Come for the illustration featuring Jesus locked in fisticuffs with a Jewish studio mogul, but stay a while at Heeb Magazine for Eric Kohn's nifty survey of how Mel Gibson ruined it for the rest of the Christians trying to get a leg up in Hollywood. Well, kind of: It turns out all the conspiracy theories in the world can't explain why, after The Passion grossed $600 million worldwide in 2004, our friends in Christ haven't been able to break through with another global hit for the faithful. Is it the Jews? Is it the MPAA? Or is it just, as one infamous anecdote alludes, that some of these guys make pouty Edward Norton look positively docile in comparison?
[T]he Left Behind saga offers an interesting example of this approach gone awry. The books became a movie franchise—with two sequels to date—under the guidance of Cloud Ten Pictures, an independent studio that specializes in spreading the Gospel. Made on the cheap with ultra-cheesy production value and only successful in the direct-to-video market (and church screenings), the films angered Tim LaHaye, [Jerry B.] Jenkins' writing partner, to the point where he sued the studio for not making blockbusters out of the books. The lawsuit never went anywhere, but the studio is still trying to settle with LaHaye.
"It's been a long, ongoing concern of ours," says André Van Heerden, Cloud Ten CEO and co-writer of the films. "The claims are baseless, but it has hurt our ability to do business. It's something we wish we all could have avoided." Jenkins, meanwhile, sides with his colleague. "The Passion of the Christ revealed the massive scope of the audience," he says. "Whenever I see a big budget, special effects-laden picture, I imagine what might have been."
We, too, could use a fun Apocalypse picture these days — preferably something with the grit and gristle of The Passion, but maybe with Left Behind franchise star Kirk Cameron symbolically flayed by a fork-tongued studio exec eager to show the former teen idol how to "cut for length." And then, like the new wave of Iraq-themed comedies, market it as a laffer. Box. Office. Gold.