Every day, it seems, we see a trailer for a remake of a movie or a reboot of an old franchise. In the past few years, Disney has produced Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Beauty and the Beast, Christopher Robin, and Dumbo, and over the next few years plans to release live-action version of Aladdin, The Lion King, Maleficent, Lady and the Tramp, Mulan, Cruella, Pinocchio, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Lilo and Stitch, and The Little Mermaid.
Seriously. I’m not making this up.
And that’s just one part of Disney’s movie division! Let’s not forget about what they’re doing with Pixar, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm.
Of course, Disney doesn’t have a monopoly of remakes and reboots, and a look to the news today shows that Paramount will be releasing Sonic the Hedgehog, a movie based off the 90’s Sega video game, and Warner Brothers will be releasing Pokémon: Detective Pikachu by the end of next month.
And it leaves me with a very important question:
Why can’t we come up with new ideas? Why do we keep recycling old ones, remaking movies we’ve already seen and rebooting franchises that have no place returning?
While the obvious answer to this question is money, Br. Tito and I think that there might be some other factors to this craze, and that some of them might actually be a good thing.
In a galaxy far, far away… there were a lot of theological statements and themes of life that apply perfectly to our own!
In this extra special (and extra long) episode of Everyday Liminality, Br. Tito and I take a deep dive into the world of Star Wars, looking, as we always do, for an answer to some of our own questions of faith. While the casual observer will undoubtedly sense a connection to the “force,” we think that this intergalactic drama-series actually has a lot to say about hope, pride, scripture, tradition, and our relationship with God.
With the new live-action Aladdin movie recently announced, Brother Tito and I decided to revisit the original animated movie to discuss its hero. You know, the guy who lies to everyone about who he is, uses a genie to control the world around him, gets caught in his lies, but then by the end of the movie ends up with the girl, a palace, and tremendous power, all without every showing remorse or saying he’s sorry.
You know, the sort of heroic behavior we want to instill into our kids.
For Br. Tito and I, this is just one example of many of “cheap grace” in entertainment, happy endings and character resolutions that just don’t seem “earned.” The character gets everything they want without changing or making any sacrifices; the horrible things they’ve done are forgiven without contrition or attempt at reconciliation. It’s “forgiveness,” and I guess a “happy ending,” but it’s just not that satisfying.
Real forgiveness, we contend, the sort of forgiveness that flows from the grace of God, is completely free, but it has a cost. It takes time. It takes effort. The reason that “cheap grace” in entertainment leaves us so unsatisfied is because we know that’s not the way the world works. Change does not happen immediately or completely, nor is it a magical property that happens to us without our knowing or willing. It takes sacrifice. It takes contrition.
While our culture may not privilege religion as it once did, Hollywood has not shied away from rolling out a number of big-budget biblical movies in recent years. Why? Because they make money! Darren Aronofsky’s Noah grossed more than $360 million; Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings made over $265 million; and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ? More than $600 million (making it the most profitable R-rated movie of all time!)
And while the profitability of these movies (and the influence that money has on their production) could be a topic unto itself, I bring this up simply to point out an interesting fact about our time: despite the lack of religiosity in our world, secular society continues to make mainstream movies about the Bible. The average person with no background in religion and who never attends church can still know the stories of the Bible by virtue of Hollywood’s interest in them.
Which presents an interesting question for us as Christians: is this a good thing? On the one hand, it’s great that people are taking an interest in the Bible and that our story is reaching people who would otherwise not hear it, but on the other hand, what version of the story are they actually hearing? When Ridley Scott is our evangelist, there’s no telling what people will walk away thinking about the Bible.
This week on the podcast, Tito and I discuss a few notable biblical movies we’ve seen, what we think of them, and how we can go about evaluating the effectiveness of movies in the future.