The story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is always better with a little bit of a different take, if only because we've heard it told so many times. Like them or not, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Passion of the Christ and even Jesus Christ Superstar had their own distinct points of view that enticed you to engage with them, as opposed to allowing you to watch them while you confidently nodded your head out of comfort.
Of course, all three caused tons of controversy. And Son of God wants none of that.
Son of God, pieced together from sections of History's 10-part 2013 miniseries The Bible, is the most straightforward of straightforward retellings of the Christ story, the type of film that wants you to pat yourself on the back for reaching back to your Catholic school days and remembering what miracle comes next.
They're all there: The never-ending sea of fish, the walking on water, the magical ability of Jesus (Diogo Morgado) to keep his hair coifed despite the region's deficit of Pantene Pro-v. Morgado looks the part, but his Jesus lacks the internal conflict that's necessary to make the world's most perfect man a somewhat interesting film character.
The rest of the actors go through the motions of a screenplay (really a teleplay) that's as literal as a middle school melodrama. Judas (Joe Wredden) cries when he has to, Peter (Darwin Shaw) betrays, Caiaphas pontificates. Aside from Greg Hicks, who puts on a relatively nuanced performance as Pontius Pilate, the characters never seem to know the reason for their action besides that "It was written." Funny, seems like the actual Bible.
The sets and costumes are phenomenal (and not just for a TV show), but they're neutered by the calculated shaky-cam and annoying reliance on close-ups. Even if you never watched The Bible, you're very aware you're watching a History channel show.
Son of God's designed not to offend -- the producers even removed the one remotely controversial aspect of the miniseries (the Obama-looking Satan). Its goal may or may not have been to reaffirm what you already believe, but that will likely be the effect for most Catholics who see it.
But that doesn't make for a good movie. Just read The Bible.
Or better yet, watch Jesus Christ Superstar.
Rated PG-13 for intense and bloody depiction of the Crucifixion, and for some sequences of graphic violence.
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