Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Son of God

This isn't technically a Christmas movie, but it is about the guy they named the holiday after, so here we go...

Directed by Christopher Spencer.
2014. Rated PG-13, 138 minutes.
Diogo Morgado
Roma Downey
Joe Coen
Amber Rose Revah
Leila Mimmack
Darwin Shaw
Sebastian Knapp
Matthew Gravelle
Simon Kunz

After a brief recap of the Bible, up to and including the birth of Jesus Christ (Morgado), we launch into His last year of life. You know the routine. He roams the countryside with twelve dudes following him around. At every stop, He performs miracles and/or says something profound and gives His father all the credit. The powers that be are pretty upset because they just think He's being blasphemous, a very serious crime back then. He's then literally crucified. Sorry, no spoiler tags for any of this.

If you've read just one page of the Bible then you're familiar with the layout of the entire book. Many stories are told entirely within the space of a few short paragraphs. Once a story is done and/or its message is conveyed, we jump to the next one. Son of God plays out in the same fashion. That makes the first hour and a half an extremely episodic, miracle by miracle account of the story of Christ. He and the disciples show up somewhere, He does his thing, says a few words, the dude that hates on Him calls Him a blasphemer, and the scene is over. Before going on the next instant, e see the Romans who run things and their most trusted Jews discuss how to handle the threat of a man whom others are starting to believe is truly the Messiah.

Unlike the more controversial Noah, Son of God sticks fairly close to its source material. Sure, there are some small liberties taken to adapt the story to the screen. However, for most us, it will feel like a nearly verbatim reading of scripture. While this approach probably won't piss anyone off, it's not offering any insight, either. It just moseys along telling the story as we already know it. With a tale as widely known as this one, not having any surprises causes it to be a bit dull. Even the most devout Christians might not be all that enthused because of the 'been there, done that' feeling it invokes.

The last thirty minutes or so is consumed by the actual crucifixion. For a couple reasons, even this is rendered fairly innocuous. Like everything else in the movie, we know it's coming. More than that, this is a rather tame version of the event, especially for those of us who've seen The Passion of the Christ. Whether you're a believer or not, it's impossible to deny that that was a downright vicious depiction of someone being beaten to death over the course of a day. It was enought to cause a physical and emotional reaction in the viewer. About The Passion, the late great Roger Ebert wrote "This is the most violent film I have ever seen." In SoG, much of the damage occurs just off screen. What's visible is used to enhance the suggestiveness of what is not. I don't mind it being done this way. It's just that, like everything else in the movie, it's expected.

There are two areas of the movie that may cause a bit of a stir. The first in in how it handles who is responsible for the death of Christ. Again, comparison to The Passion is warranted. That movie received charges of anti-Semitism by explicitly implicating the Jews. This one seems to go out of its way to show that the Romans were the driving force. I know there is some debate about this, so it might be a point of contention for some. Other than that possibility, departures from scripture are minor. The other area is simply in the look of the movie. There are lots of cgi shots of Christ working miracles that don't look particularly good. It's a problem that keeps popping up throughout the movie.

By the time Son of God ends, we've watched a movie that plays out exactly the way we thought it would. For some, this will perfectly fine. These people will likely have come into this only wanting a visual representation of what they already believe happened. Others might be bored because of the lack of any surprises whatsoever. Still others will just roll their eyes at the whole thing because they do that with any religious material. In other words, while religion itself is divisive, this is a tame presentation of Biblical events.


  1. I think scripture makes it pretty clear that it was the Jews...

    But, that debate aside, I really have no desire to see this, and your review kind of spells out why...this looks so dull. It takes a lot to get me into the mood to watch a biblical film. I'm a very religious person, and I often find myself at odds with theatrical depictions of scripture, but I bend my rules every once in a while (I was a vocal supporter of Noah, as a film, not as a biblical rendering).

    Nice breakdown.

    1. That dullness is ultimately it's greatest downfall. It's just so blah. Thanks.

  2. Great review! This sounds interesting, but it doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy.

    It's sad that people are still debating over who's responsible for Jesus' death and that this discussion is capable of stirring up antisemitism. :-( It isn't as if the Jewish people don't have an extensive history of grievances against Christians.

    1. This tip-toes around the subject as much as possible. Thanks.