By Stephanie DuBois
The question of whether Hollywood can ever be synonymous with faith is a debate that will rage on possibly until the Second Coming. However, there's no question Hollywood filmmakers will jump on the religious bandwagon created by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."With Hollywood?s trade papers carrying headlines such as "Christ Still Almighty" -- relating to "The Passion's" $350 million and growing box office ? it's not a surprise that Hollywood is seeing a sudden surge in faith-themed projects. They include "Survivor" producer Mark Burnett's feature plans for "The Da Vinci Legacy" and "Daughter of God" ? and NBC's fall miniseries "Revelations," inspired by the last book of the Bible, about the days preceding the apocalypse.
The latter will have Bill Pullman of "While You Were Sleeping" and "Casper" as a scientist who is our best hope for the survival of mankind. (Get ready to pack it in, kids.)
Unfortunately, some upcoming films will surely solidify the prevailing belief among many who feel that the powers that be in Tinsel Town are clueless when it comes to the true meaning of Christianity as defined by religious purists. (And get ready for the "Passion" backlash stories.)
-- "Preacher," the big-screen adaptation of the Vertigo Comic series, which has long had James Marsden's name attached to star, is about a Texas preacher who's on a mission to find God ? because he has a beef with Him about the state of the world. Preacher, who's given the power of the "Word" (that makes anybody do anything he says) by a part angel-part demon entity called "Genesis" is accompanied by his girlfriend, an assassin named Tulip and a constantly drunk Irish vampire called Cassidy. The film will, of course, reflect the same violence, profanity and gore of the comic books.
-- New Line Cinema's ambitious next big trilogy to follow "The Lord of the Rings" is based on the best-selling trilogy "His Dark Materials" by Phillip Pullman, "The Golden Compass," "The Subtle Knife" and "The Amber Spyglass." The children's fantasy novels chronicle a battle for control of Heaven waged by humans against certain angels that challenges the very balance of Heaven and Earth. The hero and heroine, who are 12 and 11 and come from alternate reality versions of Earth, discover dark secrets about the nature of politics in the Kingdom of Heaven, which is being challenged by a new organization called the Republic of Heaven. Oh, and along the way, they fall in love.
-- The currently-shooting "Kingdom of Heaven," formerly known as "The Crusades," stars Orlando Bloom, Liam Neeson, David Thewlis and Eva Green. Set in the holy city of Jerusalem in the 12th century, the film is about a young blacksmith who leads the people of Jerusalem against the Crusaders. With director Ridley Scott ("Blade Runner," "Alien," "Black Hawk Down" and "Gladiator") you can be sure it will have its share of graphic violence at the very least.
-- Also upcoming is "Saved!," which was pushed back from its previously-planned February release and given a much more desirable May debut as its distributors believe they have a big one on their hands. Sure to fan the flames of Christian indignation, the film stars Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Jena Malone and Heather Matarazzo. It's a dark comedy about a girl at a Baptist high school who becomes pregnant by her boyfriend (before he realizes he's gay) and is then ostracized and demonized by her former friends. Critics of the film claim it paints the serious Christians as intolerant buffoons and the non-Christians as the kind, sane folk. "Saved!" producer Michael Stipe described it in "Variety" as being "like those monster vampire high school kind of movies, only here the monsters are Jesus-freak teenagers."