Watch the whole thing HERE!
Watch the whole thing HERE!
Watch the whole thing HERE!
In 2006 Entertainment Weekly rated The Passion of the Christ — Mel Gibson’s gritty and gory account of Jesus Christ’s final 12 hours leading up to his crucifixion in Jerusalem — the most controversial movie of all time.
Its detractors noted historical and biblical inaccuracies and accused the film of being anti-Semitic and excessively violent. Despite the cries of critics, the film became the top-grossing Christian movie ever.
In fact, it was something of a miracle at the box office, earning $611,899,420 worldwide in its original release.
Since then there has been a trickle of films aimed at a Christian audience, some successful, some not, some controversial, some not.
Passion had a great marketing strategy coupled with enough controversy to get people interested to see what all the fuss was about.
It’s been hard to capture that kind of lightning in a bottle again, which is why we haven’t seen a cavalcade of biblical epics in mainstream theatres.
This weekend Risen looks to the bible for inspiration. Playing like an unofficial sequel to Gibson’s film, it tells the tale of the Resurrection from the perspective of Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), a Roman Centurion commanded by Pontius Pilot to quell reports of a risen Messiah and thwart an insurrection in Jerusalem.
The film, directed by Waterworld helmer Kevin Reynolds, appears to have skirted around controversy by telling the story from the point of view of a fictional and non-believing character.
The studio is quick to note, however, that the script is a “faithful scriptural treatment of the story.”
The secret to success for a Christian themed movie lies with the filmmaker’s ability to translate the scripture to the screen.
“Christians like a well told story,” War Room director Alex Kendrick, who, with his brother Stephen have been labelled the “Steven Spielbergs of Christian cinema,” told just after his movie toppled Straight Outta Compton from the number one spot at the box office last year.
“What we don’t like is when our saviour’s name is abused or taken in vain or our morals trashed, so that keeps us away from many movies. It’s amazing to me that if Hollywood knew how many movies we stayed away from on purpose because of some of the offensive aspects they would change because it means much more money for them.”
Recently Noah, starring Russell Crowe as the arc-building prophet, angered some Christian groups for not being reverent enough. Director Darren Aronofsky called it the, “least biblical biblical film ever made,” and a studio press release admitted, “artistic license has been taken.”
The Christian community has met other films with open arms. Catherine Hardwicke’s The Nativity Story drew on the gospel of Matthew for the story of the Immaculate Conception and while it wasn’t the box office bonanza that made Passion headline news, it made money and skirted around controversy.
In 2004 Christian films were popular enough to garner a category at the irreverent Mexican MTV Movie Awards. Up for Most Divine Miracle in a Movie was the water into wine sequence from The Last Temptation of Christ; Passion’s Christ healing Peter’s injured ear scene; and the part in Bruce Almighty where Bruce causes his girlfriend’s chest to grow several sizes. Mexican audiences voted and Bruce Almighty’s miracle took the prize.
“Risen” is an odd movie that sits somewhere in between pious and pop culture. Not since “Jesus Christ Superstar” fused the bible with a backbeat has a Christian film mixed-and-matched the spiritual with the secular in such an audacious manner. Part bible story, part police procedural, for much of the movie it plays like “Law & Order: Jerusalem.”
Told from the point-of-view of nonbelieving Roman centurion Clavius (Joseph Fiennes), the action in “Risen” really begins three days after the crucifixion of Christ (Cliff Curtis), in the days following the Resurrection. Judaea prefect Pontius Pilate (Peter Firth), concerned that the recently crucified Nazarene’s followers have stolen his body and will claim he has risen from the dead, orders Clavius to “find the corpse of the cursed Yeshua before it rots.”
Clavius is a hard-bitten warrior, growing weary of the fight. He dreams of a “day without travail; with peace.” Maybe so, but before that time comes he must launch a “CSI” style investigation into Yeshua’s disappearance with Pilot’s words—“Without a corpse we might have a messiah.”—ringing in his ears.
His relentless search uncovers several unexplainable clues—he writes off the Shroud of Turin as an imprint left by “sweat and herbs”—that eventually turn him from someone who “sees delusions to keep a crusade alive” to a follower of Christ.
“Risen” works best when it is in procedural mode. Like “The Robe” and other biblical films that use scripture as a backdrop for a different kind of story, “Risen” feels like two different movies. The first half is a thriller, a detective story complete with interrogations and observation of suspects. When it changes into a more traditional faith based story, however, it becomes less interesting. It’s respectful to the source material and Fiennes is fine in both roles—the dutiful soldier and early adopter of Yeshua’s teachings—but it feels frontloaded in the first hour.
“Risen” isn’t exactly a religious movie. It’s more a spiritual story about a man who learns how to find the peace he has always craved through Christ’s teachings. The messaging is strong, but this is more the tale of a man’s change of heart set against the backdrop of the beginning of Christianity than it is a bible story.
It’s about faith and the strength of belief, but is flawed by inconsistent dialogue style—it ranges from sword-and-sandal formality to modern day vernacular—and the limitations of a low budget that prevents any truly miraculous visions.
There are as many different kinds of Easter movies as there are colours on the most psychedelic Ukrainian Easter egg. From kid-friendly romps like Hop, Russell Brand’s cartoon about an errant Easter Bunny, to the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar to all-singing-all-dancing spectaculars like Easter Parade to sword-and-sandal epics like Ben Hur and solemn retellings of the biblical Easter story like The Greatest Story Ever Told.
Then there are horror films like Easter Bunny, Kill Kill and the terrifying Easter Bunny from Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey… so many diverse takes on Easter, but since there’s no way to watch all these movies on Easter weekend, let’s hippity-hop through a list of the bunny’s greatest hits.
Controversial in its time—fundamentalist Bob Jones III denounced it as “blasphemy” without actually watching the film—Jesus of Nazareth, director Franco Zeffirelli’s epic 1977 mini-series, is now considered a classic. Clocking in at a whopping 382 minutes, it’s a reverent look at Jesus’s life from his birth to resurrection starring heavyweights like Laurence Olivier, Anthony Quinn, Anne Bancroft and Christopher Plummer.
From the sacred to the sublime, It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown continues Charles Schultz’s tradition of providing a story for every holiday, both secular and spiritual. The twelfth Peanuts cartoon special sees Linus try to hype up the arrival of the Easter Beagle but only Sally believes him. The rest of the gang is still unsure in light of Linus’s Great Pumpkin Halloween fiasco. This special, now available on DVD, features one of the only times Snoopy ever spoke on screen. He shouts “Hey!” before dancing with bunnies in a fantasy sequence.
Fred Astaire, the legendary song-and-dance-man was no stranger to holiday entertainment. His Christmas special, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, is a Yuletide favorite but he also appeared in no less than three Easter-themed movies and TV shows. Astaire’s movie, Holiday Inn, the 1942 story of a singer who turns his farm house into a dinner theatre on the holidays, is best known for introducing Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, but also produced the tune Easter Parade, which, six years later turned up in the hoofer’s film of the same name.
Finally, years later he played the narrator in the Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated The Easter Bunny’s Coming to Town. Set in Kidville, the most child-friendly place on earth, it is the story of how the Easter Bunny came to be.