Moviegoers declare ‘Son of God’ a hit

By Lance Mihm

March 8, 2014

LIMA — About midway through Christopher Spencer’s new big-screen release “Son of God,” Adrian Schiller, playing the part of Caiaphas, provides a line that perfectly describes the story of Jesus Christ when responding to Antonius, played by Andrew Brooke.

“He has the power to stir things up,” Schiller said.

As with all faith-based movies on the track with success, “Son of God” seems well on its way to being the next in a short line of films that have done just that, stir things up. It also seems well on its way to being a blockbuster success.

“Son of God” is a 2014 biblical drama adapted from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s 10-hour miniseries, “The Bible.” “The Bible” traces the story of Jesus from his birth through the Resurrection, featuring both scenes from the miniseries and new scenes that were not previously aired.

The film gathered $25.6 million in gross ticket sales its opening day Feb. 28, the fourth highest showing all-time for a Christian faith-based movie on opening night, and easily meeting its $22 million budget. In its opening weekend it grossed $31.5 million in sales, already making it the eighth-highest grossing faith-based film of all time. Local residents contributed their share to that amount, turning out to local theaters to view the film.

Jean Holtz, of Lima, said she was both moved by the film and impressed by its accuracy in what she understands of Scripture.

“It was very accurate,” Holtz said.

Holtz had also seen “The Passion of the Christ,” currently the highest grossing Christian-based film of all time. Released in 2004, that film raised $370.8 million. Holtz said the one thing she liked about “Son of God” when comparing the two films was the longer timeline involved. “The Passion of the Christ” focused predominantly on Jesus’ crucifixion. Comparing the film with “The Passion of the Christ” seemed to be a common trait when moviegoers were asked about the new film.

“There was a lot more history here,” Holtz said. “It told a lot more of the story. It is a movie I definitely would go see again.”

Don and Marie Laudick, of Kalida, made the trip to Lima to see the film, and both were truly impressed with what they saw. Don Laudick agreed he enjoyed this film a little more than the “The Passion of the Christ.”

“I think it was better that they told the whole thing,” he said.

Marie Laudick said she enjoyed Roma Downey’s role as the Virgin Mary.

“It was a very accurate movie,” she said.

The Laudicks, who are both Catholic, agreed that the film solidified what they already believed.

However, what about the effect on nonbelievers?

The film has drawn a wide spectrum of ratings from the critics, seemingly most often broken along the believer/nonbeliever line. Vickie Gillen, of Lima, said she had a hard time imagining that the film would not have an effect on non-Christian people. Many of the non-Christian reviews of the film treated the story more like a fictional plot rather than a historical lesson.

“I don’t see how this film could not have a profound effect on anyone,” Gillen said. “I think it would have an effect on anyone. It was very well done. There were some things missing, but overall it was a great movie.”

A few significant parts of Jesus’ journey as documented in the Christian faith are left out, perhaps revealing the film’s biggest weakness, though it had its desired effect.

For example, the film leaves out Pontius Pilate sending Jesus to Herod Antipas and Antipas returning him, a significant part of the “The Passion of the Christ” in which all authorities reject him.

John the Baptist is seen only briefly, and the voice of God commissioning Jesus is left out. The Transfiguration is left out, and the wedding feast of Cana, which was the start of Jesus’ ministry and the beginning of the disciples’ faith in him, is left out.

The Temptation in the Desert in which Jesus battles Satan for 40 days is never even mentioned, much less depicted. The latter was left out largely because of controversy created when the actor playing the part of Satan in the original miniseries bore a strong resemblance to President Barack Obama. However, the film extends 138 minutes, and viewers seemed willing to forgive the left out portions of the story.

“The film was already more than two hours and they weren’t going to get everything in there,” Vickie Gillen said.

The film also featured an interesting presentation of the story. Many stories of Jesus are told almost as a chronological checklist. “Son of God” was told more as a recollection from John the Evangelist during his exile to Patmos.

Larry and Georgia Adam, of Van Wert, both said they were moved by the film and said they would recommend it to both believer and nonbelievers alike.

“I saw very little conflict with the Scriptures,” Larry Adam said. “It is a very moving film.”

He said he and his wife both attend Trinity Friends Church near Van Wert.

Georgia Adam said she was especially moved by the film.

“It would be emotional for anyone,” she said. “It is very moving and it brought me to tears of joy.”

Marsha Evilsizor said she was most impressed with the film’s reflection of the love Jesus had for all.

“He was loving in the film just like you read in the Bible,” Evilsizor said. “I think this film would have the ability to change anyone’s mind. They would just have to be in the state of mind to accept it.”

The part of Jesus is usually chosen well, and Diogo Morgado was no exception. However, people seeing the movie also seemed impressed with several other actors’ parts, including Peter (Darwin Shaw), Caiaphas, Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks) and Downey.

Regardless of anyone’s opinion of the Christian faith, no one will be able to deny the film for what it is, a blockbuster success.

As author Larry Burkett once said, “More mouths have been fed, more hospitals have been built, more poor have been helped in the name of Jesus than any other name in history. It seemed purposely that Pilate’s line was added to the movie to symbolize his lack of judgment concerning the impact Christ’s death would have shortly after ordering his crucifixion.

“He’ll be forgotten in a week.”