Monday, June 20, 2011

What Ever Happened to Mormon Cinema

I vividly remember the first time I saw a trailer for the movie God's Army. I watched the whole thing with my mouth wide open with surprise. Here was a movie about Mormons that looked respectful of the Church, with good production values, and it was actually coming to a theater near you (well, only if you lived in Utah, I suppose). I also remember telling my friends at BYU about the trailer and having them express disbelief at my story. You might not remember now, but at the time, God's Army was a big deal.

Today's comic strip was drawn just a few years after God's Army premiered. At that time, I assumed God's Army would continue to hold cultural significance as the movie that started the Mormon Cinema genre. But now, just over ten years later, that genre is pretty much dead.* Ultimately, I think, it was hard to justify paying the same ticket price to go see a locally produced movie with production values just higher than your stake's roadshow as a big, Hollywood blockbuster like The Lord of the Rings. In the end, like the law of consecration, we just weren't ready for Mormon Cinema.

Oh, and by the way, I think Elder Van Dyke's review of God's Army is right on.

*I acknowledge that there are still Mormon movies being made. For example, the film
17 Miracles is in theaters now (and has received pretty good reviews), but you definitely don't see the numbers of movies being made now that you did a few years ago.


  1. There aren't as many movies these days because all the action is now in Mormon broadway musicals.

  2. I think there aren't as many because the viewing public is tired of the cheesy Mormon movies that have been made. I want to see a well-made film when I go to the movies, regardless of the cultural factors influencing the story line. Bad acting, scripts, and inside jokes centered around Utah Mormon culture can only ride the wave so far before breaking and dissipating into the foam that washes ashore. I am a lifelong member born on the East Coast, and have lived in Utah for the last 17 years, so I think I have a pretty good perspective of and fondness for my religion, as lived both in and out of Utah. But some of the movies made had extremely limited appeal outside of Utah, and maybe even Utah Valley. Alternately smirking and simpering, attractive LDS actors are not enough of a sop to keep the masses happy. There needs to be more in the long run. Good storytelling was a craft that our forebears developed and treasured; just because anyone could talk and relate an experience didn't make them an accomplished storyteller. In our modern world, just because you have access to a script, funding, and actors doesn't make you a good filmmaker.

  3. Angela,

    Great points. Once the novelty wore off, Mormon movies had to stand on their own merit and they were, sadly, lacking.

    I certainly hope your critique doesn't apply to Mormon cartoons too.

  4. I was actually surprised to see a few of the movies showing in one of the local theaters here in Salem (OR). The theater owners were miffed, however, when after a decent crowd on a Saturday night, there wasn't a soul who showed up on Sunday!