Monday, March 28, 2016

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

So, what do I do to follow up my review of one of the most controversial films in recent years? Why, I do a review of one of the most controversial films to come out ever! Well, okay, that might be a stretch. It was and still is a controversial film though. People argue back and forth about the validity of it and whether it holds any value as an inspirational movie. Oh, and it's the first movie of Superhero Week too!

What? Jesus had superpowers and saved a lot of people. It totally counts.

Since Easter just happened, what better time to talk about the guy who raised the dead, fed the hungry, transmogrified liquids, and walked on the ocean because he felt like it. I'm not a religious person, but Jesus seems pretty cool, really. He was a rather chill guy who just wanted to save the world and get sauced with some friends. Can't fault him for that. But any time you bring him up, opinions are guaranteed to vary. Especially around certain religious crowds who seem to think he looks like a young Obi-Wan Kenobi.

"That was when I cut off Anakin's legs and left him to die painfully in a river of lava. Hahahahah! Good times."
Now, when you have a film about Jesus, there's a lot you can do. He led a fairly impressive life and had many interesting tales that could told. Mel Gibson decided not to tell any of those tales though, instead settling on an over two hour film that is almost nothing but golden boy here being savagely beaten to death. If this movie had been released in the 1960s or 1970s, it would've gotten an X-rating and would only be featured at drive-ins and grindhouses because this film is pure exploitation, just with a bigger budget and a very rabid built-in fanbase. The weird thing is, after seeing it myself I was kind of shocked that more people weren't angry about it. I mean, as I said, it's not about Jesus doing any of his many great deeds. It's literally just a movie about a man being brutalized for two hours.

But who am I to question the artistic vision of Mr .Gibson? Can a man who loves his nipples that much be so bad?
Maybe I'm being unfair though and there is some deeper meaning to this film than what I saw all those years ago over at Cinema World. Maybe...just maybe...there is a good movie hidden in this hotbed of religious debate and controversy. Anything is possible. We live in a world where a snake protected puppies, human life expectancy is getting longer, and a terrifying lizard man might be elected president.

I'm just waiting for his supporters to try justifying that monkey gun when so many of them don't even believe in evolution.
The movie on something you won't see much of in this religious film: prayer. Yes, Jesus is praying while his posse sleeps it off after a long night of wining and healing the sick. He rouses them to pray and what I assume is the devil drops by to give him a hard time. Why? Who knows. See, I never followed the whole logic of "the devil is inherantly evil because he lives in the place where evil people are punished". You might ask why, but the answer is pretty simple: who's punishing all those evil people? It sure ain't a mysterious cloud sitting deity. Nope, the devil is down there doing his job and people always have to shit on him for it. It's sad, really. First his dad kicks him out for making a power play, then he gets to spend forever punishing all the assholes his dad created. Fun. Truth is, we should be more grateful to ol' Lucifer for doing such a thankless job all these millennia.

Now give the devil a hug. He's earned it.
Now, where he was described as being the most beautiful angel in all of Heaven, why do we always end up making him look as far from that as possible? Probably because it's easier to hate something we find ugly, right? Hell, look at Loki in the Thor and Avengers movies. People love him and he's an unrepentant dick who manipulates everyone around him constantly. So yeah, it's not a massive shock that they cast the devil in here as this albino person who they're really trying to make come off as evil...except she's very attractive. Like, hot damn, do they want people to start imaging Jesus fucking Satan here? Because this is the sort of thing that I generally only run across in porn parodies.

"Jesus, I'd like you to nail me on the cross...show me your spear of destiny."
 Sexy devil aside, some weird bible stuff happens involving her taking a snake out of her body...which gets more uncomfortable when you think about the fact they made the devil a woman...but JC just steps on it and goes with his boys. From here we get some familiar bits: Judas selling him out, him healing the wounded, him getting arrested, and the whole hubbub that leads into him getting sentenced to death. Yes, I am probably skipping a lot of it and I am doing so because it is honestly pretty boring. Actually, a lot of this movie is fairly boring.

"Jesus Christ! Just kill me already so I can hit the reset button."
Now, rather than break this movie's main chunk down scene by scene, we're just going to talk about it loosely. We're doing this because there is literally only so much I can say about what is literally over an hour of man being beaten and tortured. Seriously, I don't get the appeal. Yes, this is supposedly what happened to him. He was accused, arrested, beaten, tortured, and then crucified. Do we really need to make that nearly the entire film? Sure, there are other things spliced in. We have Judas being tormented and feeling remorse, trying to return the silver before he gets chased by demons (who are children, because of course they are) and ultimately hangs himself.

I don't know about you, but I'm truly inspired now. I feel like I'm higher up as a person...much like Judas' lifeless body.
The most shocking thing about Judas killing himself is that Gibson didn't give us a scene of his bowels emptying out after his death. It definitely feels like it would fit in here. Jesus is repeatedly found not guilty but those terrible Jewy Jews who are Jewing all over the place...yeah, I was incredibly shocked to learn Mel Gibson is anti-Semitic...demand that he pay for his crimes of speaking his mind and helping people. Thus, Jesus gets the living shit beat out of him. And it is rough to watch, make no mistake. Someone asked me what might be going through his head while he's going through all of that...and I have a theory.

"A Chicken Bacon Swiss would be great right now. Maybe a nice Jamocha shake."
But there would be no forbidden strips of pork on fried chicken for our hero. No, just pain with a side order of "oh look, more pain, how quaint", because we need it hammered home that Jesus died in the most brutal way. After awhile, you'd think it would get dull, like you'd get used to seeing them beating him to a bloody mess. That doesn't happen. Even now, as big of a horror fan as I am, I will admit that this is still some of the most believable and difficult to watch violence I have seen in a movie. There are times where you think Gibson may actually be killing Jim Caviezel just because his artistic message is that damn important.

I'm still not sure exactly what the message is...but I think it might involve Jewish people being bad.
Since the strawman Jews aren't pleased with Jesus simply being beaten mostly to death, he is then condemned to be crucified. This is, once more, shown in excruciating detail, but is shorter than the beating and torture, which I must reminds you took up the majority of the film. Yes, I know, I skipped the devil messing with Jesus again and all of that, but who cares? It didn't really take any focus when all we get drawn to is the fact a man is being torn apart with whips and various other bit and bobs. The devil, while still being played by a rather fetching lady, is still not distracting me from the violence. There are also very small bits with the two Marys, which honestly feel tacked on barring the parts where he's dying. In the end, of course, he dies and comes back to life, because it's Jesus and his zombie love will be shared with us all when the virulent plague spreads.

The plague turns people from the middle east into white people and Jesus into Kris Kristofferson.
While the film has great cinematography...I don't think this is a good movie. It has little to no real plot, instead sprinkling little nuggets of things happening throughout a film that is ultimately largely nothing more than an anti-Semitic snuff film. It's not inspirational, life-affirming, and it doesn't make me want to be a more devout man of God. This movie is pure exploitation and even then, it's not one I can say I enjoyed. Gibson's later works honestly should outshine this one, as they have stories and characters to follow. This movie doesn't, instead giving us a hard to watch end to the life of a man who simply wanted to help people.

"I asked for...the pink...floral-scented...towel...me dammit..."
I originally had no intention of seeing this film. Religious films rarely interest me and I was not yet a critic at the time it originally played. My father received free tickets from co-worker and we went to see it. Neither of us wanted to see it ever again. The movie is grueling, both for the slow scenes that go nowhere and for the beating. It's not a fun watch, a compelling experience, or anything that would make me want to recommend it to anyone. If you want a decent film about Jesus, watch Risen. Hell, watch The Last Temptation of Christ. But this one? Yeah, give this a pass. So, until I get lynched for both disliking this film and for saying the devil is misunderstood, I'll be here sacrificing drifters to Odin to prolong my own life. Later days, bleeders.

Beware naked nipple-twisting Australians too.

No comments:

Post a Comment