'Son of God' review: A satisfying Christ story

A scene from Son of God (Handout)

A scene from Son of God (Handout)

Rating

3 Stars3/5

Jim Slotek, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:22 PM ET

It’s not true to say that every Jesus movie is different. But we have seen a panoply in our time – from hippie-musicals (Godspell, Jesus Christ Superstar) to accused heresy (The Last Temptation Of Christ) to alleged torture porn (The Passion Of The Christ).

The earnest Son Of God, produced by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Burnett (the reality TV kingpin behind Survivor, Shark Tank and The Voice) and Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel), is actually a Christ-only distillation from the couple’s hit 10-hour cable miniseries The Bible (with a bit of previously-unused footage).

And as such, it’s kind of a throwback to the Hollywood ‘60s Passion Play movies of my youth (King of Kings, The Greatest Story Ever Told) obstinately chronological in the telling, sort of “Jesus’ greatest hits.”

That is to say, a lot of Christ’s dialogue is one Gospel-based aphorism after another – “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” It’s a lot like watching Hamlet for the first time and realizing where these commonplace sayings come from.

At the same time, it’s a bit of a distraction and renders the dialogue prosaic at times. The filmmakers allow themselves the creative license to do things like greatly expand the roles of the criminal Barabbas (Fraser Ayres), Mother Mary (Downey) and Mary Magdalene (Amber Rose Revah) and lose characters like Herod Antipas entirely. Andrew Lloyd Webber put provocative words in Christ’s mouth, and has yet to be struck by lightning. I think it would have been okay to write something charismatic to suit the subject here.

Like those movies of yore, Christ, as played by the Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado, is insanely handsome, closer to Brad Pitt than the blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter of King of Kings. This really makes it unnecessary for Judas to kiss Jesus for identification purposes. Just arrest the handsomest guy you see.

Morgado, with his ready smile (really the only one who smiles much in the movie) is of a piece with Downey and Burnett’s intent to portray a friendly Christianity not defined by “what we’re against.”

Buoyed by Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack, Son Of God moves with an unchanging pace from miracle-to-miracle (the loaves and fishes, walking on water), and selects single characters as plot devices (a single young Pharisee shouting “Blasphemy!” at him everywhere He goes, the Apostle John being the one who invariably “gets” every point Jesus makes).

And then comes the nitty gritty. The Crucifixion in Son Of God is only a notch less brutal than Mel Gibson’s, and I’m guessing FX has never been used before, or at least as imaginatively, in the portrayal of Christ’s wounds.

Still, the overwhelming esthetic sense of Son Of God is that it is a Passion Play designed to offend as few people as possible. There are artistic moments, notably one that recreates Michelangelo’s Pieta with Downey and Morgado.

But, revere them or reject them, in my mind the Christ stories that generated the most controversy were the most interesting films. Son Of God is TV-movie watchable, but it is not the greatest telling of ostensibly the greatest story ever told.

Twitter: @jimslotek

Jim.slotek@sunmedia.ca

 


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