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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Sunday, March 02, 2014

"Son of God" - A Movie Review

I went to see "Son of God" on Friday, because if you're going to run your mouth, you might as well know what you're talking about.  Here are a few brief thoughts.  (There will probably be spoilers.  Yes, spoilers - and you thought you knew the story.)

Cinematographically, I thought it was well done overall.  There were a few places that were hard to take seriously in that regard.  Jesus floating over the water on the Sea of Galilee made it look like they ran out of money when time came for the finishing touches.

Acting was mixed.  It's hard to get any Christian film without bad acting or overacting, and there was both here.  You hate to criticize anything so sacred as a portrayal of the sufferings and crucifixion of Christ, especially when going to a film like this is an act of serious devotion for so many people.  But I honestly had a hard time with the way some of the crucifixion scene was done acting-wise. 

The portrayal of Jesus was fairly effeminate.  Lines were often spoken in a breathy, non-offensive way, kind of like in a chick flick.  If we're looking to inspire men to live great lives of masculinity, this isn't going to help.

One of the most comical scenes in the movie - unintentionally so - was when Jesus met Peter while he was fishing.  The line in the trailer, where Jesus tells Peter they were going to change the world, was just too much.  Immediately thereafter, the camera panned across Jesus and Peter in the boat, staring out at the sea, in "hero shot" fashion.  I think this was one of the points in the movie where I laughed out loud in the theater.  There were a couple of those "hero shots", and they were hilarious each time.

Slow motion shots were in abundance - make that over-abundance.  Again, I couldn't help laughing at them, and the over-seriousness in them.

Of course, there was no point in the film that you were supposed to be laughing.  Super-serious music dominated from beginning to end, non-stop, even in scenes where Jesus and his disciples were contentedly smiling, as the crowds flocked them.  "At least they're smiling some," I thought.  But the smiles were odd - obviously artificial, perhaps?  It's hard to put a finger on it.  But when paired with the weird, navel-gazing music, it was bizarre. 

Melancholy dominated the film.  For the crucifixion, that is necessary.  But was the whole life of Jesus at best calmly serene, and depressing at worst?  I hardly think so.  It would have helped to include Jesus first miracle at the wedding feast of Cana.  But with the fact that so many Fundamentalists still want to pretend Jesus didn't actually turn water into alcohol, I imagine that would be too controversial.

While we had plenty of actors who looked like they could be Jewish, Jesus didn't.  It would have been nice if we could have broken the American tradition of non-Jewish Jesuses.

There was plenty of crying at weird spots.  We meet John on Patmos at the beginning and end of the film.  In both occasions his eyes are watered up.  But why?  Is all that Jesus ever does is makes people cry?  Again, this has more to do with American sentimentalism than Biblical Christianity - more chick flick than Bible.  There are other places where people fall apart rather strangely.  Then the one place where one would expect to see Jesus bawling, the tomb of Lazarus, he doesn't.  Just bizarre.

The whole connection with chick flicks makes sense, when you learn that the actor chosen to play Jesus, Diogo Morgado, has a background in modeling and Portuguese telenovelas.  The equivalent to casting him would have been casting a Victoria Secret model to play the Virgin Mary (with apologies to Roma Downey).  What it points out is that a large portion of Evangelicalism has a warped sense of spirituality, and this is one place where it's screaming.

The events in the life of Jesus that they chose to portray were odd.  I haven't entirely been able to put together what all they were trying to convey.  Was it at least partially random?  I couldn't tell.  One ideology that seemed very clear, though, was one of pacifism or non-violence.  It was constant in the passages of Scripture that were quoted by Jesus and others, as well as the scenes portrayed.  Even when we come to the overturning of the tables of the moneychangers, Jesus does it in the most non-violent atonement way possible.  The whip of cords is also noticeably absent.  This Jesus wouldn't hurt a fly.  Some of those ninja moves done by the angels in Sodom in "The Bible" miniseries would have been welcome here.

When the crowds start calling Jesus "Messiah" he reacts with a pained look on his face.  This apparently suggests to him the notion of political revolution, which involves violence.  This Jesus wants nothing to do with that.  Apparently the idea that he is the Messiah is going too far.  Try making that fit with the Bible.

There were interesting contrasts throughout - Judas going to the authorities, set in contrast with Nicodemus going to Jesus, both betraying their loyalties in a sense.  The feasting of Pilate in a luxurious palace set in contrast with the homeless Jesus and his disciples around a campfire.  From a filmmaking perspective, they were well done.

One of the odder inclusions was that of Mary Magdalene in just about every scene the apostles appear in.  When no one else but Jesus and the disciples were there, Mary was strangely there as well, almost seeming to suggest her as a disciple.  Interestingly enough, her face isn't shown at the last supper.  And yet she appears as soon as they leave the upper room, in such a way as to suggest she was there all along.

There was the inclusion of Veronica, wiping the face of Jesus as he fell on the way to Golgotha.  I imagine we wouldn't want to offend the Catholics by leaving out something the Bible doesn't mention and which probably didn't happen.

Jesus reading in the synagogue from Isaiah and pronouncing his ministry, which actually took place at the beginning of his ministry, doesn't occur until much later in the movie.  Another odd choice.

The whole upper room scene was strange.  Early in the feast, Jesus seems to lapse into a sort of vision.  He sees himself being betrayed by Judas, and being crucified.  He gets a startled look on his face, as though he didn't know before that it was coming.  Then, when he begins to tell the disciples that that was to be his last meal with them, they all begin to weep.  But in the Bible, Jesus had been warning them all the way that this was coming.  The theological problems, along with the failure to be faithful to Scripture, are huge.

Again, when Jesus, outside the room, hears Peter say he won't betray him, Jesus has another vision, this time of Peter's betrayal, and it takes him by surprise.  This Jesus apparently gets lots of mystical revelations on the fly.

After the crucifixion, the two Sunday gatherings of the apostles are compressed into one meeting.  This is again a failure of faithfulness to the text of Scripture.

I could probably say more, but this has already gone on quite long.  It should be fairly obvious what I think of the film.  I don't want to be misunderstood - if any person were to come to Christ through this film, I would be thrilled.  But God uses all sorts of things to bring people to Himself, and just because he uses a thing, doesn't mean that the thing itself is good.  And insofar as the film seeks to glorify God, and is trying to rightly portray the life of Christ, I am thankful.  But I also think the film fails miserably in a number of respects.  And in the process, it displays a faulty spirituality, playing into the already existing weaknesses of the Evangelical church.  We need art and entertainment that will counter such a faulty spirituality, not that which will encourage it.

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