History repeats itself – now one of Hollywood’s oldest genres, the biblical movie, is coming back in a big way.
Hollywood is about taking great stories, making them into great movies and making a great deal of money. Samson kills a thousand with the jawbone of an ass, a pillar of fire lights the sky, city walls crumble with the sound of a trumpet, a donkey talks, water turns to wine- the Bible is brimming with stories that have the makings of Hollywood gold.
Hollywood has been making movies about the Bible for over a hundred years
Hollywood is banking on casting big names like Russell Crowe as Noah and Christian Bale as Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings, to be released later this year, to ensure the biblical comeback brings big box office numbers. Son of God (2014) producer Mark Burnett cited the phrase “God is moving” as a reason for the biblical comeback. The story of the Exodus hasn’t been told on the big screen for decades and the adage “history repeats itself” as an explanation for the return of the Biblical movie comes to mind.
Hollywood has been making movies about the Bible for over a hundred years. In 1912, Adam and Eve was released, and in 1927 the silent film The King of Kings portrayed a provocative affair between Mary Magdalene and Judas Iscariot. Within the hundred-year maw between Hollywood’s Garden of Eden and 2014’s Great Flood of biblical movies, we find 1956’s The Ten Commandments and 1959’s Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and 2004’s The Passion of the Christ, directed by Mel Gibson.
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It’s refreshing to again see Hollywood dipping into the Bible’s coffers. Anything different in a Hollywood that remakes movies like The Parent Trap and The Karate Kid every 20 or 30 years should be welcomed. It has, however, been years since there has been a notable Bible movie based on something other than the life of Christ. And, as history tends to repeat itself, it’s about time the story of Moses comes back to life on the big screen.
The recent rising trend in biblical movies is making Hollywood stand up, listening with rapture. While Noah has met with some criticism from conservative Christian groups concerning historical accuracy and the portrayal of Noah, Hollywood, unafraid of controversy, seems to be avoiding outright blasphemy and is bringing to life great stories. Box office numbers confirm that audiences agree with this ‘new’ genre of storytelling. While not quite a blockbuster, Noah earned a solid $44 million stateside, opening weekend, with $95 million grossed overseas.
The Bible is a copyright-free zone, with no pesky authors to haggle with, offering all the components a movie could ask for
The Bible is a copyright-free zone, with no pesky authors to haggle with, offering all the components a movie could ask for. Encapsulated within Bible stories are murder, mayhem, sex, love, violence, magic, miracles and redemption. While there may not be a shift in Hollywood’s perception of religion, Hollywood is embracing this shift towards the biblical. Hollywood’s gravitation towards stories with greater substance may be what many movie fans are craving. Hollywood sees this recent trend as an opportunity and is taking advantage of it to the fullest.
Ultimately, Hollywood is about taking great stories and making movies that make a lot of money. With hunks like Russell Crowe and Christian Bale taking lead roles in biblical classics, you have to wonder who would be cast as the wise King Solomon or the musician/writer/poet David? Would they put them on a 300 diet and exercise program? Which sexy starlet would play the wicked Jezebel or the cunning Delilah? A plethora of great stories exist out there, including thousands of notable characters. There may be nothing new under the sun, but there’s plenty available to choose from. Now Hollywood’s going to make a mint.
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Featured image: 20th Century Fox
Inset image: Paramount