"Son of God" Sticks to the Gospel Despite Imperfect Editing

Updated 41 weeks ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
"Son of God" Sticks to the Gospel Despite Imperfect Editing
Religion has been a forgotten genre for Hollywood. There has not been a major mainstream Bible-based release since Mel Gibson directed “Passion of Christ” in 2004.

Interestingly, “Son of God” leads off the 2014 slate, which has the Old Testament “Noah’s Ark” and “Exodus”  waiting in the wings. However, “Son of God” originated on cable television in the History Channel “Bible” mini-series; the actual amount of “new” versus “re-edited” footage has sparked debate, including a last minute decision to snip his 40 days of desert temptation by Beelzebub (an actor resembling President Obama).  Aside from frequent fades to black which betrays some re-edits of the production, “Son of God” gathered a round of applause from a nearly sold out Saturday night audience.

Unlike “Passion,” which told only the last twelve hours of Christ’s life on Earth, “Son of God” crams his thirty plus years into just over two hours. For believers, the story follows the verses. Those unfamiliar with the theological yardsticks could complain that the story misses opportunities for detailed depth relying on occasionally assembly line visual depiction of performed miracles.

Sound a little vague? Before condemning me to the Devil’s home let me explain. We’re blessed with Jesus meeting Matthew , a disgusted fisherman, at his vessel. After encouraging words on catching fish that afternoon, Jesus walks into the water and Matthew offers him a hand on board. Still, doubting Matthew heads out into the waters where Jesus performs his first miracle and wins a convert.  Story structure deserves more of his early ministry which allows the unfamiliar an opportunity to appreciate his unconditional love message before he’s followed by increasing numbers that attest to his  forgiveness ( second chance), love and peace principled lifestyle.

Do they follow a maker of miracles , a man of principles, or both? That’s what the film, as edited, asks.

Mark (“Survivor,” “Shark Tank”) Burnett and Roma (“Touched by an Angel”)  Downey often score an awesome simplifying, rephrasing  and tweaking Jesus’ callings for easier understanding than King James version. For instance, put God first and everything else will follow. One missed opportunity comes with the “moneychangers” at the temple. As depicted, their “sin”” appears to be selling items at the temple which leave ambiguity (be it intentional or not).  

This narrative informed me best of the political players during his life. Rome’s brutal conquers dominate, and particularly the Jewish “fears” that his truths will upset their delicately balanced  toleration status quo by occupying  Roman authorities.

Judas elicits some sympathy as Jesus’ hesitant betrayer. As portrayed, he’s “lured” and “deceived” but there is no mistake, he accepts the “silver.”

Foundations  now laid, the production puts you in the sandals of a disciple trudging the dusty, arid roads between villages winning  believers by  a  gentle merciful equality  that bring faith, hope, and trust in a life beyond the tribulations of Earth. Leading by kindly example, peace not war (turning the other cheek), and occasionally replacing “sins” and “sinners” with giving people a second chance.

Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado captures an easy on the eyes and appropriate frailty (necessary for the flogging and carrying the cross scenes). Bleeding and scourged , Morgado’s eyes sustain and convey the hope amidst the cruelty and injustice of his execution on the Cross. And, aside from up rooting the temple moneychangers, he does NOT  raise his voice (preach or yell) in conveying his love message. He persuades without arm twisting, a litany of "thou shalt nots," a structure of mandates, or Elmer Gantry styled yelling. Instead, he's simply asking to have faith and believe.

Since spoilers here are not an issue, one special effect hones significantly post resurrection: Scenes of the nail holes in his hands.

The post-resurrection period appears rushed, missing huge opportunities to solidify his “believe without seeing” spiritual faith acceptance.

Producers Burnett and Downey easily equate  Jesus many labels --- teacher, prophet, leader, wise man, miracle worker, future “king,” ordinary human and Son of God. They toss a hard to swallow lesson on “self” and “selfish,” which forges straight to the self esteem “me” and self confidence aspirations :

“Anyone who praises himself will be humbled; anyone who humbles himself will be praised.”

Emotions, friendship, love, compassion, sacrifice, forgiveness and understanding each have their spotlight moments as tenants of Christianity, which generally have importance in spiritual beliefs that do or do not accept all the practices and teachings of Jesus.

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