As some of you might know, I have been looking forward to this movie and have been urging people to see it opening weekend. Now I have seen it, and it is time to face the question, was it worthy of my support and my movie money?
A LITTEL BIT ABOUT KEVIN REYNOLDS
I first discovered this film because I enjoy Kevin Reynolds as a director. His visual style is fantastic and for me, the visuals of a movie mean just as much as the story itself. Others might have different feelings on that, and that’s fine, but this is my review. If I had to make a list of directors that I actually get excited about simply see the visuals of a film, he would be on that list. Behind Ridley Scott and Mel Gibson of course, but he’s up there somewhere. So, for me, seeing Kevin Reynolds direct a movie about Christ I couldn’t help myself but get excited.
Let’s start with some of the negatives.
- This film has a little bit of a smaller budget than I think Kevin Reynolds is used to working with. (But let’s not fool ourselves here, it had a $20 million dollar budget. That’s still plenty f money to make a quality film.)
- The actor that played Pilate I felt was subpar and that was only made more apparent by the superb job of everyone else.
- I think they had a few missed opportunities to place a few “Easter eggs” in the film. For example, while checking other Hebrew graves trying to find if someone stashed the body of Jesus in another grave, I thought it would have been easy to have a report come in that they have found other graves empty. This would have been a small way of pointing to when the Bible talks about other righteous men raising from the dead.
Alright…. Well…. That’s really all I can think of right now. I mean, really…. I loved this film!
So let’s talk about the positives!
- Just as I expected, this film was visually beautiful. Many critics have said that the first half of the film was good but the second half really was lacking…. Well… I am sorry, I had a very different experience. The critic’s say that when Clavius saw Jesus alive, that was the moment the movie fell away… and I am here telling you, that is when Kevin Reynolds kicked it into high gear.
After Clavius searched for the body of Christ he finally closes in on them. He sees Mary Magdalene go into an upper room. Clavius, apart from the rest of his team crashes in. He sees Jesus and is so taken back he steps back outside. Visually, Kevin Reynolds told us something in that moment that some people might not have picked up on. Clavius is shrouded in light as he steps back out. He has walked in and seen Jesus, and now he has walked into the light! The understanding that something very different is going on here. It was the moment for me when I felt that Kevin Reynolds, as a directors said “OK, it’s on!” because from that moment on the movie was beautifully shot! That’s not to say it wasn’t beforehand, but it seems Reynolds kicked it up a notch.
- The acting was great! I mean, not Oscar great… but still very very good! Especially from Joseph Fiennes and Tom Felton! Bravo to both for outstanding performances!
- The depiction of the Disciples and their relationship with Jesus was very moving. I can’t remember a single other time I felt that the Disciples where portrayed as a family. With the comradery of brothers! Every scene the disciples were in as a group just made me smile, with the biggest smile coming when they see Jesus on the shore and run to him. One negative review from an audience member said the Disciples where just a bunch of laughing hyenas. Unfortunately this criticism must come from someone who has either been too influenced by previous depictions of bumbling humorless Disciples or does not recognize the humor bore out in scripture like John referring to himself as “The Disciple whom Jesus loved.”
- The musical score was really good! Roque Baños gave us music that simply enhanced our movie watching experience. I can promise you that I am not the only one who was impressed by Roque Baños because Ron Howard (Another fantastic director) hired him to write the score for In the Heart of the Sea. Because of how long ago this movie finished, I am only assuming that the score was already written by the time Howard was looking to score his film which came out before Risen.
I have read some criticisms of this movie from a few Christian’s saying that it is inaccurate to scripture. The problem I see, however, is that I saw virtually no “inaccuracies” I did see a few liberties. The only thing I can think of is the Doubting Thomas Scene, were Jesus is meeting with the disciples, Clavius comes in see Jesus, says nothing but collapses… then Thomas comes in. Yes, the Bible makes no mention of a Roman soldier being there, but it also doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened. That’s what makes this fiction. The inaccuracy comes when Thomas comes in… in the Bible, Thomas was already there when Jesus appeared.
Here in lies my frustration. We want to see Bible stories brought to life in a huge way with all the splendor of Hollywood just like the Golden Age of Hollywood when Charlton Heston appeared in Bible Stories. Yet, when Hollywood (or a member of its industry) gives us one, we nitpick. Think about this. Noah made Noah look like a crazy killer and gave us fantasy creatures like these Rock People. These are legitimate issues. Exodus made Moses look like a hallucinating head injury victim who hears from a “god” who speaks like a spoiled child. Another good criticism. Thomas enters at the wrong time in Risen…. Ummm…. This is where I’m out. I cannot defend your positions.
Let’s take another instance. The movie begins with a battle, the battle is against a band of rebels who hate Rome and want to cause an insurrection. We find out that this leader is Barabbas. When, in that scene, the end up killing him I was taken back. Why? Because I thought I was witnessing the arrest of Barabbas. However, When Clavius returns we find that the Crucifixion had already taken place. That means that Barabbas was already released and what the film would like us to imagine is that this man, whom many scholars peg as a “Revolutionary” had followers ready to rebel upon his release. The Bible does not say anything about Barabbas’ demise so we are free to do some speculation.
This type of speculation is not new to Biblical films. Go ahead and watch anyone of the great Biblical classic. Every single one of them has scriptural inaccuracies and liberties. Watch The Ten Commandments, The Greatest Story Ever Told, Ben-Hur, The Robe, all these films take liberties but we as Christians where not as cynical then as we are now. Some of us might have even grown up assuming that Pharaoh loved Moses as a son. We might have believed that was all Biblical only to find out later, with greater biblical study that we have been wrong. But therein lies the beauty! Just like the movies from the Golden Age of film, Risen was told in a way the lifts up Christianity and shines a light on the risen Savior. If there are people who come away with some sort of fractured view of Jesus from this respectful film, how would it be any different from the millions of people who find Christ after hearing horrible outright lies about who Jesus is or who Christians are? This movie provides a spring board into conversations that start from an extremely positive view instead of a negative view.
I loved this film. I think it is destined to become an Easter classic. Even the naysayers will calm down after a while. I am already planning on showing my congregation this film next year at Easter. Though I don’t think it is Kevin Reynolds at his best I don’t feel he let me down either. I can’t wait to see what his next film will be! I personally hope this film was a positive experience for him and gives him an appetite for more Biblical epics… if you need help Kevin, give me a call!
*******Don’t read this portion until after you see the film.*********
Personally, I think they missed one big twists that I was waiting for… but they never did. If I wrote this script I would have had a different ending.
At the end, when Clavius takes off his ring and says he is no longer the same guy, how could he be. I wanted him to say “I am no longer an enemy of God but rather a friend of God… I am no longer Clavius, I am Theophilus!”
Theophilus is most likely an officer of Rome, probably an officer of equestrian rank. Both the book of Luke and the book of Acts are addressed to Theophilus so that he can know these things to be true. Theophilus is used as this officers name, but interestingly enough Theophilus means “friend of God” it very well could have been an officer who changed his name at his conversion which did happen at times. I would have loved to think that Clavius’ investigation continued after the film but with a different intent. Instead of trying to disprove the rumor he continued his investigation to know more about this Christ whom he only knew for a few hours. That, to me would have been the best ending!… but… oh well…