Gladiator meets Noah meets Beautiful Mind meets Master and Commander…

30 Aug

That’s what I thought when I saw a sneak peek of the trailer for next year’s Noah.

in my book, he was the best thing about this year's Man of Steel...

in my book, Crowe was the best thing about this year’s Man of Steel…

When I first heard there was going to be yet another Hollywood excursion into extrapolating Scripture to screen my first reaction was a groan.

God. No. Please. Please. Please. No.

Then I saw the trailer.

Russell Crowe. Jennifer Connelly. Emma Watson. Anthony Hopkins. And a score that has to be written by Hans Zimmer. It has to be.

Okay, there just may be something to look forward to cinematically in 2014. Just maybe.

Holy Scripture and Hollywood scripts can an interesting combination.

I have a good friend who detests all efforts at “historical fiction” (what a wondrous oxymoron! The term, not the friend. Wait. Both, actually) in whatever medium – book, stage, film. For the simple reason it has to compromise on what really happened and supply all kinds of filler to make the story flow.

I usually just giggle at him, because I happen to love the genre (and for other reasons).

give crowe a chance, people

give crowe a chance, people

Others often assert, more strongly, that any translation of Scripture through Hollywood script to the big screen is not just suspect (or usually sucky) but sacrilegious, damnable and demonic because it has to add and subtract from Scripture, and this is verboten under penalty of eternal hellfire.


Makes me think. (For the uninitiated, that’s what I mean by “Hmmm.”)

All translation, whether from Scripture to screen or of anything from one language to another loses something – and gains something, for that matter. Every story loses (and gains) something in such a transfer. Some dangling modifier (and sometimes key characters and plot developments!) is always left behind and new nuances (forget nuance, sometimes it’s an overpowering shove) are added. Which is why, if translation – or script writing in this genre – is a science, it is an artistic one. An artistic blend of getting a story and relaying it with imagination.

Sometime the translator’s (script writer’s) blend is good and savory. Sometimes, well, we’re left wondering what they were smoking. What is a savory blend for one audience can be blasphemous for another.

pure. blasphemy.

pure. blasphemy.

You want to talk about an unsavory blend in a cinematic retelling of history? Try Pearl Harbor. Actually, now we really are talking damnable and demonic. Battleships seem to be parked all over the harbor, falling forecastles everywhere – why couldn’t they even get Battleship Row right? Why? Why?? Why??? Pure blasphemy to me. And yet, some veterans I heard really felt it caught the feel of that terrible morning.

Or how about Argo? Loved watching it – but nothing that happened in those climactic final scenes actually happened! (Spoiler: except there was an airport and some people did fly away on a plane). Everything else was all for dramatic effect. It deflated me in hindsight. Hollywood gave it top honors.

best movie ever made

best movie ever made

The movie Gettysburg thrilled me (total geek, surprise!) and though so accurate in so many ways, it placed far too much emphasis on what happened on one end of a very large battlefield, making it appear that that one brave charge is what won the battle and the entire war. But what else can you do unless you are going to go all Peter Jackson and turn a three hour movie into fifteen parts?

Actually, with Gettysburg, that would be okay with me.

And how about Braveheart? Gibson = Wallace? Seriously? Read about how the Battle of Sterling really went down. Yet we didn’t see Scots protesting such gross liberties with what actually happened because the film caught the heart of the story. I’m told that when Braveheart premiered in Edinburgh, Scots left the theatre ready to storm London. Again.

please just don't let it be as bad as this

please just don’t let it be as bad as this

Perhaps the most poignant, thoughtful, spot-on observation about this whole business of historical dramas adapted for the big screen, whether taken from Holy Writ or from unholy pulp came from the late Roger Ebert – and I have to paraphrase from memory: don’t expect film adaptations of history to be historically accurate for to do so is to expect something from the genre that it cannot deliver. Film communicates the emotional impact of events, not the correctly detailed rehearsing of them. It is meant to inspire you not to inform you. Want to be informed? Read a reliable telling from a good historian (like Allen Guelzo in his Gettysburg tome). Want to be inspired to pick up such a book and actually read it? Watch a good movie about it.

Thumbs up on Ebert’s take – and I’m looking forward to the Gladiator meets Noah meets Beautiful Mind meets Master and Commander take of next year’s screen adaptation of the Genesis story of Noah.

Some of us just need to do some sphincter muscle relaxing exercises…

And we’ll see if we enjoy the show.



Posted by on August 30, 2013 in haverings, Movies


Tags: , , , , ,

4 responses to “Gladiator meets Noah meets Beautiful Mind meets Master and Commander…

  1. Sue Vincent

    August 30, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    “communicates the emotional impact of events, not the correctly detailed rehearsing of them. It is meant to inspire you not to inform you”

    Absolutely, in my opinion. I may cringe when a book known by heart is adapted for screen… but if it captures the imagination and the essence of the thing then fair enough! Same with history… which is always written from some kind of personal perspective anyway. It is the emotion which inspires… and in its own way informs.

  2. wordhaver

    August 30, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Now that is a good point. Let’s not discount the “informing” of emotions! History is more than facts, books more than characters. An adaptation of a story can be thoroughly accurate with all the pieces in place, but be a lifeless corpse; another can be quite “creative” and nail the heart of it and the story lives and breathes and moves. Give me the latter, any day. 🙂

  3. Sue Vincent

    August 30, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Yes.. me too. The most effective telling of the Peninsular campaign and Waterloo that I have ever read came from Georgette Heyer.. best known for writing historical romance. Had I read straight history books, I might have been appalled or fascinated… reading her account I laughed and wept .. then went out looking for the diaries of those who had lived through it all.

    With film the imagination is projected on a screen in full colour for the emotions to read… and respond to. Fact, fiction or fantasy it is a fabulous way of feeling what was, is and might be.

  4. wordhaver

    August 30, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    What’s the title on Heyer’s book on the Peninsular campaign?


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