Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Son of God

SonofGod

On Saturday a group of about twenty people from our congregation gave up our afternoon to go and watch a movie about Jesus. We had a great time. Our group was composed of people from all ages. We had children, teens, adults, and seniors all go. We met at the church and then carpooled to the theater. Afterward we discussed the film and some of us went out to eat. It was a fantastic day.

Over the past couple of days several people have asked me to review this film. I do not review every film I see, and I had no intentions of weighing in on this one. It has been a somewhat polarizing film. Critics have trashed it and Christians have embraced it. I happen to belong to both of these camps and I have somewhat mixed feelings about the film. Instead of offering a traditional review, I am simply going to offer some thoughts about the film. I will tell you what I liked and didn’t like. I am going to give away some details, but hopefully none of these will be spoilers since I trust everyone has already read the book.

Here are some issues I had with the film

  • Instead of drawing from one gospel narrative the film combines things from all four gospels and they are not in any kind of order. I understand that the filmmakers were not trying to tell just one gospel story, but that they were trying to portray the life of Jesus. I get that, but I think it would have made a better film if they told the life of Jesus by sticking with one gospel account.
  • I was not crazy about how Jesus was portrayed. He looked like your typical cookie cutter Jesus and every word was spoken in a soft tone with a smile. At one point in the film he is smiling and speaking to a child and the words he is speaking are a judgment upon the temple. It seemed as though the filmmakers went overboard in trying to portray Jesus in a positive light.
  • I think filmmakers sometimes wrestle with how to portray Jesus who is fully man and fully God. I think this portrayal of Jesus was lacking in humanity. He looked human, but his dialogue was not always natural and it felt like he was speaking above people instead of connecting on their level. This wasn’t the case in every scene, but I felt this happened quite often.
  • The scene before Pilate where Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world” seemed to miss the point. I believe Jesus is saying to Pilate that his kingdom is not like a worldly kingdom. It is not the same kind of kingdom. Even though the kingdom is not like a worldly kingdom it still exists on this earth. The scene in the film seemed to suggest that the kingdom was other worldly.
  • Some scenes were great in portraying the customs of that day and others were not. Two scenes that stuck out were when Jesus was teaching his followers to pray the Lord’s Prayer and they all folded their hands and bowed their heads. This is a modern way of praying. The other scene was the Last Supper where they are sitting at a table instead of reclining as was the custom in that day.
  • Not many of the characters are developed very well. We never really get to know many of the disciples or even Mary the mother of Jesus.

Here are some things I thought the film got right.

  • The emphasis on the Lord’s Supper was outstanding. The Last Supper is portrayed well, but the scene after the resurrection where Peter decides to observe the Lord’s Supper is amazing. This scene is not found in any of the gospels, but neither does it go against Scripture. It is a beautifully imagined scene and worth the price of admission.
  • The portrayal of the Romans and the focus on how political Jesus’ message would have been was done well. Too often in films on the life of Jesus the Romans do not make an appearance until Pilate. That was not the case in this film. It did a great job of portraying the tension that would have been felt during that time.
  • Another imaginative scene was combining the story of the Pharisee and tax collector from Luke 17 with the calling of Matthew. This was a powerful scene that was very moving.
  • I love how the film begins and ends with John the last living apostle.
  • It was great to get a picture of what the temple may have looked like. The film did a good job of offering the viewer some overhead shots of the temple and Jerusalem.
  • Although the specifics of Passover were not dealt with, the viewer was able to see what a big deal Passover would have been during that time.

Creating a film is an imaginative process. It is imaginative if you are doing a film based on the life of Noah and you are working with only four chapters of Scripture, and it is imaginative if you are doing a film on the life of Jesus and you are working with four books of the Bible. The written word and film are two very different mediums. Filmmakers who choose to use Scripture as their subject matter must be given some leeway. We have strong opinions about Scripture and we will like some of their decisions and dislike others. We must be willing to show a little grace and appreciate the fact that these filmmakers are trying to bring the story of God to the big screen for millions of people to see.

Will you like Son of God? That is a difficult question. If you are a critic and you are merely judging the screenplay, acting, and direction, then you may go away disappointed. If you are a Christian, who is excited to see this story you love so much brought to the big screen, then you will probably enjoy it. It is not the best film I have ever scene. It is not even the best Jesus film I have ever scene, but I had a great time going to watch this movie with some fellow Christians. I enjoyed our fellowship. I enjoyed discussing the film with them afterwards, and I enjoyed the film itself. My advice is to simply go see Son of God and don’t get bogged down with all the details. Don’t focus on all the technical details. If there is something they get wrong, then acknowledge it and let it go. Go see Son of God and fall in love again with the most amazing story that has ever been told.

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