April 1, 2016
After Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice made $420 million opening weekend, Hollywood is looking to generate the same kind of financial success in the Christian/Bible genre. “Despite mixed reviews from critics, Risen, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and Noah have captured people’s attention” says Kevin Reynolds, director of Waterworld and 2016’s Easter-themed Risen. “People are curious about the Bible and the history of Christianity. They want a fresh take on spirituality in ways only Hollywood can provide: 100-million-dollar epics full of white-washed casts, historically inaccurate costumes, and bone-crunching action scenes.” Darren Aronofsky, writer/director of Noah, added “why read a book when you can watch an award-winning director re-envision your favorite Bible stories into a contemporary political agenda starring Robin Hood and Batman?”
This next take on Christian History by Kevin Reynolds (Risen, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Waterworld) will be a historical drama about the life of Martin Luther and the beginning of the Reformation. “Batman v. Superman reveals that people want to see heroes fight. They want to see idealism in a darker light. They want to see chinks in the armor… What better place to see conflict and corruption than in the struggle between Catholic and Protestant in the Reformation? You’ve got war, conspiracy, scandal, execution, subterfuge, a priest marrying a nun… there’s something for everyone.”
Martin Luther vs. Pope Leo X: Dawn of the Reformation will open with the Roman catholic church trying to raise money through the melodramatic John Tetzel. Tetzel put on dramatic plays about the fires of hell and the torment of Purgatory, inspiring people to buy indulgences. If one bought an indulgence (“donated money to the church”), they were forgiven of past, present, or even future sin. Many donated money in order to reduce time in purgatory for themselves and their loved ones. According to Luther, “the pope had a finger in the pie as well,” because half the money went to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
When Martin Luther heard about John Tetzel’s tactics, he was furious. He openly challenged the sale of indulgences, arguing that God alone can forgive sin. Luther wrote his famous 95 Theses in condemnation of these corrupt practices and nailed it to the church door. “Luther believes the system has become corrupt and publicly challenges Pope Leo X to fix it.”
Luther’s friends printed the 95 Thesis and within two months copies had spread all across Europe. “If it wasn’t for Gutenberg’s printing press, Luther probably would’ve been executed as ‘just another heretic’ like John Huss. But now the common people had the opportunity to hear Luther and agreed with him.” Pope Leo X sent an official order (a papal bull) to Luther, threatening him with excommunication if Luther did not recant and destroy his writings. Luther burned it.
Luther is given a trial, the famous Diet of Worms, where he defended himself against the church and government authorities. “This is the Batman v Superman moment right here. Will Luther give in and recant? Will David shrink in the face of Goliath? Or, will he stand up to the Pope and be executed?” When ordered to recant, Luther gave this statement:
Luther escapes his execution and eventually creates the Protestant church. “Just like Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice introduced all these heroes like Wonder Woman, Flash, etc., we want to introduce Reformation heroes. You’re going to see John Calvin. You’re going to see Zwingli. Dawn of the Reformation is going to be awesome.”
“Just like every Bible epic needs a big battle at the end, we’re going to have a war, too” Kevin Reynolds insists. “Luther sparks the Great Peasants’ Revolt, where the people rose up against their oppressors.” In reality, Luther was opposed to the peasants revolt and spoke against their rebellion. Reynolds has other ideas for the film. “We think Luther should be on the side of the revolt, standing with the common man against the tyrants of his day. I can’t think of a better ending than Martin Luther riding into battle against the Pope!”
“Martin Luther v. Pope Leo X: Dawn of the Reformation is a movie everyone needs to see. It reminds us that power has a corrosive effect on human beings. Many institutions start out as good but become corrupt over time, even the church. Sometimes “being aware” of problems isn’t enough. Publicly voicing our concern isn’t enough. We have to challenge corruption head on and reform it. We can’t afford to sit back and hope that someone else does something about it.”