Earnest voice-overs, melodramatic direction, awkward violence, dull execution – where to start with The Bible?
This series produced by Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Voice, The Apprentice) makes no apology for attempting to stay true to the work, yet it necessarily undergoes elaborate editing.
It begins with the Ark in a stormy sea. As Noah (with a bit of a Scottish accent) tells the story of Creation, surrounded by pairs of animals, we get a CGI version and some natural history documentary footage showing whales, flamingos and a parrot. Adam rises from the dirt (no Darwinism here) while Eve bites into an apple and a snake hovers nearby. Adam and Eve are pretty hot, and possibly strayed off the set of Survivor.
When Cain whacks a bloodied Abel with a rock, a hooded Devil doing his best not to look like Barack Obama, looks on. “Wrong choices, wrong decisions,” Noah explains of mankind. “That’s why this is happening.”
Swirling music accompanies this introduction with a CGI Ark and and aerial shot that pulls back through the clouds to reveal the sea, the clouds, Earth. It’s a Hollywood-style opening, but with none of Cecil B. de Mille’s authenticity.
An American narrator links us to from sequence to sequence with all the subtlety of a Christian Education video, rather than television drama. We even get a highlights montage of what’s to come. He sets the scene for Abraham standing in the desert and receiving instructions from God.
“Abraham, leave your home and go to the land I will give to you and your offspring,” God whispers. God has an American accent too and his overly-ominous manner reminds me a little of The Amityville Horror. Get out Abraham, get out.
At this point we move into the first real story of the episode, as Abraham (Gary Oliver) convinces his wife and a family tribe to leave their home for a more prosperous future. The setting for their desert journey looks authentic enough, but the multicultural cast are distracting with their contrasting features and conflicting accents.
After his nephew Lot departs for the Jordan River Plain the first of several battles in The Bible takes place as Abraham attempts to rescue him in the Battle of the Vale of Siddim. At this point The Bible attempts to match Game of Thrones and Spartacus in its depiction of violence. We hear all the sound effects of swords and daggers slicing and dicing. It’s followed later by Abraham tempted by a semi-naked female. At this point I’m waiting for dragons to appear…
Three hooded visitors arrive to Abraham with more prophecies from God. One looks African, another Asian. They must have come a long way, but they head onto Sodom which is a city of sin and revelry. When God destroys Sodom with a firestorm, the CGI is ramped up to the max. Fireballs pummel the city, like something out of a bad popcorn movie. The visitors try to save Lot from God’s destruction, including turning into martial arts experts against the corrupt citizens of Sodom. In the process Lot’s wife turns into a CGI pillar of salt. Sorry, spoiler alert.
On and on this turgid, overwrought hour of television persists. Violence is explicitly depicted in the Lord’s name, which will arguably put this at odds for a modern television audience. No wonder this is rated M for violence. At one point when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar by stabbing him with a knife I was waiting for the “Do not attempt this at home” warning.
When I wasn’t laughing at how bad this hot mess was I was bored, which is the biggest sin of all, Abraham.
Despite having a Hollywood budget and all the technical wizardry at their fingertips, The Bible falls a long way short of other biblical dramatisations, The Ten Commandments, The Robe, Ben Hur, The Greatest Story Ever Told and Jesus of Nazareth. More than anything, this is a lost opportunity.
The bible belt audience of America may have been suckered in by this, but I’m not surprised critics slammed it.
Wrong choices, wrong decisions indeed, Noah…
Unintentionally, it’s the funniest thing I’ve seen on TV all year and I would highly recommend watching it while reading Twitter at the same time.
The Bible airs 9pm Tuesday on Nine.