What’s New

Connect With Me

Search

Phil Vischer Projects

More Christian Movie News – Has Rocky been Born Again?

This world just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.  Paul Laur, the marketing guy who pitched the Christian world The Passion of the Christ and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, among others, is now sending out email blasts to Christian leaders asking them to check out a film that may surprise you – Rocky Balboa.  Yes, Sylvester Stallone is back in the ring one more as a somewhat aged boxer gunning for one more title.  Or is it the story of a somewhat aged actor gunning for one more movie?  Regardless, you may be surprised to hear that Sylvester Stallone has been holding conference calls with pastors to talk about the spiritual themes of his new film, as well as his own spiritual journey.

Here's a quote from Rambo himself:  "The more I go to church, and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to His Word and having Him guide my hand, I feel as though the pressure is off me now."

Is he genuine?  Well, he certainly could be.  I'll leave that call in God's lap, thank you.  What I find fascinating is the way his new film is being pitched to pastors as a teaching device.  Though acknowledging Rocky Balboa isn't a "Christian film" per se (and the question of what is and isn't a Christian film may be the subject of a future blog), Paul Laur's company has, nonetheless, prepared a "Leader's Guide" so youth pastors can lead their teens in rousing discussions about the film's spiritual themes after, of course, buying large blocks of tickets.

If I sound a little skeptical, I apologize.  There is clearly a gold rush mentality in Hollywood right now, as studio executives hollar "There's gold in them thar pews!" and scrutinize their films for "Christian market potential."  This, in turn, has created a cottage industry of experts and consultants who can unlock the gates to churches across the country, giving Hollywood access to Christian America by influencing pastors and other key church leaders.

In the end, it all leads to some very strange situations, such as when I attended an advance screening of The Passion with Mel Gibson and 3500 of my closets friends at Willowcreek Community Church outside Chicago, and, after the screening, when one of the Christian-market promotional executives took the stage for the 'hard sell' ("You need to buy blocks of tickets for your churches!"), Mel Gibson became so uncomfortable with the proceedings that he literally could not remain on the stage.  He jumped off the stage and found an empty seat in the auditorium, where he remained until the marketers were finished.  It was as if a voice inside him was saying, "My business people tell me I have to do this, but it makes me feel dirty."

Steve Taylor's song "Whatever Happened to Sin?" includes the line "If you need supportin', tell them that you're born again."  Steve was, at the time, referring to the political scene of the mid-1980's where being "born again" had suddenly become a great way to win votes.  He could have been referring to present-day Hollywood, as the studios clamor for Christian coin.

Is it all bad?  Of course not.  The interest in the Christian audience is creating new opportunities for Christian filmmakers.  But when all of a sudden everything from The Polar Express to Flicka comes with a Christian Leader's Guide and a pitch to pastors, it does make me wonder how far ministry can be seperated from sincerity before the ministry becomes useless.  Before the salt loses its saltiness.

Oh – did I mention?  Rambo IV is about to go into production.  Can't wait to see the Leader's Guide on that one.

 

19 CommentsLeave a Comment


  • Reply

    JV IS TIZ!!!

    14 months ago

    It sound like a good, I just might go see it. :D

  • Reply

    Beth

    14 months ago

    Hm…
    Your blogs really make me think, Mr. Vischer. Thank you. ;)

  • Reply

    Jeremy Pierce

    14 months ago

    Rambo IV is supposed to have even more explicit Christian themes. Rambo ends up going into a dangerous situation to rescue some missionaries, and his whole perspective on life ends up being thrown for a loop because of how they view things.

    I heard Stallone talking about Rocky Balboa on NPR, and he didn’t mention anything Christian or spiritual. He did talk about how the Rocky character was at a very different place in life now, and that’s part of what the movie is about. So he’s either catering his description based on his expected audience, or he’s not emphasizing the Christian basis unless that gets initiated by others when dealing with mainstream media outlets.

  • Reply

    Lannie Byrd

    14 months ago

    Another reason to be a Phil Vischer fan, he quotes Steve Taylor.

  • I agree with you. It seems like the Christian market might be being taken advantage of. But I guess it`s up to us as the target market to make the cut of the films we will see and not see.

  • Reply

    Joel

    14 months ago

    Bruce Willis already did a “rescue the missionary” film, “Tears of the Sun”.

  • Reply

    jason

    14 months ago

    I would really like to hear the blog about what is and isn’t a Christian film, as I have a very broad base in my head for what I feel can qualify as a christian film, at least one that coincides with Christian teaching… if fact I often see the gospel in many movies that most mainline “evangelicals” ofter chastise, say for instance the little mermaid, or Beauty and the Beast… I even see strong themes of God’s love in my kids Winnie the Pooh video “Pooh’s grand adventure” so I would be very eager to hear what someone as yourself has to say on the subject, some one who in fact makes Christian films and also is a fan of film in general… so to speak :-)

  • Reply

    NJC

    14 months ago

    I’ve long been an advocate for Rocky… I used the “Hearts on Fire” sequence from Rocky IV in a message I presented at school once, about the Christian life. (Still the most inspirational scene I’ve ever witnessed, what a song!)

    But of course, any blockbuster movie has Christian values in it somewhere, as a result of it being presented to a massive audience who, on the whole, sticks to those values, even if Jesus isn’t present in them. His value systems live on even where He’s not explicitly mentioned.

  • Reply

    Lisa S

    14 months ago

    I read the Christianity Today interview with Stallone, and I detect a sincerity in what he says. I remember the Rocky movies as real feel-good movies. Remember, “Eye of the Tiger”?? It was the motivating statement of the late 80′s! :)

    I do think that this marketing thing has gone way over-board. I certainly don’t think the kids need to be studying Rocky Balboa in Sunday School. I’m pretty sure they might have a few Divinely inspired writings that might be better to study.

    Personally, I go to the movies to be entertained. I go to Church to worship and learn about my God. If there happens to be a movie that supports my beliefs as a Christian, then awesome! But it’s not necessarily THE reason why I choose to see a movie. I mean, except VegieTales! :)

  • Reply

    David Mackey

    14 months ago

    An interesting thrust. I agree that Christianity has been discovered as a “gold mine” for Hollywood, and I also agree that there is definetly some exploitation that has, is, and/or will occur. I hope, however, that some of it can result in good. The creation of materials for youth leaders/pastors is probably a good thing – especially if it means that Hollywood is hiring Christians to write them. Its something pastor/youth ministers had to do anyways, and if there is real material in the movies, then its a win-win situation.
    I’m not so sure the problem is with the salesmen, as it is with the buyers (Christians). If we are gullible and fall for every pitch that comes swinging, there is a problem. The fact that Hollywood wants to sell us faith-based materials – isn’t as big a concern for me. The hucksters would be weeded out if Christians were discerning, sadly many an insincere televangelist has shown that we can many times be lazy in using our God-given minds.

  • Reply

    Sandy

    14 months ago

    I heard an interview with Mr. Stallone on the E channel last night, and he mentioned several times his beliefe is reincarnation. Seems like he can change his message to suit his audience. This is not to suggest that there aren’t positive messages in his film. I stopped at Rocky II, so it has been awhile, or that perhaps he isn’t seeking the Truth, but at this point seems more like a publicity stunt than anything.

  • Reply

    Michael

    14 months ago

    Will someone please explain to me how “Christian values” are different from any other faith-based values or any other humanistic ones? I am not talking about iconographic specifics here — but rather VALUES! Get off it, people. Most so-called Christian values find their origins in Judaism, so can we drop these meaningless labels? Most Christians I have met are not very Christian at all, so to act in a “holier than thou” attitude about movies, or values, or anything else is just hypocritical.

    Find another horse to ride, people. This one is dead on the trail.

  • Reply

    Beth

    14 months ago

    Hi Phil, I work at a Christian Bookstore and I saw your book on Wednesday. I went up on Friday to get it after our company and all my responsibilities were finished… I started it last night after the kids went to bed and on four hours of sleep just finished it. It is a great book!! I was wondering though about the unpublished extra chapter that is mentioned in the back of the book. I went looking for it and could not find it on your site. Thanks for the great read though!!

  • Reply

    Brian "glumPuddle"

    14 months ago

    Back in October 2005, I attended a “Narnia Sneak Peek Event” to write a story for NarniaWeb.com (where I help run the news section). I saw Mr. Laur there and they showed us new clips and it was interesting hearing everything they had to say. The other day, I recieved a “Rocky Resource DVD” in the mail, very similar to the “Narnia Resource DVD.” I was surprised…but I really shouldn’t have been. The stradegy of Motive Entertainment seems to be to keep their efforts a secret, except for the people they are marketing to of course. That’s one the things that worked so well with Narnia. They got the Christian community interested, but everyone else was largley unaware of Christians getting excited. Anyway, I’m rambling. I’m not sure how I feel about films like Rocky being marketed directly to Christians. But, as long as it’s good art, I don’t think I mind so much.

  • Reply

    Pete Huge

    14 months ago

    Phil you tell it like it is. Your honesty is refreshing. Maybe Rambo could repent AFTER he shows the bad guys “Old Testament” judgement, that way the wishy-washy marketers can make money from the holy-rollers and secular sinners.

  • Reply

    jason

    14 months ago

    an interesting detail about the Rambo thing is that in this new instalment Rambo will be saving Christian Missionaries from yada yada yada in such and such a country…

    :-) I know that is not the most detailed plot description ever, but the premise is right, he is supposed to be rescuing missionaries who are being persecuted in a foreign country

  • Reply

    Greg

    14 months ago

    Quote: “That’s one the things that worked so well with Narnia. They got the Christian community interested, but everyone else was largley unaware of Christians getting excited”.

    Anyone who barely does any research about Narnia & C.S. Lewis will quickly learn of it’s Christian influence.

    Why would they market Narnia as a Christian movie?

    Most believer’s know of Narnia & will support the movies as they release & the others will most likely flock to the sequels as well.

  • Reply

    Nathan A. F. Roberts

    14 months ago

    As long as there are Christians [forever], there will be those who take advantage of us. As Christians, we are sometimes very vulnerable. We sometimes see the slightest good deed, and take it as though the “deeder” is holier than us.
    We need to be watching for that around us just as much as we should in the media. We can look a Mel Gibson’s drunk-driving “incident”. As a Christian film-maker, and one who is so much in the forefront of the public eye, he should have known better.
    He did, however, give a reason for his actions. He, as a former alcoholic, had been having personal problems. During this time he had a relapse.
    Whether these claims are true, or not, we may never know. But we can be sure that Hollywood is good spawning ground for deceit an error. We must safe-guard ourselves againt these things, and not become vulnerable to them.
    I think that, unless the form of media is presented as “Christian media”, we should not assume that it is. ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ was well-knwn Christian book. We can be sure that C.S. Lewis intended it to appear that way. But ‘Rocky’? Unless Sly comesout and say that it is a Doctrine-based film, we should assume that it’s not.

  • Reply

    Shelley Dell

    14 months ago

    I’m waiting for the next installment “Rocky Moves to Assisted Living” I suspect that Morgan Freeman will appear to him playing shuffle board and we’ll be off to another movie. As I recall the Rambo movies were supposed to make us all feel more heroic about participation in the Viet Nam war, so maybe Mr. Stallone will be off to Iraq before long.

Leave a CommentPlease be polite. We appreciate that.

Your Comment