(RNS) The first half of “Son of God” features an upbeat and kindly Jesus spreading the good word in familiar, if occasionally over-simplified, biblical phraseology.

Diogo Morgado plays Jesus in "Son of God." Photo courtesy of Lightworkers Media

Diogo Morgado plays Jesus in “Son of God.” Photo courtesy of Lightworkers Media


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Then things get bloody — thought not quite as graphic as in 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” — when Jesus is seized, beaten and crucified. The production values are modest and the special effects uneven in this PG-13 repurposed and condensed version of the History Channel’s miniseries “The Bible.”  (That series drew flack for casting an actor who resembled President Obama in the role of Satan. The film sidesteps any hint of controversy by keeping the devil out of this story.)

“Son of God,” which opens Friday (Feb. 28), takes no real chances, opting for a moderately involving re-telling of an oft-told story.

As portrayed by Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado Jesus resembles a brown-eyed Brad Pitt. With his gleaming smile, he has the clean-cut, chiseled good looks of a model, even with the long, wavy hair, dusty robes and beard. Smiling beatifically seems to come easily to Morgado, who at times has a laid-back surfer vibe. It’s undoubtedly a daunting role, and Morgado captures the gentle benevolence associated with the messianic figure. He doesn’t, however, project the authority, gravitas or depth of a spiritual leader.

The rest of the cast is even less vivid. Most have ponderous British accents  — some sound almost Liverpudlian, as if a Beatle accidentally found himself among the Israelites.

The story, which follows Jesus from nativity to resurrection, is essentially a series of greatest-hits miracles. Jesus casually multiplies a loaf of bread and some fish into a feast for a crowd, raises Lazarus from the dead and walks across the surface of a storm-tossed sea in a manner befitting a superhero. It can be argued that Jesus is the ultimate superhero, but this film’s approach seems to trivialize the dawn of Christianity into a top-10 list of exploits and famous phrases.

An irksome voiceover narration by Peter (Darwin Shaw) bookends the film. An overbearing musical score by Hans Zimmer threatens to bombard all of Bethlehem. Speaking of music, “Jesus Christ Superstar” told the story with more excitement, depth and emotion than this overlong epic-lite.

Actress Roma Downey plays Jesus' mother Mary in 'The Bible' drama documentary.  RNS photo courtesy History Channel.

Actress Roma Downey plays Jesus’ mother Mary in ‘The Bible’ drama documentary. RNS photo courtesy History Channel.


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The political dissatisfaction among the Jewish masses is cursorily conveyed. Jesus’ crucifixion is depicted powerfully, but his ascension to heaven is less effective, enacted in a borderline cheesy, ghostly fashion. The story appears to come to a conclusion a few times before the credits finally roll. It tacks on a series of montages, highlights of the most prophetic moments that came before, as if to underscore a message already made clear.

As directed by Christopher Spencer and co-produced by Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey (who blandly plays Mary, the mother of Jesus), the focus is on Jesus’ teachings. Christ’s final words are filled with prophecy: “I am coming soon. May the grace of the Lord be with all God’s people.”

The story of Jesus and his disciples and those in power who were threatened by his message of love and humility is undeniably compelling. A sense of perspective, beyond the overt evangelism, however, is missing. That one man and a few true believers could spawn a worldwide religion that shaped civilization is truly astounding.

While well-intentioned and compassionate, “Son of God” doesn’t delve deeply enough.

(Claudia Puig writes for USA Today.)

YS END PUIG

13 Comments

  1. Pale skinned Mary being the mother of olive skinned swarthy washboard abs surfer Jesus probably stretches the plausibility more than the walking on water or water into wine stuff. :)

  2. These religious movies are such a HUGE gift to Atheists.

    They are so transparently untrue and implausible – and so clearly a con job.
    It only increases the number of people who say, “This stuff is unbelievable.”

    And that is all it takes to be an Atheist. You get to the point – this stuff is just not believable anymore.

    • @Atheist Max, what I do not comprehend issues is if you are atheist and could care less about religion and spirituality, why pray tell do you–as so many other atheists–lurk on comment boards about faith based topics? Could it be that–just as Christians–your belief system calls for you to prostelize its dogma and doctrine? One could surmise that yours is not free thought but unquestioning adherence to the gospels of your faiths prophets. Why not go in peace and find a sounding board comensurate with your beliefs, or lack thereof.

  3. This movie was amazing and filled with wisdom that only the Holy Spirit can reveal. And there was a mistake in this article (not counting all of the bad judgments given): the voice over at the beginning and end were from John, Jesus’ disciple, while he was in exile on the island of Patmos, not Peter. He clearly tells his name at the beginning and starts with the first verses of the Book of John. And then at the end, Jesus appears to him as in Revelation, to tell him of the things to come. Someone making a mistake such as that, even though to some it is an easy mistake to make, should make you question just how well they paid attention to the movie and if they were really trying to get a real message from it. Instead of picking the movie and it’s actors apart, why not take advantage of the fact that there is an awesome movie celebrating Jesus Christ in theaters? This world is terribly corrupt and yet there are people going to see this movie! When reading any type of review from a movie that has been anointed by God, the wise thing to do would be to question the intentions that the reviewer has and if they even gave the movie a chance in their own mind. And for the record, I don’t care what anybody thinks and how many atheists get angry from this comment. I refuse to argue or debate with anyone, because I KNOW Who I serve and He saved me from a life of sin and changed me from the inside out. No atheist or any other person without a relationship with Jesus could honestly say they have been transformed on the inside by their own power or by going to psychologists and psychiatrists who are just as lost and blind as they are. The only One who can make you complete and whole is your Creator, and that is Jesus Christ. For the Message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

  4. This is definatley the greatest story ever told!! thank God there are some actors
    still left in this world who want to tell the story. Diogo Morgado the actor that
    played Jesus did a good job. There is only one Son of God. He is the
    Messiagh. He is the way , The truth and the life. He is Jesus Christ.
    I feel really sorry for all the people that make the bad comments, and
    who are atheists. One day when they are dying or in real trouble
    they will lift there hearts finally and cry out to Jesus.

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