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Are Biblical Epics the (not so) New Movie Trend?

It would be utterly outrageous to make any kind of straight-faced claim it was news to you that Hollywood had the habit of recycling ideas from the past, be it actual films or overarching genres. As has been the case recently, studios have been dredging up fairy tale properties and adding a modern spin. Well, if you’re tiring of that particular fad you may not have long to wait. 

Yes, on the horizon is a smattering of big budget biblical properties which call back to the days when The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and others reigned supreme and made a killing in the process. However it’s safe to say that times have changed since then. Church attendance is down, much of today’s youth has little to no interest in taking up a religion and the popular blockbusters are rife with CGI robots, not Moses.


Aside from the Chronicles of Narnia trilogy which mostly hid its Christian roots with cute creatures and fight sequences the only religiously-themed film of the aughties to make a splash was The Passion of the Christ. Moreover it’s one of the few religiously-themed movies released period. 

But in the grand Hollywood tradition of jumping on the bandwagon (or would that be Ark) there are five high profile, biblically-inspired offerings set for the next few years. As I already iterated, the arrival of a surge is no real shock, but the subject matter certainly is. 

Leading the way will be Darren Aronofsky’s Noah from Paramount and starring Russell Crowe, Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly and Anthony Hopkins. Now this isn’t exactly pulled right from the pages of the good book, that is unless I’m mistaken and the Bible does actually feature a Noah that “is a Mad Max-style warrior” and feature “eleven-foot-tall fallen angels with six arms and no wings.” No, this epic is adapted from a graphic novel though all things considered it’s a risky project due to its title alone.


Also in the news is Exodus from Ridley Scott and Fox who is courting Christian Bale to join on as the saviour of the Jews and are looking to get things moving before the year is out. Not to be outdone, Warner Bros. is in talks with Oscar-winner Ang Lee to take the helm of their own Red Sea-parting epic Gods and Kings which previously had Steven Spielberg behind it. Also being thrown around is a Pontius Pilate film which has Brad Pitt circling and a remake of the aforementioned Ben-Hur over at MGM. Holy Moses! 

It’s a funny little thing when you think about it (well ironically it’s a very big thing when you consider the resources put into these films). We start with some noteworthy properties with similar themes and plots from high profile filmmakers happen to pop up during the same general timeframe. Next, taking note of the publicity and big names, copycats emerge to try and steal some thunder. Then it turns into a clusterf—k free-for-all with fast-tracks galore as studios attempt to be the first ones to get their movies made before oversaturation occurs. Politics… 

So why this particular trend? Is it simply at that point in the cycle of “creativity” that these films have landed in the laps of studios to repurpose? Surely there are less risky properties that could be re-explored and given the modern blockbuster treatment. Though we’ve just got a new Pope there is nothing grand happening in the world of religion that would suddenly suggest faith-based epics are the upcoming bread and butter genre. It’s all very odd and whatever the reason, it’s moot. These movies are coming so prepare to brave the storm (Noah can probably help with that).


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