Sunday, October 09, 2005

Day 9: The Passion of the Christ

For a non-Christian, watching The Passion of the Christ is a lot like watching a Star Trek movie when you’re not really familiar with the show. Sure, you might recognize some characters and thrill at some space battles, but ultimately, you’re left a little confused. What’s the big deal here? I certainly felt that way about The Passion of the Christ. It’s hard for me to write this without taking into account the vast success of the film or its place in the political landscape of the United States, but I’ll do my best.

Full disclosure: I made every attempt to engage with this film on its own level since, as a staunch atheist, I’m predisposed to disliking religious propaganda. Still, I feel safe in saying that this is not a good movie. Its biggest problem is the way it takes a spiritual subject and literalizes every damn thing to the point that any higher meaning or metaphysical implications are sublimated. It also gets several demerits for an egregious use of slow-motion throughout that is annoying at first (Judas is thrown thirty pieces of silver, struggles to catch it, drops the bag, and the coins go flying out, all in slow-mo… where’s the slow-motion “NOOOOO”, huh?) then tiring (as Jesus is being tortured, a figure meant to be the devil walks in slo-mo through the onlookers, gazing menacingly at him) then just silly (Jesus, tortured to the brink of death, falls down in slow motion! And again! And again! And again! And…). There’s a cool scene depicting Jesus saving Mary Magdalene, done silently and played with the right amount of action-movie gravitas from James Caviezel, and I enjoyed a couple of parts that had demons in it (though this is part of the literalization problem… Judas is literally chased by zombie-demon-children onto what looks like the set of Conan the Barbarian and then hangs himself. I suppose it’s hard for audiences to relate to guilt unless there are zombie-demon-children to indicate the character’s state of mind… but I digress) but, for the most part, this movie is full of cheap sentiment, and it’s plodding and dull, hitting the same notes over and over again.

I can’t write about this movie as its own entity, though. I got super-mad after watching this because I remembered The Last Temptation of Christ being a pretty awesome movie and that it couldn’t make any money because some jerks decided that depicting Jesus as having any sort-of sex at all, even if it was in a vision inspired by Satan, and even if the sex was, like, nice happy marriage sex, was a bad thing. What made me angry was that this movie, which was wildly popular with many of these same types of jerks, does exactly the same thing as The Last Temptation of Christ. Both movies focus on the humanness of Jesus to further explore the sacrifice the God-man made. In Scorsese’s version, it’s an emotional humanness fraught with sorrow, doubt, isolation, fear, and anger as a result of Jesus’ divinity. In Gibson’s version, it’s about the human physicality of Jesus, the pain of being whipped, scourged, and having your hands nailed to something. There’s a shameless use of Jesus’ mother (who’s named Mary) being sad that her son is in pain (at one time reminiscent of a scene in Dumbo (of all things)). And, of course, Jesus is in a constant state of pain, starting around 52 minutes into the film and we are given many close-ups of him wailing in agony (sometimes in slo-mo) as he’s beaten. All of this serves to emphasize Jesus’ humanity over his divinity. And yet, this fallible, frail humanity is acceptable while Scorsese’s is not? What the fuck people?

It’s actually pretty instructive to look at the endings of both movies: At the end of Last Temptation, Jesus, played by Willem Dafoe, is given a chance to renounce his crucifixion, a choice that has disastrous consequences for the world while allowing him to have a happy human life for a while. When he sees the consequences, Jesus takes that choice back and dies on the cross, allowing the world to live on at the expense of his own happy life. The Passion ends with God shedding a single raindrop tear for the death of his son, said tear resulting in an Indiana Jones-esque earthquake destroying the temple of the Pharisees (I think), and causing the devil-figure to scream at us, now isolated somewhere in hell (again, I think). The movie then cuts to Jesus rising from the dead, looking out of his tomb as action-movie music builds and builds. Jesus then stands, naked (though the movie never shows his junk, making it better for kids!) and walks off and the music kicks into overdrive like we’re watching Gladiator or something as it fades to black. It’s like Jesus is going to KICK SOME ASS on the people what tortured him!

At least with Scorsese and Dafoe, we had an idea of the life Jesus was actually sacrificing by allowing his fate to befall him. Here, we get flashbacks to Jesus making a table and saying ponderous things to his followers. There’s a Sermon on the Mount scene where Caviezel delivers his lines like a quirky dead-language-speaking high school professor. For a movie that so desperately wants us to empathize with the humanity of Jesus’ body, we are given little-to-nothing to see about Jesus’ mind and so the too, too solid flesh that melts away at the hands of gleeful of Romans is attached to nobody important. Of course you sympathize with Jesus on the same level you’d sympathize with anyone being crucified by a mob. In fact, I can make a direct cinematic parallel here: I felt as bad for Jesus as I did for the Brain Bug at the end of Starship Troopers.


Ikin said...

The end of Starship Troopers was some serious shit.

I'd follow that religion.

Ash Karreau said...

My favorite part was how all the good guys had good teeth, and all the bad guys had bad teeth. Because I wouldn't understand, otherwise.

Megan said...

Hey Dave, it's Megan Gants. Mark's little sister. Remember me? Haha. Just read your review, and I loved your Starship Troopers analogy. I felt VERY bad for the giant bug at the end of the movie, esp. when they shoved prodding things into it. Although the giant bug kind of grossed me out. Why is it so reminiscent of butt?

David Wester said...

Ash: the bad guys also snarled with those bad teeth. Did Jesus have bad teeth at the end?

David Wester said...

Megan: I remember. I don't remember the bug looking like butt, but I do remember Doogie Howzer saying "HE'S AFRAID!!!" and all the Nazis cheering and thinking to myself, oh shit, I've been kind of rooting for Nazis for 2 hours....

m i t s u k o said...

Oddly enough, this is the best (and most interesting) review of The Passion of the Christ that I've ever read... taken from an interesting perspective. Humerous, but still hitting some important issues about the film.

That part in the end of Starship Troopers was hella gross, though.

m i t s u k o said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scott said...

Wow…a very intriguing view.

I am one of those non-atheists that love the movie. Yeah, I’m sure it has it quirks from a technical and possibly even biblical standpoint. The reasons that I love the movie are various. I suppose the main reason is that I follow after the lead character “Jesus” with all my heart mind and soul. Having had conversations with atheists in the past I find that our opposing views are solidified I our minds. I respect your view although I disagree with it.

I disagree with it because I have seen something that you haven’t. I have witnessed and experienced the one true living God personally through his son Jesus Christ who lives in me in spirit.

Wow…that’s a hard one to swallow I bet huh?

I have however experienced Atheism through being one. It was easy but it was shallow and without substance. I of course wouldn’t say that yours is but I know that my life was. It was easy to bury my head in the sand and not look deeper into life’s secrets. There was just a hollowness that I couldn’t understand or explain. Anyway, I could go on with my story but I’ll save you the boredom accept to say this. The Holy Spirit brought me to the knowledge of who Jesus truly was some years back. My life has been and is being transformed on a daily basis. I only hope that you will see that Jesus, about whom you jest, is real and alive. He holds the keys to life and the living of it. He is the one I love and follow.

His Spirit shows himself to me daily in explained and reasonable ways. You may find this strange and unreasonable but the wind whispers his name as it blows through the trees and the bird sing of his glory. I hope you will one day experience what true love is all about. A love that was willing and died for you.

All the best,


David Wester said...

A lot of people think a lot of things about Hawaii.

Daniel said...

Nice intelligent review & comparison with TLTOC, neatly encapsulates most of my own reservations about the film with wit and insight. I thought you went easy on the music though. ;)

It was one of the most crass, lazy and manipulative scores I heard in 2004. The waily pseudo aramaic vocals and sledgehammer scoring and cues went hand in glove with the character of the movie. Perhaps only in the current western socio-political climate can we get a film about Jesus which has such a manipulative surfeit of guilt, bad music and violence, at the expense of genuine compassion and taste.

Anonymous said...

just wanted to say: this movie is stupid, religious crap. Who cares? just idiots and the people who go watch this type of shit.

tuckabuick said...

You're a silly cunt.

Sean said...

I respect that you took the time to comment on the "Passion". However, this movie had nothing in common with "The last temptation of Christ". First, Mel Gibson strived for historical accuracy when portraying the trials and death of Jesus Christ, whereas the "Temptation" was an unfounded attempt to further perpetuate the myths surrounding Jesus as a person who enjoyed premarital sex and fathered children.
He did not.
Second, I'll move away from that unto the next point-which is, some things are true whether you choose to believe them or not. As an atheist, I'll assume that you are the type of person who is very logical in his thinking and relies on anthropological and scientific proof to substantiate things. There is proof that people and places mentioned in the Bible exists. There is proof (albeit increasingly difficult to research, because of government stonewalling in allowing access to locations) that the remains of Noah's Ark exists. There are other proofs, but then proof to substantiate that which one believes has historically been provided, although scientific credibility can be questioned. But, that is where faith is involved. As one who has come to faith, I can relate to you...I spent 35 years as a non-believer. Now I am one who knows that Jesus did sacrifice his life to save mine...and yours...on the Cross, as the salvation of sin on Earth. When one accepts Christ, life is different. I continue to count on that grace that the Lord Jesus sent to us. That grace is yours to have also. As an atheist, I would say that it is no different that how anyone may reject that which they know little or nothing about. I would say that before you make up your mind about it, that you should more closely examine the Scriptures and perhaps seek out someone who knows Scripture well, so that they may help you discover the parallels between the Old and New Testaments. Understanding these was crucial to me in uncovering the truths of the Scriptures, and provides the proof.
Understanding God is a lot like trying to understand the birth of the universe. By what processes did it occur? What timelines? What was there already? Science cannot answer these questions. It is no coincidence that science has adopted a name for the base particle that all others have spawned...the "God particle". If you don't believe me, research it.
Anyway, the "Passion of the Christ" was a dramatic representation of the events surrounding the death of Jesus, and the slo-mo footage was used to accentuate particularly important events...such as Judas accepting the payment in gold. Read the Bible, and you know that Jesus fortold that Judas would betray Him...which Judas did not understand, and went on to do.
Lastly, Jesus' death wasn't meant to stop our sins from occurring, it was meant to be the remission and forgiveness of sin that it remains today. Christians who say that they don't sin are liars. Christians who know Christ and attempt to live in Christ know that sin is a constant in life as we exist, as it has been since the original sin took place. This original sin was the reason for the redemption. Not that Jesus' sacrifice would somehow return humankind to pre-garden innocence, but to provide those who believe in Christ as their savior a spiritual "out". Thise who believe recognize sin for what it is and ask forgiveness, those who do not believe don't care because they don't understand the price of their sins without redemption. I will hope that enlightenment comes to you. Life will be different for you when it does, if that is God's will.

Anonymous said...

John 3:16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

David Wester said...

Genesis 19:36 "Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father."

Anonymous said...

Hear me now and believe me later: I had sex with a couple who went to the theatre to see this movie.

I have not seen it yet.

DB said...

I could never bring myself to watch "The Passion of the Christ", but for an intelligent and well-made biblical epic, you should check out "King of Kings" by Nicholas Ray. Besides "last Temptation of Christ", it is probably the only biblical film that is not awash in prosyletizing and sentimentality. Come to think of it, you should check out everything by Nick Ray -- especially "In a Lonely Place". I came across your blog -- it is a very neat idea well executed, although you clearly stole the general concept from me. For shame. If you're interested, the address is

Swedish Girl said...

Hey, I really liked your review - which I actually read, as opposed to Timekeeper... Why start with "however, Passion of the Christ has nothing in common with The Last Temptation of Christ", when most of your review was to underline the differences between the two? And of course it's legitimate to do so - they deal with the same subject matter. Hey, Timekeeper, your post was just a knee-jerk response to an atheist... instead of replying to what he actually said, you just replied to your own preconceptions of what he said!

Anonymous said...

..Why mock something you don't understand?
I'm wondering; what do you actually know about Jesus? Is it something you're certian of or just a feeling/belief?
Why not read what Jesus himself said he is instead of watching it second hand through Gibson's opinion... Jesus had plenty to say about that in the Bible.
And one more thing: would you chose to ridicule a movie about Islam as freely as you did this movie? Or is it just Christianity you don't particularly like...?
Sorry for all the questions.

Swedish Girl said...

Yikes, I'm back.

To the latest post: But surely it is you who have misunderstood?

The review doesn't mock the Bible or Jesus. It reviews a film by Mel Gibson.

Six said...

To "the timekeeper", He's not criticizing Jesus, he's criticizing the movie. Sheeesh! When you religious zealots (not to be confused with actual, God-fearing Christians) start speechifying, it makes me get real sleepy. So much so, in fact, I usually fall asleep in their presence, while they're in mid-sentence. Besides, how can you say that "The Last Temptation of Christ" has nothing to do with "The Passion of the Christ"??? They're both movies that deal with the crucifixion of Christ! Just close your eyes and pretend that what you don't wanna see isn't really there, is that the logic? How's that been working for you so far?

David Wester said...

To DB: I knew when I started this that it wouldn't be the only movie a day blog out there, but, truthfully, I never saw your blog. I'll be sure to check yours out.

katehopeeden said...

I haven't seen this movie yet. Mostly because I am Agnostic and wasn't sure if I would care about it one way or the other and also because of the insane following it got. People just dug the shit out of it. Everyone was buying all those little nail things and they kept it in the theaters forever...
Anyway, nice review, nice site :)

John said...

Hi David.
Enjoyed your review and I read it as if I were
reading an opinion, with supporting information,
about a movie, a fabrication, someone's creation.

I've also read several responses to your review
and I read them likewise.

So, disagreeing with both sides, here's 2 more
cents from a former atheist....

God and I have an agreement.
He doesn't tell me how I should
live my life, and I don't tell him
how he should run the universe.

I don't need a gods approval, a presidents
approval, a committees approval, my "fathers"
approval (no matter how you cloak him) or
anyones approval, of my actions, only mine.
I know the difference between right
and wrong. I have a mind to help me sort out
the hype from the reality. I have the will to
use that mind, in trying always to do right.
'Guilt' tells me if I fail in that endeavor.

I am a humam being, and with ALL that that implies.
I am not a god and have no aspirations to become
one. I prefer living in this world and not some
'perfect' existence in a 'perfect' nebeulai of
imagined harmony, goodness and endless buffets.
I enjoy my humaness, I enjoy the variety of
people and opinions of this planet and I enjoy
this planet and this universe.

I wish all of you success as you each seek out
your destinys and I hope each of you will
allow others, no matter how extreme they may
appear, to have an opposing view, just
as you expect everyone to allow you to have

And, I leave you with one thought:
"The answer is in the question."


Anonymous said...

For by grace are we saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God not of works lest any man should boast ( or brag). Ephesians 2: 8 - 9

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever ( this could be you) that believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Jesus came to fulfill a promise set for in the Old Testament or Torah that stated that a messiah wuld come to take away the sins of the world and Jesus was that Messiah. The Passion is a wonderful movie in that it gives a very good depiction of the brutality that Jesus endured on our behalf. Only someone who truly understands the sacrifice that Jesus made will truly understand this movie.

You have to admit that you are a sinner in need of a savior, because we have all sinned. Place your trust in the One ( Jesus ) who died for you and did for you to accept for free.

I am saved from sin and death and eternal separation from God.

If what I am telling you is wrong I have nothing to lose. But if it is true and Jesus is who He claimed to be don't you have a lot to lose if you do not accept His free gift of eternal life ,think about it?

Corajitos said...

it a bad movie? i dont care, moves people around the world, makes money and make your blog quite an adventure to see all the comments...

bad movie is a movie that doesnt make a reflexion, moves a point of view...
this movie... made the people talk, dissagree, think more, think less, die for this movie, start living...
u have to give to Mr. Gibson a credit for this.

P.s. sorry for the spelling, i am very bad to write english

Joses said...

I am a christian. For many people who believe that Jesus was the son of God I think that the passion provided an intense depiction of the sever pain that Jesus suffered through the crucifixion. For a lot of people that don't believe itwas more like a snuff film. The use of slow motion shots was definatly over done. I can forgive some of the overuse do to the fact that they were trying to vividly present a long period of suffering, so instead of just showing constant real time beatings for two hours the put some slow mo shots in and emphasised some of the more gruesome details for intensity. The emotional impact that this movie had on a great number of people christian and non-christian is undeniable. Personally I didn't like the movie. Although I felt strong emotions watching this movie (either because I feel connect to Jesus, or because It would make me sad to watch a giant bug be attacked and killed)I think that it was a poorly made movie. It wasn't hisorically accurate, it was written based on Gibson's fathers feelings of what parts of history were important. The rest was meant to evoke emotion. My personal peeve...Crucifixion nails are not driven through the weak tissue of the hands, they are put proximally to the wrists in the forearm, between the radius and the ulna, causeing the entire weight of the body to be placed directly on the median nerve, far more stable and far more painful. Instead the movie stayed with the incorrect placement for some false representational purpose. If the movie was meant to focus on the pain of the crucifixion I think it severd a good part of it's purpose, but if this movie was meant to inspire watchers to do anything other than to avoid allowing romans to crucify you it failed. Your critisism of the film is biased as is anyone's, but not undeserved.

David Wester said...

To a couple of people: Pascal's Wager makes the Baby Zeus cry.

Sean said...

I never said he criticized Jesus. What I was saying is that one should not be so quick to dismiss that which he hasn't even tried to grasp. Such is the way with most atheists. The difference between the "Temptation" and the "Passion" is the way that they were presented. One was striving to demonstrate the torture that Jesus went through, and to what end, and the other chose to focus on what a lecher the savior was and honed in on unfounded rumors like that surrounding Mary Magdelene.
The "Passion" was the movie that longed to visualize the sacrifice that Jesus made on behalf of humanity...the "Temptation" chose to belittle it. Therein lies the difference.
And a zealot I am not. I am simply one who has accepted Christ and am by no means perfect. None of us are. The Bible tells us that.

David Wester said...

Timekeeper: Have you seen Last Temptation? Jesus did not act like a lecher in it. He had feelings for Mary Mag. and, yes, some of them were sexual. But was he lecherous? Hardly.

Anyway, my point remains, both films are interested in humanizing Jesus so that we empathise with his sacrifice. One is focusing solely on the physical pain the human aspect of Jesus goes through to die for you and me. The other focuses on the emotional pain. When I saw Last Temptation, I thought Jesus was strong and brave because he actually had something to give up. I, as an atheist, actually understood what it means to Christians when they say "he died for us." When I saw The Passion, I just felt sorry for him.

I am dismissing the movie, The Passion of the Christ, yes. I think it fails as a movie. I did try to grasp it as I state in my review. I am not dismissing your beliefs. If the movie works for you, then I am happy for you.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your honesty but don't agree with your conclusions.

Roxanne said...

Good review dude. Solid.

People think about that movie way too much. It's a movie. It's a movie with a lot of blood in it, some weird demon shit going on, and an important point for Christians that Mel actually makes a pass at portraying. Hating the movie doesn't make you an atheist. It doesn't even make you a bad Catholic/Christian!! I hate the movie. I think it's a load of crap with too much gore, too much slow motion, a crap soundtrack and an overacheiving director. However, I'll still be going to Mass this Sunday because IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR RELIGIOUS VIEWS.

Also - what's with the random bible quoting?!

demarks84 said...

So sorry you believe you are an atheist. Actually God doesn't beleive in atheists. An athiest says, "I know there is no God!" You would have to know everything to come to that conclusion. Since you can't, you can only be an agnostic--saying,"No one can know if there is a God." But that is not true either because there are people who do seem to know the real God. The Bible says, "The fool has said in heart, There is no God." Every April First you can celebrate the fact that you are an atheist. But there is no consolation in being a person who has cut himself off from the creator of the universe. I pray that you will come to see Him for who He is. My prayers are with you.

cady said...

Has anyone else noticed that the religious-propoganda-types are leaving these long-winded, weepy, overly dramatic posts that don't actually say anything of substance, while the non-religious agenda-types and articulate and to the point?

(please instert your own appropriate substance-over-style truism here)

Shane said...

demarks84, you have overlooked another type besides "atheist" and "agnostic". I am an apathetic: there might be a God, but I really don't care.

Enough about Jesus, okay? I don't like to gossip about people I've never met.

David Wester said...

Yeah, let me go ahead and make a plea that those interested in helping me know Jesus, go ahead and email me rather than post here. It'll be better for all of us. If you must post about Jesus, please make a feeble attempt to tie it into the movie. Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

In all these comments I've read, no one, including the writer of the critique, makes one singel comment about how totally absurd it is to have a human being even attempt to portray a Messenger of God. Hello? Is anyone home? So, David can get away with it because, since he does not believe in God, he does not believe in God's Teachers. However, those of you who are criticizing his commentary overlook an important fact: Jesus was, according to Christain teachings, the Son Of God. Far above the ability of any solely human mind to grasp--which is one factor the film also overlooks! Christ weeping and wailing and gnashing His teeth during torture session? Study the lives of the True martyrs of religion--they smiled, sang, danced, changed praise, etc. They did not weep, wail, gnash teeth. They were in ecstacy for what they were doing. Geez, people, think about it. Anyway, back to the point of this message: Was Mr. Gibson inspired by God to pick this particular actor to portray the Son of God? Ummm, probably not. He was probably more inspired by the money he'd make. Sorry, Mel. It seems absurd to me that not one of you "Christians" who revere Christ so highly, put so much faith in Him, that you don't have a jot of shame that you paid to see a human man portray someone so much more exalted than you or I will ever be. Any movie that portrays the life/times of a Manifestation of God should never dipict that Personage by use of an actor. There was a movie made many years ago about Mohammed that was very well done and never once used a human being to portray Him. Maybe we should all take a lesson from that. Mohammed: Messenger of God I think was the title. Check it out.

David Wester said...

That is interesting. I did notice a couple of times in the movie that there were camera angles that could be interpreted as putting the viewer in the place of God. I think Jesus was crying out to God and the camera was above him, looking down, and Jesus was looking directly at the camera. I had a thought that this was rather blasphemous, if one really believed. (Not to mention manipulative)

David Wester said...

"Study the lives of the True martyrs of religion--they smiled, sang, danced, changed praise, etc. They did not weep, wail, gnash teeth. They were in ecstacy for what they were doing. " This also makes me smile because by this criteria, Rasputin, in the movie I reviewed yesterday, was more like a martyr than Jesus in The Passion. But then, really, I don't think you can discount a martyr for how they act. A martyr's a martyr.

Alan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Adrian Martinez said...

I loved this movie. why? because as a Christian, not the kind that goes to church to feel good but the kind that will die for it and knows God on a personal level and He knows me. This movie showed a lot of people what Christ went through, and why did he go through it, for all of us. God gave us the sacrifice of His only Son, to die the way He did, so that if we as sinful humans are willing to accept His sacrifice and give our lives to God, changing everything, then we may be SAVED. Saved from a pointless life on earth, and from Hell among other things. I want so bad for all of you to know the love that God has for you, it has changed my life, and it can will do the same for you. Great comment Scott.
With the love of Christ,
Adrian Martinez

Indigo Red said...

I, too, am an atheist. I use the term even thogh it really doesn't fit, but like O.J.'s glove, that's life.

I believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Risen Christ, the Savior of all humanity. I believe the Tortoise raced the Hare and Icarus flew too close to the sun whereupon his wax wings melted.

I beleive because that is the story. But, believing the events within the story or the moral of the story does not make the story itself true. There is a town in England called Nottingham. That does not make Robin Hood, ipso facto, real. Noah's Arc, the Walls of Jericho, ancient fishing boats in the Galilee, Turin Shrouds, pieces of the True Cross, reliqueries and skeletons up the kazoo ARE NOT evidence that Jesus is an actual God or Son of same, or that Jesus ever really existed. None of it offers any evidence whatsoever of anything outside of the existance of that particular thing or place. And those here who push for this evidence miss the point of THE MESSAGE OF LOVE, FORGIVENESS, AND ACCEPTANCE that the story of Jesus brings to life.

"The Passion of Christ" was an interesting and well meaning film for the Aramaic language alone, spoken throughout. Since I am very familiar with the Christian mythos, I could follow the plot as well as anyone who knew the story. It was interesting to see the conservative Catholic dark version counter to the upbeat Protestant version with which I am more familiar.

The slo-mo was tedious at times, but was a great time saver in the torture department. If that's what the man had to endure to save my soul, then there ought to be a God for the sake of Jesus alone. The music was just mind-numbingly painful.

I have also seen "The Last Temptation of Christ". Another well meaning film, but based more in controversial conspiracy theory than accepted Gospel.

Frankly, if asked to recommend "Passion" or "Last Temptation" as the story of Jesus Christ to see, I would have to choose "Life of Brian".

joon said...

yo db,

you've got to be kidding me. you claim that david "clearly stole the general concept from me." come on now. i checked out your blog and see that it's been out there for all of 3 months. do you really think this is an original concept never before conceived prior to your blog? well maybe you do since you have the nerve to subtitle your blog "The Last Sane Blog in America."

yeah whatever. you must think of yourself more highly than you should. frankly, there's hardly any idea that's truly original these days. anyway, you did get one thing right ... this blog is indeed "well executed."

well, actually, maybe i'm getting ahead of myself. this is the first post i read so everything else could suck, but i doubt it--unless david was divinely inspired by God on this one piece and writing out of his mind. but if that were the case, then God probably would have inspired a more favorable review. anyway, i look forward to reading more of david's stuff.

orfeo said...

Hey, great blog!

I'm a Christian (insert assumed bias here).

Thank you for your fine review.
I've never seen this movie in full. And I don't want to. Because what I saw was pretty poor, frankly. Your review has only confirmed most of the impressions I obtained - that it was obsessed with the suffering of Christ without really giving anyone a reason to care about that suffering if they didn't care already.

(Delete assumed bias. Why is it that so many of my fellow Christians are completely unable to separate artistic values from moral ones?)

Incidentally, I've only seen half of TLTOC as well. A bunch of us hired it on video years ago, and turned it off because we were, quite simply, bored witless. Except for the temptation in the desert, that was kind of interesting.

Natasha said...

Your blog certainly made me sit up and take notice. Not just because of some of the points you made, but also because of the numerous posts that followed. I would not say that I hated the movie personally. As a Muslim, I thought it projected an interesting point of view, especially since I was not entirely familiar with the events leading up to the crucifixion. I thought what was interesting was the every religion it is the same. A messiah came who challenged conventional ideas, and was persecuted for it.

I would like to add that someone mentioned a film based on the life of the prophet Mohammed, being portrayed with no actor being shown. THe reason behind this is not cinematic value, but the fact that Islam forbids the portrayal of the Prophet. This is avoid people from making comparisons, from drawing likenesses which might ultimately lead (maybe not now, maybe a century down the road or more) to worship someone other that the One God.

Also, so many of you raise the point of Jesus' humanization. The portrayal of the pain he suffered and so on. And yet none of you question how as a Son of God and being able to perform miracles, he could not ward of his own pain. That at the end he cries out to the Lord. Sorry if I offend anyone, but I am just curious...

Of course, very possibly my point of view is biased. Since I am Muslim and I have always believed that Jesus was a messenger, a man chosen by God...I never questioned that he might be the Son of God. However, what little I do know points to the contrary. It was not Jesus the messenger sacrificed on the cross!!

Anonymous said...

you'll understand the movie better as you burn in hell...

Anonymous said...

Wow, those are some fascinating comments. As for me, I'm an agnostic and I have no more interest in seeing this movie than in seeing Tom Cruise's eventual $150 million L. Ron Hubbard biopic. I think Christians who get all fed up at people for criticizing the movie are failing to realize that none of us actually tried to stop the film from getting made or released into theaters, even though they try to do that with non-Christian-friendly movies all the time. I don't think anyone questions Mel Gibson's right to do the movie the way he wanted to -- hey, it was his money and his prerogative. But once it's out there, it's fair game.

And in response to one comment a while back, I'd say that using the Old Testament to prove that the New Testament is factually true is a little bit like using Star Wars to prove that Empire Strikes Back is factually true.

Matt said...

I find this post encouraging and heart-warming:

"Anonymous said...
you'll understand the movie better as you burn in hell..."

What a delight! This is the sort of warm welcome more christians should learn how to provide.
Good show, anonymous!
And, hey there, fella, why so anonymous? If I made a comment like that I think I'd be awfully proud of i think of it I guess that would be pretty vain.
Me and my vanity!
I'm such a goofy sinner.
I guess thats the difference between you and me, anonymous. And little differences like that make good christians.
Am I going to Hell?
if so, about what should I think while I'm in hell?
I have to go and call my priest..."Father, I found a great new way of expanding the flock..."
Thanks for your courage and wisom, anonymous.

Indigo Red said...


"...none of you question how as a Son of God and being able to perform miracles, he could not ward of his own pain. That at the end he cries out to the Lord. Sorry if I offend anyone, but I am just curious..."

As stated above, I am an atheist, so my position is also biased. However, I accept the stories as recited while reserving the truth for what can be proven with facts rather than believed on faith alone. Because of that, I take no offense at your curiosity.

The suffering of Christ on the cross was the very purpose of the story of Christ. Through living as a human, sufferring as a human, and experiancing death as a human, God, in the flesh of a human came to know the situation into which he had placed His creation.

The crucifixion had been prophesied from early Hebrew days. Christians believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophosies. The prophesies tend to be very nebulous and can be interpreted in many ways and were applied to many individuals. Jesus was not the only "messiah" wandering around the Holy Land at the time. But he did have better family, business, and social connections.

Had Jesus warded off the suffering, smiting his tormentors, laying waste to the Pharasees financial empire, it would have been a reputiation of his message of love and personal redemption through sacrifice. Jesus could have done just as you suggest because He had been offerred the use of 12 legions of Angels by His Father, the Lord God Almighty, and led by the Archangel Michael. But, Jesus turned Him down, recognizing the need to fulfill the prophecies of His own death. However, Jesus escaped the grip of eternal Death when he defeated Death after three days, ascending to heaven as the Risen Christ. By His death, Christians are saved from eternal death and given eternal life in the KIngdom of Heaven.

The version told by Muhammad, has Jesus escaping the final punishment on the cross, replacing Him with a common criminal. This, as you can see, effectively negates the basis of Christianity. In Muhammad's day Christianity was a direct competitor to Islam for the hearts and minds of the various peoples of the area.

Now, here is part of my bias: the God of the Christians and the Al'lah of the Muslims are not the same guy. They have completely different origins. The origin mythololgy of both gods are worlds apart. And because both are of differing origins and monotheim ordains only one god, then one or both must be non-existant. Existance of any god is unprovable by fact so I do not subscribe to either. The stories stand on their own with as much power and moral suasion as they have always had.

This is a fine blog and I offer my apologies to our host for horning in big time with my own thoughts.

Natasha said...

Indigo Red,

"The suffering of Christ on the cross was the very purpose of the story of Christ. Through living as a human, sufferring as a human, and experiancing death as a human, God, in the flesh of a human came to know the situation into which he had placed His creation."

Sorry but does this not contradict the notion that God is definition He is aware of all that is...Why would he need someone in human form?

"the God of the Christians and the Al'lah of the Muslims are not the same guy. They have completely different origins. The origin mythololgy of both gods are worlds apart. And because both are of differing origins and monotheim ordains only one god, then one or both must be non-existant."

I beg to disagree. Both religions share many of the same fundamental values. The Holy Books in Judaism, Christianity and Islam come from the same base, of that there is no doubt. And of course at the time of the advent of Islam, Christianity was a direct competitor. And yet it was not criticized as a faith. In fact, during Muhammad's (PBUH) lifetime, it was repeatedly stressed that Christians were of the same origin. Just as he was a Prophet, so had Jesus been one of the Prophets. It was stated that over time, the religion had gotten distorted through numerous interpretations (just as Islam is today by extremists and extreme fundamentalists). Also, both Jews and Christians coexisted with Muslims, and practised their own religion. The only difference being that they had to pay Jizyah (a special tax), since Zakat (which is Muslim taxation based on personal wealth) was not mandatory for them.

Anyway, thank you for your reply. And Matt, thank you for your hilarious response to Anonymous.

To Anonymous...I cannot assume that I will not go to Hell, nor can I say that you will. But I must remember to pray to God, and ask Him that in His Almighty Mercy, when and if I am burning in Hell, and the skin is peeling off my body and I am in the throes of the worst anguish ask if He could please enlighten me as to what Mr. Mel Gibson's movie was REALLY all about!!! Rest assured, if I do discover this, I will share the same with you.

Mike Page said...

Wow, I am a Christian, but all that aside, this was a great movie. Come on!!! You're telling me the whole Pilate scene wasn't great. That was a phenomanel portrayal of the character of Pilate. I thought Mother Mary's part was great too (her acting was great) the flashbacks to when Jesus was a boy, in his workshop, etc. It was a tremendous movie.

It wasn't one of the greatest grossing of all time because it was simply religious. It was well acted, well made, moving. You can barely move when it ends. The opening scene in the garden when he's praying and satan's there tempting him. And how the foot comes down on the snake (there's a Biblical reference there, if you research it the movie's full of them, including the "Conan" looking suicide with the decaying donkey).

It puts any other Jesus movie to shame simply because it's so real. No stoic, pasty white northern European Jesus, he was at least Jewish looking (I know Cavesial (sp?) isn't exactly Eastern, but the get up took that out of the picture).

Also, you commented on how the movie doesn't really reference the son of God part. Tough thing is, when you make a Jesus movie, people will either say it doesn't have enough of the son of God part, or it doesn't have the human part. I think Gibson deliberately took a human point of approach, really getting after the pain (not just physical) to make a spiritual application.

I'd say check it out again. I've only seen it once, and hope to see it again, but once was enough. A great, powerful movie.

Roxanne said...

I told myself I wouldn't indulge myself by coming back to read more of these comments. But I did. And I'll say this.

Anonymous - perhaps YOU'LL burn in hell for sitting in judgement on fellow human beings. Doesn't the bible say something about not judging others?

Read it again, pal. You skipped a few pages.

And Matt - high five! You make a good argument there...

Not wanting to turn this into a personal attack on Anonymous though, so I will also add - someone mentioned The Life of Brian above. Genius movie. Absolutely genius!!

Bryan said...

Regarding Timekeeper's comment above:

Please come back to the freethinking side. Please. They have you brainwashed over there.

Anonymous said...

Regarding all the Christians' comments, how do you know that The Bible wasn't a ploy by God to make you believe in him? What proof is there he isn't bad?

Don't give me that "divine feeling" crap either.

Kerrie and Brad Turton said...

In a later blog entry you ask if anyone has any ideas on what would make a good theme week for your film reviews. You have to do the religious movie theme. You could start with Jesus Christ Superstar. Great movie. Maybe a bit dated but a great musical.

And to all the Christian, zealot, bible thumpin', born agains out there, Jesus Christ Superstar stops just before the crucifixion. The cast just gets on a bus in a hippy, happenin' sort of way. So you don't have to get all high and mighty about mere mortals portraying the Lord and Saviour on the cross. You might not like the pot smoking though. Joking.

Love the Blog btw. Entertaining comments.

Jeff Pidgeon said...

Great reviews! Very thoughtful and funny. I've been writing reviews on my blog too, but after reading yours, I think I need to work a little harder. Or maybe a LOT harder. Keep up the good work!

Adrian Martinez said...

It is impossible to prove the existance of God, otherwise He wouldnt require faith in Him. I dont know if God is real, I just belive it so much that I would die for it. And Jesus' 12 disciples... well if anyone was going to fabricate the Bible, it would probably be them, I mean, many of them wrote it. And out of those 12, 11 were killed, all at seperate times no less. I was stubborn to believe, but I saw that God is greater than anything else a life without Him can provide.