I wanted so much to believe in The Bible series. I wrote about it here and here at The Richmond Bible Examiner. We had a conflict on Sunday night, so we set the DVR to record and watched it last night when regular Wednesday activities were Snowquestered out.
Actress Roma Downey and her husband, producer Mark Burnett have brought The Bible to life in a five-part, ten-hour series in The History Channel. I applaud them for their effort to bring the Bible to people who otherwise might not hear the stories.
Much criticism has been lobbed at them by those who think they took too many liberties with the script. They certainly did. After all, nothing about Jacob or Joseph? How the Hebrews got to Egypt in the first place? Skipping over the 40 years in the dessert and the building of the Tabernacle?
I understand the difficulties of condensing an epic work like The Bible into 10-hours (plus commercial breaks). You can’t tell every story. But you should tell the main ones. Still, I’m willing to offer Downey and Burnett some grace for taking on such a daunting task.
Books don’t always translate well to the screen. I’ve been a Tolkien geek since high school and when The Lord of the Rings movies came out they also received a lot of criticism from the purists because the stories were edited or changed. Still, I think what Peter Jackson did was to capture the flavor and the spirit of the stories in a magical way. The Hobbit may or may not be a different story.
Annually, the Music and Fine Arts Ministry at my church produces a Broadway type production to tell the Christmas story. On a less regular basis we tell the story of the Passion at Easter. We, too, take some liberties with the script. You have to do this to keep an audience. To tell the story.
Less evangelical but still the telling of a Biblical story is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I was Potiphar last summer in the Dogwood Dell production. It didn’t happen quite like that either. But it’s a great story.
So, here we get to my problem with The Bible series.
On the one hand, it was visually stunning. Some amazing cinematography and visual effects. The Burning Bush was pretty cool.
On the other hand…
It. Was. Boring.
I am so sorry to disappoint friends who loved and enjoyed this presentation. Please don’t let me spoil it for you.
But I found myself on the top of the mountain with Abraham and Isaac hoping God would provide a copy of the script to sacrifice. And, by the way, that should have been a ram.
Maybe as an actor myself, or as the father of a film student, or as someone who writes about faith and Scripture, I’m being a bit too critical.
Still, I can’t sit back and describe something as good and wonderful, when it’s not, just because it’s done by Christians or based on the Bible. Christians, above all, should strive for excellence. I don’t see that here.
I’m sure Downey and Burnett feel differently. I’m sure they’re proud of their work. And the fact is that this series has people talking about The Bible and even some folk running back to check the Scripture for accuracy. That’s a very good thing.
The actual show, on the other hand? Not so good.
We’ll probably set the DVR to record the next segment. I’m not sure that we’ll watch it, but at least we’ll have it around. Until the DVR storage space is full.