The turn of the millennium saw a whole host of films about Jesus, including The Miracle Maker, Book of Life, and Mary, Mother of Jesus. However, perhaps the most widely viewed of these was a TV mini-series. Jesus was made as part of The Bible Collection – a series of 13 films about various characters from both the Old and New Testaments.
The Bible Collection series tended to combine young, up and coming American actors with those who were older and more respected. Here, Gary Oldman played a scheming Pontius Pilate who manipulates the Sanhedrin for his own amusement – emphasising the political dominance of the Romans relative to the Jewish priests.
The series dabbled in several of the same issues that The Last Temptation of Christ had explored over a decade earlier, but in such a way as to minimise the offensive elements. So Jesus loves Mary of Bethany, but realises he cannot marry her if he is to follow his ministry. And when he is tempted, in both in the desert and in Gethsemane, it’s clear he has doubts about what is the right decision.
These sequences all contribute to making this perhaps the most human Jesus to date. The filmmakers go to great lengths to show Jesus enjoying life, playing with children and having a laugh with his disciples. Indeed, this Jesus is very much the product of an MTV generation: the closing scene (set in modern-day Malta) is even accompanied by a LeAnn Rimes song.
Unfortunately, while Jesus has warmth, fun and charisma in abundance, his character lacks any sense of weight or significance. Ultimately it’s unclear why Jesus died and what exactly he stood for.
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It’s “the greatest story ever told”, according to one famous movie title, and among these films is the alleged most watched film of all time. In these pages we review some of the most significant Jesus movies made over the past 50 years.
Written by Matt Page
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