Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ changed the state of religious programming forever. Mired in controversy for its alleged anti-Semitism, and handed an 18 certificate for its graphic violence, it nevertheless triumphed at the US box office. While its returns were somewhat smaller in the UK, it still took over £10 million and has, as a result, opened the door for a whole host of religiously themed films.
Sadly, few of them have emulated the high production values in The Passion of the Christ. Gorgeously photographed, while horrifically violent, the film is easily one of the most finely crafted Bible films of all time.
Yet at the same time, its critics are able to build a strong case against it. While it is true that death by crucifixion was horrendously violent, the film seems determined to make it even more so, and at one stage it seems that the film’s hero is actually challenging the Romans to hurt him even more. Many critics felt that showing only the last 12 hours of Jesus’ life failed to give the film an historical context. As a result, it is unclear as to what motivated Jesus’ opponents to act as they do.
Thankfully, the film does include a handful of flashbacks to Jesus’ earlier life which are just about enough to hint at his character and what he stood for. If only Gibson had spent more time telling the earlier parts of the story and less time on its climax.
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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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