With the release of Noah on March 28 2014, it was very quickly evident that there is a thirst for religious-based films not only in Hollywood but also across the world. Grossing about $44 million domestically on its opening weekend and $95 million internationally where it opened a week earlier, Noah has convinced many people into seeing a film about a figure as important to several religions as Noah, even when created by a director that identifies as an atheist.
Darren Aronofsky, the director, took the outline of Noah’s story in Genesis and filled in the gaps with some dramatic creative license, to many critics’ dismay. In some ways, the finished Noah film is reminiscent of the zombie films that have become so popular recently – cannibalism and hordes of desperate humans appear in both. Some characters never appear; only two of Noah’s sons have wives in the film. Some new characters appear; Noah’s wife, a person never directly mentioned in Genesis, plays a huge role in the film. And by the way: there are six-armed angels.
Whether or not you agree with Aronofsky’s re-telling of this epic tale, it cannot be denied that Noah’s story seems to have captured the hearts and minds of many of people, scoring an impressive 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. For some, it may be the humanisation of Noah’s story. Characters from thousands of years ago, living in a different culture, with a different language, often seem distant. Seeing Noah’s very human concern over his family instantly makes him not only a holy man but also a father and a husband that is just doing his best.
Noah’s success must be in part due to the splendid performances given by stars such as Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Sir Anthony Hopkins to name a few. Along with their fine acting, incredible special effects have made the story of Noah not only believable but also shockingly real on our screens.
Another likely reason why Noah could be doing so well is because it fills a gap in many people’s entertainment for not only religious media but also grand media fit for the family. There are many families that do not want to watch a film based on selfish need, or that contains gratuitous sex or violence. By providing a movie for this section of viewers, the creators of Noah and other religious films can fill a vacuum for epic but wholesome entertainment.
So what does this mean for the future of religious films in mainstream cinema? With the success of Noah, and films like Son of God, which came out earlier in February, and Mary, Mother of Christ and Exodus, both with due dates later this year, faith-based films are sure to have a lasting impact.
Be sure to let us know which 2014 religion-based film you are looking forward to in our poll.