Quick Critique: The Passion of the Christ

Watched The Passion of the Christ for the first time tonight.  I’ve always felt I should see it, as a good little atheist, but I didn’t want to pay for it and never got around to ordering it from the library.

Ten years out, there’s not much (if anything) I can say about the hugely controversial movie that hasn’t already been said:

Yes, it is bloody.  Really extraordinarily so.  Like, the bloodiest movie you can think of, the one you would never show a kid?  (Robocop, of course, comes trippingly to mind.  And now I really want to watch Robocop.)  Yeah, Passion is way bloodier.

So, as if we didn’t know, Mel Gibson wants to make sure we get it: being beaten and scourged and crucified would suck.  A lot.

It’s really gross.  And I have a pretty strong stomach, so that’s saying a lot.

Gibson also proves himself a fan of slo-mo.  As in, the guard will sloooowly rear back, and sloooowly whack Jesus with a stick, and the blood droplets will sloooowly fly away from Jesus’ back.  It’s all filmed very lovingly.

Meanwhile, the Evil Jews sloooowly watch the whole thing, while Androgynous Satan sloooowly wanders around amongst the Jews.  Just so we get how evil they all are.

So yes, the movie is just as anti-Semitic as you’ve heard.

It’s also quite homophobic.  I’ve mentioned in the past that the Left Behind series surprised me by being even more anti-Catholic than anti-atheist.  And Passion surprised me in a similar way—I mean, I had heard about the anti-Semitism and expected it.  I hadn’t heard about homophobia, but…well, if you are inclined to watch this movie, pay attention to the Herod scene (it’s hard not to do so).  You’ll see what I mean.

I suppose one cannot expect much surprise from such a well-known story, but I just could not connect with the characters (the one exception being Judas, for the few minutes he was onscreen).  The reaction I had was visceral, not emotional.  As in, yes, it is awful that this guy is going through all that pain.  But it would be awful for anyone.  I felt just as bad for the two thieves (we didn’t see them actually being staked, but they were).  I winced several times—the weird whip-with-barbs thing would catch on Jesus’ back, I would wince.  They staked his hand, I winced.  But (I don’t know how else to put this, though I know I’ll sound like a jerk), I didn’t care.  That is, I didn’t care about the character Jesus, being unjustly tormented.  I cared because holy crap, ouch, I can hardly believe that anyone could do this to another person.

It takes forever for Jesus to get out of the city.  Which I guess it would, but this is the part where I really started to get bored.  Jesus walks…and walks…and people are generally jerks…and some dickweed kicks Jesus, and Jesus sloooowly goes ass over teakettle.  Why this in slow motion, Mel Gibson?  Like it wasn’t enough that the poor dude’s back was ripped to shreds, now some dickweed makes him trip?

Anyway, as we all know, some random from the crowd is dragooned to help carry the cross.  Initially reluctant (who wouldn’t be?), he ends up doing it in pretty good humor, all things considered.

I kid, but the guy has one of the few emotionally-resonant lines in the whole movie.  As they get out of the city gates, he helps Jesus up (again) and says, “we’re almost there.”  It’s pretty sweet, actually.  Like, I’m not sure this can be seen as good news (c wut I did thar), but at least he’s trying to be comforting.  He’s a nice guy.

The actual staking to the cross was a bit anti-climatic after the beating Jesus got, although, as I mentioned above, the first stake through the hand was a wince-inducer.

Oh, and one other bit stood out—although most of the gore effects were good to excellent, the spear-in-Jesus’-side one was laughably bad.  As in, I actually laughed.

I also laughed out loud when God’s tear caused an earthquake.

As if there was doubt, I am totally going to Hell.

A few other observations:

We only really see three of the disciples: Judas, Peter, and James.  I liked the actor who played Peter.  He portrayed Peter much as I’ve always seen him—as a big, whiny, self-important baby.

Judas was pretty cool, too.  I wish the whole movie was about him.  I also thought he was kinda cute.

Speaking of which, James is an absolute hottie.  Unfortunately, he seems, at most, mildly put out by the whole situation.

Mary Magdalene was gorgeous.  I can see why Jesus was into her.

The one vaguely interesting bit was the aside about the origin of the Shroud of Turin (fake though it is).

Anyway, just a quick pre-Easter mini-critique, as I just saw this on TV, and thus have no means to watch it slowly and multiple times, the way I usually do.  Have you guys seen Passion?  What did you think?

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Posted on April 13, 2014, in Movies, The Passion of the Christ. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Haven’t seen it; I was kind of un-sold on it by the concept. Whether it was well or badly done, it clearly wasn’t going to be a film that had anything to say to me. That’s very much for the reasons you state: it’s horrible that this stuff should happen to anyone, but horrible suffering does not make a person special.

  2. Haven’t seen it despite all the opportunities to do so. I have almost no tolerance for blood and gore, though.

  3. Also have not seen it – everything I heard about it said it was essentially 2 hours of watching a dude get slowly tortured to death, with no plot or anything to make it worthwhile.

  4. If I wanna get in the easter sprirt, I’ll go watch Jesus Christ Superstar.

  5. That Other Jean

    I haven’t seen it, since I have no real interest in blood and torture, and I’m not Christian. I have always figured, though, that Judas and Jesus had what they were going to do figured out beforehand. After all, if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus, the crucifixion that Christianity depends on wouldn’t have happened. I can’t help thinking that Judas got a bad rap.

    • After all, if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus, the crucifixion that Christianity depends on wouldn’t have happened.

      There’s definitely theological debate on that topic. I’m not certain whether it ever reached the point of heresy, and I think the general consensus is selfish/evil Judas, but it’s a fairly old idea that he was either in on it or compelled into performing the betrayal.

  6. Um. I think I’ll just watch Rise of the Guardians for Easter again. Plenty of death and resurrection in that already, and no blood!

  7. Haven’t seen it, and I’m not really interested in seeing it anytime soon. I think I’ll watch the Ten Commandments (with Charlton Heston) like I usually do around Easter.

  8. total non sequitur but check out Six: The Mark Unleashed 2004. pretty good in my book

  9. I saw it in theatres when it first came out because Campus Crusaders (or SOME religious group on campus) finagled an insane deal for ticket prices plus provided free transportation. Very, very gory — and yet I honestly think “O” (that modern version of Othello made like 15 years ago) may possibly have been gorier. I’m not in any hurry to re-view either of these movies for comparison, though.

    I don’t think you sound like a jerk for not caring that it was *Jesus* being tortured. I got what you meant. It was the identity of the person being tortured that was horrible for you — it was that it was a PERSON being tortured. (Which, if you think about it, could conceivably be a more compassionate approach.)

    Pilate’s wife crying and offering those white cloths has stuck with me after ten years. Her sympathy and pain, and trying to offer just a little comfort was beautiful if ridiculously fictional.

  10. Mouse here, and I agree with everyone’s assessment. If Gibson wanted to use this as a means of evangelizing, he really missed. Let’s for a second assume that you are an alien or somebody with no idea who Christ was and why he matters. Well, Passion isn’t going to help you much; all they’d see is some guy getting beaten; they’d have only the vaguest of notions why.

    My recommendation, if you want a good movie about Jesus, is see The Last Temptation of Christ. It has been the subject of controversy, especially when it first came out, but it’s actually a deeply reverent film. It has great respect for Christ and who he was.

  11. I saw the movie when I was deep in christianity and found it very moving. Later I saw Julia Sweeney’s one woman show where she talks about the long slow death of her brother and then describes Jesus as having “a bad weekend for your sins”. I realized she was right. As bloody as the scenes of Jesus torture in the film are its nothing compared to what actual people have done to other actual people.

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