We saw the movie, Son of God, today. I guess my bottom line up front is that if you are looking for an emotional ride, you should be satisfied. Other than that, well, I just don’t see serious bible believers finding much in it. I don’t see much value as an evangelistic tool either.
I didn’t take time to read reviews beforehand, but a quick perusal of such at this point indicates mostly similar to my on review at the summary level.
The bible is hardly taken serious in telling the story. It is a story, plain and simple. It is almost dreamlike in flow, cutting from scene to scene, depending on audience familiarity with the basics. I’ll say the dreamlike characteristics flowed back and forth from magical fantasy, in a good sense, to nearly nightmarish at times.
With regard to scripture, much is put in, but altered, some left out, other details jumbled around for the impact of the moment. Nothing highly objectionable, but notable–too much to ignore.
My wife pointed out to the children that movies based on books are almost never the same. She found it satisfying in looking at the story in a new way. She admitted that knowing the story well from the bible was essential to her enjoyment of it. Having sound knowledge and deep faith let her appreciate the differences and ignore the discrepancies. (I do that a lot with SciFi.)
I had been forwarded information that objected to the movie doctrinally. Well, having gone in to it looking for such, I missed it if there was anything that orthodox or evangelical Christians should object to with any force.
I will say there was a strong sense of magic and mysticism to Jesus and the miracles. Jesus called Peter by reaching down into the water from Peter’s boat. Not objectionable, but it was presented mystically, as though Jesus simply had that magnetic attraction for fish, by simply swishing his hand in the water for a bit. There was generally no attempt to depict the power or awe of God.
I was quite disappointed in the depiction of two of the miracles. While the overall scene of Jesus walking on the water was a fair retelling, the Peter part was pathetic. Sorry. I hated it. Likewise the raising of Lazarus. I cannot declaim that scene strongly enough. No adherence to scripture, and no impression of the point of the event, other than to tie it into the fears of the Jewish authorities. Mystic, simplistic, and fully unscriptural.
The feeding of the 5,000 was in between for me. That magic factor detracted. The overall telling of the event was reasonable, and the emphasis was on God’s provision and the inappropriate response of the masses, but it just didn’t fit well. I suspect those who are not thoroughly familiar with the actual texts in the Gospels will find the scene rather bewildering.
I am comfortable with women among Jesus’ disciples. I thought the treatment of Mary Magdalene quite appropriate. Some will object as it was, others will decry it went not far enough.
Again, some of the emotional aspects of the movie worked quite well, and I suspect most movie goers will appreciate it, religious or not.
There were a couple of scenes early that worked this way for me, but the epitome was Simon of Cyrene. The scene was well written, and was superbly acted. Cyrene is in Libya. Good choice of actor.
Overall, I appreciated the entire cross sequence. It was entirely different from The Passion of The Christ. Passion focused on the power, the awesomeness of what our Lord did for us, the sacrifice of The Father, the compassion and terror of Mary. This rendition in Son of God focused on the poetic. It was beautiful in a sense, a harsh sense, but beautiful none the less. The flogging and actual crucifixion were rather glossed over. Oh well. It is Hollywood after all. The stabbing with the spear was simply lame. It seemed included just because someone insisted on being that much closer to scripture.
I must say I did not appreciate the extreme closeups. Aside from just not working, I also found it unnerving, like an IMax aerial acrobatics scene. Bad choice. I also found the makeup inconsistencies distracting. Further, I didn’t appreciate the scenery. There were some lovely shots here and there, but the handful of followers spread on the rocks seemed odd at best, and some of the other scenes seemed contrived, seemed to be going for an effect that was simply missed.
An extraneous note: contemporary Christian music is contemporary with me. I know many songs that depict many of the events of the movie more meaningfully for me.
Some may object to the depiction of Judas. Well, Judas is difficult. I’m okay with how they worked his character and his part of the story. Likewise Peter’s betrayal. It worked emotionally. It was human, though it just didn’t square with the scriptural details.
For a relatively long movie, they dealt with much rather quickly, giving only a shallow rendering of many of the events dealt with in the story, and much was left out. Compromises of a storyteller, I suppose. Again, it seemed the audience was expected to already know the basics of the story.
The ending was weak overall. The resurrection scenes were pedantic, merely gotten through. The meeting with Thomas was unsatisfying. The hole in the hand was shaped like an eye. The device seemed trite. Likewise the closing scene with John. It seemed just stuck on for a closing. It seemed someone was impressed with the hole-in-the-hand special effect.
So, overall, I was happy to have seen the movie. Though, I wasn’t impressed. As I said, if all you are looking for is an emotional ride, you should be satisfied. If you are looking for much else, I suspect you will still be looking afterward.
I find it somewhat of a concern that churches seem to have enthusiastically jumped on board with this movie. Perhaps I’m making more of it than I should, but I really don’t see most denominations squaring well with at least some aspects of this movie. While I’ve already stated I see no grounds for objections from doctrine, I do not see it as sound teaching. It is a well told emotional story. It is not really a representation of Jesus as reveled in the Gospels.