Yes I’m reviewing a religious movie. Want the quick version? Quite good, especially compared to a lot of recent religious fare. Not the ending I would have picked, but an ending the movie earned. My 2nd fave faith film after Book of Eli. Suitable for families with older children, avoid if your kids still aren’t allowed to watch the nightly news.
Below be spoilers.
You know, in some ways I’m glad I live in the current golden age of comic book adaptions because now it’s a bit easier to explain to some unbelievers how I feel about religious movies. That passion you have about getting Superman’s cape right, or the execution of Spider-man’s quipping – all of that should kind of give you an idea of how people feel towards these movies. You get grand epics like the classic Ten Commandments – which would be like the Avengers. Then you have the lesser fare which is about like Captain America staring Matt Salinger or Reb Brown. They’re not great, but part of you want to see and support them in the hopes of telling studios: “This! More of this, please! Only… better.” But that message is hard to send with your dollars. Then you have those movies that are like Fant4stic which start making you question your life choices.
If I had to continue this analogy to the breaking point, Risen would be a little like the Daredevil netflix series in that it’s not an “epic” story, it’s two degrees off epic, it is about how the world deals with what other movies have shown.
That’s probably the biggest selling point about the movie, is that it reminds you that for most of the world, this little nobody carpenter was unnoticed and unremarked. People still went about their days and tried to make it through their lives. That’s probably this movie’s greatest strength is a reminder of how foreign such a time and place is to us while making it relatable. One really gets the sense that these are real people (especially Peter, good on Stewart Scudamore). There is also enough of a sheen to it that diversions from the real history and culture are not immediately apparent except to those nerds deeply steeped in the history (like the emperor’s name is wrong). This movie would make for a good study aid as classes could pick it apart it’s accuracies and errors (besides the obvious, everybody speaks english).
If I had any complaints is that there are a couple of moments that are almost too… ‘western’ especially when it comes to some of the theological stuff. These were Jews first born and raised in the near middle east. The Romans were the more recognizably like us (as they probably would be to a time traveler) so I was disappointed the movie didn’t add that touch to show us how much of a divide there was between the worlds and how miraculous it almost was that any gentiles at all joined the faith. Which leads me into being more hopeful the movie would be almost an adaption of this article and leave the main character without having seen Jesus but realizing things through the evidence left behind. However the story structured as it is makes the protagonist earn that moment of finding the real Lord so the complaint is a pretty minor one.
All in all this wasn’t just a good religious film, but just a good film, period and hopefully a sign of a coming improvement in the religious genre. Obviously if you’re absolutely allergic to Christianity, avoid, but if you’re looking for a film about faith which doesn’t bore or insult you, check it out.
And have a Happy Easter.