Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah vs. Gladiator

I've been intrigued watching all the uproar from the church community over the new movie Noah and thought I'd share some of my thoughts.

First though, let me point you back to an earlier post about the visible brushstrokes of our Master Artist at work in all things.

And second, let me back up and talk a little about the release of Gladiator, one of my favorite movies, and, it so happens, the same actor playing both leading roles.

When I came home from watching Gladiator, at my earliest convenience I was really curious to look up how much of the story was true to the historical record. A quick search identified there was a Emperor named Marcus Aurelius who died at Vindobonna and was succeeded by his son Commodus.

He did expand the Roman Empire conquering other realms including a final campaign with the Germanic tribes.

There are smatterings of truth related to Commodus' reign including brutal gladiator games, but in reality very little of the historical record held up to making a great movie it seems. In fact Commodus was assassinated, but it was by strangulation in his bath at the hands of a wrestler after an attempt to poison him failed due to his vomiting up the poison.

There is no record of a beloved Spanish general who miraculously survived an assassination attempt by the new emperor and became a gladiator, vindicated the murder of his own family, and defeated the evil emperor in an epic staged gladiatorial display. Rome was not returned to the Senate and the people but was subjected to another emperor -- the first of five very short tenured emperors has been dubbed the Year of the Five Emperors.

Like I said, smatterings. But, the interesting thing about this movie was how the story prompted me to not only dive in and do some research into the storyline and characters, it also planted in me an interest in the Roman historical period which had not existed prior to seeing the movie. In fact, I've since enjoyed watching a number of other similar period TV series and movies which I might have ignored had Gladiator not sparked an interest in the history of that time period.

You see where I'm going with this, don't you?

The writers and directors of Gladiator took a lot of liberties with the historical record of the death of Marcus Aurelius and the reign and demise of his son Commodus to make one of the most epic and compelling movies to date (in my opinion) about the time period.

I'll admit, I was a little disappointed there was not a beloved general from Spain named Maximus Decimus Meridius, but that didn't prevent me from researching the story and learning a lot more about the history around that story and expanding to an interest in all things from that time period.

Where is the record of Noah recorded? We all know it's not in historical books, right? So if a viewer of this new Noah movie is moved to discover how much of the story is based on a written record, they will no doubt pick up a copy of the the Bible and read a very compelling story in its own right. And if the reading of that story prompts interest in the other engaging and rich stories which precede and follow the story of Noah, wouldn't that be a really good thing?

I say let the brilliant story tellers of the big screen make more Noah-like movies... I'd estimate they do less damage to the image of the Creator than the attitudes and behavior of many of those trying to defend the biblical story of Noah.