By now I'm sure you've heard the uproar over the $125 million Paramount Studios production of "Noah." The controversy appears to stem from one source, an organization known as Faith Driven Consumer, which raised concern about the film's commercial viability if Christians don't support it.
Faith Driven Consumer polled Christians, asking whether they would reject the film due to a reported inclusion of an environmental message and other emphases not seen in the true biblical account. The controversy has traveled the Internet and stirred curiosity.
A lesser controversy concerns the "Son of God" film. An extended episode from "The Bible," a 10-segment special on the History Channel in 2013, Son of God will run in multiplexes in at least 10 cities, with all their screens showing the religious film this evening (Feb. 27). The film opens nationwide Feb. 28 on 3000 screens.
The Bible series drew ratings that caused even studio heads to marvel. So cynics are asking, "Is this a case of producers using a strategic marketing plan merely to fill their own coffers?"
I'm not for certain what has motivated the makers of Noah or those of Son of God. But who cares?
Whatever the makers' incentives, the fact remains that we have a production dealing with an Old Testament man of God and another theatrical release built around the Savior of the world. Seldom do we see biblical tales playing in cinema complexes otherwise occupied by crude comedies, voyeuristic romances and senseless actioneers. These two films will do something other movies in the theaters won't ... spread the Word of God.
On a press junket last year for the TV miniseries The Bible, I spoke with Roma Downey. She was nearly giddy concerning the production.
"Just think about all the people who don't know the Bible," said the former star of "Touched By An Angel." "We pray they will become interested in God's Word and that believers will be reminded to make Bible study a part of their daily lives."
After the segment from The Bible featuring the life of Jesus aired on the History Channel, another controversy arose:
"Someone made a comment that the actor who played the devil vaguely resembled our president, and suddenly the media went nuts," Downey told The Hollywood Reporter. "The next day, when I was sure everyone would only be talking about Jesus, they were talking about Satan instead.
"It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the devil is on the cutting-room floor.... For our movie, Son of God, I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus. I want His name to be on the lips of everyone who sees this movie, so we cast Satan out."
Does that sound like someone who just wants to make money off this project? No. From those I've met who know Downey and her producer/husband Mark Burnett, the consensus is they are both devout in their faith and truly burdened for the lost.
As for the film Noah, when I first heard about the environmental theme, and knowing Tinseltown's penchant for style over substance, I reread the account of the flood in Genesis 6-10. The knowledge of this soon-to-be released motion picture (March 28, 2014) had me reading the Bible in order to separate Hollywood fiction from biblical fact.
Will this movie get others to study God's Word? Yes. Films such as Son of God and Noah can be stimuli for spiritual exploration to those who never studied Scripture. And these movies may renew in churchgoers an interest in Scripture.
I suspect most of my readers have seen several films about Christ, perhaps "King of Kings," "Jesus of Nazareth," "The Greatest Story Ever Told Jesus," or "The Passion of the Christ." Since The Passion of the Christ was released in 2004, a new cinematic presentation of Jesus' earthly mission will be a first for the youngest generation of moviegoers.
While I'm careful about telling readers which films to support, let's remember that in the entertainment business, the success of a production is weighed in measures of gold. If these films do well at the box office, it sends a message to media moguls that there may be further audience interest in biblical principals and perhaps biblical principles.
My advice: If you plan to see Noah or Son of God, read the stories in Scripture and study their significance. These films will cause conversation; be prepared to converse.