Well, they don’t call it The Greatest Story Ever Told for nothing.
As far back as 1905, the life of Jesus Christ has proven to be quite lucrative at the box office, both in grand-scale epics (“King of Kings”) and smaller-scale fluff more suitable for Sunday school than the silver screen (“The Gospel of John”). Even if you’re not particularly devout, you can see the appeal — all those miracles Jesus performed are terrific cinematic fodder. The trouble is there have been so many interpretations of this story over the years that it’s virtually impossible to get worked up about seeing it play out yet again.
Enter “Son of God,” a less accomplished and far less grisly film version of the more significant aspects of Jesus’ life than the last Jesus movie, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” If the movie feels a little familiar to the 13 million people who tuned into the History Channel’s epic miniseries “The Bible” last year, that’s because a sizable percentage of the film was derived from footage that had already aired on TV.
I’m willing to bet there is an audience for “Son of God” even if it hadn’t already played on television. The crowd at my screening lauded the film’s technical achievements, though it should be noted that most of them seemed to be of the type who were just happy to be out of the house on a Tuesday night. Still, I can’t argue with the audience’s overall assessment — “Son of God” does look good. For a basic cable miniseries, that is.
Like most interpretations, “Son of God” marks time spotlighting the more cinematic aspects of Jesus’ life — walking on water, the resurrection of Lazarus, the Last Supper, etc. — in anticipation of the climactic crucifixion sequence, which is bloody and disturbing enough that “Son of God” has been slapped with a PG-13 rating.
A co-production of Mark Burnett and Roma (“Touched By an Angel”) Downey, “Son of God” is a noble effort, but it’s also incredibly rote, it has no sense of humor, and it fails to flesh out any of the other characters, particularly the ones who had every right to be skeptical about Jesus’ indefatigable claims that he was, indeed, the Messiah.
On the plus side, the producers could not have picked a more attractive Jesus than Portuguese pretty boy Diogo Morgado, and they were wise to nix any trace of the devil, who bore more than a tiny resemblance to President Obama when the miniseries aired in 2013. Still, with so many tellings to choose from over the years, including many of which were nominated for Oscars, I really don’t see the need to run out and see “Son of God,” unless by some miracle it’s still playing around Easter.
★★ out of ★★★★
Rated PG-13. 138 minutes.
Director: Christopher Spencer.
Starring: Diogo Morgado, Sebastian Knapp.
For more of Jesse Hoheisel’s reviews, check out JessesFilmJournal.com.