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Son of God - Movie Review

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Son of God - Movie Review

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2 stars

First, the elephant in the room. How does one even begin to offer criticism of a movie that depicts the life of Jesus without thoughts of being sent straight to Hell?

Knowing full well the imposing size of the bear trap I’m stepping into by taking this on, I’ll begin by pointing out my own awareness that nothing said here will convince readers to consider anything counter to their own preconceived notions of what Son of God is.  Everyone will get out of the film what they bring to it. It doesn’t reach deep enough to win over any converts, and conversely, neither is it controversial enough to spook the believers. Instead, Son of God is a middling, paint-by-numbers rundown of the apocryphal gospels that plays like a K-tel version of the life of Jesus Christ. Readers of a certain age will get the reference.

Producer team Mark Burnett (Survivor) and Roma Downey made so much History Channel money from their 2013 10-hour Emmy award-winning documentary The Bible, which became the number one cable entertainment telecast of the year and the fastest-selling TV-to-disc title ever, it was only a matter of time before the husband and wife duo would bring that same money-train to the big screen.

They recut the 10-hour special down, added a few new scenes, and tinkered with the focus which resulted in a 140-minute examination of the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ as depicted in the Christian Bible.

Director Christopher Spencer begins his story with a few flashes of the Old Testament tellings, then briskly runs through the birth of Christ, the meeting of disciples, his preachings, all the miracles, the gaining of followers, then ends with the Messiah’s crucifixion and rebirth. A bookended story with Sebastian Knapp doubling as both John and story narrator helps break up the point-by-point storytelling format quite nicely. Perhaps a few more visits to the musings of John throughout the course of the film might have made more sense.

Though fairly evenly paced, the story zooms along briskly, but the visuals stumble frequently, hampered by numerous rough cuts, a fair share of fits and starts, and places where smooth transitions just aren’t possible due to missing footage. When faced with a problem transition, Spencer often cuts to a hokey CGI establishing shot of bustling Jerusalem or a cheap model of the Jewish Temple.

Jesus is played by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado who makes his Jesus come off as an aloof, arrogant jerk who doesn’t owe his followers - or more importantly, the viewers - any words of wisdom or encouragement other than those already well known from the scriptures which he delivers in brief one-liners while squinting into space and waving a cupped hand across the sky. If we’re to know Jesus and truly understand his power and the reach of his spiritual enlightenment, it’s important for us to see HOW he moved the world, not be satisfied with the assumption that he just did.

Roma Downey sheds her producer skin and doubles as Mother Mary, but gets little to do other than weep beneath her dirt-covered skin and filthy shroud. Unknown Greg Hicks is the conflicted Roman Governor Pontius Pilate who just wants all the controversy of Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem to just go away, while Adrian Schiller shows chops as Jewish high priest Caiaphas.

The numerous meetings between Caiaphas and Pilate are some of the film’s best as they touch on the more interesting political thriller aspects of the story we know so well. Perhaps ramping up that thriller aspect of the story by depicting Jesus’ arrival into Jerusalem as a dangerous collision course with potentially deadly consequences (cue the ominous music) might have raised the interest level above that of the rather banal portrayal of Jesus’ wimpy, side-saddled arrival on an under-sized, clomping Donkey with the sun in his pretty face, and palm fronds at his well-manicured feet.

Then again, that approach to the written-in-stone story we all know so well would involve stepping outside the Christian comfort zone and into the sweep of controversy which wouldn’t play as nicely to the greatest denominator. And with bags of cash in the filmmakers’ best interest, why mess with the ready-made money machine? That would be blasphemous.

Son of God - Movie Review

 MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence.
Runtime:
138 mins
Director
: Christopher Spencer
Writer:
Richard Bedser, Christopher Spencer
Cast:
Diogo Morgado, Amber Rose Revah, Sebastian Knapp
Genre
: Drama
Tagline:
Their Empire. His Kingdom.
Memorable Movie Quote: "We are going to change the world..."
Distributor:
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site: www.sonofgodmovie.com/home.html
Release Date: April 26, 2004
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
February 28, 2014
Synopsis: This major motion picture event -- an experience created to be shared among families and communities across the U.S. -- brings the story of Jesus' life to audiences through compelling cinematic storytelling that is both powerful and inspirational. Told with the scope and scale of an action epic, the film features powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects and a rich orchestral score from Oscar®-winner Hans Zimmer. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado portrays the role of Jesus as the film spans from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection.

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