Friday, March 14, 2014

SON OF GOD (2014) - Review

Son of God (2014)


Director: Christopher Spencer
Producer: Roma Downey, Mark Burnett
Music: Lorne Balfe
Story/Screenplay: Richard Bedser, Christopher Spencer, Colin Swash, Nick Young; based on the New Testament
Starring: Diogo Morgado (as Jesus), Darwin Shaw, Roma Downey, Amber Rose Revah, Sebastian Knapp, Gregg Hicks, and more
Cinematography: Rob Goldie

Studio: 20th Century Fox (distributor), Lightworks Media (production company)

MPAA Rating: PG-13


So last night, me and my family went to see Son of God in the theaters with a good friend of ours, and we sat through a two-hour film going over the life of Jesus Christ (while I was munching on my popcorn), starting from His birth to His miracles to His death and resurrection.

So what did my family think? Overall, they all enjoyed it. And what did I think? I didn't love the film, but I did think it was a decent film. It wasn't the abomination on film that some critics of the film make it out to be, but at the same time, despite the film's merits, ultimately it feels like a pretty decent, but average, re-edit of the original The Bible miniseries, with some filler added to it and one scene removed (the temptation scene, simply because of the over-hyped Obama/Satan comparison).

I feel no need to summarize the plot, since I believe that most people will be familiar with the story and that most critics already have done the job. But I will review the film.

First, I will focus on the merits. Diogo Morgado is very fitting for his role as Jesus Christ, giving us a relatable character who one could empathize with, and even if this Jesus does look like your generic white Jesus, Morgado did a really good job with his performance. The other actors are good in their roles, including Gregg Hicks as the cruel Pontius Pilate, Darwin Shaw as Simon Peter (the "big fisherman"), and the other apostles. Adrian Schiller is also fitting for his portrayal as Caiphas, combining both the self-righteous hypocrite who hates Jesus and the nationalist who is concerned for his nation.

Also, the direction is actually pretty decent, considering that this was originally not intended for a theatrical release (the original footage was from the miniseries). The pacing is passable, though the events do feel out of place and out of order for those who have seen the original miniseries (the order of certain events in the film are switched around). And the cinematography is very well-done, with some excellent choices made throughout the film. Overall, there was not much to complain about in the film.

Now, having given my thoughts on the respective merits on the film, what did I not like about the film?

First, having seen The Bible miniseries, the film felt like a rehash in an attempt to cash in on the quasi-craze of Hollywood-distributed Christian movies (Noah is about to come out, and I am interested in the film myself). Not much was new in the film, except for a few scenes being extended, some extended footage of John on Patmos, a scene where Jesus predicts the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (which is just handled in a kind of back-handed way). And for those who haven't seen The Bible, the film will feel familiar as this story was filmed multiple times. They may or may not enjoy it, but I feel that most will have the view that it seems a bit too familiar, considering that Jesus movies had been made since the inception of film.

Second, Son of God has its share of technical flaws. For example, the pacing seemed to drag at times, and compared to the miniseries, certain events felt out of order. For example, the death of Lazarus and his resurrection was switched around from the original miniseries and placed at a different time in the movie. And while the extended footage added in does have merit, overall it feels like filler for the most part. Also, there are obvious examples of less-than-stellar CGI work here and there throughout the film. Also, as others have noted in their reviews, the film did feel preachy at times. Even Diogo Morgado's otherwise good portrayal of Jesus has some cheap dialogue to say ("Just give me an hour and I'll give you a whole new life" and "change the world" talk near the opening of the film)

Peter T. Chattaway's helpful review of the film gives some insights into its certain flaws that I will take the time to quote:
The film is a mixed bag in other ways, too. At times, the script, credited to director Christopher Spencer and three other writers, displays a welcome sensitivity to the issues at play. But at other times, it misreads them so badly it gets downright goofy.
On the sensitive side, the film avoids some of the controversy that plagued The Passion of the Christ by offering a much more balanced view of Jewish-Roman politics. 
For one thing, it clearly depicts Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks) as the brutal governor that he was (Luke 13:1), even going so far as to show him violently putting down a protest over his misuse of the Temple’s funds (an episode taken from the secular historian Josephus). 
It also underscores the fact that the high priest, Caiaphas (Adrian Schiller), was motivated not just by religious concerns, but by a realpolitik desire to keep Israel safe from the Romans, even if it meant sacrificing individual Jews (John 11:47-50). 
But on the goofy side, the film utterly botches the scene in which Jesus declares that not one of the Temple’s stones will be left standing. In the Gospels, this statement has dark, apocalyptic overtones, but in the film, Jesus says it for no particular reason, and he smiles and pokes the belly of some random child while doing so. Would the real Jesus have grinned so happily when predicting the destruction of Jerusalem? Doubtful, to say the least.

But still, keeping this in mind, Son of God is a pretty decent and watchable, but ultimately average, cinematic depiction about the life of Jesus Christ. See the film and decide if the film is good, bad, or just average. But to the readers who are looking for better films about Jesus, look to Cecil B. DeMille's The King of Kings (1927) (or the 1971 film with the same title), Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964), The Jesus Movie (1979), Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth (1979), The Miracle Maker (2000), the 1999 telefilm Jesus (starring Jeremy Sisto as Jesus), or Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004). Or check out Catherine Hardwicke's (Thirteen, Twilight, Lords of Dogtown, Red Riding HoodThe Nativity Story (2006), if one is looking for a film about the birth of Jesus Christ.

Letter of Liberty News Edition (3-14-2014)

Here is the Friday News Edition of Letter of Liberty.

Ilana Mercer comments on the Duke student who became a porn star.

Nick Turse comments on Washington's proxy foreign policy in Africa.

Conn Hallinan comments on Ukraine, WikiLeaks and NATO.

Justin Raimondo advises that Crimea be allowed to secede and determine their fates.

William Grigg laments the end of private property rights.

Russ Baker investigates the mysterious case of "Danny."

Daniel McAdams argues that sanctions against Russia are absurd.

Michael Rozeff demolishes the theory of economic sanctions

Robert Wenzel explains how to get a Wall Street job quick and easy.

Roger McKinney explains fiat money and buisness cycles.

David Swanson argues against the thermonuclear monarchy.

Eric Peters explains new things to know about new cars.

Steve Sailer believes that the US government and Russian government may never get along.

Sheldon Richman explains how Americans can really help Ukranians.

Jacob Hornberger condemns America's Cold War socialism.

Jacob Hornberger warns that the CIA can't be "reformed" and that it should be abolished.

Laurence Vance reviews Faith and War, a book detailing Christian ideas regarding the Cold War.

Byran Cheng: Herbert Spencer, the great 19th century thinker, taught that freedom and empire are in conflict with one another.

Andrew Napolitano explains the troubles with the NSA and the CIA.

The Washington Times editorializes on yet another Justice Department crime: trying to criminalize sharing of links.

Adam Gopnik explains the flaws of Crimea-related hysteria.

Scott McConnell comments on yet another plan to start a Cold War.

Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald expose the NSA's plans to infect computers with malware through Facebook.

Dean Becker advocates for an end to the drug war, giving advice to the politicians.

Ben Powell argues that government policies harm income mobility.

George Leef teaches us the lessons of UAW's defeat in Chattanooga.

Sheldon Richman attacks the U.S. empire and its hypocrisy.