Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

Playing God

Posted by Adam Graham on June 30, 2007

Andrea and I watched “The Gospel of John” this weekend. Overall, it wasn’t too bad Henry Ian Cusick does a good job most of the time as Jesus, but his performance wasn’t without problems. At some times, when delivering some of Jesus’ lines, he acted wild eyed and crazy, which wasn’t true to the character of the Gospel. I thought he brought appropriate emotion, inflection, and charisma to Christ’s role most of the time and helped bring the Gospel to life.

Andrea didn’t buy him as Christ, and I have to admit that unlike watching Jim Cavizel could be believed as Jesus, and you forgot it was an actor on screen, not so with Cusick. Cusick’s skin was too perfect, and he really looked too good physically in my opinion. The movie also suffered from the Bible version (the utterly forgetable Good News Version)  and there were some visual suggestions of something more with Mary Magdalene.

Overall, the movie was good and had some stories brought to screen such as the healing of the blind man in John 9 and it was just what we needed after a stressful week.

However, to me it opens my mind to a far greater topic, I’ve been giving some thought to. The role of Christ (or God) is perhaps the hardest part to play in cinema. Why? Because there is so much expectation tied up in that role. One thing is certain, you won’t please everyone.

The versions of Jesus that come to mind include: The Passion of the Christ, Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings, Jesus of Nazareth Mini-Series, The Miracle Worker (Claymation), The Visual Bible (Matthew), The Jesus Movie, The Revolutionary (TBN’s Version),  The Living Christ Miniseries (from the 1950s), and the Color of the Cross.

Now, one could add to the list such as the movie, Judas, Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Last Temptation of Christ. These films will never be quite popular with Christians as the Jesus portrayed isn’t the real Christ.

 However, for the others, one has to say that with the exception of Cavizel most movie Christs rarely meet most people’s expectations. Reading reviews on Amazon, it seems everyone has one (or two) Jesus movies they really don’t like and one or two they love.

For me, I personally thought the Revolutionary was an awful adaptation of the Gospel story. The others have been at least okay.

The ones that I think are the best are the Passion of the Christ. The Miracle Maker did a good job telling the gospel story. While many have ripped, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” for the dubious casting of John Wayne as the Centurion at the Cross, other casting choices were great like Telly Sevallas as Pilate, Charlton Heston as the best John the Baptist ever, and the music. The music was what made the movie so compelling. I also enjoyed the “Living Christ” mini-series. Often derided by those looking only at traditional guidelines, the series was poweful on many levels. Perhaps, its greatest triumph was the scene where the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray.

But, of course many will disagree. If you play Christ in film, you can expect your work to be summarily critiqued and evaluated, and often to have the harshest barbs fired in your direction. Perhaps, it’s because in the end, try as we might, we can’t replicate Christ as all he is on the screen, which will make even the best performances unsatisfactory.

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