All the good superheroes are used up, so the next fun entertainment for Americans will be various sequels and spinoffs from the Holy Bible. A lot of Americans still claim to believe in the Christian religion: 77 percent say they still follow the breakaway Jewish sect, which remains a huge demographic even if it's down considerably from its 90 percent market penetration a half century ago.
But very few Christians actually know much about the Bible, because it's a very long and confusing collection of arcane genealogies and bizarre ancient fables. What Americans do know is whatever wrong stuff they sort of vaguely remember from lying grandparents and "Sunday School," which was a dingy room where crying children were dropped off while the parents went to socialize at the church service.
This makes it easy to "reboot" dull old folk tales about camels and mustard seeds, which is exactly what NBC is doing with its sequel to the History Channel's low-budget hit The Bible. The new show, Beyond the Bible, will follow some of the characters who weren't killed off in the last miniseries. (The popular Jesus character will not return, unless the producers come up with some far-fetched gimmick like "it was all a dream.")
Meanwhile, Ridley Scott is doing a Gladiator-style take on the Book of Exodus (the one with Moses), and camp legend Russell Crowe is starring as Noah for another big-budget melodrama. All Noah really did in the actual Old Testament was build a kind of storage container for zoo animals, which is eccentric but ultimately boring. Noah also masturbated on his son or did some other mysterious incest, so maybe we'll finally get to see Russell Crowe do an incest scene with one of today's bright young stars. The important thing is that it's ultimately about God, who makes all of these things happen.
The biggest factor driving the new interest in Biblical movies is the “overall loss of storytelling craft that is afflicting our culture and particularly Hollywood,” says Barbara Nicolosi Harrington, executive director of the Galileo Studio at Azusa Pacific University and writer of the original screenplay for the projected 2014 Lionsgate film, “Mary, Mother of Christ.”
“Hollywood is more and more unable to create original stories,” she says. The industry is reaching for Biblical stories because they have name recognition, high stakes, a built-in "fan base, " and an epic quality that seems ideal for today's CGI technology, she notes.
Believers in Christianity are older and poorer than Hollywood's movie-night demographic, so what works on basic cable may well flop at the multiplex—the last big Bible hit was Mel Gibson's The Passion in 2004; it's safe to assume the audience for that cleverly timed media outrage is mostly dead by now. And the TV hit The Bible cleverly used an Obama lookalike to play The Devil, which was a smart marketing move to attract a conservative white audience struggling with unemployment, racism and fear of actual devils. Besides, the only religion most Americans under 50 actually believe is the Force and Yoda and all that, from the mythological Star Wars movies.
With a new Star Wars trilogy coming from Disney beginning in 2015, the Bible will likely be thrown right back in the garbage with Shakespeare and all the other public-domain classics nobody really wants to see with or without CGI effects.