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Article by Teddy Durgin

Son of God Faithfully Brings Christ to the Big Screen

I think it's only right, dear readers, to let you know up front in this review that I am a Christian. I was raised Lutheran, went to a Catholic middle and high school, and I go to worship each... er... most Sundays at a nearby United Church of Christ. So, am I gonna give a bad review to "Son of God," the reverent new movie about the life, death and ministry of Jesus? Hell... er, uh... heck no! If even a reasonably competent director tells the story with solid actors and good production values, it's going to be a worthwhile cinematic experience in my book. And "Son of God" is just that. If there is any disappointment that I have with the film is that it's just not a great movie. "Son of God," at times, plays more like a checklist of great Gospel moments than a classic story freshly told with new energy. In my view, the movie comes up short in two departments. One, it doesn't exorcise the specter of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" - the 2004 mega-blockbuster that dramatized the suffering and Crucifixion of Christ in graphic R-rated detail. Seriously, Mel took a single line in the Bible - "And Pilate then took Jesus and scourged him" - and REALLY ran with it! I think it went way too far in its brutality and sadism. But, as a Christian, I've never quite shaken it. There are sequences Gibson captured on screen that haunt me to this day. By being the PG-13 version of that story, "Son of God" practically invites comparison throughout its last hour. Two, anyone who has seen Biblical movies over the years will have their own favorite depiction of Jesus, and I can't see how "Son of God" will replace or trump any of them. The Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers had the majestic "King of Kings" and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (along with Christ's cameos throughout "Ben-Hur"). Generation Y indeed had Mad Max's "The Passion." As a member of Generation X, we had what I consider the single greatest portrayal of the Messiah - that of Robert Powell in Franco Zeffirelli's "Jesus of Nazareth." That mini-series debuted in 1977 and ran on NBC year after year for at least a decade or more each Easter. How good was the actor in the role? Let's just say if and when I do get to the Hereafter one day and meet Christ, I'll be slightly disappointed if he doesn't look and sound like Bobby Powell! "Son of God" is beautifully intentioned and extremely straight-forward in its storytelling. And the film is truly helped by Hans Zimmer's grand musical score. I especially appreciated that the filmmakers cast largely unknowns in nearly all of the major and minor parts. Diogo Morgado of Portugal is perhaps the most physically attractive man to ever play Jesus, and he brings a kinder, gentler approach to Christ than any I have seen before. I also really liked Adrian Schiller in the thankless role of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest who actively plots against Jesus at Passover; Greg Hicks, quite strong as a Pontius Pilate who has to deal with politics and a wife with recurring nightmares; and Sebastian Knapp as John, whose story in exile bookends the film. Final Take? "Son of God" will prove an inevitably powerful and moving experience for Christian audiences, especially in moments like when Jesus gently kisses the cross before bearing its burden or when he quietly watches his disciples reveling in their food, drink and merriment before it all gets so serious at the Last Supper. So, why another Christ movie, some of you ask? Hey, if we can get a new big-screen Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, James Bond, Jack Ryan, Jason Voorhees, et. al. every five or 10 years, I think we can get a new Jesus, too! "Son of God" is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, including the intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion. While this isn't Gibson's "The Passion," I don't think children under 10 should see it.

 

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