Is this The One we have been seeking? The Christian pic that’s not superficially obvious or dumbed-down.
The previews and initial reviews were promising. It stared the serious Brit actor Joseph Fiennes and its production values looked impressive. But myself and three companions went this past weekend and our aggregate assessment was: “No, not so much.”
Risen examines the resurrection thru the eyes of a non-believer, Clavius, a Roman officer tasked by Pilate to oversee the crucifixion, and then when the body comes up missing assigned to conduct an investigation. The movie follows the cynical, hard-bitten Clavius’ trek from Mars-worshipper to a shattering encounter with the risen Christ. It might well have been titled The Passion of Clavius Tribunus or as some have suggested, CSI: Jerusalem.
The dialogue is uneven and clumsy to the point of being a distraction. It wavers between traditional Hollywood biblicalese (sounding like bad Shakespeare or Masterpiece Theater) and contemporary jargon: “What’s Up?” And Fiennes delivers his lines with a flat sullenness that suggests he was none too happy about having to recite them. It proves to me the wisdom in Mel Gibson scripting The Passion in Aramaic with subtitles. Risen could have risen well beyond trite-sounding in Latin and Aramaic. The crucifixion scene is almost as brutal as The Passion of the Christ and will be disturbing to some. The Apostles generally come across as buffoons dressed in rags and burnooses. I kept comparing it to The Passion and thinking Gibson would have made a better film. I could also see Gibson being a more creditable Pilate or perhaps even Clavius.
And yet there were things about the movie I liked. The cinematography was pretty good and the Roman legionnaire’s gear and fighting techniques had a gritty, authentic feel. Whereas, that’s not all that central to the story it impressed a history buff like me. I also like the way the director handled the final scenes at Galilee and the Ascension, and there seemed a few moments when Fiennes acting transcended the lousy script.
I hope the movie does well at the box office. It’s not a great movie but perhaps more a noble effort that should be rewarded. I hope believers go and form their own impressions.