Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Fox Filmed Entertainment and Fox Faith: Where "One Night With The King" has nothing to do with Elvis...

The LA Times reports this morning that News Corp's Fox Filmed Entertainment division will announce its plans to venture into old fashioned Christian Epic Filmmaking with its new Fox Faith Division. The Times mentions "Love's Abiding Joy," set for 10/6 release--but the film they *should* have mentioned is the gargantuan Christian romantic Epic One Night With the King, scheduled for release on Oct. 13

There are two trailers: the Macho Mainstream trailer:

And the longer, Schmaltzy Romantic trailer:

Isn't Peter O'Toole such a hambone?? Isn't Luke Goss a perfect dreamboat??? And what's with John Rhys-Davies in yet another epic film (at least in this one they don't squash him down to troll size)?

The film is produced by Gen8Xion Entertainment, in association with Fox Faith....the story is taken from the novel Hadassah:A Night With the King by travelling evangelist Tommy Tenney (who's also co-producer and reminds me a bit of Billy Sunday) and screenplay writer Mark Andrew Olsen.

Gener8Xion is headed by Matthew Crouch who was V.P. of the Trinity Broadcasting Network--which was started by Jim Bakker and is the home of the Preacher Lady With the Pink Hair and our favorite "healer", Benny Hinn.

The film even has a MySpace page

Check out what Tenney's Godchaser's site has to say about the film.

A quick synops: Tenney's taken the Story of Esther and christianized it--drawing in elements of good old fashioned Calvinist predestination and high romance into a very pragmatic story about a young woman who wins a beauty contest and wins the king's "favor" in order to save the Jewish people. Yes, there may have been some fateful hand of God in that Old Testament story, but I'm not so sure that Tenney's christianizing of the story, replete with a 20th century romantic ideals of kings and queens, reveals, as Tenney states, the "hidden truth of Esther's story."

So let's get a grip for a moment here. This is an Epic. It's a Movie. It is a resurrected form of filmmaking that passed away more than a generation ago. The film is made by individuals who have a particular intention for the story--whether that intention is moneymaking or something like proselytizing can only be determined by reading copious interviews of the filmmakers and script writers and producers (note: I have done extensive research on epic christian filmmaking, so yeah, I kind of know something about its mechanisms.)

Could their motive be simply to make a "family friendly film" about a girl who has the power to change the mind of a all-powerful ruler (basically by offering herself to him--oh, the story appears to leave out that the king has multiple wives)? Possible. As a student of both Media and Religion, I am Ultra-Skeptical of any film that purports to tell the truth about an event that happened several thousand years ago that is then sliced and diced and re-packaged for pop culture consumption. Distortions are going to be rife as filmmakers try to pluck just the right pop culture emotional notes that will get audiences into theaters and help studios turn a profit.

It is odd, though, that Epic films are making such a comeback after their slow demise over 40 years ago. The final collapse of the genre started in '63 with MGM's ultimate bank-breaking snooze-fest Cleopatra, continued through the George Stevens' biblically literal but culturally discordantThe Greatest Story Ever Told and that final nail-in-the-coffin, John Huston's creepy The Bible(1966). There were attempts at big 1930's style adventure films in the 1980's, most notably Raiders of the Lost Ark (John Rhys-Davies in his first ethnic epic role as the Egyptian Sallah) and the Star Wars Saga overlapping the 1970's and '80's...but these pale in comparison to the likes of Spartacus(actually a secular epic--Dalton Trumbo wrote the screenplay) and The Robe (which influenced the highly impressionable 8-year old mind of genius filmmaker Martin Scorsese.)

What isn't so odd is that these new epics, esp. the ones that are backed by Fox Faith and Gener8Xion Entertainment, are actually motivated by the same thing that motivated many of the old Hollywood epics--personal faith. Yet that faith of the 20th century was Mainstream Protestant (the guys who wrote Godspell), sometimes Episcopalean (Cecil B DeMille) or even Catholic (George Stevens), but was NOT high Evangelical/Petacostal. I wonder about the motivation of these new epic filmmakers. I know the motivation of the old epic filmmakers was not to proselytize, but can we say the same about these folks and their new epics?

And does Rupe Murdoch perhaps think that backing faith-based films will save his own immortal soul after what he hath wrought with MySpace?

Lots of questions--tons of kitsch--few answers--much to keep an eye on...

Update 10/8/06: The Unofficial Peter O'Toole Pages! has this to say. Can I get an "Amen, brother!"

Update 10/13/06 The reviews are rolling in...Dear Lord, why must Your most ardent followers unleash such bad movies in Your name? sez Josh Bell of Las Vegas Weekly

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