Though not very spiritual, many Christians are seeing commercials for the movie Son of God right now and they are thinking, “Do we really need another Jesus movie?” Many feel bad for thinking this way, but it is true nonetheless. The short answer is, “Yes” and here’s why:
Hollywood has put together various stories about Jesus and each is unique depending on who was behind the project and what was going in the world during that time. 1977’s television miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth, was faithful to the source material, but was criticized for having Jesus portrayed by blue-eyed Robert Powell who almost never blinked. This version of Jesus, and earlier movies such as 1927's The King of Kings, and 1965's The Greatest Story Ever Told, showed similar versions of a very serious Jesus. They were also quite dull to watch. In 1999, CBS brought a more contemporary version of Jesus with windblown hair in the made for TV movie, Jesus. This Jesus appeared to be much more “human” but almost too human for some people’s taste. In 2004, Mel Gibson provided a very balanced version of Jesus through actor Jim Caviezel in The Passion of the Christ. Though extremely popular, Gibson’s story focused almost completely on the hours before and during the crucifixion with lots of gory violence.
This week, we celebrate a new version of Jesus in the Mark Burnett/Roma Downey production of Son of God and it just might be the perfect mix. Based on the Gospel of John, this Jesus is portrayed by Diogo Morgado, who like Caviezel, brings a godly character that is also quite human. The way he walks, speaks and acts show his leadership skills, but his eyes and caring manner portray a very loving Jesus.
Though Son of God runs over two hours in length, the pace of the story moves at a fairly quick clip. Scenes do not drag on. The acting is some of the best I’ve seen in a biblical-themed movie. Part of this has to do with the dialogue. The writers smartly wrote the lines in a more contemporary style making the story easier to follow and easier to relate to. All of the actors are equal in their acting abilities, but still the standouts include Sebastian Knapp (John), Greg Hicks (Pilate), Adrian Schiller (Caiaphas) and Downey herself as Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is all wrapped up neatly by the stunning photography and incredible orchestral score by Hans Zimmer.
Still, Son of God will ruffle a few feathers in the crowd. Instead of the usual 12 disciples, this film features a baker’s dozen with the addition of Mary Magdalene (Amber Rose Revah, also excellent) as one of Jesus’ followers. Though Mary is not mentioned throughout the full gospel, she is in nearly every scene in the movie, and it works very well having her there. The movie never claims that she is one of Jesus’ disciples.
Those unfamiliar with the gospel will at times be confused in regards to some of the characters. For instance, when Jesus discovers that John the Baptist had been killed, it is the first time that his name has been mentioned in the story. Jesus presents a short backstory for John, but it doesn’t feel like enough. The same goes for Lazarus.
Though certainly not as gory as Passion was, this movie’s Jesus takes a huge beating as well. “You cannot minimize what happened; otherwise it’s a betrayal of the faith,” says Burnett in a press statement. “You need the darkness of the trial and crucifixion to make the light of the Resurrection and the Ascension so bright. It’s an emotional journey and also like a freight train you cannot stop. The scene is as brutal as it needs to be, but it’s not gratuitous violence,” he adds. “That’s why we were given a PG-13 rating – this film is for families.” Still, don’t bother bringing your younger children to see this movie as those scenes are pretty intense.
The movie isn’t in a hurry to finish things up after the crucifixion either. We (and doubting Thomas) get to see Jesus in his revived state, nail holes in the hands and all, making for a most triumphant ending. If you are a fan of the song, “Mary, Did You Know” by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, stick around during the credits to hear CeeLo Green’s version of the song.