REVIEW: The Passion of the Christ

Tonight Dickson and I went to see Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Now having read many, many reviews about the movie, I knew to expect a couple things:

  • James Caviezel is nearly unrecognizable as he resembles a piece of bloody meat throughout most the movie.
  • To say that the movie is not educational would be the understatement of the year.
  • The amount of violence showcased was up there with some of the most violent of our time.
  • There was lots of blood, almost all of it from Jesus.
  • The movie does give the impression that it was the Jews who killed Jesus.

Yes all of these things I had expected, and all of them are in fact true. The violent beating that Jesus endures was quite disturbing. There was lots of blood, not as much as Gangs of New York, but considering it is from mainly one man in this movie, the amount is quite astonishing.

Gibson is very clearly preaching to the converted with this movie. If you don’t know anything about the story of Jesus, don’t expect to learn anything by watching this movie. To the non-believers, this movie will be nothing more than a two hour butcher special – save your $14 and watch the Food Channel. Or better yet, watch a different gory movie that doesn’t require you to have any knowledge of the events before purchasing your ticket.

I don’t want to dwell on this, but yes the movie probably gave the impression that it was the Jews who killed Jesus. The Romans in charge seemed reluctant to do anymore than give him a good beating. It was the Jewish high priests who called for his crucifixion, and were not satisfied until it was done. During the scenes which portray this, it is interesting to note that Claudia holds quite a bit of sway over Pontius Pilate. Maybe this is insignificant, but I thought it was interesting that a woman had such influence at the time.

Now there are three interesting things I noted in this movie. The first relates directly to the above. Why does everyone hold Jesus in such high regard now? Simply because he was a prophet capable of performing “miracles”? Many men were the same way at the time, and countless “criminals” were crucified for the same thing Jesus was. If this movie is historically accurate (and many people have said it is quite accurate, Gibson claims it was his intent) then why don’t people now consider what the people then thought? It is quite clear that the vast majority of the people present at the time wanted him dead – why should anyone else question this? Were you there? I don’t think so!

The second thing that was interesting to me was all the young children in attendance at the movie. I mean, I had heard about it on the news, parents who kept their kids home from school to go see the movie on opening day – but to see it in person is something else. Dickson and I sat beside two young kids whose parents were elsewhere in the theater (seating was very limited, it was packed). Beside them was a family, with two even younger kids. You could see the poor kids cover their eyes for the beating and crucifixion (and to be clear, those two events make up 80% of the screen time). I think watching something like that could seriously mess a kid up. No matter how much the parents try to talk to their kids, the fact remains, a picture is worth a thousand words. The images and visuals presented will resonate with those children, the words their parents speak are much more easily forgotten.

The sad thing is that these parents are probably the same ones who complain that video games and movies and TV shows are too violent these days. How does a movie being religious make it okay for the children to see? I would be seriously concerned if my child saw this movie, especially at such a young age when they are still trying to figure out the things they see. I don’t think any child so young can truly understand the message that Gibson attempts to portray with his horrifyingly violent visuals. Heck I doubt most of the adults can.

The third thing I found interesting was the actual movie itself. The music, the camera angles, the effects, all very well done in my opinion. I think Gibson had a very clear image of the movie he wanted to make, and he did an amazing job as far as the actual cinematography goes. The choice of camera positions and lighting were especially well done in my opinion. While I doubt this movie will win any awards because of the subject matter it explores, I think it should be nominated for direction or a visual award.

The only part of the movie I had trouble watching were the scenes where they nailed him to the cross (I get squeamish about needles and things piercing my skin). I tried to watch as much of it as I could as there was dialog at the same time (the movie has English subtitles). Otherwise, it was quite interesting to see how legal matters were handled at the time, and that people were generally more violent. Other things to note were Gibson’s portrayal of Satan (freaky but intriguing at the same time) and his rather lame resurrection scene (about 30 seconds total).

So do I recommend you see this movie? Probably not. Unless you share the same beliefs as Gibson, you probably will not enjoy it. If you have young children, I strongly urge you not to let them watch this. If you do want to see it, don’t eat anything while you watch it, that would be my advice – especially not a juicy steak. I think Gibson succeeded in making the movie he wanted to make, and with some clever marketing, many people have now seen what he believes. Religion has once again been brought to the forefront of society with the Passion making headlines in every major news publication in the world. Only time will tell its effect.

17 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Passion of the Christ

  1. I guess it is fine for parents to take the kids to the movie but no okay for a teacher to show it. http://www.freep.com/news/statewire/sw94019_20040305.htm

    I read a review of the movie that says Mel Gibson missed a big point though. Crucifixion was a cruel form of execution. After the slave revolution of Sparticus, 30,000 slaves were crucified along the Apian Way. The death of Jesus was not unique in its cruelty, however horrible it may have been. Whether our modern methods of execution are any more humane might be an open question. It was typical of everything in the life of Jesus that he chose to be united in his death with the poor and the oppressed, a point Gibson seems to have missed.

    What are your thoughts on this point.

    Poor me, I guess I will have to wait until it is out on DVD or on the PPV.

  2. Interesting news story, and interesting point. I dont think he really missed this at all. During the "march of death" in which Jesus is forced to carry the cross through the streets up to the hill where he will be crucified, he is beaten so badly that he cannot go on. So one of the onlookers helps him the rest of the way. After he is up on the cross, he makes peace with one of the two criminals who were crucified at the same time.

    So in that sense, I think Gibson shows Jesus’ love of people, especially the poor and oppressed, quite well.

    And while you are right, his crucifixtion was not unique, the entire death was. How many other people were beaten to a bloody pulp and then crucified? I would guess very few. Criminals taken to Pilate had their fate determined by the crowd – only Jesus had to face two fates. The two criminals he was crucified with were not beaten at all.

  3. Mack I totally trust your good judgment and I guess I will not be viewing this movie!! You know me, I am definitely not a blood and gore kind of girl! No desire to see that, so many better things in the world to enjoy. As for parents taking their young children…well being an early childhood educator I am always, I repeat ALWAYS asking myself what was that parent thinking?? I know parenting is one of the most important jobs any person will have in life, but common sense will take anybody a long way! I truly think people should have to take a parenting skills class before having children but that’s a whole other topic. Getting back to the movie, as I have said before like anything in life; your personal views and values that you believe in, and your culture upbringing will totally determine how you face the world. What you believe in during your lifetime remains a big part of your own personal beliefs and like you said Mack, Mel Gibson has expressed his religious beliefs so I guess we will wait and see how the world takes it. I still think religion is a very personal thing and that nobody has the right to preach or push their own regilious beliefs on someone else. Thanks for the informative review!

  4. Hi Patti!
    I agree that religion is a very personal thing and that nobody has the right to preach or push their beliefs onto others but the problem with religion is that a large focus of their religion is about preaching to others. Jesus was a preacher and followers today feel that they have to take up and complete Jesus’ mission. The question is where do we draw the line? And how come the line is so much closer for non religious people?

    Now going into some whacked off idea…

    Although Jesus was only one of the many crucified, there must have been something that made him stand out, which most notably was his ability to heal wounds and bring miracles to others. From historic facts, it has been proven that many medical miracles can now be explained scientifically and replicated but as to Jesus’ stories, we can neither prove or disprove them since the only thing that remains of his existence is the bible.
    But what if one day time travel was invented (which in theory is possible and I believe one day it will be done)? Then there would be a new notion of who really belongs to the present time, the past, or even the future. And undoubtedly, it would bring up the question was Jesus from the future? Imagine what would happen if one of our doctors was sent back in time? Their work would be considered as miracles which in today’s time is merely an interaction between biochemicals and micro-organisms. I can already envision the chaos that might arise…
    It wouldn’t just affect one religion, it would affect them all!

    Anyhow…what am I saying? Perhaps its time for my medicine…

  5. Dickson you are exactly right on – Jesus was a preacher and yes, people today and in the past are only trying to carry out his quest; his desire to have people truly believe in his religion. It will go on and on; years into the future people will be preaching their own kind of religion and Dickson your absolutely correct, where do we draw the line? Thanks for pointing that out. As for your other comment, time travel – Dickson I love the way you think! To seek the truth, travel through time, was Jesus from the future? What a vision and a reality, if possible that would definitely affect all religions! Dickson, you don’t need any medicine, you have a unique gift, a creative mind! You remind me of my honest care-free preschoolers who are never afraid to tell you how it is and who are never held back from dreaming or thinking! Keep that brilliant brain working Dickson, I will travel through time with you!

  6. This movie is traumatic. It has nothing to do with the Teacher’s message of Love, just more pain, misery, and agony.

    No, I do not share the religious convictions of the majority of Americans (take your pick of any Christian doctrine), meaning I’m a little more open-minded and less judgemental of other belief systems. I feel that God truly is Love, not pain, misery, and suffering. This movie reiterates the whole Catholic-Christian guilt complex of "It’s YOUR fault, he died for YOUR sins," when an all knowing and all loving God would already understand that we as children are fallible and entitled to mistakes, thus our sins are forgiven before they are ever even committed. Therefore there is no need for a sacrifice, be it animal as in the Old Testament or the so-called "Son of God" in the New Testament. The Christian God is patriarchal, a father-figure entity of projected human wishes to be guided and taken care of by something wiser and more powerful than they are. Not to say I’m an atheist, it’s just that I believe God to be more than that. He/She/It is everything, and everyone, just the pure universal force of Existence itself.Something beyond human comprehension, not an anthroporhized Freudian father figure. Mel Gibson has done a great job instilling a new sense of guilt in all the blind Christian sheep of this country. But hey, what better way to control the masses than through guilt and fear? I’m sure the Catholic church couldn’t approve of this movie more, nor could the United States,or any country’s, government. If only people could learn to wake up and think for themselves, then they might realize that God is not Christian, Muslim, or Hindu, as Ghandi said. God is God. Man makes up the differences between us. Something to think about.

  7. Very interesting comments Timothy. I think your perspective is the first of its kind on my blog, most people are either strongly in favor of or strong against religion.

    I never thought of the movie as being a form of control for the masses, though I can easily see how your theory could be true. The millions of people that go to see the movie twice (for what reason I cannot fathom) to further convince themselves of the "message" of the movie alone could prove this.

    I agree that I probably wasn’t hard for the Catholic Church to say "approved" for the movie, but I am not so sure about governments – I dont think it offers them anything.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts!

  8. When I saw tis movie, I was riveted to my seat. This was THE best movie religious movie I have ever seen. Even though the lashes are brutal, the walk to Galgotha was brutal and same with the crucifixion, what man could have made it? The Son of Man was the only man to have made it. How did we know that really happened? Was is like the way Mel portrayed it? Think about it?

  9. Christianity really could not be more simple. Part of Satan’s plan is to confuse believers and non-believers by creating ridiculous notions that "Jesus may have been from the future". What a mess.
    Simply stated Christianity consists of believing that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins, we accept this fact and ask forgiveness for our sins and ask God to be a part of our life then be baptized in water. The rest is instructed in the bible on how to live and spread the faith. But loving others and forgiving those who sin against us as God has forgiven and loved us is the greatest commandment.
    The movie was an awesome depiction of the sacrifice Christ made so that we could have eternal atonement for sin. But whether or not the movie was as it actually happened is of lesser importance.

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