Passion of Christ Reviewby Jon Popick (jpopick AT sick-boy DOT com)
February 25th, 2004
Planet Sick-Boy: http://www.sick-boy.com
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For starters, Planet Sick-Boy isn't buying into the endless (and endlessly unnecessary) hype surrounding Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. To us, it's just another screen adaptation of a book we didn't read. In terms of films based upon outlandish stories, we're way more worried about how Alfonso Cuarķn is going to handle the next Harry Potter movie.
The Passion is Gibson's follow-up to Braveheart (a very good thing - it was one of only three deserving Best Picture winners over the last 15 or so years), but it's also no less of a religious pet project than Battlefield Earth (a really bad thing - it was one of the worst movies ever made). We're not going to talk about Gibson's agenda, or whether The Passion is, intentionally or not, offensive to any particular sect.
The Passion begins hours after the Last Supper before dragging us through the first 13 stations of the cross. Jesus (James Caviezel, High Crimes) is sold out by Judas (Luca Lionello) for 30 shekels, instantly tried by a kangaroo court that alternately beat, spit on and flayed him practically beyond recognition while the Marys (Maia Morgenstern and Monica Bellucci) watched helplessly in horror. It's the kind of sentence we'd like to see leveled at the Enron clowns (now there's something worth getting riled over). The repetition made me have Return of the King flashbacks.
If you're into two hours of watching a guy beaten and whipped to the verge of death, more power to you, because that's about all The Passion is, aside from a handful of flashbacks to happier, less bloody times, as well as a couple of creepy Satan scenes that look like they were lifted from Carnivāle. Somehow, I doubt the Hardcore Sadism section at Blockbuster sees too much browsing by practicing Catholics, which makes me wonder who exactly the target audience of The Passion might be. If you're that devout, you know you're going to be upset by it. Why pay a bunch of money to get all flustered when you can just stay home and watch people argue about gay marriage on MSNBC? And if someone out there thinks non-believers will be swayed into tithing because of this movie, I've got some magic beans I'd like to sell them.
To me, there's absolutely no difference between the religious zealots in the film who scream for Jesus's death and the real-life people four-walling entire theatres to see The Passion with their flock. There is, however, great irony in the fact that these same people who were gesticulating until their arms fell off when their kids saw Janet Jackson's boob pop out are going to drag those same kids to one of the most graphically violent films ever made. Granted, it's pretty and carefully framed, but it's horrifying to watch. And since The Passion is subtitled, you'd be better off bringing in headphones and listening to Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ (a much better film with far superior music, in my opinion).
Experts are quick to herald Gibson's painstaking authenticity, without realizing the real JC probably wasn't a white dude like Caviezel. Although under all of that blood, who could tell? Hey, at least Mary doesn't have blue eyes. Also fun, Gibson's casting rule: The uglier the character, the more evil they are (just like real life!). My favorite part was when the screen went black and silent after the crucifixion, and for a couple of seconds, I thought there was going to be epilogue text along the lines of "Jesus came back from the dead three days later. He's currently living with his faithful Collie, Skip, in Pomona, where he makes tongue-in-groove furniture, just like Harrison Ford used to do."
2:06 - R for sequences of graphic violence
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