Warning… Spoilers below

Brutal, yes; graphic, yes; new information? Not so much. It is as it was? Give me a break. This was one man’s interpretation of a variety of sources. “Made you look.” That’s what I’d imagine Mr. Gibson is thinking and if he’s not, then he may not be fully in tune with his own motivations. The movie is manipulative to say the least: music: slow motion, special (read, “cheap”) effects (which probably cost a pretty penny.) If you are going to the movie to “feel” something, you will. If you’re not, Mel has certainly done his best to make you.

The Gospel according to Mel? Perhaps. It’s not the Gospel I’ve read. There are too many freedoms taken with the “additional” characters, most notably “evil” gliding about through the story and the crowds. (just bizarre.)

In a couple of the Last Supper flashbacks, I wondered, “who are these people?” – well all the way through the movie I kept wondering “Who are these people?” Character development was not the strong suit for this film. I love a good story and I like my characters, even the minor ones, to be developed. Call me curious. I like to see “why” someone does what they’re doing, not just the “stock” character whose sole purpose is to do what the script says, no questions asked. I like questions asked. I like some hints. The Roman thugs are a prime example. Right. Roman, soldier = thug. I’m not so sure. People aren’t that simple.

Mary, now she’s a devoted Mom. A brave and loving woman; a soul in love with her son and the God from whom he came. It’s pretty clear that our moviemaker is deeply in touch with his Marian side. He’s sure she was a saint. And he’s pretty sure who else is a saint. Even if he plays fast and loose with the stock and minor characters (even the legendary ones, like Veronica).

More the story of Mary than Jesus. While Jesus is the main character, he doesn’t really do a whole lot. (The doing of his life happened before and here he’s BEING – which is one of the points well made.)

John, Mary Magdalen, cast in the roles legend and tradition have created for them. Peter, ah, our impetuous Peter. Judas, well now that was pretty well done. Judas’ sin, of course, was not so much the betrayal of Jesus, but his inability to believe the message of forgiveness that Jesus had tried so hard to share with him.

But I get away with myself. That’s the LIFE of Jesus. And this movie doesn’t have a whole lot to say about that; nor the Resurrection. No Easter eyes cast on this story.

Am I glad I saw it? I am. As a “missaphobe” I’d have wondered if I hadn’t. It didn’t transform my image or experience of the passion of Christ. I was left wanting to see more of the life of Jesus and the Resurrection visitations. So, off to the scriptures I go. And perhaps to that other movie, The Gospel of John. I’ll be taping Judas on TV in two weeks too. So, left me wanting more, that’s something great.

I’m glad I saw it. I’m not sure I can recommend it. And I know I don’t ever need to see it again. I’m very sure young folks shouldn’t see it. The graphic, brutal scenes, I don’t even want that in my head; I’d certainly not want to put it in the heads of the young people I love. No way. And truthfully, though here it’s depicted in ruthlessly tedious fashion, I don’t think there’s anything depicted here that one hasn’t seen on primetime TV. Just not so concentrated. Surely the cumulative effect is the same – deadening us to the brutality.

Meanwhile, if you aren’t Christian, you probably won’t become one because of this movie. But who would expect a movie to convert anyone? It’s just a movie after all. The question I’d ask, in those shoes, is why was anyone so devoted to him. That’s the rest of the story (and the first of the story) and it’s missing here.

My ongoing question is this: what did/can/are we learning from the death of Jesus the Christ? How do we continue to challenge ourselves to see the violence we inflict on others as just the same – guilty or innocent (Dismas or Jesus,) no one deserves to die this way. It’s not our place anyway to kill them. Life = gift from God. Take it from others at your peril.