Friday, June 8, 2007

From the Archives: Passion of the Christ Review

In January of 2004 I started my first website to vent on all things pop culture. I updated and ran this site for over 2 years posting occasional reviews and ramblings. After burning out on the website thing I took a 6 month break and did not renew my domain. Still needing some sort of outlet I started this blog in January of this year. Since I do not wish those reviews and posts to be lost, I thought I would begin posting them here. So this one is more for me than you, oh wait, this whole thing is more for me than you. Well, whatever the case, each week we shall take a look into the past, all the way back to (start Conan O'Brien impression here) the year 2000--uh--4.

(Originally posted March 22nd, 2004 as my first official review, and reposted here in honor of just receiving Apocalypto in the mail, look for that review next week.)


Passion Fruit?

My oldest son has a new favorite thing. It is, after all, a week since his last favorite thing, so it's about time. At age 4 he has discovered how to change the language track on his DVDs, and whatever "To infinity and beyond" is in French it must be hilarious, cause the kid will not stop laughing. Yet, after weeks of listening to "Bob le Tomato e Larry el Pepino" my son has yet to speak a full sentence to me in Espanol.

Was he not listening?

Is it the ADD?

And how does this have anything to do with reviewing Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ"?

We will get there.

When I first heard Mel Gibson was doing a literal interpretation of the last hours of Christ's life, I was stunned. Not that it was Mel, I'd heard he had quite a Catholic background and knew he had a thing for martyrs. No I was more stunned at the audacity of the concept. To film it as if someone snuck a camera back in time and actually caught it live. (Smile, your on Candid Camera.) Originally this meant not only would it be in the original language but WITHOUT SUBTITLES! I instantly loved it. I kept a close eye on the development, financing, and plans for release. I rejoiced when I heard Jim Cazeviel had been cast, and cried when I heard they were adding subtitles. (So much for high concept.) But still I wasn't sure what kind of movie he was truly making, and then I saw it.

First, wow.
Second, wow.
Third, take a breath.
Fourth, wow.

To say this movie packs a punch is an understatement. You know, like Bill Gates has money, or Michael Jackson is weird. It just doesn't seem to cover it. Like most of the audience I wept, often. Like most, I could hardly move when it was over. And like most, I was shocked and disgusted by the hatred and violence Christ endured for me. That's what got me the most, that's what hit me the hardest, those two words: For me. I understand why Mel needed to be the one holding the nail, because indeed it is crucial to take individual responsibility for this mess of shredded skin and draining blood. I get that, but then again, I'm already a believer. I know this story, I know how it applies to me, and I know the full meaning and context of these events.

But what does the casual viewer see in this gore?

A great film.

Reviews have been mixed but for the most part "critics" agree. It is a well crafted movie. Though over the top at times, the cinematography was beautiful, the score was perfect, and the acting was top notch. Say what you want about Mel, but he knows how to tell a story.

An agenda.

I'm struck by the fact that people who have never cared before about what a movie "says" or "means" are all of the sudden focusing on message. The cry of anti-Semitism confuses me, I don't see it, then again, I'm not Jewish. In truth, I'm glad people are searching deeper into the message of this film, and I hope it translates into a deeper searching of messages in other films as well.

And what is the resulting action?

This is where I have the most difficulty. Many Christians are seeing this movie as the ultimate "evangelism" tool. Churches are buying out theaters, inviting the "unsaved", and indeed Mel's own "Church first" promotional philosophy was undertaken with the instruction to be ready for the revival this film will cause.

I just don't see it. To expect a non-believer to embrace Christianity after seeing this movie is like.... well... expecting my 4 year old to speak Spanish after listening to Buzz and Woody sing "You've got an Amigo in me". It's not their language. And one time through the story, as impacting and beautiful as it is in it's truest form, is not gonna change them. The non Christian won't leave the theater a Christian because of this movie any more than she will leave the theater speaking fluent Aramaic. The only way to impact the people around us is to live our lives in a way that they see, everyday, how it works in real life. If Austin (my 4 year old) lived in Spain for a few years, I have a feeling he might start to speak the language, 'til then, we'll stick to Dora the Explorer. In the end, Mel's right, it is about keeping it real, but not just in the story telling, in our lives.

MCQ: A+/B/A-
Overall: B+

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