Tonight, my wife and I went to see the Mark Burnett and Roma Downey presentation of Son Of God. I was not expecting to be wowed by this film as it was made by the same guy who produced American Idol and Survivor. I also did not expect to be completely disappointed and angry, which I was after viewing this jumbled mess. This movie blew it at almost every opportunity. Major events of Christ's life were presented out of order, important teachings and words spoken by Christ were changed to the point of irrelevant nonsense, and Roman Catholic mythology was prominently depicted. Being a student of the Word, I got the sense that the screenplay was written by someone who grew up hearing the Gospel account but never actually read it for themselves. The only good thing I can say about this film is that it accurately depicted Christ as God the Son of God. From this point on, this review will contain spoilers - unfortunately, 85% of this film was spoiled for me. I was planning on keeping count of inaccuracies, but by the first 30 minutes or so, I lost count. Because the Jesus of this film and the real Jesus seem so different in many scenes, I will refer to the film Jesus as the Burnett/Downey Jesus.
The film opens with John the Apostle on the Island of Patmos where he was commissioned by God to write his Gospel account. The film began on a very promising note as John narrates the first lines of his Gospel, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...." As I listened to this, I became very hopeful that this film would be an orthodox rendering of the ministry of Christ. Then it happened, the birth of Christ is depicted and what do we get treated to... three kings/wisemen traveling alone across the desert to arrive at the manger. I leaned over to my wife and said two strikes. The common misconception is that there were three Wisemen/Kings due to the fact that there were three gifts presented to Christ. In reality, the Magi were a company of men who would be more aptly referred to as magistrates and they would certainly not have traveled across the desert with out an armed escort. So three lone Kings traveling across the desert was strike one and the first depiction of Roman Catholic mythology. Next, we see these Three kings arriving at the manger immediately after the birth of Christ. Strike two - the Bible clearly states that the Magi came to the house that Mary, Joseph and Jesus were living in. Also, the narrative suggests that Jesus is somewhere between one and a half and two years old by the time the Magi arrive.
Next we cut to Burnett/Downey Jesus meeting Peter at the Sea of Galilee. The dialogue is completely fabricated except when Burnett/Downey Jesus tells Peter He will make him a fisher of men. Even the miraculous catch of fish is depicted wrong. Instead of making one big catch that required help from other boats, as the Bible specifically states, this film shows Peter pulling in net after net full of fish until he fills multiple baskets in his boat. If you are going to reenact an event from the life of Christ, at least try to be true to the source material. Later in the film we see Burnett/Downey Jesus walking across the water to a boat filled with the disciples. As Burnett/Downey Jesus approaches the boat, he calls out to Peter and asks him to join him, hinting at the Roman Catholic mythology of Peter being Jesus' chosen successor and first Pope.
In the Biblical account, Peter requests that he join Jesus on the water.
From here, we see the Burnett/Downey Jesus roaming the country side as people follow him from place to place. As he travels about, he spouts off partial lines from the real Jesus, except Burnett/Downey Jesus makes no point and has no good reason to say the things he says, reducing him to the role of an inane philosopher who just pops off with whatever happens to pop into his head at the moment. In one scene, we see the Burnett/Downey Jesus walking along and then announcing to the crowd, "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." Missing is the context in which this statement was made by the real Jesus and the event that led up to it.
Throughout the film, Pilate is depicted as a blood thirsty despot and we see scenes of Roman soldiers killing Jews for no apparent reason. This was historically inaccurate, as Rome's presence was meant to establish peace and order, not senseless chaos. Without any historical foundation, we see the Jewish leaders turning against Burnett/Downey Jesus because they are afraid that Pilate will shut down the Temple. This is completely fabricated for the movie. The dialogue between Judas and the priests was also based on the vivid imagination of the screenwriter who I am sure never bothered to actually read the Gospel accounts for himself.
The feeding of the five thousand, which was a pivotal point in the ministry of Christ was depicted as a chaotic mob scene in which people just grabbed whatever food they could. The Olivette discourse, in which two chapters are dedicated to Christ foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age, is reduced to Burnett/Downey Jesus happily proclaiming to a little girl that not one brick of the temple would be left upon another. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was not even close to the actual account. In reality, Jesus calls Lazarus out of his burial cave and Lazarus comes out to an astonished crowd. In Son Of God, Burnett/Downey Jesus goes into the tomb and kisses Lazarus on the head at which point Lazarus wakes up and exits the cave. Why not just stick to what really happened?
As we come to the last supper, we find Burnett/Downey Jesus doing an ad hoc communion service completely missing the point of this being a Passover meal and this portion of the meal was actually part of the Passover tradition. Also, for some uncanny reason, we see Judas present at the communion portion of the meal when scripture clearly states that Judas was sent out before Jesus broke the bread and passed out the wine. In the film we see Burnett/Downey Jesus shoving the bread into Judas' mouth and then sending him out, only to see Judas coughing up the bread and spitting it out in the street.
Next we come to the Garden of Gethsemane, where the Bible tells us that Peter, James and John accompany Jesus to pray. Not so for Burnett/Downey Jesus. We see Burnett/Downey Jesus surrounded by all his friends, including Mary Magdalene, who becomes very vociferous when the crowd comes to arrest Jesus. In the Son Of God, we see Peter getting roughed up by the mob and Burnett/Downey Jesus being led off with a hood over his head.
I was actually pleased with the depiction of the trials and crucifixion scenes. This was the only part of the film that even came close to moving me. While the flogging and actual crucifixion did not come close to the brutality shown in Mel Gibson's The Passion, it did evoke some emotion from me as I took the opportunity to thank God for loving me enough to endure such punishment on my behalf. I did find the actual death scene to be anti climatic. While Burnett/Downey Jesus died on the cross, we are shown the temple being rocked by an earthquake. The Gospel account tells us that the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. This is a very thick drape, according to the instructions God gave Moses concerning the curtain. In Son Of God, the curtain looks like a little shower curtain that simply falls to the ground during the shaking rather than the actual tearing from top to bottom.
The Roman Catholic mythology kicks into full swing after the resurrection of Burnett/Downey Jesus. First we see Mary Magdalene running to tell the disciples that Christ had risen. She focuses on Peter primarily, trying to convince him that Christ rose again. In reality, Mary tells the disciples and John and Peter take off running to the tomb together. Next we see Peter, back at the house where he is heading up a communion service, only to have Burnett/Downey Jesus show up and give his endorsement of Peter's new role as leader. This event is made up out of whole cloth to push the Peter as first Pope lie of the Roman church.
Mercifully, this film finally ends with John on the Island of Patmos giving an epilogue. As the movie ends, John finishes his narrative by stating Burnett/Downey Jesus left them to carry on his work with Peter as their leader. The book of Acts states that James the brother of Jesus was he head of the church in Jerusalem. Of course, this film could not include this fact because another bit of Roman Catholic mythology is that Mary was a virgin all of her life and never had any other children.
I would say that of all the movies depicting the life of Christ, this one is probably in the bottom three. Only the Last Temptation Of Christ and Monty Python's Life Of Brian are worse. This movie was void of any feeling or desire for historical accuracy. It had the feel of something that was slapped together by people who had a vague idea of who Christ was, but did not have any real relationship with Him. In my opinion, Burnett/Downey were more interested in selling movie tickets than presenting something of real spiritual value. This movie was a waste of time, if you want to see a decent portrayal of the life of Christ, I suggest you watch the Jesus film that came out in the 1980's.