Like much of culture Hollywood understands fads…especially if there’s money to be made from them.
Classics like “The Ten Commandments”, “The Robe”, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and “Ben Hur” had their more that fair share of success. Disney even got into the Bible story genre with its animated “Prince of Egypt”, telling the life of Moses.
Ten years ago (has it been that long) Mel Gibson’s film, “The Passion of the Christ” surprised the Hollywood establishment. Who thought a very graphic movie about the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life spoken in Aramaic with subtitles would gross over 600 million dollars worldwide? The film industry saw then that, indeed, film-goers, especially those in America would turn out in droves to see movies based on Bible characters, even if they were highly religious in content.
Now another adaptation of the life of Jesus, “Son of God”, is on the big screen. Actually it is an edited reprise of last year’s television mini-series “The Bible”, extracting the best scenes from that portrayal’s life of Jesus and marketing it to the cinema. If early indications hold true it will be successful as well. Its first weekend showed a take of 26.5 million dollars. And really, it’s a rerun. Not quite the 83.8 million Gibson’s film earned, but good enough to come in at #2 nationwide.
Some more fundamentalist critics have picked apart what they see as diversions from the scriptural accounts and for that reason have discouraged attendance. While the producers have claimed their own Christian faith, they are not theologians and like all other Hollywood productions have used “artistic license” in telling the story. But most evangelical and Catholic voices find it a worthy film.
I’ve not yet seen it. Not sure that I will, only because I choke at the price of admission to a movie these days. But I may, and if I do I may invite some friends – maybe those who either aren’t believers or who find Jesus interesting, yet aren’t “into” the church thing. Anything that can spur conversations about Jesus can’t be a bad thing.
Let me encourage you to do a couple of things as we draw closer to the Passion Week.
First, for those who celebrate Lent, go see the movie (unless you gave up movie-going). I don’t personally get into the season of Lent – it’s not part of my tradition - but talking with many who do I hear more about them and what they’re giving up than I do about Christ and what He gave up. That’s just my impression. So go see the movie and let its images be imprints on your minds as you journey to the cross and the resurrection this season. Make it different than before.
And for all of us I would encourage you to use the movie as an appetizer to the real meal. Over the next 40 days why not prepare your hearts for the horror that was Jesus’ crucifixion and the exultation that is Easter by reading the Gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all tell The Story from their four different, but divinely inspired viewpoints. It is such a compelling story, and told without “artistic license”. Get into the Word. By it comes faith. And we could all use more of that.
And if you don’t own a copy of the Bible I’ll give you one. Just stop by and see me. It’s worth the read.