"Son of God" is a large-scale feature film with beautiful filming locations, great acting and a stand-out musical score by Hans Zimmer. The story follows the life and ministry of Jesus from his birth in Bethlehem to his crucifixion and eventual resurrection. Unlike Mel Gibson's successful drama, "The Passion of the Christ," this film focuses on the entirety of Jesus' ministry rather than only on his crucifixion and death. Although it would seem that this film is just what Christians and historical movie fans have been waiting for, "Son of God" has received mixed reviews from audiences everywhere for a number of reasons.
Adapted from the successful TV miniseries, "The Bible," the 2014 epic drama "Son of God" received initial support from a number of faith-based organizations such as Compassion International. The film has also received support from famous pastors like Joel Olsteen, Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, and churches throughout the country have encouraged congregations to flock to theaters to experience the film. Many churches even bought out entire theaters for screenings of the film on opening night. However, it is clear from the score on the Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes that many audience members were less than pleased with the film.
Although "Son of God" covers every major point in Jesus' ministry mentioned in the book of John, those familiar with the Bible soon discover a number of discrepancies. Many important passages are shortened and distorted for the sake of time and interest in the film, and some scenes seem to have sprung up from pure imagination. For instance, in the film, Jesus encounters Barabbas prior to his trial before Pilate, adding a deeper, more emotional atmosphere to the scene. This detail was never mentioned in the Bible. Although this can be dismissed as creative license, many feel that the film strayed too far from its Biblical roots, creating a Westernized Hollywood version of the story of Jesus.
The film often comes off as bland to audiences as it features little character depth and does not offer the same cinematic grandeur as films such as "The Passion of the Christ." The character of Jesus is toned down in the film, giving the impression of a meek, insecure man who many Christians have trouble accepting. Another character who audiences believe is not portrayed correctly is Pontius Pilate. While Pilate is insecure and arguably merciful in the Bible, the film version is utterly ruthless and cruel.
The fact that the film has been largely strung together using episodes of "The Bible" miniseries is also not popular with audiences. Although "Son of God" features a fair number of new scenes, much of the film consists of recycled scenes from the series. This has led to accusations that the film's two producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are more interested in making money from the successful series than spreading the Christian faith through the film.
Despite a widely negative audience reception, however, "Son of God" has also received praise for its numerous strong points. The film features an inspirational soundtrack by acclaimed composer Hans Zimmer, creating an epic atmosphere that audiences love. Many have also commended the acting of Diogo Morgado as Jesus, Sebastian Knapp as John and Greg Hicks as Pilate, to name a few.
Numerous Christians and churches have embraced the film as a spiritual tool, claiming that the story has re-inspired their walk with God. The film works hard to appeal to faith-based audiences. Although the subjects of good and evil are not largely discussed, the spiritual nature and teachings of Jesus are emphasized. This has made "Son of God" an excellent subject for small group discussions and personal reflection.
Additionally, many dedicated Christians have voiced their support for the movie, stating that strong support for Bible-based movies is necessary if they wish for Hollywood to produce any more of them. These audience members speak highly of the film for its strong points rather than criticizing it for Biblical inaccuracies. Some have even shown their support by watching the film in theaters more than once.
"Son of God" is clearly not the Bible-based film for which audiences have been waiting; however, Christians continue to show their support by attending screenings despite their familiarity with the story. Thus, the film has become a huge box office success despite largely negative critical reviews and a mixed audience reception. "Son of God" may not be the best Biblical movie that has come out of Hollywood, but it is a worthy addition to the movie collections of dedicated Christians and those who enjoy an interesting historical film.