Son of God takes the majority of the segments of The Bible miniseries featuring Jesus Christ and tells a linear story of His birth, ministry, death, and resurrection. Instead of taking three hours, as the miniseries does, it presents the same material in an hour and half. This is a lovely movie, but I already saw the miniseries and I have already read the book.
The Gospel of John forms the framework for the film – the Apostle John is the narrator and features heavily in the story. This was a good choice on the part of the filmmakers. John’s account is detailed, as he was one of Jesus’s close confidants, and he writes with the benefit of age and hindsight. His Gospel was written in the late first century A.D., after the other eleven Apostles had died and John was writing for a second and third generation of Christians. Persecution was an ongoing reality. John himself dictated his Gospel and the Book of Revelation from exile on the island of Patmos.
However, as far as this film is concerned, John starts at the beginning with the birth of Christ and continues to the Ascension. From the second scene onward, we are left with a compressed retelling of the Gospel of John. The acting was well done but overly theatrical – I was not left with the feeling that these characters were real people. The actual Bible does that. Christ is allowed to be a bit “off” – undoubtedly His followers and all those whom he encountered found him to be somewhat odd and charismatic. The same cannot be said for his disciples or for the average people in the street.
If I had not seen The Bible miniseries, I would have loved this film. Sure, it is an attempt to serve pub food to an audience that is used to McDonald’s, while I am used to a twelve-course banquet, but it is good pub food. For what it is, the film serves its purpose. It tells a wonderful story and is mostly accurate on the details. My objections, such as the depiction of the raising of Lazarus or the age of John, are not integral to the message of the plot. I can forgive stylistic choices. However, it is not a new film. There was so much that they could have done with this film in this new format that they did not. No new scenes (although some were re-cut or extended), no expansion of characters, no re-shot scenes on better sets. While I enjoyed the film, I could see why some would think it was a waste of an evening.
Overall, this film is Sunday School onscreen. It was exactly what many would have expected and what the filmmakers intended. However, I want real characters. I want to see my fellow humans. I want to feel like I could understand their struggles. When I read the Bible, Jesus and His followers seem real to me. They are relatable – you can see them in your neighbours. Sadly, the most relatable character in Son of God is Judas Iscariot. Even Peter and John come across as playing parts.
I would still recommend this film. It is a good family film for the Easter and Christmas seasons – although I would also recommend reading the Gospel of John aloud as an alternative.