- You might think, given the country's general secular drift, that Bible epics would not be Hollywood's latest cash cow. And you would, of course, be wrong. This year, no less than four movies (loosely) based on Biblical stories will appear in theaters near you. The deluge began last month with Son of God, a feature-length version of the "The Bible" miniseries (without the Satan character that just happened to look like our president).
- An Old Testament story is up next. The trailer for Noah, which first aired during the Super Bowl, looks like your average apocalypse flick, except everyone is wearing scruffy linen tunics. There's thunder, flying mud, the occasional fireball, lots of monsters, and—in lieu of Jesus's flowing locks—some truly spectacular facial hair.
- This week, The New Yorker profiled Noah's director, Darren Aronofsky (of Black Swan fame), who proudly declared that his upcoming film is the "least Biblical Biblical movie ever made." In Aronofsky's vision, Noah is an environmentalist who cares more about animals than people; the whole story is a cautionary tale about the destruction that will result from global warming.
- Needless to say, Aronofsky's attempt to turn Noah into "a scourging Earth First! activist" is not sitting well with religious audiences. Some Christians who attended screenings of the movie last fall declared it borderline blasphemous. "Christians and those interested in a Biblical story thus need to be warned to use discernment and not support Hollywood as it exploits the Bible for gain and promotes a film that casts the God of the Bible in a bad light," wrote one blogger.
- Others took issue with the movie's environmental overtones. A Breitbart writer who got ahold of the script early described the film thusly: "Noah paints the primeval world of Genesis 6 as scorched arid desert, dry cracked earth and a gray gloomy sky that gives no rain—and all this, caused by man’s 'disrespect' for the environment. In short, an anachronistic doomsday scenario of ancient global warming."
- At first, Paramount tried to reshoot parts of the movie—much to Aronofsky's frustration—to make it less, well, apocalyptic. They even added a Christian rock song. But audiences didn't like that either, so it's back to the final cut.
- After much wrangling with conservative Christian groups, Paramount has now tacked this "explanatory message" onto every Noah ad and trailer: "The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the Book of Genesis."
- This last-minute apology did nothing to soothe Muslims abroad. Censorship boards in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain announced that they will not release the film. The issue for them isn't so much the environmental message as it is Aronofsky's dark portrayal of Noah, who gets drunk during the movie. (This happens in the Old Testament too, in one of the weirder passages in the book of Genesis.)
- Noah premiered in Mexico City on Monday night to mixed reviews. Some "Hollywood insiders" are worried that the controversy over its Biblical accuracy will keep ticket sales down. Because the ultimate question, when the movie finally hits the big screen on March 28, will be whether Noah can flood Paramount in money.
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