Intolerance. That's the word that came to mind when we heard about Mel Gibson's upcoming feature film adaptation of the life of religious icon Judah Maccabee, the hero who led a revolt against the Seleucid Empire between 167-160 BCE. After years of tumultuous remarks against the Jewish people ("The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" was one of the lowlights), and an extremely financially successful film called The Passion of the Christ, which many people believe depicts Jewish people in an offensively negative fashion, he's now teaming with Joe Eszterhas, the writer of Basic Instinct, to tell a story of one of the most significant Jewish heroes in history, who is a key figure in the yearly celebration of Hanukkah.
Like we said, Intolerance. Not intolerance against anyone in particular, but rather D.W. Griffith's famous cinematic apology for his blockbuster racist epic The Birth of a Nation, which was one of the most famous, influential and successful movies in history but also disturbingly celebrated the Ku Klux Klan as national heres. His follow-up to the film was Intolerance, a bold and powerful depiction of the concept of "intolerance" throughout multiple timelines, which was daring for its time but not necessarily accepted as an apology for the content of his previous film.
Naturally, people are pissed. Hollywood Reporter has a nice piece up right now detailing the protests Jewish leaders are making about the upcoming production, which we recommend reading. Obviously, many of the comments are about the insensitivity involved in giving Mel Gibson a movie about a Jewish hero, but Rabbi Marvin Hier had an interesting quote as well about the effect that the filmmaker will have on the movie's success: "Warner Bros. is making a terrible mistake […] most of the people that are going to come to a film about Judah Maccabee are the Jewish community. Surely they know the Jewish communities are not going to come to this film."
Considering that Mel Gibson's controversial remarks had an apparent, and devastating, effect on the box office receipts of his recent, reasonably critically-successful comedy-drama The Beaver, this argument seems completely reasonable to us. Also, well… This whole damned story is weird. We really wish we could have been a fly on the wall during the development meetings for this movie.
What do you think? Could this film be an adequate apology for Gibson's previous remarks, or is he just plain playing with fire? Would you see this film in theaters or protest on sheer principle?
CraveOnline will be back with more Mel Gibson news after we wipe the surprised looks off our faces.