Hats off to producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the spearheads behind The Bible mini-series and its Son of God spin-off.
Not only did they choose to use their industry power to bring the Bible to small screens around the world, Burnett and Downey seized an opportunity created by the mini-series’ success. Given The Bible had done so well in reaching mainstream audiences, Son of God was rush released.
Derived from the gospel written by the disciple John, Son of God is a movie largely made up of bits from The Bible mini-series which focused on Jesus. These made-for-TV roots are noticeable, although Son of God doesn’t feel like a cash-in. A high-quality telemovie, the telling of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection flows with undulating sequences of awkwardness, flat spots, bursts of passion and conscience searing. Quite the predictable mix in a movie about Jesus…… Because no-one can make The Best Jesus Movie Ever.
Unlike any other figure in history, Jesus Christ defies distillation. True, you can boil down Jesus to punchy statements about what he did, or said. But have you got close to encapsulating the eternal significance, majesty and cosmic sweep of this Middle-Eastern man from centuries ago? Son of God is a sturdy, reverential hymn to the only time the Creator of everything took on human flesh and walked among us. But it suffers from the same inherent affliction, as all other movies about Jesus Christ. The impossibility of including all that is required, to paint the fullest portrait of its leading man. Son of God provides a sincere snapshot, by earnestly abridging John’s autobiography of Jesus.
Given John’s gospel is the most meaty, in terms of what Jesus did AND why he did what he did, Son of God could have presented greater explanations for what’s unfolding. Particularly as it was ambitiously intended for viewers who aren’t well acquainted with the biopic’s central figure. By the time Jesus (Diogo Morgado) is brutally tried, punished and executed, the extended treatment of these events seem mainly to stem from political and religious turmoil. Such turmoil did play its part. But can viewers grasp that what John recorded wasn’t for historical preservation or nostalgic interest? John had one defined purpose in writing his gospel: ‘so that you may believe in the Messiah, the Son of God’ (John 20:31)
Son of God is no stand-in for John’s gospel. Happily, it doesn’t try to be. As a signpost to the source material, Son of God could send you either way. You might bemoan (or chuckle) at the distracting prominence of caucasian cast members. Downey’s role as Mary, mother of Jesus, pushes the boundary of ego. Corny dialogue and pious expressions can rile. But looking past its many issues borne of adaptation, helps to see Son of God’s positive influence. Take Morgado, as an example. Annoyingly, he’s another in the line of pin-up-boy Jesuses. Despite such external elements going against Son of God, Morgado achieves moments of powerful testimony to The One he is imitating. Presumably, Burnett and Downey prayed Son of God could do the same – and send viewers from the imitation, to the original.
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: December 3, 2014