“The Picture Every Christian Ought to See!” That was the tag line for the 1925 version of Ben-Hur. It appeared right there on the poster! My, how times have changed! In 1925 this was smart advertising, today, this would probably be marketing suicide! Why? Well, it would be easy to say “Because liberal Hollywood would not want any of their films marked like this, and if there was a film with this tagline Hollywood would try to bury it.” But the truth of the matter is, Hollywood is not the reason this would not work anymore. What is the reason? Well, its complicated but here is a list of why I think this type of advertising simply wouldn’t work (Note: I am going to over simplify here)
- “The Picture Every Christian Ought to See!” in today’s cynical culture sounds like it will be some type of Michael Moore style documentary telling Christians everything they have done wrong.
- This labels the movie as being for Christians thus causing people to believe it will be poorly written, low budget and preachy.
- Some Christians would be skeptical of a movie Hollywood thinks Christians might like because of past hurts like Noah, or Exodus.
- We don’t like to be told to do something… Christian and non-Christian alike.
There is a film coming out this weekend called “Risen.” This film in 1925 could have had this tagline but instead it has been given a different marketing push. The ads say “From the studio that brought you Heaven is for Real and War Room.” When I saw this add I cringed because this type of advertising is going to have a very similar effect as “The Picture Every Christian Ought to See!” minus the 4th reason. Yet, out of all the Christian friendly films that have come out the last 12 months, this is the one I feel is the most important to get behind so I am going to address two types of people in this post and make an argument why both these types of people should go out and see Risen this weekend! Not next weekend… THIS WEEKEND!
I LIKE MOVIES LIKE WAR ROOM BUT DON’T LIKE MOVIES LIKE NOAH, WHY SHOULD I BOTHER?
- This is not Noah… or Exodus! – It is easy for me to understand why Christians did not like Noah or Exodus. You probably felt that (aside from being boring) they were disrespectful of the source material. Well, I have a question for you, how did you feel about The Passion of the Christ? Was it respectful to the source material? The script Risen is based off of was originally written and presented to the producers of The Passion of the Christ as a sequel. It was liked but they decided to go in a different direction, opting to make a prequel about Mary instead (a project that still has not made it off the ground.) The script was so well liked that Kevin Reynolds decided to do it himself and worry about a distributer later. I have followed this project a long time, through multiple name changes (Resurrection, Clavius, Risen) and Kevin Reynolds has had it in his mind to make a movie that would be a good story and stay true to what Christians believe. How can we know he succeeded? Well, that is where the studio that brought you War Room comes in. Sony liked the film and felt that it best fit in their faith based wing Affirm Films.
- Did you like Ben-Hur – I have been saying for many years now that when looking at telling Biblical stories in a new and fresh way, what you should do is tell the same old story from the eyes of someone new. Someone who either was just mentioned a few times in scripture or someone completely fictitious. Take note of stories like Ben-Hur. It was at one time considered a film every Christian should see yet much of the movie takes place outside the Biblical narrative. That is what I have been wanting to see from a big budget Hollywood Biblical Epic… and that is what this story is!
- Would you like a film with a quality you can be proud of? – Some of my Christian friends wrongfully believe that to be ashamed of a Christian movie is to be ashamed of Christ. That is not true! I love the message of many Christian films but feel that the message could have been delivered with better care. This film was made with the love and passion of a film maker. This will be quality film making… with the Christ story at the center!
- Would you like a film specifically focused on your skeptical friend? – The main character is a Roman soldier. He led the crucifixion (or so it seems, I have not seen the movie yet), he saw Jesus die and then is placed in charge of investigating the rumors of the risen Christ. He does not believe this could have happened… but… (Spoiler Alert) He comes face to face with the same man he killed… What does that do to a man? Would that turn a skeptic to a believer? The story was written in such a way that it would speak most to a skeptic!
I CAN’T STAND CHRISTIAN MOVIES! THEY ARE POORLY WRITTEN AND POORLY MADE! WHY SHOULD I BOTHER WITH THIS ONE!
- Do you hate movies like War Room? – I completely understand. Now here is this movie saying that it is from the same studio. Why bother? Well, because it really isn’t the same makers. You see, War Room was made by The Kendrick Brothers with no help of funding from Affirm Films. Affirm Films (A branch of Sony Pictures) only distributes movies they feel will appeal to Christians. They have no hand in any part of the making of the films (at least most of their films.) Affirm Films has nothing to do with the quality or message of the movie!
- Do you like well told stories? – One of the major reasons I feel it is so important for Christians to support this film above others is because a message needs to be sent to these independent studios. We don’t just want Christian content, we want well made, well told stories from a Christian perspective. Kevin Reynolds is, in my opinion, a sourly underrated director and a wonderful story teller! He doesn’t come out with many films because he spends a while on one film, and usually it shows… or at least it has shown in his past few outings. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) took a very long and difficult story to tell in 2 hours and he pieced it together masterfully! He also directed The Hatfield’s and McCoy’s for the History Channel and he so wonderfully shown the intense and slow escalation of that feud in a way that made me step back and go, “Wow, I can’t believe we started here and now look where we are!”
- Do you feel there should be more diversity in films today? – It is a big deal in Hollywood right now, Exodus, God’s of Egypt, these are just two movies that are being ridiculed for their “white-washing” but the cast of Risen is very ethnically diverse. The cast is made up of Spanish, Latino, Irish, and many other ethnicity including the man who plays Jesus who I think is fittingly ethically ambiguous.
Deadpool, a Rated R raunchy Comic Book movie made around $130 Million this weekend. It’s R-rating literally means it is restricted. Yet, somehow it made this much in just 3 days. Just one week later, we as Christians have an opportunity to make a statement too. What is restricting us from seeing Risen? I plan to on Friday! I promise to post my review as soon as I can!