A husband and wife team, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, had produced a mini-series called “The Bible” that was aired on the History Channel, about a year back. “Son of God” is the part about Jesus from the mini-series. The mini-series was nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys and the audience had rated it highly. I have not seen the mini-series, but I found the movie somewhat interesting but more on the simplistic side. This movie is not anywhere in the same league as “The Ten Commandments” or other historical fictional films like “Cleopatra” or “Passion of the Christ”. This is not a great film. It is not able to powerfully narrate the history of the time when one of the greatest religious leaders walked upon the earth. It is a fairly decent narration of Jesus and the challenges he encountered, and is told from a spiritual perspective.
After showing the birth of Jesus, about 30 years later Jesus (handsome Diogo Morgado – also dubbed “hot” Jesus) approaches despondent Peter (Darwin Shaw), the fisherman. Peter is not able to find many fish, to make a living as a fisherman. Jesus tells Peter “just give me an hour and I will give you a whole new life”. Jesus joins Peter in fishing and Peter finds many fish. Peter is now convinced of Jesus’ powers and travels with Jesus, as Jesus acquires more apostles including Mary Magdalene (Amber Rose Revah), and goes around spreading his message of love, kindness, abundance, and forgiveness. When he notices a group of men ready to condemn a “sinner woman” to death by stoning, he says, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” When a Jewish man confronts him that he is disobeying the rule of law and that he has no authority to forgive, Jesus says, “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”. Jesus is asked how one should picture the kingdom of God, and he replies, “the kingdom of God is like the mustard seed, a smallest of seed that a man can plant would grow into a big tree”. To the people worrying about food and clothes, Jesus says, “God will provide. Put God first and everything else will follow”.
The film places Jesus right in the midst of the authoritarian, dogmatic Jewish traditions and the oppressive Roman regime. The Jewish leaders constantly tried to placate the Romans, both to hold on to their tenuous grip on power and to save the Jewish people from being crushed by the oppressors. The average Jewish people however, are not happy living under strict traditions that have no margin of error and being squeezed by the Jewish money lenders. They also frequently suffer the wrath of their whimsical Roman oppressors. Jesus’ message appeals to them. As the tension between the Romans and average Jewish people builds up, Jesus decides to take his message to the people, in the heart of Jerusalem, and rides to the city on a donkey, on the day before the Passover. In his message to self serving, narcissistic people, Jesus says, “anyone who praises himself will be humbled and anyone who humbles himself, will be praised”. Jesus refuses to be drawn into physical fights. He also implores Peter to “turn the other cheek”, instead of responding with aggression.
Gradually the city is getting worked up into a frenzy over excessive taxes levied by the Romans. At one point, the demonstrators ask Jesus, in full view of the Romans, whether people should pay the taxes or not. If Jesus advices the people to pay the taxes then the people would revolt against him and if he advises them to not pay the taxes then the Romans would take out their anger on him and his followers. Jesus masterfully avoids being trapped. He asks, “whose face is on the coins?” The people respond, “Caesar’s”. “Well then”, says Jesus “give to Caesar, what is Caesar’s, and to God, what is God’s”, meaning offer your soul to God, even if you have to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus’ message begins to sink in. Jewish leaders are not only fearful of loosing their grip on power but they are also fearful that if Jesus creates any more ruckus then the new Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks) may close down the temple on the big religious day of Passover. They tap Judas (Jow Wredden) to betray Jesus. Very soon thereafter, they arrest Jesus and he is condemned to death.
Up to this point, even though Jesus’ miracles come across in the film as cheap magic tricks, his parables and messages give meat to the story. I would have liked to see much more of Jesus’ preachings. Once Jesus is condemned then there is a long drawn out period of his carrying the crucifix, his being crucified, and his final resurrection. But all this happens mostly in absence of his messages. At this point, the film completely looses any depth it might have had. At this point, an impartial observer becomes critically aware of the opportunity lost to tell how magnificent, yet simple Jesus’ messages were, how critical his influence at that period in history was, how extensive, broad and forever lasting was the impact of his simple preachings. In one final scene, the apostles have a vision of Jesus and hear him say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations”. But a point of powerful significance is that Jesus lived a short life of 33 years. Born in a manger in the tiny town of Bethlehem, he taught in Nazareth, and he preached in Galilee, before riding to Jerusalem; all in a short radius of less than 50 miles. But his message has lived on for over 2000 years, and has spread to every corner of the world. Perhaps his story is not easy to tell. Perhaps it could be better told. I am giving this movie a rating of 3.4 on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being excellent.