(A continuation of a previous post: Why I Hope “Ben-Hur” Bombs)
To talk about Ben-Hur (2016) again:
The reason I dislike Mark Burnett and Roma Downey is because I fear that, because of their star power, Christian filmmakers could depend on them to sell a film rather than letting the film’s quality sell it. I fear that “Produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey” will become its own sub-genre of Christian films: Films that give Christians exactly what they want and nothing more, instead of giving Christians what they didn’t know they wanted or (even better) what they didn’t know they needed.
For example: Son of God (2014) is, nothing more and nothing less, a retelling of Jesus’s ministry. There isn’t anything controversial about it, nothing that makes audiences go “I’ve never seen that before.” As a result: Son of God is a fine film, but I can’t imagine it affecting anyone in a way that, for example, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (2014) affected a lot of people by forcing them to re-think a story they’d heard their whole life: Noah’s Ark.
I’m not saying every Bible film, or film made for Christians, has to be like Noah — sometimes weird, sometimes unexpected, sometimes disturbing — but if I had to choose between having more films like Son of God and more films like Noah, I’d choose to have more films like Noah.
If you look at any filmmaker’s or studio’s work, there are bound to be patterns that emerge. For example: Many of my favorite films, made by Studio Ghibli — Whisper of the Heart (1995), Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989), Spirited Away (2001), The Secret World of Arrietty (2012) — are, basically, about the same thing: A young girl who has to journey beyond the comforts of home and family and discovers that there is more to her than she ever thought. But: These films are different enough that I don’t feel like I’m watching the same story over and over. And: When it comes to films produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, I fear that I will feel like I’m watching the same story over and over.
I dislike familiarity when it comes to Christian films. The reason why is because it’s hard not to feel like Christian films made using a formula are nothing more than a means for the filmmakers to make money — nothing more than a cash grab.
That’s one of the reasons why I wasn’t a fan of the success of God’s Not Dead (2014): I saw it as the beginning of a new formula in Christian films: The “Persecuted Christian defeats the evil atheist” film.
It’s hard to believe a filmmaker when they say “I’m making this film to save souls” when the film they’re making has a plot suspiciously similar to another Christian film that made over $60 million…