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The Speediest Story Ever Told
on April 25, 2014
As a Christian, and a movie fanatic, there are times (many times) when these two life choices don't exactly equate. The snarkiness that is often a given when writing movie reviews may not be listed as a sin via the Ten Commandments, but sometimes it's just not...nice. And Christians are nice people, for the most part. This film, which was generally panned by critics and loved by audiences, suffers from the same duality. SON OF GOD rated a dismal 23% likability by film critics on Rotten Tomatoes, while at the same time pulling down a sky high 82% likability by audiences, which just proves my point. Movie reviewers hated it, audiences (I'm going out on a limb here and saying that most SON OF GOD audience members are Christians) loved it. So as a Christian and a critic, where do I stand? Pretty much in the middle. I found SON OF GOD better than most of the critics believed, but not up to the near adoration of the public. A solid 3 and a half stars.
Am I setting this movie up then, for a snarky review? Sort of, but not completely. There are some very good things happening in SON OF GOD, but to find them you must sit through some silliness and more than a few liberties taken by filmmakers eager to pander to the public's thirst for a story told simply with beginning, middle, end, some blood and gore and very clearly defined good and bad guys. The story of Jesus Christ is much, much more than this, but to tell it in the two hours that today's movies seldom surpass is impossible. You've gotta cut corners, but SON OF GOD cuts more than a few. Way more.
The film opens with a quick (and I mean QUICK) montage of the Old Testaments greatest hits; Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, Goliath and Abraham. That this film was cut from the much longer mini-series becomes fairly obvious here. Next comes the similarly condensed version of the birth of Christ, after which the fully grown Jesus appears (the swoon inducing Diogo Morgado), ready to begin the true work of man's salvation, beginning with his plea to Peter the fisherman to become "fishers of men". From here on in the road to Calvary is fast and furious, and it is here that my biggest issue with SON OF GOD occurs. Many of the works of Christ, as well as the teachings of Christ, are glossed over, or ignored completely. If you know the story of Christ, the teaching, the miracles, the parables, then this isn't too terrible. We understand that the Lords Prayer is longer than one or two sentences, that the beatitudes contain more than "The meek shall inherit the Earth". But gone are so many of the works of Christ, his miracles, that if you are not well aware of the biblical stories in the New Testament, then you may very well wonder what all of the fuss was about.
So many of these glaring oversights are addressed with one or two sentences that it's a bit giggle inducing. "Do not doubt, Thomas" and "Where is Judas...have you seen him?" are just a few of the examples of storylines brought down to their least common denominator with one sentence, implied but not addressed. John the Baptist rates no more than a few seconds shown in a flashback, and the temptation of Christ by Satan is ignored completely (although the outcry over the resemblance between THE BIBLE's Satan and President Barak Obama may have something to do with this omission). The period prior to the Palm Sunday entrance of Jesus on the back of a donkey is the weakest of SON OF GOD, but thankfully following this the film begins to finally gain steam.
The days leading to the Crucifixion are the backbone of SON OF GOD, and the best and most emotional moments fall within this section. After Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the film slows down it's breakneck narration to actually illustrate the events that led to the death of Christ. It's always interesting to see who gets the brunt of the blame for the Crucifixion of Christ in these bliblical films...will it be Pontius Pilate? The Jewish Temple leaders? Judas? The Roman Guardsman? Every movie seems to point fingers at one group more than others, and in SON OF GOD the winner is Pilate, wonderfully played by Greg Hicks, who is portrayed as more psychopath than ruler.
While SON OF GOD doesn't even begin to touch the savagery of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, the brutality of the Crucifixion is present within SON OF GOD, and is troubling and difficult to watch (as it should be). Morgado does his best work here as Jesus, able to drop the Colgate smile and finally ACT, for heaven's sake. Roma Downey, however, is just awful as Mary, and she seems to do nothing more than look pleadingly (but still beautifully!) at Jesus in all of his agony, tears glistening on her lovely cheeks as she stretches her hand to her son. As a mother, if I was watching one of my sons go through something like this, I would be screaming and frothing at the mouth.
SON OF GOD is a good, but not great film of the life and death of Jesus Christ. That it is better at depicting the death of Jesus, in all of its misery and degradation, may be due simply to the belief that the public wants to see the torture more than the miracles. But isn't the life of Christ, and his teachings, more important? I think so, but I don't have millions to make a movie. See the film, by all means, but remember how much more there is to the story of the Son of God than the tragedy of his death on the cross. That, my friends, is the real good news.