Director: Christopher Spencer Producers: Roma Downey and Mark Burnett Screenplay: Richard Bedser, Christopher Spencer, Colin Swash, Nic Young based on New Testament Narration: Keith David Cast: Diego Morgado, Roma Downey, Darwin Shaw Music: Lorne Balfe Cinematography: Rob Goldie Editing: Robert Hall Studio Lightworkers Media Distributor: 20th Century Fox Location: United States Running time: 138 minutes
Technical assessment: 3
Moral assessment: 3
CINEMA rating: PG 13
Coming into a territory where superior films of the same genre have trod, Son of God may find it difficult to impress sophisticated viewers with its episodic treatment of the life of Christ. Technically it will suffer by comparison to the likes of Franco Zeffirelli’s television miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977), and Mel Gibson’s all-time blockbuster The Passion of the Christ (2004).
While the miracles of Jesus almost take center stage here, somehow their portrayal lacks the jaw-dropping magnificence of the divine and the supernatural combined. The rising of Lazarus from the dead doesn’t grip the heart—instead it just looks like… well, like over-aged students acting at a high school drama. Jesus walking on the water? So cheesy it mocks the real thing. The multiplication of the bread and fish—aw, enough! There’s something amiss in these and in many other scenes so that most of the movie feels like a movie, period. Does the cinematography lack imagination? Are mere trainees in charge of CGI? Is the dialogue, the delivery of the lines, the director, or the music at fault? Is the culprit the viewer-friendly Jesus, the Portuguese model-turned-actor Morgado? Maybe he smiles too much or reminds the viewer of Marlon Brando and Brad Pitt so that he fails as a worthy communicator of divine action—but to young viewers he will most likely come across as a cool Jesus. So cool one couldn’t warm up to his agony on the cross.
There are also little things that tend to unsettle a discriminating viewer, like that first appearance of Jesus to the apostles after the resurrection. We are told that the disciples, out of fear, locked themselves inside a room with doors shut, and that Jesus appeared in their midst. In Son of God, this episode shows Jesus walking through an open door, smiling, and showing them the CGI hole in his hand. Another one: Jesus was buried in a new tomb in a garden, right? Here his grave is something like a cave in the middle of a desert. Et cetera, et cetera.
This is not to say that Son of God has absolutely nothing worth seeing about it. Despite its disappointing (technical) flaws, it is still a good introduction to the life of Jesus Christ. It is an earnest production, for one. The lead cast—Greg Hicks as Pontius Pilate, Adrian Schiller as Caiphas, Joe Wredden as Judas, Roma Downey as Mary, Amber Rose Revah as Mary Magdalene—carry out their roles with sincerity and passion. Even the extras appear dead serious about their bit parts. The apparent conviction behind the performance of the cast is Son of God’s saving grace—the actors all seem to believe they are engaged in a laudable project, and that is enough to make believing viewers feel it’s a worthy reminder to have in an increasingly irreligious world.
An added surprise is the prominence given to Mary from beginning to end in this supposedly non-Catholic production. That it highlighted the mystery of the incarnation, focused all throughout on the closeness between Mary and her son Jesus, and featured CeeLo Green’s moving song “Mary Did You Know” as the credits rolled in the end speaks volumes about the quiet work the Mother of God does in the hearts of her children.
While CINEMA gives Son of God a PG 13, parents are advised to shield younger children from the possibly frightening effects of the violence in this movie.