Film executive Mark Joseph knows one reason why Christians haven’t fully connected with this year’s Bible-based epics.
“If there was outreach to the religious community, it eluded the leaders I spoke with,” says Joseph, whose film credits include “The Passion of the Christ,” “Doonby” and “Letters to God.”
It’s clear neither “Noah” nor the just-released “Exodus: Gods and Kings” will match the box office might of 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ,” a film which successfully connected with faithful filmgoers. While “Noah” scored solid box office numbers overseas, the film barely crossed the $100 million mark stateside. “Exodus,” which opened last weekend, will be lucky to get near that amount after its $24 million debut.
Both “Noah” and “Exodus” featured atheists behind the camera, Darren Aronofsky and Ridley Scott, respectively. “The Passion” came courtesy of Mel Gibson, a man of deep faith. It begs the question – should Hollywood start hiring spiritually strong men and women to helm big-budget Christian films?
Not Another Literary Adaptation
Brian Godawa,screenwriter of “To End All Wars” and author of “Chronicles of the Nephilim” (A Biblical novel series), says Bible-based films demand “a higher fidelity” to their source material than traditional book adaptations.
“Most ‘non-believers’ by definition do not believe in the sacred story, and so they will by necessity rewrite the story to embody their own, non-believing worldview, whether subtlety (‘Exodus’) or more explicitly (‘Noah’),” Godawa tells HollywoodInToto.com. “Most people know this as ‘spin.’”
Godawa argues It simply makes little sense to hire an atheist to bring a spiritual story to the big screen, as least from a commercial perspective.
“As a free society, anyone can tell any story they want and spin it anyway they want,” he says. “But if you want to make a lot of money and appeal to the audience of a sacred story, then those most likely to understand its original meaning in order to faithfully communicate it will be those who believe it.”
This isn’t the first time Hollywood downplayed a story’s spiritual nature, Godawa says. He notes the true stories behind “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Hotel Rwanda” and “Hardball” all featured prominent faith elements. The movie versions managed to leave them mostly behind.
“Why? Because non-believers don’t believe God is important to their meaning, so of course they pull it out,” he says.
Godawa says Christians may not rally around “Exodus” as they did for “The Passion of the Christ.” That doesn’t mean they’ll avoid the film altogether.
“I have seen many Christians say that they can look past the bias of the filmmaker and appreciate the movie for its acting, directing, storytelling or other personal, subjective things they may draw out of it, despite knowing that it does not support their spirituality or faith interpretation,” he says. “So the Christians here are the most open-minded.”