(Photo: Paramount Pictures)
A study of "faith-driven consumers" reveals that a vast majority won't be satisfied with a Bible-themed movie that strays from, and maybe even rejects, the biblical message. The concerns expressed in the survey could have serious implications for the forthcoming Bible blockbuster "Noah."
The studio behind the film, Paramount Pictures, prescreened "Noah" to a group of Christian viewers and discovered a problem. According to The Hollywood Reporter, many of the viewers "questioned the film's adherence to the Bible story and reacted negatively to the intensity and darkness of the lead character." The director is reportedly working with different versions of the story, in part to better appeal to a Christian audience.
The challenge could be a substantial one.
A survey of 5,000 Americans who had read The Hollywood Reporter story, but not previewed the movie, found that 98 percent would not be "satisfied with a biblically themed movie – designed to appeal to you – which replaces the Bible's core message with one created by Hollywood," according to Chris Stone, founder of Faith Driven Consumer, which conducted the survey. Stone explained that the results represented the 15 percent of Americans who have participated in his Faith Driven Consumer project. This group represents the 60 percent of self-identified Christians who live out their faith.
"Paramount takes liberties with 'Noah' that they would never take with 'Harry Potter,'" argued Barbara Nicolosi Harrington, director of Azusa Pacific University's Story Institute, in an interview with The Christian Post on Tuesday. Harrington, who also serves as a scriptwriter for Lionsgate's forthcoming film "Mary" (2015) about the first five years of Jesus' life, declared that "if there's a fan base for a source material, that fan base has a right to expect the fundamental meanings of the material to be intact."
Paul Asay, senior associate editor at Focus on the Family's film review site Plugged In, agreed with Harrington. "It seems that, if the goal is to craft a financially successful movie, fans of the original need to be taken into account," Asay argued. "You'd not craft a Harry Potter movie without knowing why fans loved the books."
"My guess is that the majority of those 98 percent would not elect to go see the movie simply because it does not resonate with them," Stone told CP in an interview on Tuesday. He explained that the core message of the Christian faith squares with the story of Noah from Genesis 6-9.
"The core of Christianity is that man is inherently sinful and by his own devices he cannot do anything about that," Stone explained. God sent Jesus to atone for man's sin, but "if you take the sin element out, then you have removed the central part of Christianity." Stone argued that Darren Aronofsky, director of 'Noah,' removed the sin element, thus disconnecting the story from its Christian meaning.
Harrington agreed. "I blame the writer-director Aronofsky for using the Bible as fodder for his personal crusades of over-population and environmentalism," the scriptwriter declared.
Dan Gainor, vice president of Business and Culture for The Media Research Center, argued that the film separated itself from the Bible narrative even through casting decisions. "I like Russell Crowe, but when you get Russell Crowe, you get Russell Crowe – You get the tough guy, not Noah," Gainor explained.
"It's laughable what's in the trailers," Gainor declared, arguing that "this is not some attempt to tell the Bible story – they want to make it into an Action/Adventure." Gainor claimed that Hollywood often uses a real story as an excuse to exaggerate events and twist the meaning of a story to fit its agenda. "This movie is an insult to anybody who follows the Bible story," he said.
Gainor marveled at the disconnect between the film's intended audience – biblically faithful Christians – and the meaning of the movie. "Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood is entirely run by morons," he commented, because the film clearly will not engage its intended audience. He argued that the movie-crafters in Hollywood are "completely isolated from the world" of most faithful Christians, and that "they don't care about what the rest of us think."
Harrington argued that directors like Aronofsky ruin the meaning of Bible stories because they do not respect the Holy Scripture. "I am amazed at the utter lack of reverence," she stated. "When dramatizing the Bible, the director should see himself and his vision as fodder for the Scriptural meanings," not the other way around.
Harrington did not limit her attacks to Hollywood directors, however. "I don't like the whole business plan" of companies "which are based on seeing the Body of Christ as a consumer group to be bought and sold," she declared.
"I don't like looking at the church as a consumer group with disposable income, asking how we get them to spend it," she added. "I don't think that Christianity was ever meant to be a subculture."