PARAMOUNT TO REMAKE THE TEN COMMANDMENTS!

It is being reported by The Tracking Board that Paramount Pictures is still very much interested in doing more Biblical Epics.  In February, Ben-Hur, the third official big screen adaptation of the classic novel will hit theaters.  ShareBenHur.com has stated that a trailer to that movie will drop by the end of October. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see it! But, what The Tracking Board is reporting is not about Ben-Hur… they are saying that Paramount is developing a remake of The Ten Commandments!

I know what you might be thinking, “But, we just had Exodus: God’s and Kings.” Yes, you are right… but, for many people that film fell flat.  I personally found much of it to be enjoyable but I must admit it was quite a letdown for me.  I didn’t think it was as terrible as others thought… but I also shared in my review that I seem to have a blind spot when it comes to Ridley Scott films.

Along with my disappointment of Exodus, my biggest disappointment was that we would not have another chance of seeing a well done “10 Commandments” type adaption.  An adaption that would be more pleasing to people of faith.  Has my hope been resurrected?… well… slightly, but not a ton.

Yes, Paramount is doing Ben-Hur, which I am expecting to be very friendly to the faith community, but it is not because of Paramount.  Don’t forget, Paramount is responsible for bring us Noah. A film I don’t have mixed feelings about.  I don’t think I could have been more disappointed with it.  The reason I have confidence in Ben-Hur is because of the producers, Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. These two, no matter what your opinion is of them, have been trying very hard to make content that lifts up the faith community instead of tear them down.  They are the ones guiding Ben-Hur… so who is guiding this Ten Commandments remake?

The Tracking Board has listed two producers on the film.  One of those names is Cale Boyter.  Boyter was a producer on The Nativity Story. The Nativity Story, though not as strong of a movie as I was hoping for, it still was decent and certainly took the birth of Christ seriously.  This name allows for hope.  The second name they listed was Mary Parent.  How does that name settle with me right now? Not very well.  Parent was a producer on Noah.  That gives me a lot of pause.

Is there still hope? I think so.  There are two reasons why I still have hope.  The first is that there were many reports back before Noah came out that Paramount was pushing for a move Biblical cut of the film.  Now, when they say “Paramount” who do they mean? Could Mary Parent have been pushing for a more biblical film? I don’t know but it is possible.  One thing that I think it tells me is that Paramount would be going into this film thinking they want to be more biblical then Noah. The second reason I still have hope is because I think it is possible for Mary Parent to have learned from Noah.  You see, Noah made money, but I think it could have made a lot more if it we less fantasy and more biblical.  I think Mary knows that too.  I think Paramount knows this.  That is exactly why they are not letting the failure of Exodus keep them from trying this.

Is there reason to stay cautious? Yes! Beyond the fact that it is Paramount, who released Noah and the fact that it has one of the same producers, the article also mentions that they are looking for a director/writer who can give “a different take” on the classic story.  Those words always make me cringe.  Noah was certainly a different take on the classic story… but you could say that Ben-Hur was a different take on the crucifixion story. Those words don’t mean they want to go the way of Noah but it does nothing to calm my fears either.

My conclusion is, I am excited for a Ten Commandments remake! If we get another Noah, so what! Really Noah is just going to fade into the background.  No one is going to consider it a classic, it is not going to air every year around Easter of Christmas. It is simply a movie that disappointed the faith community.  SO if the Ten Commandments goes that rout, so what.  But if they learn from the past, the fact they are developing a remake gives us yet another chance to see this biblical story come to life in a spectacular way! You might be ready to say “I think the chances of a great movie are slim.” Well… Slim is better than none… and I am not convinced the chances are slim.  I eagerly look forward to hearing who they find to write and direct this film.  Knowing that could give us a little more insight into what type of movie they are shooting for.

A Letter to Hollywood (How to make a Biblical movie for Christians)

Dear Hollywood,

May I just begin by saying I am a fan! Yes, I am a Christian, and a Pastor but I am also a fan of what you do.  I love movies, I love story, I love the passion and hard work that you put into your films.  I also know that when I say “Hollywood” I am really talking about thousands of people throughout the world.  I know many parts make you up and that you are not all in one accord or even have the same mission but It is hard for me to convey all that and everything you are in a word, so I am going to use the overly simplistic name “Hollywood” because I would like to share this opinion with all your many parts.  I am a Christian that hopes for the best when I hear you are doing a movie based on a Bible story or a Christian hero.  I strive to always give you a chance and try very hard to show you grace.  This is the kind of Christian/Fan I am.  With that said, I would like to share with you some things that I think could help you reach us better.  I know you are trying, I want to help! I thank you for trying.  I know many people have given you there opinion in the form of angry rants saying ambiguous things like “Just make a movie about the story in the Bible!” or “Stop ruining our Bible/Hero!” Just like every other job it is hard to improve if people aren’t clear on how to improve.  I also know it is hard because as story tellers you are compelled to tell a unique story like no one has ever done before.  Here are some tips that I feel might help you reach our demographic (as large and diverse as it is) and still allow you freedom to tell a unique story:

  1. USE CHRISTIAN DIRECTORS

I know, when I say this you hear discrimination.  It gives you pause but let me explain before you stop reading.  You see, it is hard to work on a project or a story you do not believe in. In a recent interview, Sam Raimi was asked about Spider-man 3, a film that he even admits didn’t work.  As the reason why it didn’t work he stated “I really didn’t believe in all the characters.” I understand what he is talking about, it is hard to invest so much hard work into a property you don’t believe in.  When this happens a director is tempted to change the characters to be something he or she is more comfortable with.  When a director does this then you lose the people passionate about that character.  The same goes for Biblical Characters.

I am not advocating that you hire directors that have worked on low quality, independent Christian films.  I am not saying you should hire a director that constantly says “here I am, I am a Christian.” I am not even saying you need to make a judgment call on who is a “good Christian” just find someone who believes in the characters!  They are out there.  This is why I hope that Scott Derrickson’s project Goliath moves forward.  Derrickson is a perfect example of who I am talking about.  I can tell you from his previous movies that we have a different view when it comes to theology, but he believes in the character and has a fantastic and visual style that I would like to see utilized in other genres other then his normal “horror.”

Recently, WB went looking to cast a female director to direct Wonder Woman they found Michelle MacLaren.  12 Years a Slave was directed by Steve McQueen, the Butler was directed by Lee Daniels.  It is not discrimination to give a project to a person who has a connection to the story that goes deeper than mere interest.

  1. DO NOT CHANGE THE MESSAGE OF THE STORY

I know, you are probably tempted to say “A movie is a story, not a sermon” I understand that, I really do but these Bible stories have messages ingrained in the story. They are similar to how fairytales have morals to the story.  You know, like when it is finished you could say “and the moral of the story was…” it’s like that.  Beauty and the Beast has a message of beauty that goes deeper then skin.  Bible stories have messages too.  It would upset fans of “Beauty and the Beast” if you made it into a movie about affordable health care.  Think of Christians as hardcore fans of the source material.  They would become upset if you turn the story of Noah, a story about living righteous in and unrighteous world and foreshadowing salvation into a story about environmentalism.  Even if you don’t quite get the “moral of the story” it would be best to leave it message-less instead of inserting one.

  1. ENTER A STORY FROM A NEW CHARACTER

I get it, you have tried to do straight forward retellings of stories and somehow it didn’t turn out.  You unintentionally offended people.  People became upset.  Anger was thrown around.  You had to put up with a lot that you are probably wondering “Why do I even try, I can’t seem to please anybody! I just can’t make a movie about the Bible that pleases people yet feels new!”  I understand if you feel this way.  Please don’t give up! I am writing this so that you don’t give up. Could I recommend this point? You are right, you have not had much success retelling the Bible stories, try this! Enter the story through the eyes of a new character.  A Character that is not in the Bible but whose life is swept up but what is going on in the story.  There are plenty of examples of this.  Ben-Hur is a perfect example, considered a Christian classic yet the main character is factious. You could tell the story of Joshua from the point of view of someone in his army who is concerned about his family at home and who is watching from a distance the events portrayed in the book of Joshua.  You could enter the story of Daniel from a Babylonian who is watching this Daniel and seeing his strange attitude.  The character could even become inspired by Daniel, after all, the King was.  You tried a little bit of this in Noah, and it would have been fine if you also followed the first two tips.

  1. USE CHRISTIAN FICTION AS A GUIDE

Speaking of “Christian Classics” the Christian fiction industry has somehow managed to write fictional stories about the events of the Bible that have pleased Christians.  Read them, find out how they did it.  You don’t need to do those exact stories but try to figure out how these stories where able to be told and please Christians yet still seem like new stories.  I would even go so far as to say, yes, spend the little bit of extra money and get the rights to those stories that have worked.  Paul L. Maier’s Pontius Pilate, any book by Cliff Graham, Lynn Austin is doing good work in this area and Ted Dekker, a New York Times Bestselling Author just wrote A.D. 30.  It might be worth your while looking into getting the film rights to those.  You don’t need to advertise to the mainstream public who wrote it, but you might want to create an separate advertising campaign for Christians where you do highlight the author and Christian appeal.

  1. DON’T GIVE UP!

I still have hope! I am praying for you! And not in a condescending way. Please don’t give up.  Try to crack the code.  I hope these tips help.  I want you to succeed in the Christian market, I know a lot of fellow Christians who also want you to succeed.  Even the ones who can sound angry, most of them want you to succeed, they are just not great at saying it.

Thank You for taking the time to read this, I continue to pray for you and hope for your success and prosperity.  Grace and Peace to you!

(If any of my friends or readers agree with these points, please comment your support.  Feel free to share this letter.  I am not expecting it to make a difference but this is my opinion and it would be cool if it reached someone who could.)

My Exodus:Gods and Kings Review

Exodus Gods and Kings Moses

 

I think it is only fitting that my first blog post would be a review of the Ridley Scott directed movie Exodus: Gods and Kings after all, I have only been saying this should happen for over a decade now.  I have wanted to see a return to the epic films that Hollywood used to make back in the days of The Ten Commandments, The Robe, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and Ben-Hur.  After seeing Gladiator for the first time back in 2000 (it was the first movie I ever saw multiple times in theaters) I knew that the time had come! And I knew I wanted Ridley Scott to lead the way! And I waited… and waited… and waited… I watched him do Blackhawk Down, I watched him do Kingdome of Heaven, I watched Robin Hood, I watched him hit everything else except what I wanted! I wanted to see grand stories of the Bible come to life in a way that I thought only Ridley Scott could do.  So when I heard that he was going to be doing a movie called at the time, simply, Exodus, I was over the moon.  I began to see a trend in movies going into development that the Bible was finally in! Movie studios where finally seeing the potential in these stories.

Then came Noah.  I had very high hopes for Noah and to spite all the negativity surrounding the movie I still had high hopes. They were smashed as a sat and watched, not just a biblically inaccurate movie (which I was expecting) but a boring one at that.  But all was not lost, Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors, there are only a hand full of Directors that I like enough to see any movie they put out and Ridley Scott is at the top of that very short list.  I felt like there was enough time that they could learn from Noah.

Let me start by answering this very basic but important question.  Did I like the film? I warn you that when it comes to Ridley Scott I seem to have a blind spot.  Scott seems to be the only director that consistently does this to me.  Many times I will see a Ridley Scott film and like it or even love it, then I realize I am in the minority.  I really enjoyed Robin Hood, I enjoyed Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus is one of my favorite sci-fi films, all these movies I enjoyed while most did not.  With that warning, I answer, did I like Exodus: Gods and Kings? The Answer is yes! I did.  I am aware that many critics did not.  I heard there criticism and began to wonder if they were biased against it because of its topic, The Bible, but Christians began to share the same views as the critics.  It became clear to me that I might have watched this movie with my Ridley Scott loving glasses on.  So I put off writing this review until I could chew over the movie some more.  After much thought, some aspects of the film I enjoyed even more after thinking about them and some I enjoyed less.  Let me break them down for you.

SOURCE MATERIAL

Was this movie biblically faithful? You see, I understand that in order to put together a good movie, sometimes you need to take liberties.  I am of the firm opinion that when it comes to Biblical adaptations that it should be easier than some people make it out to be.  For example, Genesis gives us an outline of events to make a Noah film .  What would I have enjoyed seeing? I wanted a movie that hits the points of the outline while creating a human story within those points.  What did I get? I got a story that messed with the points of the outline, rearranged them, inserting a message the director wanted to get out that really seemed forced.  To the point that if the role was reversed and this was a secular story that a Christian Director played with to tell a Christian message people would have accused him of being “preachy.” I felt like Aronofsky had a message he wanted to tell and he used a story he never intended to take seriously to further his message.

So, did Exodus hit the points of the “outline” in the Bible.  Not even close! If you go into the film expecting a faithful or even semi-faithful telling of Exodus you will be very disappointed.

THE STORY

So now, the question then needs to become, was the story they told good? Since a director would say that they take liberties to tell a good story.  Well, this is a more difficult question.  Here is how I would answer it, the story was good, but poorly told.  This is the aspect that I needed to take of my Ridley Scott glasses to see.  If I judge the story of the movie removing from my mind the story from the Bible I would say that the story had some good ideas.  Some ideas that I think could have worked well even within the outline already provided but it was told in a rushed and choppy way.

For example, the potential was there for a great epic romance between Moses and his wife Zipporah. Instead, they flirt at a watering well, cut scene, they are married. Even with my Ridley Scott loving glasses on in the theater I remember it was jarring.

One of the things I was most excited about seeing was the plagues.  If anything in this story lends itself to the unique eye that Scott brings it is the plagues but, they felt rushed.  It was such a short segment of the film, they did in fact look great but I wanted them more spread out.  Peppered throughout the story.  Instead you will most likely  see on the blu-ray a chapter called “The Plagues.”

Would you like to see the show down between Moses and Pharaohs magicians? Too bad.  It is not there. Moses staff? Nope. Burning bush? Well… yes… kind of, maybe… in a scene that is left up to the viewer to interpret the burning bush scene could have been a vision or it could have been physical.

SO WHY DID YOU LIKE IT?

After all these things, you might ask me why I still say I enjoyed the movie.  Well, I will try to convey to you way:

  1. First, I honestly tell you it is because there is something about a Ridley Scott film that resonates with me like no other director can. I can’t put my finger on it.  I know part of it is that his movies are just so beautiful that I wish all movies would look as fantastic as his.  Exodus certainly would be proof of that.
  2. The Second reason, there was nothing that seemed anti-religion.
  3. The Third, the story was taken seriously. There was no attempt to make it seem like a myth.  It was not set in a fantasy world, it was set in our world.

Now that I write those out it seem like a shorter list than what was originally in my head but let me expand on my second point.  You see, as a Pastor viewing the film, I very much felt like I was sitting next to Ridley Scott as he honestly tried to wrestle with scripture.  He tried to figure out why people believe, maybe what would help him believe.  It seemed he approached the story by asking himself “If this is indeed real, how might it have looked?” I felt like Ridley Scott was sitting there wanting to have a biblical conversation about the story and he wanted to have that conversation with me.  I wanted to say “Ok, Ridley, let’s go get some coffee and talk this over.”

I felt quite the opposite from how I felt when I left Noah.  When I left Noah I felt preached at.  I felt like Darran Aronofsky would have rolled his eyes at me and said “You don’t actually want me to take this story seriously, do you?” I felt like he took Noah and said “Well, since this story is so outdates and no one could possibly believe it, I will tell a fantasy story and insert my environmental views in it while also showing you images of how things really went down as the fanciful main character tells his myth.” Aronofsky’s approach was much less honest, respectful and shall I even say, conversational.  When I say conversational, I mean that felt like we wouldn’t have been able to have a conversation because it would have become a shouting match as he rolls his eyes at me and scoffs at everything I say.

But back to Exodus.  If felt that it was told by an atheist, not an anti-theist.  Let me explain why I felt this way.  Some people have mentioned that they hated the fact that the conversations with God (or the boy playing God who was not really suppose to be God but rather a messenger named Malak, which is Hebrew for Angle or Messenger) seemed like hallucinations. Well, sometimes in life, as Christians we can have times that we are confident God is speaking to us, then people will begin to talk us out of it and we begin to doubt ourselves.  I personally really related to this and did not view this as Scott making a statement that God was a hallucination.  The proof of this is that things happened when the “hallucination” acted.  The plagues began when Malak nodded, Moses had inside knowledge of coming events.  Hallucinations can’t make things happen and they certainly can’t predict the future.

Also, one line in the movie really hit me had.  I loved it so much it might have helped improve my view of the movie simply by being in the movie.  Moses was given the warning that the plague of death was coming.  He was given instructions on how to keep people from falling victim by sacrificing a lamb and putting the blood around your doors.  The Israelites had the question of “How can we believe you?” Moses answers “If I am wrong pity the lamb, but if I am right, the lamb bless us forever!” It was in my opinion the greatest part of the movie.

Glenn Beck mentioned that when Moses got to the Red Sea he becomes frustrated and throws his sword into the water in anger.  Though I like to hear Glenn Beck’s take on things, sometimes I agree, sometimes I do not, this is one time I think Beck completely misunderstood the situation. Moses does not throw his sword in frustration at God, the sword was the last thing he was holding onto from his Egyptian life.  Moses throws that away.  Symbolically showing that Moses was embracing his Hebrew self and leaving his Egyptian self behind.  It was this relinquishing that begins the, albeit very slow, parting of the sea.  In life we often say we are giving God everything but we seem to like to try to find a way to hold on to our old life to but when we finally let go of that last part God will do great things in our lives.

CONCLUSION

Did I like the film? Yes.  Will everyone like the film? No. Is that ok? Yes.  The movie hit me in a certain way that it might not hit other people, that is fine, it is the wonderful thing about movies but with that in mind, I would ask that you leave room for those who do like it.  They can like it and still love Jesus.  To like this film is not to disrespect the Bible.  I would have preferred they went a different direction.  If I was sitting next to Ridley Scott while making the film there would have been many times I would have voiced my dislike of aspects of his film but I was not there.  This movie was made, I liked some things, I didn’t like others.  Everyone needs to find something to do with that.  For me, I am going to look at the good things in it.  I will use the movie to bring up conversations about “that lamb that bless us forever.” Just like I would have done if I found any enjoyment in the Noah movie.  Which I did not.

Grace and Peace to all of you from God our Father!