I’ve been complaining about all of the movie sequels filling up the screens. But one movie begs
for a sequel. Mel Gibson’s controversial blockbuster The Passion of the Christ
showed Jesus being brutalized with His scourging and crucifixion, but the last shot showed Him standing, a fleeting glimpse of His resurrection. Much more of the risen Christ is necessary to balance out the images of His suffering and death and to show what it all means. But now Mel Gibson has started work on The Passion of the Christ: Resurrection.
Gibson has indicated that the film won’t be completed until late 2019 or early 2020.
In 2016, acclaimed screenwriter Randall Wallace
who worked with Gibson on Braveheart
and other projects,
said that he was writing a script for a “huge and sacred subject.
” That same year, Gibson confirmed the project, saying
, “We’re trying to craft this in a way that’s cinematically compelling and enlightening so that it shines new light, if possible, without creating some weird thing.”
Though filming hasn’t started yet, Jim Caviezel, who will reprise his role as Jesus Christ, is talking about the project i
n tantalizing terms. “I won’t tell you how he’s going to go about it,” he said, referring to Gibson. “But I’ll tell you this much, the film he’s going to do is going to be the biggest film in history. It’s that good.”
“There are things that I cannot say that will shock the audience,” Caviezel said. “It’s great. Stay tuned.”
Shock the audience? What could that be, and would that be bad (“creating some weird thing”) or good (impacting viewers with the facticity of Christ rising physically from the dead)?
Gibson told Stephen Colbert, in the words of a Vanity Fair story
, that the film “would focus slightly less on Christ and more on the people around
him.” Surely that won’t mean the “He lives within my heart” theory of the resurrection! I believe Gibson, the renegade traditionalist Catholic, is more orthodox than that. Hopefully, it means that he will dramatize the meaning and the impact of the resurrection. Namely, that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).
The challenge will be in turning the Resurrection appearances of our Lord into a story. What is the story’s arc, its turning point and its resolution? The Resurrection is itself the resolution of the life of Christ, the surprise ending of a narrative that seems to have had a tragic ending in the Cross, which is then followed by the greatest reversal of them all.
But to begin with the resurrection will pose a problem in storytelling. Every plot has to have a conflict. What will be the conflict in Gibson’s movie? The risen Christ resolves every conflict. The Bible’s accounts of Christ’s resurrection appearances are episodic, reflecting separate experiences of the various witnesses. So what overarching story line will tie the movie together?
One way could be to set up a conflict between the Disciple’s doubt and their belief, their fear as they hide in the upper room countered by the joy when Jesus appears in their midst and says, “Fear not!” Those kinds of conflicts could work dramatically, though it is unclear how the different events could be made to cohere into an unfolding action.
Caviezel must have been referring to these intrinsic difficulties when he said
that Gibson has “cracked” them. “Braveheart,
that’s a film that took a long time to be able to crack,” Caviezel said. “The same thing for Passion
. And the same thing for this. He’s finally got it. So that is coming.”
I do know that the visual medium that is film, in the hands of a filmmaker like Gibson who is a master of conveying powerful imagery, has the potential of communicating the resurrection of Christ in a way that may deeply impact those who see it. This really happened! Jesus actually died and now he is actually alive. The resurrection is not a vague spiritual concept but a tangible, physical reality!
Photo by Genevieve (Jim Caviezel) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons