“Through and through, Son of God feels like a greatest hits compilation of Jesus Christ and friends.”

Son of God will undoubtedly provoke personal and spiritual tensions within its core audience, but for those looking a bit deeper, for something more enlightening and contemplative, will be disappointed to find nothing much here aside from a biblical melodrama. The film is based off the wildly successful History Channel miniseries The Bible, and according to Variety Magazine, Son of God takes specific selections of the miniseries, deleted scenes, and newly shot material from The Bible series and compiles them into a feature film.

This immediately justifies why the film feels like a series of biblical vignettes rather than a coherent film. Through and through, Son of God feels like a greatest hits compilation of Jesus Christ and friends. Produced by Mark Burnett, like The Bible miniseries and the hit reality show Survivor, I was almost waiting for Jeff Probst to enter the picture and state, “A lifetime of prayers, a million skeptics, one messiah!” in true Survivor fashion. I say this because at times the film feels as choppy as a reality show and as if we’re watching a very rough work print of the film with all the key scenes shot and are awaiting the filler to arrive any moment now.

Son of God
Directed by
Christopher Spencer
Diogo Morgado, Amber Rose Revah, Sebastian Knapp
Release Date
28 February 2014
Steve’s Grade: D+

The film chronicles the life of Jesus Christ, and when I say life, I mean his birth done in montage, his childhood and adolescent years strangely skipped over, reconnecting with him as a grown man spreading the word of God and not passing judgment on anyone he meets, and then showing his crucifixion and resurrection. Already, that’s quite lofty material to cover in one-hundred and thirty-eight-minutes, and while Son of God hits predominantly all the bases, it doesn’t quite elaborate on them. It feels as if the film’s quartet of writers and its director, Christopher Spencer, simply made a checklist of all the areas they must hit in the film and once the scenes where shot, they collectively moved on to the next.

What this results in is a rather simple and uninspired look at the lives of perhaps the most inspirational man in the world. I’m at quite a quandary reviewing Son of God for that reason because I’m reminded of when I reviewed Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the biopic on Nelson Mandela. Both films were similar in length and wanted to cover a larger-than-life figure and both ended up biting off way more than they could chew in the long-run. My quandary comes in when I think of the fact that both of these films are just adequate and sub-par representations of their subjects or could a film encompassing all of their figure’s achievements, characteristics, and impact not be made effectively? It isn’t that Son of God wants to phone-in this project or lacks ambition; its issue is that it has quite a bit of ambition but goes about it in the obscure and highly-questionable way of compiling outtakes and deleted scenes together with little cohesion.

Jesus Christ is played by Diogo Morgado who, unlike Jim Caviezel in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ who brought a great deal of subtlety and humbleness to the Jesus character, unfortunately gives a forgettable performance as one of the most unforgettable characters in history. Morgado doesn’t have any character written for him, unfortunately, and throughout the film his dialog feels as if it’s purposefully designed to either mystify or enchant – there’s no middle ground. With this, there is no room for Jesus to work into a character that we care about for reasons other than the fact that he’s Jesus. Then there is the fact that scenes in the film either feel designed to manipulate one emotionally or are just simply burdened by the likes of laughably unsophisticated dialog.
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When it comes to modern-day religious films, even as one who lacks religious beliefs and disconnects myself from the world in a respectful manner, I still find myself captivated and intrigued by The Passion of the Christ for reasons I find difficult to explain, so much so that I’ve made it an annual Easter tradition to watch the film. Gibson took an incredible leap to disconnect religious films with cheap productions, hamfisted morals, and a squeaky-clean look that seemed to be smothered by its own antiseptic qualities. The Passion of the Christ was a violent, violent picture, one that reminded believers what Jesus suffered through along with the real ugliness and inherent nastiness of a crucifixion. It was one of the bloodiest, most unsettling things I’ve yet to see on film, but it serves as a reminder to all what crucifixion was all about.

To Son of God‘s credit, its crucifixion scene isn’t by any means a cop out. In many regards, it’s quite brutal and hair-raising. It didn’t provoke the same kind of flinching reaction for me every time Jesus was whipped, like in The Passion of the Christ, but it still is far more graphic than I presumed. Its costume design, as well as its large productions, also loan themselves to be credited, as they are very detailed and bear great craft as well. However, dealing with one-hundred and thirty-eight-minutes of Son of God‘s shortchanging of the story of Jesus through a vignette-style approach is a task one that’s far easier to imagine and picture in your mind than endure.

Review by Steve Pulaski, Lead Film Critic