Son of God film review
Son of God (2014)
Diogo Morgado, Darwin Shaw, Roma Downey, Greg Hicks, Sebastian Knapp, Amber Rose Revah, Adrian Schiller
Nic Young, Richard Bedser, Christopher Spencer and Colin Swash
20th Century Fox
CRITIC’S RATING: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
There is no direct attempt to be blasphemous about the spiritual and inspirational vibes that are embedded in the ambitious fabric of director Christopher Spencer’s religious melodrama Son of God. One of the worst gestures that can transpire is awkwardly debating the merits of Christian beliefs and offending those that either maintain their faith-based convictions or not. Certainly any criticism reserved for Son of God is NOT due to the film’s subject matter at hand but to the flaws of the film as a piece of entertainment. So with this sentiment established and understood, the foundation for the well-meaning Son of God probably will get its share of uplifting endorsements from a hearty selection of religious scholars and groups from all walks of life. Still, Son of God cannot escape its poignant yet misplaced sentimentality as a sluggish and tedious soul-searching saga.
What gave Son of God its cinematic legs in the first place was the hugely successful airing of The History Channel’s The Bible that raked in the impressive ratings not to mention praise-worthy attention. The masterminds behind the critically-acclaimed and heavily viewed The Bible–reality TV titan Mark Burnett (“Survivor”, “The Apprentice”) and his wife actress Roma Downey (formerly from television’s “Touched By An Angel”)–are also producing Son of God as they understandably wanted to capitalize on the monumental momentum of the 10-hour biblical mini-series.
In any event, Son of God suffers as a major film production because it has a choppy and incoherent feel of a television docudrama being stretched out as a dull 2 hour-plus preachy sermon. Spencer’s passionate yet problematic biblical biopic has cobbled together a string of what one would imagine a Christian-themed exposition of this magnitude incorporates: spouting the various familiar themes of the gospel, scriptures and profound passages. Naturally with the Bible as its resounding source, Son of God touches upon such notable figureheads as Adam and Eve, Noah and Abraham and the Virgin Mary (Roma Downey) along with the birth of the Christ child. The clumsy narration by John of Patmos (Sebastian Knapp), miscellaneous tacked-on footage from the aforementioned TV mini-series, annoying flashback sequences and conventional CGI miracle-induced revelations–all come off the cliched assembly line without any regard to quantifying these inclusive components as anything beyond trivial. Son of God conveys a curious stiffness that is arbitrarily pieced by its sanctimonious parts. Clearly, Son of God will never adequately rival any of the more showy on-screen Jesus Christ depictions as evidenced in such motion pictures as George Stevens’s The Greatest Story Ever Told, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ or even Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings for that matter.
Assuming the sacred skin of Jesus from Nazareth is Portuguese model-turned-actor Diego Morgado. We find Morgado’s titular Soulful One performing his godly duties as his ministry flourishes thus benefiting the underprivileged masses that are encouraged by his saintly presence. However, when Jesus puts his definitive stamp on Jerusalem and starts to make controversial waves when exposing the opportunistic and cunning ways of Roman despot Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks) and Jewish High Priest Caiaphas (Adrian Schiller) the high stakes are cautiously put to the test. In other words, Jesus is on borrowed time.
The complaints about the comprehensive telling of Jesus Christ’s mystical accounts in Son of God may beg some to question the fragmented and incompleteness of what this movie project should have included from The Bible’s television take. For instance, some may point to the controversial omission of Jesus’s confrontation with an alleged “President Barrack Obama look-alike” Satan that caused such a heated stir of drama in it own right. Nevertheless, Son of God has its creative conflicts that are more pressing than what the filmmakers decided to paste or not to paste into this high-minded, spotty pious film project.
Overall, Spencer’s deeply reflective yet recycled conscious-driven epic seems robotic and compacted. The pacing is slow-footed and the struggle for the audience to tolerate this synthetic and cramped church-going fable rests upon the tolerance of accepting what puzzle pieces remain from The History Channel’s by-product and the existing elements that make up this static-clinging film. As the caring and compassionate Jesus, Morgado makes for an attractive-looking Savior but his performance almost feels as wooden as the cross that would invite his holy character’s crucifixion and resurrection.
The genuine salvation for Son of God is that it is yet another welcomed and interpretive story of Jesus Christ and his teachings and philosophies that optimistic movie audiences–particularly the evangelical demographics–will embrace with unconditional reverence. As a faith-healing and feel-good big screen offering, Son of God deserved much better polish and prose at the center of its pronounced pulpit.
NOTE: Focus of New York film critic Frank Ochieng is a member of: