One of the noteworthy things about A.D. The Bible Continues is how it really piles on the visual effects when something really supernatural happens. In fact, the series trades on the sort of images that Bible movies haven’t really gone for since the silent era, when movies of this sort functioned less as documentary-style plays — showing us “what life was really like back then” — and were more like icons in motion.
Consider how A.D. depicts the Resurrection, with the tomb glowing from within while the stunned soldiers (both Roman and Jewish) watch:
The light grows even brighter as an angel rolls the stone away:
Compare this to the glowing tombstone in Cecil B. DeMille’s The King of Kings (1927):
One key difference, of course, is that A.D. shows an angel rolling the stone away, while in The King of Kings, the stone rolls away of its own accord to reveal Jesus:
Quick theological aside: In Matthew’s gospel, and in traditional Christian theology, the stone was not rolled away to let Jesus out, but to reveal that the tomb was already empty. Jesus, at this point, was not bound by walls or doors when he appeared to the apostles, and so he was not bound by the tomb any more either. Filmmakers such as DeMille and, more recently, Mel Gibson have tended to miss this, though.
Next, the Ascension.
In A.D., unlike the book of Acts, Jesus does not rise into the sky and disappear behind a cloud. Instead, he walks up a mountain as a cloud seemingly comes down to Earth, and within that cloud there are dozens of angels, seen from a variety of angles:
I wrote an entire post on cinematic depictions of the Ascension last year, and I can think of only two at this point that have shown any angels in the heavens during their Ascension sequences. One is The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1902-1905):
And the other is Christus (1916), which ends with an image that seems to have been inspired by a Gustave Doré illustration based on Dante’s Divine Comedy:
Here is the Doré illustration itself:
So, for all the newfangled effects and whatnot that have been added to A.D., and for all the gritty “realism” of its historical subplots, the series actually harks back to a much older kind of pious spectacle whenever it turns its attention to the supernatural.