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Why Spend $200M on a Big, Splashy, Comic-Book Movie?

UPDATE (24 March 2014): Ralph has just had to withdraw from the course to fly to New Zealand for 7 months to produce the sequel to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” Since my experience in producing movies is insufficient to sustain the course on my own (= zero), we’ll have to cancel it, alas.

This summer, I get to teach two extremely fun courses. One is on public speaking, and I teach that for one intense week. I talk about it in the previous post.

The other is on the ethics of film-making, and I have the privilege of teaching it with the Only Friend I Have in Hollywood.

Now, given my movie-star looks, star power, and overall dashingness, you’d think I’d be hobnobbing with Oscar, Golden Globe, and Emmy winners all the time. Strangely, however, most are not as interested in theology, apologetics, philosophy of religion, and epistemology as you might think.

Still, one guy is, in fact, interested in all those things. And he also happens to be what in Hollywood is called…successful.

Sorry. I misspelled that. I meant, “$ucce$$ful.” As in, “his movies have grossed over two billion dollars.”

Yep, my one Hollywood pal (that’s how we refer to “friends” in the film biz, cookie) is Ralph Winter, producer extraordinaire.

Ralph has made movies you have seen or at least know about, as well as some you might not have but might like to know about. He was brought in to help complete (= “save”) the last couple of the first generation of Star Trek movies and, later, a little film I like called “I, Robot.” Earlier in his career, he helped make a small movie I enjoyed called “Hackers,” which introduced the world to a young actress with some apparent promise named Angelina Jolie.

He is best known, however, for producing—right here in Beautiful British Columbia—some movies a lot of people have seen: the first three “X-Men” films, the two “Fantastic Four” movies, and “Wolverine.” Since he finished up his contract with Fox on those movies, he has been around the world filming a wide range of projects. But he has kindly blocked out one week to come back to Regent College in July and to let me, and the rest of the class, fire away at him with a series of annoying questions such as the one in this post’s title.

I mean, seriously: What’s a Presbyterian elder (as Ralph Winter has been) doing blowing spending close to $200 million on a comic-book movie…and then doing it again and again?

And if you do produce such a movie, why not get some Christian content in there? There’s lots of Biblical material available to match up with the Marvel-ous content in the script (Human Torch = pillar of fire; Storm = Sea of Galilee; Dr Von Doom = well, I can’t think of a parallel there, but someone else might).

Okay, maybe that’s not the right question to ask, but how about this one: Does God care about entertainment? If the movie does NOT have even one of the Four Spiritual Laws in it, nor does it call us to justice-making or earth-keeping or piety-enhancing but is just two hours of fun, is there any theological justification for that? Is there adequate theological justification for that, in a world of starvation and oppression?

How does a film get made, anyhow? Who really decides what gets made? Can Christians…and I mean earnest Christians…really get much done in Hollywood on projects that mean something to them if their names aren’t “Robert Duvall” or “Mel Gibson”?

What good, then, is it for Christians with artistic talent to get involved in Hollywood? Or should such people abandon Hollywood and go for Web-based video, maybe see if Netflix will produce something instead?

And, having thought through film-making from the key perspective of a producer, how should any of us, whether we are film-makers or not, take in film more faithfully as Christians? How should we watch movies properly?

So the course isn’t only for film-makers. We’re bringing a top Hollywood producer here to Regent so you can ask him all the hard questions you’ve always wanted to ask a Hollywood insider. Check out Ralph’s little promo video for us HERE, and then sign up.

And I’ll make sure I reserve a little time after class for autographs.

I meant mine, of course…but sure, you can get Ralph’s too, if you want. I guess.

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