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Monday, March 3, 2014

'Son of God' Movie Review

Son of God Movie Review

One of the hardest things to do is make a movie about the life of Jesus.  It’s true that you don’t have to make up the story, but you have to somehow do justice to the greatest story ever told.  You also have to take a life in which every breath touches the depths of both time and eternity, and encapsulate it into a watchable time frame.  It’s no easy task, I’m sure.

Son of God opened in theaters this weekend.  The film is structured as a narrative told by St. John at the end of his life, as he’s in exile.  It begins with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  It then quickly moves through some of the early events of salvation history, from Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and even the birth of Jesus.  The story then takes its narrative form with the beginning of His public life.

One of the things I liked about the film is that it really brought out how controversial a figure Jesus was.  An encounter with Him demands a choice.  Often, society turns Jesus into a cuddly teddy bear, but as Professor Peter Kreeft likes to remind us, “Aslan is not a tame lion.”  Jesus should shock us.  How could an encounter with God do any less?  I do think a glaring omission was perhaps the most shocking and controversial thing Jesus ever said: “Unless you eat my Flesh and drink my Blood, you have no life in you.”

However, though this production was basically put together by Protestants, there is not much a Catholic would complain about.  The film clearly portrayed Peter as the head of the Apostles, and the rock on which Christ built His Church.  It also did a good job in its treatment of Mary.  The Last Supper was handled with care – we might find some things lacking, but the filmmakers did a good job of making it amenable to both Catholics and Protestants (and the Orthodox, of course).

That being said, for someone with a deep love of Scripture, some of the license that was taken may be a little annoying.  I know it was usually done with an eye on including as much as possible into two-and-a-quarter hours, but each word and gesture of Jesus has such meaning that at times certain things were lost.  There are also minor historical errors (such as Pilate telling Caiaphas to go ahead and execute Jesus, even though in reality Jews had no authority to do so) that only nitpicking lunatics like myself will probably even notice, and some license taken with lesser-known characters like Pontius Pilate and Nicodemus.

The only other concern I have is one scene in which Pilate’s wife Claudia is a bit immodest.  It’s not major, but could have easily been fixed.  Another thing to be careful of, especially if you come with children, is that the previews before the film are not necessarily chosen with them in mind.  I found one quite inappropriate.

I brought my seven year-old son to the movie in the hopes of giving him a visual framework for the story, as well as some help in meditating when praying the Rosary.  Overall, it was fine for him, though there were some parts that were violent, both during the Passion and at other times, that parents may want to be cautioned about.  The Passion scenes were obviously heavily influenced by Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, but Son of God does a good job of showing the suffering of Christ more than most films while still being within the limits many kids can handle.

One of the best qualities of Son of God is that it is an extremely watchable film that covers the whole life of Jesus while remaining the length of a typical film.  That makes it very accessible.  People who want to watch it to meditate on the essence of the Story will probably not be disappointed.