Biblical Proportions

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 

Genesis 6:11-13

The world we inhabit is a violent one, rife with chaos and destruction both man-made and of natural, or perhaps, depending upon your personal series of beliefs, divine origins. It has been this way for decades, centuries, since the moment Eve took a big juicy bite out of that shiny red apple and killed all of the dinosaurs. History has taught us that human nature, irrespective of how many eons of evolution it is filtered through, remains animalistic. High powered assault rifles and nuclear warheads may have replaced crude spears fashioned out of sharpened sticks and stones, but we still fight devastating wars and race towards our own imminent destruction – our hands just don’t get as dirty in the process.

Ironically, despite Noah and his ark’s mythology essentially holding up a giant biblical finger and scornfully wagging it in the face of the human-race, we haven’t learnt our lesson have we? Beyond the rainbows and child friendly picture books decorated with cherub-faced pigs and sheep, Noah’s tale is one of God’s wrath and displeasure – suffice to say he went medieval, or rather biblical, on our blasphemous behinds. Darren Aronofsky’s Noah looks to capture that intense, uncompromising storytelling and update it with astonishing 21st century visuals and a big name cast.

If we’re completely honest with ourselves, human nature has become even more corrupt with each passing age. Those lofty castle walls of lords and ladies have been replaced by soaring ivory towers built upon foundations of politics and economics. Cruel and unkind kings such as Herod and Aronofsky’s redefining portrayal of Tubal-Cain have been replaced by heads of state who hold countries and their peoples to ransom, and Judas is no longer a man but rather a demographic, eternally thirsting for those thirty pieces of silver… and cars, and clothes, and a big house. Thankfully, if God changes his merciful mind and decides to summon another great flood there’s a decent number of yacht owners out there. The biblical parables of old mirror the narratives we live today, the villains of yore remain relevant because they still remain, adorned in sharply tailored suits instead of fine silk robes, and Hollywood is more than willing to remind us of this fact – resurrecting a few heroes in the process.

In the same manner as Hollywood has grounded our most beloved superheroes, humanising such fantastical beings and revealing their physical frailties, it has striven to depict biblical figures in the same manner – Aronofsky has even penned a Noah graphic novel to accompany his big screen adaptation. In addition, to Noah’s revisionist retelling, Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, starring Christian Bale, as Moses, amongst a star-studded ensemble, is pencilled in for a Christmas release. It’s no surprise to see such A-list everymen cast in these lauded roles; who better to lead the Israelites to freedom than Batman? Former Hollywood bad boy Russell Crowe wasn’t cast for his angelic off-screen persona and environmentalist work, but rather the mass appeal of his gruff, tortured, man’s man persona, and the same set of attributes which made Gladiator such a major financial success. Hollywood is tearing asunder the daunting nature of traditional religious teachings, and by humanising the divine, allowing audiences to situate themselves in such figures’ well-worn sandals for two popcorn filled hours on a Saturday night.


Bible Bashing?

Hollywood’s stance on the Bible has seemingly mirrored the vast majority of everyday individuals’, approaching biblical storytelling in a far less literal manner while retaining and accentuating the metaphors, allegories, and similes. Most importantly the unparalleled potency of biblical storytelling’s epic imagery – an element of the Bible that for decades has found a fitting staging ground upon cinema screens – has been distilled and proliferated like never before.

Irrespective of the protests, the daytime TV debates, and angry message board posts, one contemporary biblical movie, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, undeniably proved an unforgettable, and in the film studios’ case an incredibly profitable (worldwide earnings currently stand at over $600 million), experience that led to many Bible based projects being green-lit.  The greatest story ever told became the most bloodthirsty film to appear on multiplex screens, rending skin and viscera from bone and cash from wallets. Station by station, The Passion did away with sugar-coated tales plucked from the good book and parted the seas for the new, quasi-realistic biblical blockbuster hybrid that ten years later are now common place.

Hollywood aren’t solely making these movies for those individuals with a Bible resting at their bedside anymore, they’re also making them for a mass audience; ironically Paramount studios’ biggest worry about Aronofsky’s liberal flexing of his artistic licence is that it would also alienate that mass audience as opposed to just disapproving Christians.

“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.”

Paramount Marketing Disclaimer.

However, the danger that Hollywood’s revisions may stray too far from the ancient source material is a very real and very costly proposition. Assuming that the wealthiest institution on earth doesn’t have vast box-office influence would be a major oversight, and it remains to be seen whether Noah’s divisive narrative will turn the tide on Hollywood’s biblical prosperity.

Whether you are a steadfast atheist or devout believer, whether you care about Hollywood’s treatment of the Bible or couldn’t care less about their legitimacy, ultimately, cinema goers should rejoice that these celebrated legends are being reawaken in such spectacular and discussion worthy fashion. We’ve had the farcical laughs, the scares, and the vanilla flavoured crowd-pleasers, now we have the high-concept.

How, or rather why, has Hollywood’s depiction of the Bible changed? They read it.