Son of God

Directed By: Christopher Spencer

Starring: Diogo Morgado, Roma Downey, and Darwin Shaw

2014 might just be the year of the biblical movie.  Hollywood is taking us to church in the coming weeks and months.  Several weeks from now, Darren Aronofsky's Noah will be storming into theaters and bringing on the floodwaters.  Later in the year, Moses will be telling Pharaoh to let his people go all over again and leading them to the Promised Land in Ridley Scott's Exodus.  Before we get ahead of ourselves and talk about what epic tales lie ahead, let's talk about what's in theaters this weekend.  Let's talk about Christopher Spencer's Son of God.

At this point in 99.9% of my movie reviews, I would begin giving a brief synopsis of the film being discussed.  Given that we're talking about the story of Jesus — one of the most famous stories in all of human history — it's safe to assume you're all pretty knowledgeable, and I'll skip the formalities.  That being said, the biggest problem plaguing Son of God is how it glosses over the text of the Bible.  Quickly opening with brief snippets of notable tales from the Old Testament and briskly moving through the events of the New, the film lacks any real depth.  There’s no nuanced interpretation of the scriptural text.  Abruptly cycling through miracles, parables, and the Beatitudes, the film plays more like a best hits soundtrack than a feature film.  It hits all the good notes without really delving into the details, connecting the dots, or constructing a coherent plot.

Spencer's Son of God is respectful and honors the message, but it adds nothing whatsoever to the conversation about this monumental figure.  The film is more akin to a Sunday school reenactment of scripture than a compelling piece of cinema.  Another thing that really bothers me about Son of God is that Spencer takes no creative license.  Bombastic music is cued at exactly the expected moments.  Camera angles show this biblical tale just how any ordinary reader would glowingly envision it.  There's no subtlety.  There's no grit.  Ultimately, this lack of originality undermines the film's goal to spread the gospel in a different, refreshing way.

While I've largely criticized the direction of Son of God, I have a thing or two to say about the actors too.  For his part as the Messiah, Diogo Morgado gives a pretty bland performance.  There are inevitably some struggles with embodying the perfect union of God and man, and Morgado does nothing to bring this out in his character.  He just tries to capture the benevolent miracle worker and, for that matter, fails to do so.  The same can be said for Darwin Shaw in his portrayal of Peter as well as the rest of Morgado’s supporting cast.  They all really just give us caricatures of these biblical figures.  They're wasting opportunities to really delve into some meaty characters and are boring us along the way.

If somebody decides to make a movie about Jesus, then they need to do it right.  The New Testament is not so new anymore, and we all know the story.  With this in mind, you're going to need more than some water turned into wine for this one.  You're going to need some jäger bombs.  I can't quite believe I'm saying this, but Son of God gets a wasted rating.  I know there are many out there for whom any retelling of the gospel is good news, but I beg to differ on this occasion.