MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Kevin Reynolds. Starring Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton
Everyone knows what happened during Holy Week and on Easter morning, but who knows what happened after the stone rolled away from the tomb and the body of Jesus was reported missing?
Well, hopefully, most Christians. But Risen is a creative attempt to share with every one else what really happened between Easter and the Ascension. And it will do so using the fictional story of Clavius (Fiennes), a Roman officer who is assigned by Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth) to investigate and hopefully find the body of Jesus (called more appropriately Yeshua). As he tries to come up with an answer to this mystery, Clavius will look for Mary Magdalene (once again considered to be a prostitute rather than a woman freed from demonic possession) and eventually meet up with the disciples when Jesus appears to Thomas and then, one more time, during the Ascension.
Clavius is a man in need of something to believe in. Risen implies that all it takes to believe in Jesus as Messiah is a couple of post-Resurrection appearances. Oh, would that it were so simple. The Gospels and the Book of Acts make the case that it is the Holy Spirit’s presence that leads one to the peace of Christ. The Holy Spirit would cause the first large-scale stir in Jerusalem during Pentecost. It would take Rome about 280 years (and many martyrs to come) before Emperor Constantine would become Christian. And – let’s face it – at the time of the Ascension, those who followed Jesus were one hundred percent Jewish and not open to Gentiles. Sorry, Clavius.
Risen does a nice job recreating the culture of the time, including a fairly accurate and graphic depiction of handling corpses post-crucifixion, in perhaps the most gruesome scene in a PG-13 film that I’ve seen in a while. The narrow streets and the class distinctions of the times are well on display and Spain does a nice job standing in for the Holy Land. Jesus (Cliff Curtis) is another smiling hunk of a guy, but isn’t given much to do outside of the scriptural accounts.
And that’s the main problem of this film for me. If you know your Bible, there are no surprises for you; you can take out your check list of scenes and mark them off one by one. In other words, this movie is boring. It is respectful and dull.
I am sure that there are many of my readers who will enjoy Risen and I hope that you know who you are and seek this film out while it is still in theaters. But at the end of the day, every filmgoer needs to ask ourselves: Who is this movie really for? Is this movie going to mean anything outside of the active Christian community, who already know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? I doubt that it can convert the nonbeliever, entertain the atheist, or convince the skeptic.
Rather than more evangelical movies filled with the well-meaning faithful, Bible movies that go over the same turf, or the occasional extracanonical Jesus flick (such as the upcoming The Young Messiah which I will review soon), I long for good movies featuring characters who happen to be Christian and make moral choices based on their beliefs. That would be something to talk about!
Four halos: It’s the story of Jesus, after all!
Three pitchforks: Extremely violent for a PG-13 film; crucifixion of an innocent man.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
COMMENTS! Do you have comments about this movie or movie review?
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