Religious themed films are always a hard sell to the mass market. Sure they usually do great with limited releases and some decent publicity, but don’t always sport the mass appeal. In 2013 History Channel debuted the mini-series The Bible that did really well despite receiving mixed reviews. Now they have taken the core story of Jesus from that mini-series and edited it together into an all-new standalone film aptly titled Son of God, but does it work as a new feature or will it feel like just a forced cash grab?
Son of God follows the life story of Jesus told from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection. Obviously this story is nothing new and has already been brought to the big screen a few times, most notably with Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. What’s interesting about this one is that they have cleverly crafted this new film to feel like more than just the TV mini-series. One of the most important aspects of a story like this to work is the cast. Here they have just about an entire unknown cast that helps you buy into the story as opposed to the actors themselves. Taking on the role of Jesus himself is likely no easy task and Diogo Morgado does a great job with the role. His performance requires a wide range of both emotional and physical attributes to tell this story and he pulls it off excellent. The rest of the cast do a fine job with just a few of them struggling from time to time. The production value and visuals help to bring this time and story to life in the way it needs to work without ever feeling fake. Where this film falls short is mostly in the structure. It spends a lot of time in some aspects of the story and then feels rushed at others. This is obviously from them trying to get as much information from the mini-series into this one tale but at times just causes it to stumble.
While it’s hard to say that a film like this isn’t all that preachy they manage to tell this story without ever completely feeling like they are forcing religion on you. Those that have issues or reservations regarding religion or the story of Jesus will likely not have a change of opinion as this film doesn’t do anything new with the story and plays it pretty by the numbers, but if you just watch it as the story it is trying to tell it works decent enough. This is clearly still made for a specific audience and was no doubt the cash grab that any studio would use to capitalize on as much as they can from a project, but at least here it works. It’s no Passion of the Christ, but it is a well-made film that is worth checking out, especially if you are strong in the Christian faith.