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Reject tradition – and flop at box office

MOVIEGUIDE? spends a lot of time economically benchmarking the box office, to see what types of movies do well and what movies fail. What we have found is that, in most cases, traditional Judeo-Christian, biblical values and logical plot development work better at the box office. Thus, in “Finding Nemo” ($864 million worldwide), Nemo’s father, Marlin, states the premise that he will do anything, including fighting sharks and swimming across the ocean, to get Nemo back. The story proves to the audience that he does just that (and even reminds us what he is doing), and in the end, Marlin rescues Nemo, thus fulfilling the audience’s expectations and hopes.

From this perspective, the hero’s journey is a series of tests and insurmountable battles, resulting in an impossible climax with an incredible victory. Frodo, in “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King ($1.1 billion worldwide), just can’t make it without help, and the perfect hero’s journey is something like that of “Ben-Hur” ($640 million domestic, adjusted for inflation), where the protagonist gets special help from God at crucial times, or the story of Jesus, whose scourging, beating and final death end up in a great resurrection, as in the “Passion of the Christ” ($611 million worldwide).

That said, there is a new breed of script teachers, studio executives, writers and filmmakers who, as Robert McGee complains about them, disdain traditional story and plot. Instead, they have an anti-traditionalist postmodern sensibility that refuses to connect the dots. When confronted by the hero’s journey, they usually say things like “this is not realistic, it’s not viable, there’s something missing,” and they back off any powerful, positive, heroic ending that inspires and enriches a broad audience.

In spite of the megaphone that these postmodern deconstructionists have in the press and in the academic world, movies made according to their formula generally bomb at the box office. This is especially true among the independent studio productions and the big studio vanity projects, where a movie, to be successful, needs plenty of Oscar buzz to break even or soar above the pack of postmodern mediocrities.

For example, recent anti-traditionalist postmodernist movies like “Adaptation,” “Marie Antoinette” and “Across the Universe” all made much less than $30 million at the box office, while more traditional, more heroic and less cynical movies like “Crash” ($98 million worldwide) are much more successful.

MOVIEGUIDE? has the scriptwriting and filmmaking expertise to give Christians, people of faith and values, the best chances for creating a successful, beloved movie or television show. We also know how you can avoid the sharks in Hollywood who will take your money to produce, distribute and/or market your project, but, in the end, leave you with nothing, or very little, to show for it.

The pitfalls are many, but the solutions are few. Regrettably, too many people refuse to acknowledge truth. They prefer walking in darkness where, we all know, failure and death lurk.

The great archetypal truth about the Bible, however, is that through His Word, God overcomes the darkness. Of course, Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the human embodiment, or incarnation, of the Divine Word. As such, he is the greatest hero who brings light to all people (John 1:4).

Note: Tom Snyder contributed to this column.