Religious Minded Films- Are they so terrrible?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jonathan Burk, Jun 15, 2002.

  1. Jonathan Burk

    Jonathan Burk Second Unit

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    In the last few years, there has been an emergence of films financed, produced, and marketed for groups of religious people. Entertainment Weekly likened this development to the Warren Miller ski films, or gay cinema, where budgets are kept low, with the understanding that you have a small but loyal following that will always see the film.
    These films differ from earlier "religious" films that may come to mind, like Ben Hur or any of the Jesus Biopics in that those were studio films, intended for a large audience.
    But the question I'd like to raise: must these films suck? And is the target audience ever objective enough to admit when one does? Or, do these films not get fairly reviewed, because of an "anti-religious/moral" bias among film critics?
    I present the following evidence, from RottenTomatoes.com. They survey published and online reviews, and denote the percentage of "positive" reviews. I've included movies from the Evangelical Christian, LDS (Mormon), and Catholic molds, just to present a variety.
    The Omega Code- 14% (22, 3+, 19-)
    Megiddo: The Omega Code II- 15% (13, 2+, 11-)
    Left Behind 15% (39, 6+, 33-)
    God's Army 67% (9, 6+, 3-)
    Brigham City 72% (18, 13+, 5-)
    The Singles Ward (Not enough reviews for a rating, but I've heard its terrible)
    The Other Side of Heaven 26% (34, 9+, 25-)
    Joshua 20% (15, 3+, 12-)
    A Walk to Remember 27% (77, 21+, 56-) (not necessarily a "religious film", but they were sure going for the Church crowd).
    I don't want to debate RottenTomatoes' rating method; I just used it becuase it is the most unbiased survey of critical thought I had easy access to. But if you strongly disagree with any of the above ratings, I'd like to hear why. (I.E, if you thought The Omega Code was a strong movie, independent of it's theme and target audience, I'd like to hear about it).
    I've only seen two of them (the two that rated higher than 27%, and they were excellent films that I've shared with "secular" film buff friends who also really enjoyed them, because they are strong, well made films in their own right).
    Should these films be held to the same standards of filmaking quality (technical standards, storytelling, etc.)? Are they? Should they be held to a higher standard? Did these films make money? Do religious film goers even care? I have a few Evangelical Christian film-buff friends who seemed embarrassed by The Omega Codes and Left Behind, and almost told me "secretly" that they hated them, as if publicly announcing this opinion would be apostacy.
    And just a quick reminder:
     
  2. Brad_V

    Brad_V Second Unit

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    The Omega Code was a "religion" film? I guess I didn't pay enough attention when I watched it. Not my fault, though, 'cause it was pretty boring. [​IMG]
    One main one left out of the list above is none other than what many think is the suckiest movie of all time: Battlefield Earth. I can't say I saw how it was supposed to be a "Scientology-based" movie anyway, but we all know it was, and I'm sure there's a decent number of those followers who thought it sucked and wouldn't be afraid to admit it. Me, I didn't think it was bad except when factoring in how much money and talent was put into/wasted on it.
    Of course this type of film should be held to the same standard as "non-religion based" films. It's still a film, just with a little bit of a slant. Not much different than a non-believer watching or critiquing Touched By an Angel. You don't have to believe in whatever religion is being portrayed to enjoy a movie because in the end they are still just movies. I don't follow Buddhism, but I still enjoyed "Shaolin Soccer." [​IMG]
     
  3. Steve Schaffer

    Steve Schaffer Producer

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    If a film has good acting, story, cinematography, etc, it's a good film whether it's "Religious Minded", "Gay Friendly", or whatever.

    If it's badly acted, poorly plotted, and basically a cynical attempt to make big bucks by portraying itself as "Christian Oriented", "Gay Friendly", whatever, it's worse than a bad mainstream picture, imho, it's exploitative of a semi-captive audience that's made to feel it must support a bad film just because it's "friendly" to that group.

    I find something especially repugnant about mediocre music or movies produced
    specifically to make a profit off religious, gay, handicapped, ethnic minority, or any other special group of people.
     
  4. Artur Meinild

    Artur Meinild Screenwriter

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  5. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Frailty made what are IMHO very bold religous claims. I still liked it a lot.

    --
    Holadem
     
  6. Aaron Silverman

    Aaron Silverman Executive Producer

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    The Rapture, from about 10 years back, was a fantastic movie (that should be mentioned in the "Shocking Endings" thread too!).

    I think that sometimes people want to make a film to advance some particular outlook or belief, and concentrate on getting the message across to the detriment of concentrating on making a *good* film.
     
  7. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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  8. Mark Pfeiffer

    Mark Pfeiffer Screenwriter

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    I don't think Frailty or The Rapture are examples of what Jonathan's talking about. He's referring to religious groups that have entered into the film production business.

    I've seen both Omega Codes, Left Behind, The Other Side of Heaven, and A Walk To Remember (which doesn't fit this example as far as production/distribution). Extreme Days would be another that fits here.

     
  9. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    Ben Hur is a great movie. Why? Because it put story first, acting first, characters first, and snuck the message in when you're not looking.
     
  10. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The problem with the Left Behind and Omega Code movies is that they take the book of revalations seriously.

    They forget that that book was written in "code" and many events already happened. (For example, "666" really meant Julius Caesar!)
     
  11. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    The problem isn't that they take it seriously, it's that they seriously mis-take what it's trying to say. When your world view is that everyone but you and your small group are going to burn in hell, and you make a movie with that message, it's hard to get a broad audience. [​IMG]
     
  12. Rich Malloy

    Rich Malloy Producer

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    I'm not sure what you mean by "religious-minded" films, exactly, but of all the ones I'm familiar with that you've listed, they each have one thing in common... they stink! I mean, bang-your-head-against-a-wall, throw-yourself-off-a-cliff, take-poison-just-to-escape sorta stink!
    But that doesn't reflect the multitudes of great "religious-minded" films that have been made, more than I could possibly list off the top of my head, but I'm talking some of the flat-out greatest movies ever made, including:
    Ordet
    Winter Light
    Diary of a Country Priest
    Andrei Rublev
    The Seventh Seal
    Day of Wrath
    The Passion of Joan of Arc
    The Last Temptation of Christ
    Why Has Bodhi-Darma Left for the East?
    The Apostle
    The Milky Way
    The Gospel According to St. Matthew
    The Sacrifice (Tarkovsky)
    After Life
    Breaking the Waves
    Nazarin
    The Decalogue...
    Now, that's a short list of great films, many masterpieces, all of which get major props from film critics, audiences... even the Vatican! [​IMG]
     
  13. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

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    There are a number of Eastern Religions based film that's reasonably current, the one with Keanu Reeves playing Buddha came to mind (don't remember the name of the film). I think it's less of a religous theme issue and more of a people just don't seem to make big budget with cast of thousands type of films that much anymore (Gladiator is the only "throw back" type of epic in recent years that I can think of).
     
  14. Bruce Hedtke

    Bruce Hedtke Cinematographer

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  15. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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  16. Phil Florian

    Phil Florian Screenwriter

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    I want to see someone adapt Christopher Moore's novel called "Lamb." THAT would be an interesting adaptation. Don't forget the granddaddy of all great religious film: The Life of Brian. Sure to bring a twinkle to everyone's eyes. I think the best point of this has already been made: If an artist has an idea for a film that happens to be religious and they are willing to put the work into it, it can be a great film. If some organization has an idea on how to market an idea to an existing niche market, then crap is produced. These religious films are no different than the crap put out by the Hollywood machine...just a bit rougher around the edges.
    One example that hasn't been mentioned is The Spitfire Grill. While not everyone's taste, this is a pretty good movie that was (from what I remember) a movie funded by a Christian organization. The aim was not to make some dogma-heavy film but one that has a sound moral center that would play to those folks who want something different than another brainless action/sex/gross-out summer romp. I think the difference from the more "production by committee" design that seems to be in place for the Left Behind series was missing in this case. I think the backers simply looked for someone with a vision in line with theirs and decided to help pay for the movie. A much better idea, if a bit naive (since it didn't really take off with the crowd that supposedly is out there looking for these kinds of movies).
    I guess it is what people want, though. If people openly wept at the end of The Omega Code then it hit the right marks for that audience. I had the honor of attending a convention of another niche crowd: B-Horror movie fans. I haven't ever been into these films and after spending an evening watching some of them, I know why. But man, the crowd ate them up, crappy story/visuals/acting and all. But we won't hear word one about these films. I guess if they were out to speak for the Holiest of the Holies (religous subject matter) then maybe this is why the discussion is around in the first place. Just something about God (of any religion) being pandered on screen like any other focus-group driven idea.
    Phil
     
  17. Phil Florian

    Phil Florian Screenwriter

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    Not to get further into the "Illegal" territory, I do want to clarify a possible misconstrued idea. Jeff (whose faith in Joss puts some Fundamentalist Christians to shame) said that the Code thing in Revelations is bunk (about it being a tool to predict our current times). I think Patrick may have been talking about the historical point of view. A guy named John was exiled to Patmos (penal island for the Romans). John (I don't remember who he was...it has been a while) was able to write letters to his followers back on the homefront. He wanted to continue to write about his Gospel and spread the word, but if he were as literal as those in Mark, Luke, etc. he would quickly move from penal colony to hangman's noose. So he wrote these stories in codes that the Romans would overlook as nonsense but John's readers would interpret as he intended...about the Christians/Jews persecution under the Romans and Caesar (thus him getting the 666 code). This became Revelations that we know and love today and thanks to multiple translations from it's original text, it makes great fodder for End of the World buffs. The original story would make a wonderful historical film but I doubt there would be many Christian groups who would fund it. Again, just a historical clarification on the film Omega Code and not a religious diatribe. Don't delete! [​IMG]
    Phil
     
  18. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    It's not too late to accept Joss as your personal saviour Phil [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    While it's true that I take my job as High Priest seriously, it does begin, and end as, a joke [​IMG]
    Good point on the historical origins of said code, but it is just someone wishing for immmortality unfortunately in tyhe modern
     
  19. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Radar-code report back to home planet: Discussion bearing up nicely and evenly. Final comment to Mothership--these guys know how to do an interesting thread. Much like. They should keep up good work. Over and out. [​IMG]
     
  20. Jeremiah

    Jeremiah Screenwriter

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    The "religious" movies could be good but they are usually not and it has more to do with acting and dialog as people have said.

    I personaly don't like many new movies b/c they are either poorly acted or they just have too many Biblical holes and contradictions.

    "The Prophecy" a movie I liked a lot before I became a christian but now it is just irratating to watch how wrong it is(c'mon Gabriel would never be like that etc.). This is pretty much my problem with these types of religious movies.

    I have never seen "The Omega Codes" b/c it seems like poor acting and I don't buy into the "code theory".

    The "Judas Project" had a good plot(what would it be like if Jesus Christ came now instead of 2000 yaers ago) but the acting was not that good and they are so low budget they have that feel to them.

    So basically I am trying to say is that a move with the "message" I want/like are poorly made but the movies that are well made I don't like those "messages". So....
     

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