Over at the Wall Street Journal, Erica Orden informs us that Hollywood has turned again toward screenplays that develop stories inspired by biblical narratives. Yes, I did use the plural "screenplays" because there are a number of such projects in the works. Russell Crowe will play Noah. Will Smith will make his directorial debut with a film about Cain. And yes, for those of you who are salivating for controversy, they are making a "prequel" to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" called "Mary, Mother of Christ" (Odeya Rush plays Mary). This time, Gibson is nowhere near the production. But, no joke, Joel Osteen is one of the producers. I wonder if the baby Jesus will have excessively white teeth.
I enjoyed "Last Temptation" (despite its many unintentionally funny parts) because it explored themes, developed characters, and put forth something original. And, conversely, I hated Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" because it resisted themes, gave only nominal efforts toward characterization, and put forth something flat and unoriginal. While many were crying "but that's not how it really happened!", I was thinking "why does that man-baby need to be so hairy?" Which is to say that I never entered the film as a participant; I was never drawn into the narrative.
When I go to the movies, I am ready to suspend disbelief. Not every historian is. "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" was just fine with me. I'm looking for creativity and I don't really care about a one to one ratio between fact and story. In general, this is an absurd way to think about history and art both. The scenes I liked most in Gibson's debacle were the scenes that departed from the Gospels. In short, I am not offended by new depictions of classic narratives. I am offended by poor story-telling. I truly hope that next year's Bible flicks will be better than previous attempts.