"Son of God," the latest cinematic retelling of the saga of Jesus Christ, isnâ€™t based on the much-ballyhooed History Channel miniseries "The Bible." It literally is "The Bible," albeit vigorously edited down from ten hours to 138 minutes with some deleted scenes added in for a bonus. To call "Son of God" a new movie is like a date reheating leftovers and saying he cooked dinner for you, then asking for $10 to cover the cost. And it was Chinese takeout to begin with.
To be fair, this isnâ€™t the first time a TV mini-series has been brought to the big screen. Michael Winterbottomâ€™s "The Trip," most recently, was originally a TV series before it was edited down into a two-hour movie. However, that was originally aired on the BBC in the United Kingdom. "The Bible" was a widely promoted television "event" on a basic cable network, already watched by millions. Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
It rings more than a little exploitative to charge audiences â€“ some of whom perhaps going based on a sense of faith-based obligation â€“ $10 to see an extremely condensed version of a film theyâ€™ve already seen for free (plus scenes that somehow werenâ€™t worthy of the ten-hour cut), reskinned, retitled and resold as something new.
Also, "The Trip" was a good movie. "Son of God" is not, though it should be commended for accurately recreating the soul-sucking boredom of watching a dull and uninspired ten-hour film into one-fourth the running time. Hmm â€¦ "commended" may not be the word Iâ€™m looking for.
After sprinting through the Old Testament chapters in a manner thatâ€™s only missing a voiceover proclamation of "Previously on â€˜The Bible,â€™" "Son of God" dives into, well, the son of God, played by handsome Portuguese soap opera actor Diogo Morgado. Heâ€™s first seen emerging from a desert via an attempt at an epic "Lord of the Rings"-esque helicopter shot, ready to find some followers.
What ensues is pretty much a clunky, disconnected highlight reel of Jesusâ€™ story. Fish and loaves are multiplied. Blind and dead are healed. Raging CG waters are unconvincingly trotted across. The miracles and teachings build Jesusâ€™ following, all the while building up rage amongst the Jewish high priests (who the movie rather uneasily goes out of its way to constantly frame as the clear villains of the story, adding in scenes of dark-room conniving, murderous crowd-riling and cross-editing crucifixions with Jewish prayer).
These are stories that have inspired billions, yet there is no inspiration to be found in "Son of God." The TV-ready special effects â€“ especially during Jesusâ€™ walk on water â€“ only help to underline the filmâ€™s small screen origins, and the editing barely even bothers covering up the moments where it feels a commercial break would go.
Meanwhile, director Christopher Spencer recreates the events of the Jesusâ€™ story with almost no attempt at visual creativity, inventive interpretation or spark of imagination. Never has the miraculous felt so drearily mundane.
The movieâ€™s biggest problem, however, turns out to be, well, Jesus himself (awaits bolt of lightning). The script is too literal and reverent to give him much humanity, and heâ€™s neither performed nor written with enough screen presence to make him feel otherworldly or special. Not that his disciples are given much more other than one note (Thomas doubts, Judas betrays, etc.).
In fact, as played by Morgado, heâ€™s less King of the Jews and more King of the snooze. When he rages through the temple, Morgado barely seems angry enough to flip a single table over, and the way he playfully tells a little girl about the impending destruction of the temple plays as though something was lost in translation from page to performance. Out of all of Christâ€™s miracles in "Son of God," his most incredible might be that heâ€™s managed to create such an impassioned following while lifelessly preaching from the Gospel of Drawn-Out Dramatic Pauses and exuding more smug self-satisfaction than contagious charisma.
Itâ€™d certainly be a new angle on the story, but considering the movieâ€™s overall slavishly devoted reverence and intentions, this smirkingly contented savior was undoubtedly unintentional.
After blandly marching its way through Jesusâ€™ miracles and teachings, "Son of God" finally climaxes with the Passion. Give credit where itâ€™s due: Itâ€™s less pornographically violent than Mel Gibsonâ€™s relentless take (and it doesnâ€™t leave everything else as simply a footnote to the bloodshed).
However, sitting through the same laborious slow motion tripping, the same beats â€“ as well as beatings â€“ and the same endless sobbing, mostly from Mary (Roma Downey, who produced this and the miniseries with husband Mark Burnett), drag out feels like just as much of a masochistic endurance for the audience. All the while, Morgadoâ€™s absent performance and Spencerâ€™s cheap, affect-less direction make all the misery register emotionally as deep as a flesh wound.
By the time the credits roll, "Son of God" winds up as moving and inspirational as one of those prayer cards received trick-or-treating on Halloween. I'd like to give it credit for having a sincere devotion to sharing the Greatest Story Ever Told, but its discreet trail from TV to $10 "new release" rings my cynicism alarm and loudly.Â Even the word of God and Hans Zimmerâ€™s thunderously pounding score can't completely muffle the sound of dollar signs in producers' eyes going "ka-ching!"
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Feb. 10, 2016
Johnny Depp was surrounded by orange people when he played Willy Wonka in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Now he gets to play one himself: Donald Trump, in Funny Or Die's faux-biopic "The Art of the Deal: The Movie."
Published Feb. 9, 2016
On the 26th day of the second month of the 2016th year, "Fuller House" will be unleashed upon the human species, and the world will know darkness and despair unlike any other. In the meantime, here's the first official footage of the rebooted sitcom.
Published Feb. 8, 2016
Yesterday, the Denver Broncos beat the Carolina Panthers in what could only be technically described as "a competitive football game." But who actually won yesterday's great American unofficial tribute to commercialism? Here are the real winners and losers of Super Bowl 50.
Published Feb. 6, 2016
Filmmaker Brian Oakes remembers James Foley well, growing up together as friends and remaining tightly knit all the way until Jim's abrupt death. And it's that James Foley - his life, not his death - that Oakes hopes to pay tribute to with "Jim: The James Foley Story."
Published Feb. 5, 2016
OnMilwaukee recently caught up with Milwaukee-born animator Owen Klatte to talk about the making of "Anomalisa," the process behind turning puppets into people, stop-motion sex and the movie's Oscar odds against "Inside Out."
Published Feb. 4, 2016
Are you exhausted by Donald Trump's presidential campaign and the media hullabaloo constantly around it? Do you have about ten free seconds of time to waste? Then you might just love TrumpDonald.org.
Published Feb. 4, 2016
Want to know why you crave those cheese curds? According to a recent study from researchers at the University of Michigan, cheese triggers the same part of the brain as several hard drugs do.
Published Feb. 4, 2016
The Milwaukee Brewers are bringing back their postgame concert series with two performances set for the 2016 season: pop star Andy Grammer and country performer Kip Moore.
Published Feb. 2, 2016
By the time I landed in Park City, Utah Friday for the final days of the Sundance Film Festival, most of the party was dying down. However, the important parts - the movies - were very much still in action. Here are the best and worst of what I saw.
Published Jan. 29, 2016
As we speak, my bucket list is in the process of becoming one entry shorter. I am currently on a plane to Utah, about to attend my first ever Sundance Film Festival. And even though this year's festival is reaching its end, the buzz is still high.