Passion of the Christ: 10 Years Later – Rewind Review

Passion Poster

Okay, I promise that I’m not here just to review religious movies. I just happened to join up around the Easter season, and seeing how last weekend was Easter, this film seemed to be an appropriate one to review, given the time of year. As controversial and popular as The Passion of the Christ was, it’s pretty difficult to think of something more to say about it. According to domestic gross records, as of April 20, 2014, The Passion of the Christ ranks in at #25 with a lifetime gross of $370,782,930. That’s more money than Man Of Steel or The Matrix Reloaded. Needless to say, this was a huge hit and more impressive due to the fact that Mel Gibson produced much of this movie on his own. Most studios didn’t want to release his movie, and after watching it again, I was reminded why.

First a little back story before we begin the review proper; yesterday I set aside some time to watch The Passion of the Christ, and it was only the second time I’d ever seen it. My first and only viewing at the time had been when I was a senior in high school, ten years before, at the big AMC theater in Olathe, Kansas. (This is also the last movie I watched in the theaters with my parents.) Going into the second viewing, there wasn’t much I remembered about it besides the violent torture scenes, so I wanted to re-familiarize myself with this film before saying anything about it. Unfortunately, I probably could’ve saved two hours of my life by not watching it because what little I could remember about The Passion of the Christ was pretty much all it was anyway. I also didn’t want to judge this movie based on Mel Gibson’s attitudes and behavior outside of the film since its release. Mel used to be such a likable star, but airing his dirty laundry so publicly did little to save face. Still, I don’t think what happens with the people associated with a movie outside of the movie itself should have any bearing on the product, so I’m going to do my best to try to judge this one based solely on what it is and how it has aged over the past decade.

Normally I would begin a review by describing what aspects of the movie in question were done well. Sadly, there isn’t much I can really say other than cinematography and design. Love him or hate him, Mel Gibson is good at giving his films a very authentic look, even if he’s fudging some historical details.

Braveheart Mel Gibson
Braveheart Mel Gibson

FYI, kilts did not come into fashion until the 17th century.

Whether it’s accurate or not though, it looks really good, and in a movie in which some people are obviously meant to be good and obviously meant to be bad, he makes it easy to tell who’s who based on their costume.

And that’s pretty much where the good parts end.

If you’d never seen Braveheart, you’d swear that Mel Gibson had never directed a movie in his life because the focus of the film is either way too highly concentrated on the torture of Jesus or seemingly out of nowhere when he isn’t getting his ass whooped. Much like Roger Christian, the director of Battlefield Earth, Gibson uses certain techniques but doesn’t really seem to understand why they’re used. The most glaring head-scratcher is his overuse of slow motion. When Judas is given his thirty pieces of silver for telling the high priests where to find Jesus, a coin purse is thrown at him in slow motion. Why? … Your guess is as good as mine. He also has not one, not two, not three but FOUR slow motion shots in which Jesus falls over while carrying the cross…in a span of fifteen minutes! I understand that Gibson was basically just taking the stations of the cross and making a movie out of it, but I think we could’ve done without each fall getting treated like it was a plot-twisting moment. He even tries to add some heart to one of the falls when Mary sees Jesus fall down and triggers a memory of him falling down as a child. Recalling that event, she tries to run to him and help him up the way she used to but can’t since he’s on a march to his death. The moment almost becomes touching—if not a bit saccharine—when she tells him that his mother is here for him, Jesus responds by saying, “See, mother, I make all things new.” (What?!) I understand that the line is referencing a verse from Revelation (21:5), but it has absolutely no context for that scene. If Gibson wanted it to be dramatic, it would’ve been much stronger if Jesus remained silent and allowed his mother’s attempts to console him sink in.

That’s pretty much the biggest problem with the movie. Movies are better when they’re shown rather than told, but when you must tell, tell it well and appropriately. Gibson has gotten this completely backwards with The Passion of the Christ. The parts that inform the characters are glanced over and barely even discussed, and what is told to us through the visuals is almost entirely focused on the scourging, the exhausting and the crucifying of the main character.

Passion of the Christ Jesus
Passion of the Christ Jesus

Fun for the whole family!

The rest is barely worth discussing. The story is practically non-existent and not very engaging. We know nothing about Jesus’ character unless we’re already familiar with the Bible, and the story hinges on the character. There wasn’t any time to really get to know much about Jesus because Gibson was in too big of a hurry to get to the brutality. And any time any character speaks, it never feels natural. Everything is presentational and treated like it’s a huge deal when it ultimately leads to nothing. Satan is there to have some sort of obvious symbolism, but we’re never given much of an indication into what or why because Gibson just threw it in there because it apparently made sense to him. What was with that baby? Was it suppose to represent Satan gloating over proving Jesus wrong? I don’t know because it comes out of nowhere and is never referenced again.

Passion of the Christ Baby
Passion of the Christ Baby

Seriously?! What the f***!

If you’ve seen this movie, you probably already feel like I do: nauseous. If you haven’t, don’t bother. Easter may not be as popular as Christmas, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to watch holiday-themed movies around that given time of year, you could do so much better than Mel Gibson’s torture porn. Go watch Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation Of Christ; it’s much better.

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