“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!
I am tweaking the way I review movies a little bit. My hope is that this new format will be shorter and easier to read on the fly for people who would like to know my opinions on a film.
MY VIEWS ON THE KENDRICK BROTHERS
I am and have been a big fan of the Kendrick Brothers. I have long felt that they have led Christian movies in a much better direction then what Christian movies had been previous. Yes, they have a message in every one of their movies. Having a message DOES NOT disqualify it as being art as some people have tried to argue. It is actually a very classic form of storytelling to have a “moral of the story.” This is not what has held Christian movies back, what has held them back is the fact that the story the message is wrapped in has been poorly written. The Kendrick Brothers have done a fantastic job. I will defend Fireproof to my grave! It was a Character piece about the transformation of a man who took the challenge of his father which led to very strong character growth within the main character to spite the fact that it was not having the intended outcome on his wife. It was a wonderful story! Anyone who thinks different is jaded or didn’t get it! (Yes, I said it!)
MY REVIEW OF WAR ROOM
The message of the film is an uplifting one. I am sure that many Christians will be touched by the message of this film. If you have been touched by watching this film, great! I promise you the Kendrick Brothers would say that if one person was touched and challenged to pray more than the film was a success no matter how much money it made or what critics say. If you were touched by the film, no one can take that away from you. Not a single nay-sayer can remove what that message has meant to your life!
In the past I have given the Kendrick Brothers a pass when it comes to acting because they use members of their congregation instead of trained, professional actors. I give them a pass because their movie company was a division of their church. It was originally formed for the church to make original films as a way to invite the community in to their church and give them an uplifting spiritual message in a non-threatening way. It was the entire point of their movies and it also just so happened to become very popular. They had a lot of success in their community and beyond. However, this film is the first film the Kendrick Brothers have made with their very own movie studio. They had the budget to hire professional actors. Actors that have done more than just their films… yet they didn’t. They had the funds, and the ability to shoot for quality but they didn’t. I cannot look past it this time.
However, in my opinion, this was not the worst part of the quality of this film. The worst was the writing! This film was the most disjointed story the Kendrick Brothers had put out. The tone of the film was all over the place. The first half of the film was a rushed Lifetime movie that seemed that it just couldn’t wait to get to the second half of the film which was a Disney Children’s movie about jump roping! Yes, I am sure some people had fun watching the jump rope competition with the dubstep (I actually enjoyed the dubstep) but it was not a smooth or well written story. I mean, come on… that random mugger? Really?
Again, it is fine if someone gained enjoyment with this film. It is also fine if it spoke to you but the reason I began this blog was to try, in my very own little way, to monitor the quality of film making in Christian films. With this being my goal, simply gaining satisfaction won’t due when even more satisfaction could have been had if they would have put out a better quality film. I was very disappointed with this film. I will still look forward to the Kendrick Brother’s next film, but they MUST show me that they are concerned with raising the quality of their craft or I will be forced to conclude that they are simply looking to make money off of their fan base who they know will just come and see their films as an emotional drug instead of seeing their films for the quality of the art. If your real goal is to reach people, you will reach many more people with quality…
The Kendrick Brothers have had much success when it comes to the Christian audience at the theaters. Using only a group of amateur volunteers from their church as volunteers they have managed to put out movies that are just as good as any Christian Film out there including ones that actually pay for their actors. This tells me that there may be some actual talent in the directing of Alex Kendrick. I must say that even though I have seen problems in film making in their previous projects I have enjoyed every single one. Now comes their fifth film and this one is very special and has peaked my interest beyond what it would have been. Why? Because this film will be their first film outside the banner of their church. This will be the first time they will be doing a movie as a studio. My hope is that this allows them to put more money and talent into the film. I hope that maybe the Kendrick Brothers allowed a professional to polish up the script and the dialog. I will tell you, based on what I can see in this first trailer the look of the film is beautiful. I am truely excited to see what they will be able to do with this film! Let me know your thoughts! do you like what you see? Will you make it a point to see this in theaters?
CHECK OUT THE TRAILER BELOW!
In 2002 a church set out on an out of the box ministry venture to reach their community. The idea, create a movie night event for the people that features a never before seen movie made just for that event. The budget was low, the vision was bold, and the outcome was Flywheel. The first movie from Sherwood Pictures. The film was written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Pastors at Sherwood Baptist Church and directed by Alex himself who also starred in the film. Response was so positive from this film that the idea came to then release it to the public. The next film, Facing the Giants went straight to theaters in 2006. It too made a splash which lead to Fireproof. Fireproof saw professional actor Kirk Cameron volunteer to star without receiving any financial compensation. Again, Fireproof was a big hit and a significant financial success. The fourth movie hit in 2011. More money was invested in this film then had been invested in any of the others and the return was even bigger.
All four films where primarily staffed and casted with volunteers from within the congregation. I can tell you that in the past I have been very enthusiastic about these movies. It might make some of my friends wonder why I give these movies a pass when I am hard on movies like God’s Not Dead. I will tell you why. Because the majority of people involved with the Sherwood films are amateurs and yet they seem to be able to produce a movie of the same quality (and in many cases better quality) then some of these other Christian films with “professionals” at the helm.
Over the course of these films I have seen Alex Kendrick’s eye for directing improve! I have been saying for many years now that I feel his ministry could be better served by actually creating his own movie company and building on the success and trust that he has already built up with his fans. I wanted to see what he could do if he actually hired professional actors, and brought in professionals to help with some of the technical stuff (Something he was already doing anyway) so his projects could become more refined and actually on the level of other films in the industry.
Well, it was announced a while ago that Alex and Stephen would be doing just that. They have now started Kendrick Brothers Productions and on January 29th Tri-Star Pictures, a branch of Sony Entertainment and distributors of the previous Kendrick Brothers Films, have announced the name and release date for the Kendrick Brothers 5th film. The first film from the newly formed Kendrick Brothers Production will be titled War Room and will be released on August 28th!
The current synopsis of the film is as follows:
The film follows Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, a middle-class couple who seemingly have it all – great jobs, a beautiful daughter, their dream home. But appearances can be deceiving. In reality, the Jordan’s marriage has become a war zone and their daughter is collateral damage. With the help of Miss Clara, an older, wiser woman, Elizabeth discovers she can start fighting for her family instead of against them. Through a newly energized faith, Elizabeth and Tony’s real enemy doesn’t have a prayer.
There is no current word on what the budget is for this film but I am eagerly awaiting what the Kendrick Brothers have in store for their first venture on their own!