books have to take into account a lot of naysaying superfans, the Old Testament has enough wiggle room to allow for some creative expression without pissing off the uber-religious. Since there isn't a lot of descriptive detail put into each book, there is a lot of room left for bulking up plot with fight scenes and internal battles (which I'm sure they will play to their advantage and, again, already have with the likes of Noah).

The only thing that bugs me a little about this big idea is the probability that they will choose to ignore or rule out important details in favor of upping the drama to these movies. To bring up Noah again, one of the things that drove me NUTS towards the end was the fact that Noah didn't allow his sons to bring wives onto the ark.

BUT HIS SONS ALREADY HAD WIVES, according to the Bible.*

Come on, people! Learn to read!!

Yeah, it would be pretty messed up to just go out and PICK a poor girl and be like, "Hey, you're my daughter-in-law now. Hope that's cool. Now let's get you on this giant boat where you'll be stuck with us for God-literally-only-knows how long! Good? Good!" But he didn't have to! And as a result, the movie ends on a kind of question mark as to how the hell everyone is supposed to repopulate the earth...

Although, to be fair, I'm pretty sure crazier things have happened
in the Old Testament. Book is all cray...

So, yeah. In conclusion: I'm down with Hollywood finding an outlet for their blockbuster market. Especially because it is an untapped market. It's nice to see that studios can get a little imaginative with old Bible tales without everyone getting up in arms and asking the Pope to burn the director with fire. And there's a lot of room for "ancient" to become the new "future."

That being said, studios, please don't play around with the little information that you have. You have SO MUCH ROOM for creativity, leave the bare bones of the tale and appease us old Sunday School kids. Kthanks.

*Yeah, I'll provide that verse. Bring it. Genesis 7:13 "On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark." Bam.


  1. Nice write up.

    About five minutes into Noah it was obvious that it was not going to follow scripture one bit. I still kind of think the film is a masterpiece, or maybe it's one of the worst films I've ever seen...I honestly can't decide. Like, absolutely none of it outside of the names and the flood were according to scripture...

    1. I know what you mean. I was more just relieved that they didn't turn the film into a LOTR-esque battlefield, which I feel was implied in the trailer. But yeah, the "fallen angels," divisions of the land, and a few other things kind of peeved me. But nothing bother me more than the lack of wives thing. It became such a central plot point that it was distracting and unwarranted. Points for creativity for sure, but I zoned out for like a quarter of it. I think it's a middle-of-the-road film.