It seems the majority of Americans have joined me in realizing what a crappy movie Noah is. Take the Bible out of it. In fact, as my friend Brian Mattson points out, Noah isn’t even based on the Biblical telling of Noah, but on a gnostic fantasy where the serpent was the hero.
Take all that out and Noah was still a pretty pathetic movie. There’s been a 61% drop off in viewership. And that disappoints me.
It disappoints me because Noah could have been one heck of a movie. In fact, there are a number of movies based on the Bible that Hollywood could tell. They’ve done it before. But in the past decade or so, Hollywood has taken the simple ideas of good and evil confronted by complex characters in moral conflict and turned the whole thing around. Now good and evil are complex and the characters are simple and flat. The characters are no longer believable, their situations often not very sympathetic, and the macguffin is no longer relatable.
There are stories to be told in the greatest best seller ever. The biography of St. Paul is one that would be fascinating, if played straight. Here’s a man who grows up deeply religious and committed to slaughtering and persecuting heretics of the faith only to himself convert and be persecuted and killed.
The story of Queen Esther is another that was turned into an enjoyable movie, but it certainly wasn’t a huge Hollywood movie like Noah. There’s the story of Joseph sold into slavery; the story of David; the story of Ruth; the story of John the Baptist; and so many others. The stories are at the same time simple and very, richly deep and meaningful.
When Christians make movies, they tend to be dreadfully low budget, poorly planned affairs. They make their movies largely for their own. The message outweighs the entertainment. The humor is drowned out by the zealotry. Few want to be preached at in the theater. Their movies flop. The few that do well, like Prince of Egypt and Passion of the Christ come from people already of Hollywood, but people willing to give the stories a faithful treatment. Certainly there is ancillary material used to fill the hours. But the core of the story remains true and faithful to the people who faith of cherish the stories.
Hollywood does not like to do that any more. Those who make many of the films have a low opinion of their heartland audiences, too high an opinion of themselves, and a screwed up sense of the world. They cannot tell stories well anymore, which is probably why so many of the great and popular movies that have come out of Hollywood lately have not come from Americans.
But if they just dared to embrace the material, there are some rich, rich stories to tell from the Bible. After Noah, however, I am not sure I want Hollywood anywhere near these great stories still untold on the silver screen.