Occasional Moments of Inspiration Mark Solid Son of God
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2014 28 Feb
DVD Release Date: June 3, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: February 28, 2014
Rating: PG-13 for intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence
Run Time: 138 min.
Director: Christopher Spencer
Cast: Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey, Darwin Shaw, Sebastian Knapp, Joe Wredden, Amber Rose Revah, Greg Hicks, Paul Marc Davis, Fraser Ayres, Noureddine Aberdine
There's a moment in Son of God that's startling and vivid, even in such a familiar tale. It's when Jesus (Diogo Morgado, The Bible) enters the tomb that holds the body of Lazarus. We know the story from John 11; Jesus will raise Lazarus from the dead. How will Son of God depict the event?
In one of the film's more arresting moments, Jesus, standing over Lazarus, reaches down to kiss the forehead of His dead friend, and as He does, Lazarus' eyes open. The scene, underscored by a Hans Zimmer soundtrack that becomes uncharacteristically ominous in those moments, is shocking, exciting, even thrilling—all of the things that characterized Christ's ministry on earth.
Son of God could have used more moments like that one. The film is a respectful telling of the life of Christ—perhaps too respectful—that, like so many other movies about Jesus, is a mostly solemn affair. While careful not to take great liberties with the Gospel accounts, the film's pace feels rushed for its first half and too drawn out during its second half.
That could be a byproduct of the way Son of God reached theaters: cobbled into a feature length film from footage of the widely-seen 10-hour cable series The Bible, with new scenes added for the theatrical release. Framed by a voiceover from John the Apostle (Sebastian Knapp) looking back on the life of Jesus, Son of God gives voice to the beloved disciple's deeper understanding of Jesus. "He was there" in the time of Adam, Noah and Abraham, proclaims John. "He was the light shining in the darkness, and then He came into our world."
After John's prologue, Son of God covers a lot of ground quickly, beginning with a shot of the grown Jesus as He walks in slow motion (there are several slow-motion moments) across a ridge. He calls Peter to follow him. He tells the parable of the mustard seed. He heals a paralytic. He's accused of blasphemy. He tells the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee, and then calls Matthew. He gives the Sermon on the Mount. A woman is accused of committing adultery, but Jesus challenges those who would stone her. He then feeds thousands with a few loaves of bread and some fish. Peter confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, and he sees Jesus walking on water. And then we come to the raising of Lazarus.
All of the above is in the first hour of Son of God. Sound like too much, too fast? It is, though viewers familiar with the gospels will have no problem following the story; they will recognize these miracles and declarations of Christ's authority as the truths that brought them to faith.
But what about those who don't already believe in Jesus? What will they think of Son of God? Does it effectively convey the power of Christ that compelled His disciples to follow Him and proclaim His message? The film certainly shows Jesus' miracles, gives evidence of His divinity and challenges the skepticism of the hypocrites of His day, but the film also spends much of its time on the political jockeying between the high priest Caiaphas (Adrian Schiller) and Roman leader Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks). That critical element of the story of Jesus is always in the background in the Bible's accounts, becoming more prominent at key moments. Son of God, however, foregrounds that political tension, giving the story more intrigue but at the cost of letting us better get to know the Person who exacerbates the tension between the Roman and Jewish authorities of the age.
The film's second half is given to Jesus' final days, the crucifixion and the resurrection. These events are, of course, central to understanding the person and work of Christ. But after the flurry of events compressed and condensed into the first hour of Son of God, the result is a second half that feels prolonged and extended, accentuating Christ's suffering, as though the filmmakers were modeling the film on Mel Gibson's hugely successful, R-rated The Passion of the Christ. The PG-13 Son of God isn't as brutal in its depiction of Christ's crucifixion, but it is graphic enough to give pause to parents who are thinking of taking young children to see the film, which concludes with a stirring resurrection and post-resurrection sequence.
Son of God is a sturdy life-of-Christ movie with moments of genuine power, but it rushes through much of Jesus' ministry and feels, as a whole, uneven. Still, the film shouldn't prove controversial with viewers of faith. Its reach to those not already persuaded of Jesus' claims, however, is less certain.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Language/Profanity: None
- Drinking/Smoking: Wine consumption
- Sex/Nudity: None; a woman is charged with committing adultery
- Violence/Crime: Jews are attacked by soldiers; a stabbing and swordfights; multiple crucifixions; a boy is mortally wounded; Peter cuts off a soldier's ear; Jesus beaten, whipped, crowned with thorns; Judas hangs himself; a lamb’s throat is slit; Jesus’ side is speared
- Religion/Morals/Marriage: Bible passages quoted at length; miracles depicted; the Passion story depicted at length; Jesus commands a violent disciple to turn the other cheek
Publication date: February 28, 2014