SON OF GOD
*1/2 (out of 5)
February 28, 2014
Diogo Morgado as JESUS CHRIST
Darwin Shaw as SIMON PETER
Roma Downey as THE VIRGIN MARY
Greg Hicks as PONTIUS PILATE
Sebastian Knapp as JOHN
Amber Rose Revah as MARY MAGDALENE
Adrian Schiller as CAIAPHAS
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Christopher Spencer
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Last year, the miniseries “The Bible” took television by storm with an ten-night event that had millions of viewers. One of the most successful cable broadcasts of all time, “The Bible” continued it’s success on DVD and Blu-ray. Now, the producers are hoping to bring that success to the big screen with “Son of God,” which is re-edited excerpts from the life of Jesus Christ culled from the miniseries.
Before I talk about the film itself, please note that any criticisms of this are for the production and presentation itself, not the subject material. That is not the discussion here. This is a film review, and not a religious debate. Just because a film has Biblical inspirations does not shield it from criticism as a film.
Whether this was an effective telling of Jesus’ time on Earth is more a question for the miniseries itself. I have not seen that miniseries, though I am fully familiar with the Christ story.
Unfortunately, “Son of God” does not hold up on its leap to the big screen. The biggest problem with the film is that it is, ultimately, a TV miniseries. It suffers from all the tropes of a long-form television docudrama. The story is unnecessarily narrated, and most of the first act and set-up amounts to nothing more than a long, 20-minute montage.
The biggest hurdle this film trips on is that it is too literal. It works too hard to not deviate from the scripture, which might be respectful to the source material, but it doesn’t hold much for dramatic action. The Bible itself has never been a lickety-split page turner. Instead, it’s been a fairly up-front recollection of events by its writers. It’s low on dramatic build-up and characterization and heavy on the preaching. It is the Bible, after all.
Other problem remnants from the television production include some painfully low-resolution visual effects, mainly seen in the wide shots of Jerusalem. I understand this was brought to the big on a limited budget, but the least the producers could have done is to re-render these images for the DCP or 4K theatrical presentations.
Another big-screen failure in this film was the inclusion of producer Roma Downey as the Virgin Mary. At the risk of sounding harsh and superficial, she looks frightening on the big screen. Once a beautiful woman, her face has that Joan Rivers plastic looks with inexplicable bumps underneath. This in itself is indicative of the hypocrisy of the film, honoring Jesus’ teaching about poverty (even going as far as paraphrasing “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God”) and humility when the film appears to be lofted out there to make a buck and plaster the star’s face twenty feet tall on the cinema screen.
But even brushing all of these problems aside, “Son of God” is just plain boring. Diogo Morgado offers us the most boring depictions of Jesus Christ ever committed to screen. Pardon the pun, but there’s no passion in his performance. He looks as bored as I felt. Even when Jesus encounters the moneychangers in the Temple, Morgado stumbles through with a glazed look on his face, knocking over tables rather than whipping up some real emotions that should have been seen.
By tying Jesus too tightly to the direct quotes from the Bible, we are presented with a ho-hum savior spouting platitudes you memorized years ago in Sunday school. Instead of being inspirational, “Son of God” comes across like a dull church service with a pastor droning on in monotone with scripture you’ve heard a dozen times and offering nothing new in insight or revelation.