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'Son of God' needs help from on high

By Helen Fu
On March 3, 2014

Despite the best efforts of fundamentalists, religious movies have never quite been en vogue. Every once in a while, though, a great number of them get released all at once before either fading into obscurity or becoming the center of some controversy. Unfortunately, "Son of God" - the predictably named movie centering on the life of Jesus - seems to be destined to fall into the former category.
"Son of God" was originally a part of the History Channel series "The Bible," which aired last year, and the fact that the movie is an expansion of a single episode of a television program is painfully obvious. The movie begins with a montage of a tracing of Christ's lineage that goes all the way back to the Book of Genesis. Though indubitably educational, the sequence feels overstuffed and entirely unnecessary, lulling viewers into a sense of apathy.
Sadly, it doesn't get better from there. In the modern age of film, portrayals of Christ or pseudo-Christ figures should try to emphasize his connection to humanity so that the movie doesn't escape into the dogmatic clouds of Ye Olde Christianity altogether, but "Son of God" seems to have never received that memo. Instead, its Christ-portrayed inexplicably by the Portuguese Diego Morgado, because apparently Israel lies in the Iberian Peninsula-flits about imparting wisdom and barely seems to even touch the ground. This, of course, is not helped by the frequent aerial shots of Christ traveling the earth with his disciples, which were supposed to impart a sense of the grandiose but just made the audience feel like they were sitting through a subpar version of "The Lord of the Rings."
Exacerbating the sense of malaise that pervades throughout the film is the fact that "Son of God" does not add anything original to one of the oldest and exposed stories in the world. The movie is merely a retread of the same old scenarios: feeding the poor with loaves and fishes, raising Lazarus from the dead, all the way to The Last Supper. The result is that "Son of God" may not have offended anyone, but it is also virtually sterile of any deeper meaning.
Only during Christ's trial and crucifixion can the audience glean any sort of theme from the movie. Despite the fact that a great majority of the cast is white as the driven snow, the writers did manage to give an adequate portrayal of the social and cultural backgrounds at work during the time period. Though they are obviously on the path toward establishing Christianity, Christ's apostles are presented as clearly and unapologetically Jewish. It's a nice touch, but it's mitigated by the fact that there are apparently redeemable Jewish characters outside of those who eventually convert-for example, there is no nuance to the high priests, who are simply politically pliable and corrupt.
In the end, "Son of God" is not so much terrible as it is outstandingly mediocre; those who are looking for a darker and more exciting - though no less problematic representationally - biblical retelling will have to wait until "Noah" comes out at the end of the month.

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