Son of God: why is Jesus holding that stone in his hand?

The YouTube channel for Son of God has been releasing new videos almost daily, all of them consisting of various Christian leaders who have lined up to promote the film by commenting on a clip from the film.

Despite the fact that there are a dozen different “exclusive interviews” on the YouTube channel now, they all revolve around just three basic clips: ‘Peter Goes Fishing’, ‘Walking on the Water’ and ‘The Last Supper’. And today’s clip, featuring Cardinal Donald Wuerl, offers an interpretation of the ‘Peter Goes Fishing’ scene that hadn’t occurred to me before.

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Jesus walks on water in new Son of God clip

The story of Jesus walking on the water appears in three of the canonical gospels — not, as you might think, the three Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) but, rather, the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John. I have no idea why Luke’s gospel leaves this story out, but it’s not too hard to see why life-of-Jesus movies have skipped this episode for the most part.*

For one thing, it’s more brazenly supernatural than some of the other miracles, which could be a turn-off to some of the more skeptical or liberally-minded audience members. Also, it’s kind of hard to visualize what it would have looked like, exactly, for someone to walk on water — especially when there was a storm raging all around him and stirring up the waves. Until the rise of CGI, it might have been too difficult to film a version of this scene that would have looked half-way plausible.

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The Bible sequel A.D. gets the green light for spring 2015

I was just finishing my last post, which partly concerned Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s recent decision to produce a mini-series about the siege of Masada for CBS, when word came over the internet that NBC had greenlit one of their other projects: a 12-hour sequel to The Bible that was once called A.D.: Beyond the Bible but now simply goes by the name A.D.

I included a brief link to that press release in my previous post, but I think it merits a blog post all its own, since it includes a few new details about the mini-series.

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Bible movie of the week: Slaves of Babylon (1953)

By now you may have figured out that I’m using the “Bible Movie of the Week” series as an excuse, or opportunity, to focus on some of the more obscure films out there, rather than the blockbusters that everyone knows and loves (most of which I have already written about at some length anyway). And so today I come to Slaves of Babylon (1953), a sort of adaptation of the Book of Daniel that I had barely even heard about until very recently.

In fact, I only bothered to go looking for this film a few weeks ago, after I had written a post about the Persian King Cyrus, who is celebrated in the Old Testament (Isaiah even calls him “the Lord’s Messiah”) for letting the Jews return to Jerusalem following their exile in Babylon. Cyrus might not be the most prominent of biblical figures, but he did play a significant role within the history of the Jewish people, and it seems a shame that there haven’t been more than a couple of films about him.

Slaves of Babylon is one of those films. While it dramatizes some of the better-known stories from the Book of Daniel, it also revolves around a mostly made-up story in which Cyrus becomes king of Persia with help from one of Daniel’s followers. I say “mostly made-up” because it seems the film’s depiction of Cyrus’s early life is derived in part from a legend passed down to us by the Greek historian Herodotus. So basically, Slaves of Babylon represents a pop-cultural attempt to bridge religious and secular history — and those are the kinds of films I find particularly interesting, whatever their aesthetic merits may or may not be. (Another example would be the 1985 mini-series A.D.: Anno Domini, which alternated between the Book of Acts and the lives of the Caesars, with a bit of Josephus thrown in for good measure.)

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Son of God — the trailer is now online

It is not uncommon for TV shows made in one country to get theatrical releases in another; think of how some of Ingmar Bergman’s films, such as Scenes from a Marriage (1973) and its sequel Saraband (2003), were produced for Swedish television and released in American theatres, or of how Steven Spielberg’s classic TV-movie Duel (1971) got a theatrical release in Europe.

And it is not uncommon for popular TV shows to have big-screen follow-ups, from the Star Trek and X-Files movies to High School Musical 3 (2008).

But when was the last time a North American TV show got repackaged for North American theatres? Outside of festival screenings and similar one-shot presentations, when was the last time a studio asked people who had already seen a show on TV to pay for the privilege of seeing it all over again on the big screen?

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The Garden of Eden gets cameos in Noah and Son of God

I attended a preview screening of Son of God last week, and while it’s far too early to post a review of that film (it doesn’t open theatrically until February 28), producer Mark Burnett and the others who spoke at the screening were certainly keen to drum up interest in the film and its impending release; they asked everyone there to spread the word via social media, etc. So consider this blog post my small contribution.

One detail I did find interesting is the fact that the film begins with a montage that ties the story of Jesus to the stories in the Old Testament (using footage from the OT episodes of The Bible, of course). That means that this film begins, in part, with Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, just as Darren Aronofsky’s Noah will apparently do.

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