Shortly before the release of Son of God, #HotJesus went viral on Twitter. The hashtag refers to Portuguese former model/actor/Brad Pitt lookalike Diogo Morgado, star of Son of God. Needless to say, Morgado is certainly a tall and attractive Jesus with his long locks and pearly white teeth. But he’s just about the only appealing thing about the movie from a cinematic perspective.
If Son of God seems familiar, it’s because you may have seen it already, just not on the big screen. Around this time last year, a 10-part miniseries called The Bible aired on The History Channel. It was a huge hit and the No. 1 cable entertainment telecast of the year. Son of God cuts down the 10 hours to two, focusing only on the story of Jesus’ life, and adds a few deleted scenes not shown on TV.
Since I hadn’t seen the miniseries last year, I have no idea how much of the film is new and how much is added footage. I’d imagine not much is new about it. One particularly notable aspect of the film is the removal of all footage related to Satan since the mini-series received a lot of negative press when it was realized the actor resembled President Barack Obama.
Son of God may be best saved for Sunday school class lesson. Director Christopher Spencer plays it a little too safe and saccharine. The beginning feels disjointed, like someone wanted to check off a list of Jesus’ greatest accomplishments. He miraculously catches fish to the amazement of Peter. He multiplies the fish to feed thousands. He walks across water. He brings Lazarus, a dead man, back to life. So just in case you didn’t know, the movie makes it clear that this Jesus guy is pretty awesome and has gained many followers. He’s basically like a rock star.
I almost expected his followers to chant “Jesus” while waving their hands from side to side. However, Son of God dutifully stays faithful to its source material, so there was no silliness allowed.
The intensity picks up a bit as time marches along and Jesus is persecuted for being a false prophet. The Last Supper scene is particularly heart-tugging when Jesus proclaims that one of his disciples would turn on him. Jesus is put on trial and condemned to die. When it came to the crucifixion, I heard lots of sniffles during my screening, and I imagine there were very few dry eyes in the house. Thankfully, the scenes are not overly graphic, but they are vivid enough to get the point across.
Aside from Morgado, the cast is a bit bland and made up of forgettable unknowns, with the exception of Roma Downey as Jesus’ mother Mary. The Touched by an Angel actress produced the miniseries and movie with her husband Mark Burnett (producer from Survivor and The Voice).
The story of Jesus’ life is moving and inspirational. It always has been and it always will be. Christians who see Son of God will find it a perfectly respectful retelling, though I don’t know if it will persuade any non-believers. However, the movie isn’t very imaginative and is nothing more than satisfactory from an entertainment perspective. ••
Movie Grade: B-