I have a confession to make: I love Jesus movies.
Growing up, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” was a staple in my household and I’ve happily sat through it at least 10 times. Same with 1961’s “King of Kings,” which is my personal favorite of the subgenre.
I love the melodrama and bad special effects. I love the corny wigs and Roman armor. But most of all, I love that, no matter how sincere the filmmakers are, movies about the savior always end up being super lame and campy. The sheer weight of the endeavor swallows them whole every time.
And so, it was with feigned reluctance that I went to see “Son of God,” the newest film to join the subgenre. But, of all the biblical epics I’ve seen, “Son of God” falls flattest by far—even the Lord God himself couldn’t raise this dud from the dead. The film is so lackluster I actually fell asleep during the crucifixion. And I’m sure God will smite me for that.
The film looks like it’s a cheap TV movie, which, for all intents and purposes, it is. The film mixes previously aired scenes from “The Bible” miniseries with new footage, which makes it feel like a bit of a Franken-film. “Son of God” begins with what feels like a hectic and unnecessary series recap—within the first 10 minutes, the film attempts to cover every major storyline in the Old Testament and stuffs it with as much “Bible” footage as possible.
Because of its low budget, the film deeply struggles with its special effects. The CGI cityscapes are laughably bad—even 1998’s “The Prince of Egypt” made better use of the technology. The low quality effects made some of Jesus’ wonders feel more like bad drug trips than miracles.
As far as aesthetic accuracy goes, “Son of God” really misses the mark, as most biblical epics do. Open your eyes people—Santa isn’t real, the world isn’t flat and Jesus wasn’t white. Nor were his followers. It’s troubling that movies like “Son of God” and much of Western Christianity continue to tout a Caucasian Jesus.
Race aside, Portuguese model Diogo Morgado is also just way too hot to play the messiah. When he first appeared on screen, the friend I coerced into joining me whispered, “I would totally do Jesus,” and that’s a problem—it’s pretty hard to spread the Word of God through an actor who makes us all feel like sinners. Roma Downey as the Virgin Mary is also miscast for aesthetic reasons—nothing shatters that B.C.-feel quite like excessive Botox. We all know Virgin Mary did not have lips that fake.
Oh, and did I mention that Jesus, his followers and all the Romans in the film have British accents? I mean, come on guys.
Despite “Son of God’s” good intentions, the condensed plot feels about as insincere as the accents. In hopes of appealing to, and perhaps converting, the lowest common denominator, the film dumbs down the Gospel of John as much as possible. Evil according to “Son of God” is completely black and white and Jesus’ preachings lack the intellectual depth in which they are covered in the Bible. For those of us who choose to believe that life, death and faith isn’t simple, the film feels painfully inadequate—it fails to delve into any of the Bible’s profound fodder.
So before you see “Son of God,” ask yourself what Jesus would do.
He’d go see “Frozen” instead.