Here’s Acculturated on the early notices for the upcoming movie Noah:
Then there is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. My close friend Brian Godawa, screenwriter and Bible scholar, thoroughly examined Noah in his excellent movie blog on the basis of an early draft of the script. He reports that it displays a “violent hatred of humanity” and presents Noah as an “environmentalist wacko.” His disappointing conclusion is that this “unbiblical” film will be a complete box office failure; it “will be rejected by millions of devoted Bible readers worldwide because once again it subverts their own sacred narrative with a political agenda of pagan earth religion that is offensive to their Faith.”
Paramount says that in terms of adherence to the Biblical story, “it probably is more accurate to say this movie is inspired by the story of Noah.” [emphasis added] A spokesman at a Pentecostal megachurch in Australia joked after a screening, “You’ll enjoy the film – if you’re not too religious.”
After adapting so many books for the screen, movie studios should understand that there is value in being faithful to the source material.
Some filmmakers do go to great lengths to be true to the book. The Lord of the Rings movies and the Harry Potter movies were as faithful to their source material as movies could be without being 28 hours long. And importantly, they tried very hard to capture the spirit of the source works. Because the producers knew that violating the essence of the beloved and popular books was the surest way to alienate millions and millions of potential ticket buyers.
And then we come to Hollywood’s awkward relationship with the Christian community. Why would anyone jank up a cherished Bible story like Noah’s Ark and then expect Christians to come out to see it?
I think part of it is just artistic hubris. A movie director wants to show off what a brilliant creative mind he has, and he doesn’t think he can do it by regurgitating an already-told story. So he has to fiddle with this and that until he makes it his own creation… and completely ruins it for the fans who wanted it turned into a movie in the first place. You see it all the time, and book-to-movie catastrophes are by no means limited to Bible stories (fans of the Dune novels nod and stare grimly out the window for an hour).
But in general, Hollywood just doesn’t understand how significant these stories are to Christians. And the sad part is that they could grasp the significance if only they understood Christians as well as they understand Harry Potter fans.
The makers of the Harry Potter movies were able to make them in such a way that they were entertaining to everyone, and at the same time sensitive to the dedicated fans and their desire for fealty to the books. The movies maintained the sense of wonderment from the books and followed the same themes of exploration and growth. Dumbledore was a kindly old man in the books, so the producers made him a kindly old man in the movies, instead of changing his character into an anarchist lesbian with a jive-talking pet monkey.
If producers of Bible-based movies just showed the same level of respect as producers of Potter-based movies, Christian moviegoers would line up around the block to see them. It’s not hard, Hollywood. Just imagine churches as mini-Hogwarts.