I’ll put it out there right now. I’m Jewish. I don’t believe that Jesus was/is the son of G-d. And, as the Third Commandment states, I don’t take the name of G-d in vain so I write His name with a hyphen in it. With that said, I watched the film SON OF G-D with a very impartial eye.
In the beginning, Mark Burnett (of the not-so-holy SURVIVOR and THE APPRENTICE TV franchises) created a 10-hour miniseries for the History channel, entitled THE BIBLE. The series, which aired on US televisions in March 2013, was hugely successful becoming the highest rated cable show of that year. (It premiered on Hong Kong television last November.) So popular it was that Burnett took the series back to the editing room later that year and begat SON OF G-D, a 138-minute movie version about the life of Jesus, which premiered last February. The film mostly played to church groups in America’s heartland where it was received with a resounding chorus of hallelujahs and amens. It then moved on to mainstream cinemas, and it has now arrived on our screens.
You’re probably thinking that I hated the film and, if you are, you’d be wrong. It’s not great cinema but it was good enough to hold my attention for a couple of hours. It lacks much of the passion (no pun intended), and the brutality, of Mel Gibson’s THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST but maybe that’s a good thing. This is a kinder, gentler version of the life of Jesus from the time Mary receives word that she is carrying G-d’s son up to his crucifixion and resurrection.
But I did have more than a few problems with the story. While Gibson put Jesus’ death squarely on the shoulders of the Hebrews – an archaic stance that even the Roman Catholic Church has now repudiated, Burnett portrays the Jewish leadership in Roman province of Judea as master influencers who ably convinced the generals of the known world’s most powerful army of the day to kill the one person who could undermine their own position. I find that proposition a little hard to believe although many today (and possibly Burnett himself) would draw comparisons to Israel and Washington. Yawn.
I also had an issue with Jesus, who came across as more than a bit cocky. If you really are the son of G-d, do you really have to say so over and over again? Did Moses have to tell people that he was the greatest Jewish prophet that ever lived? From my Jewish perspective, I would have preferred to see Jesus show a bit more humility rather than relying on performing cheap tricks like putting fish into Peter’s net or healing the infirm. And Jesus was just too damn handsome; although it may have been the producers’ intention to give viewers that much more motivation to fall in love with him. Portuguese telenovela actor and former model Diogo Morgado, who is now known as “#HotJesus“, (Don’t believe me? Look it up on Twitter.), did a great job of squinting up at the sky and looking a lot like Brad Pitt in a tunic but little else. His performance was a case of show over substance but we already know that Mark likes show.
Critics (the heretic kind, at any rate) slammed SON OF G-D for being dull but the faithful audiences have generally liked it. For me, dull is good. It didn’t offend me the way Mel Gibson’s film did. Whether it’s worth seeing in the cinema is a personal choice. The DVD and VOD are already on sale so you may just want to go that route and watch it at home.
And now we wait until December for the third Biblical epic of the year – Ridley Scott’s EXODUS.
Listen to the review online on Radio 4. (Click on the link. Select Part 2 and slide the time bar over to 40:55.)