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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Apr 15, 2014

“Son Of God” Review: Another Big Screen Retelling Of The Story Of Jesus Our Savior

‘SON OF GOD’ is perfect viewing for Holy Week. There have been many movies about Jesus Christ before: Samuel Bronston’s “King of Kings” (1961) starring Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus, “The Gospel According to St. Matthew” (1964) by Pier Paolo Passolini, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” (1965) directed by George Stevens with Max Von Sydow, “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977) with Robert Powell, the TV movie “Jesus” (1999) with Jeremy Sisto, “The Passion of the Christ” (2004) with Jim Caviezel, the animated “Miracle Maker” (2000) and the musicals “Jesus Christ Superstar” (1973, with “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” as its best known song) with Ted Neely as Jesus and “Godspell” (1973, with “Day by Day” as its best known song) with Victor Garber.

The most memorable for us is Passolini’s version that won the Venice International Filmfest Special Jury Prize, the Grand Prize at the International Catholic Film Office and got three Oscar nominations. “Son of God” is an offshoot of the TV series “The Bible” produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey on the History Channel. It is told from the point of St. John and starts with a montage of scenes borrowed from “The Bible” TV series, like the creation of Adam and Eve, then brief mentions of Noah, Abraham and Moses before showing us Jesus as played by Portuguese actor-model ands GQ Man of the Year, Diogo Morgado, who also originated the role in “The Bible”.

We see him starting his ministry when he calls his first disciple, Peter. Catholics and Christians already know the story and if you’re familiar with the Gospel of St. John, you’d quickly spot some changes they made in the telling the story of Jesus. Most of the episodes in Jesus’ ministry are done very briefly, like vignettes or highlights, as seen in the raising of Lazarus from the dead which is described more lengthily in the Bible. Only a few of the many miracles and stories about Jesus are shown, like the feeding of the multitudes, walking on water, healing a cripple, the adulterous woman about to be stoned. Surprisingly, we don’t see the very first miracle performed by Jesus, the wedding at Cana, which is given much prominence in John’s gospel. Lines delivered by Jesus or other characters in the Bible are given to some other characters. Christians familiar with the Bible will surely feel discomfited by the film’s many inaccuracies and errors.

Directed by Christopher Spencer, the film’s most absorbing parts are those involving the arrest, crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. The trial of Jesus by the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate is presented in greater detail so the actors are given more opportunity to do some honest emoting. Of course, the burden rests prominently on Diogo as Jesus. He looks like a young Brad Pitt and sometimes appears like he doesn’t know exactly how to pull off his Biblical emoting. We’re sure the real Jesus must have had more gravitas, power and charisma than this cinematic representation that lacks passion. The supporting players (mostly unknown actors) deliver similar nondescript performances: Greg Hicks as Pontius Pilate, Roma Downey as the Virgin Mary, Amber Rose Revah as Mary Magdalene, Adrian Schiller as Caiaphas, Darwin Shaw as Peter and Joe Wredden as Judas.

Those without or with different religious affiliations will surely dismiss this movie and not give it a chance at all. But since we’re a Catholic country, we thought this movie would be a big hit in local theatres, just like Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”. Alas, there were very few people at the SM theatre where we watched. Hopefully, since it’s Holy Week, more people might watch it now in time with the Lenten Season. In an era where superheroes rule the box office, it’s a perfect time to retell the story of Jesus who spent his life preaching peace, performing miracles and dying on the cross to save us from our sins.