Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Son of God movie review

Movie Title:   Son of God 
PG-13, 2 hours, 18 minutes

Grade:   B

In a Nutshell:   As a Christian, I really wanted this film to provide a spiritual feast, but it’s really only a snack.  The movie is willing, but the spirit is weak.  Considering how strongly I feel about the life-changing topic, I found it to be more like an illustrated children’s Bible, highlighting only a few parts of the four Gospels that tell the story of Jesus Christ. It’s certainly not a detailed study, nor an entirely accurate account of the scriptures, playing more like a “Greatest Hits” version.

The audience I joined was reverent and hopeful enough, but the big screen version felt like a choppy, re-edited collection of The Bible: The Epic Miniseries that aired on the History Channel last year. Indeed, that’s exactly what it was. One critic noted that if The Bible: The Epic Miniseries was a Cliff’s Notes for the scriptures, then Son of God is the cheat sheet. Although the target audience consists mainly of supportive believers, the movie is more of a basic introduction to the Christian faith, visiting the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The audience was frozen in their seats during the crucifixion scenes and you could have heard a pin drop....or a tear drop.  It's hard to sit through that without feeling in awe.

Uplifting theme:   The movie’s witness, as well as mine, is that Jesus Christ lives!   

Things I liked:
  • The Portuguese actor who plays Jesus (Diogo Morgado)  is a little Brad Pitt-esque.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  He’s handsome and kind-looking, but some reviewers criticize his portrayal as a hippie being followed by a band of scruffy misfits.  Of course, some said that about Jesus himself.
  • The lovely Roma Downey of Touched By an Angel: Complete Series Pack portrays a sweet Mary, mother of Jesus. She also co-produced the film with her husband Mark Burnett.  It’s nice to see her again. She was the only one in the movie whose face wasn't dusted with dirt.
  • The cinematic journey starts with “In the beginning, the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was there with Adam and Eve, Abraham, Moses...” We’re given a quick walk-through of our religious history and then the narrator says “In the struggle for the promised land, He was always by our side.  He was the light shining in the darkness.  Then, He came into the world.”  We learn that John the Beloved is the narrator, as he begins and ends the movie with his testimony.  I love movies that carry us full circle to a poignant message.  John explains “I was one of His followers.  After what I saw, how could I not be?”
  • I always like to see different interpretations of Pontius Pilate.  This version features a continuously scowling Roman prefect who is annoyed by the constant Jewish disturbances and more worried about keeping the peace in order to preserve his own political position and comfortable lifestyle.
  • I loved it when the camera went underneath the Sea of Galilee to show us Jesus’ face above the water, reaching down to move the water and command the fish to swim into Peter’s nets.  Jesus tells Peter “I will make you a fisher of men”.  A confused Peter asks “What are we going to do?”  “Change the world.”
  • While the Pharisees and Sadducees are depicted as jealous and fearful in their piety, other Jews are shown faithfully wearing phylacteries and prayer robes, strictly obeying the law out of love.  There are fanatics and hypocrites in every religion, but there are also believers who inspire us to live more valiantly.
  • I love symbolism so I thought it was awesome when Judas spit the bread out of his mouth.  Bread, of course, is a symbol of Jesus Christ.  Did you know that the name Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, means “House of Bread”?   
  • Thousands of hours of film have been recorded to tell the story of Christ, so I always appreciate subtle interpretations that directors are able to include in their version to speak to us.  I liked it when Jesus gently kissed the heavy cross he struggled to carry.  There’s a lesson in there for all of us; our trials will cause us to stretch and grow, so we should greet them with gratitude, rather than anger.

Things I didn’t like:
  • The aerial views of Jerusalem looked like a child’s toy model of the legendary holy city that was put together in 15 minutes.
  • One of the most disappointing features of the film is what it does NOT have: Satan.  The devil does not get his due…or screen time…in this movie because the filmmakers chose to intentionally edit out all of the scenes that reveal a Lucifer that looks too much like President Obama.  Producer Roma Downey told the Hollywood Reporter “This is now a movie about Jesus, the son of God, and the devil gets no more screen time.”  While I admire her desire to put the spotlight on the Savior, her choice also waters down the need for a redeemer and removes the necessary contrast that opposition provides in good film, as well as in religion.  It appears more like she is bowing down to Hollywood and political pressure than proclaiming that Jesus atoned for our sins and conquered death and hell.  The reason we need Jesus is because of Satan.  Sin separates us from God and Jesus bridges that gap.  Because of Satan we have spiritual and physical death; because of Jesus, we can live.
  • The writing is inconsistent, sometimes quoting scripture from the traditional King James version of the Bible, while other times using today’s modern lingo.
  • As if the audience weren’t sophisticated enough to recognize a powerful phrase or prophetic moment, a base note sounded after every significant spot in the movie.
  • I really hate it when lousy movie extras are shown in the background shaking their fists weakly in the air and grumbling that they’d rather head to the Kraft food table than act.  There were, however, a few authentic-looking extras in the crowd with missing teeth and a Mediterranean look.
  • I’m sure Sana Mouziane is a lovely person in real life, but I thought she was a terrible Martha.  
  • The film was lacking a powerful musical score.  With the right music, an entire moment can be transformed into something truly magical.

Inspiring lines:
  •  Jesus meets Peter for the first time and says “Peter, just give me an hour and I will give you a whole new life.”  Peter looks surprised and answers “Who says I want one?”  Jesus makes that same offer to all of us.
  • “Put God first and everything else will follow.”  -  Jesus
  • “If you hunger for righteousness, you will be filled through me.”  - Jesus

Tips for parents:   There are many bloody images when Jesus is beaten and crucified that can be quite disturbing to young children and even some adults.

Terrific videos about the life of Christ:  I can highly recommend the inspiring collection of free videos at that will strengthen your faith in the Savior.

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