Barabbas, Season 1 [2012] (Series Review)

Billy Zane to Portray Barabbas, Murderer Chosen Over Jesus, in ...

Plot Summary

Barabbas led a band of rebels against the occupying Roman government, but his criminal activity led him to have close contact with Jesus at His own trial. Barabbas was set free in exchange for Jesus, but afterward, he was faced with a series of choices. What would he ultimately decide?

Production Quality (2 points)

As a well-funded production, Barabbas has fine video quality and camera work. Its sets, locations, and props demonstrate great historical authenticity. Audio quality is passable despite a generic soundtrack. The biggest issues with this section is the poor editing, which is evidenced by quick cuts and abrupt transitions. Otherwise, this is likely the season’s best element.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Even though this miniseries contains a slightly interesting premise, it’s difficult to connect with the characters as they seem to just be pawns in the plot. Barabbas has some believable aspects to his personality, but all of the characters need a lot more work with more substantial dialogue and flashbacks in order to avoid their being very blank and generic. As usual, Jesus is portrayed in a very odd way, and the narrative is full of pronounced and forceful drama. Action and fighting scenes fill time and circumvent opportunities to establish reasons why the characters do what they do besides what the storyline wants them to do. This wasted time also causes important scenes to be quickly skipped through, which causes off-screen content to be referenced rather than shown. Some scenes go by really fast for the sake of hitting certain high points while others contain some oddly suggestive content that seems very out of place. Although there are too many characters as too many things are trying to be done at once and while the main character’s motivations don’t make much sense, the ending is actually unique. However, it takes forever to get there and lacks the proper build-up, which rounds out a section with slight potential yet plenty of problems.

Acting Quality (1 point)

In keeping with other offerings from the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the acting of Barabbas is only dramatic and theatrical. Many cast members come off as robotic, and most of the actresses seem like they’ve been coached (or even forced) to sound like they’re always out of breath. Much of the makeup work is unusual, and the cast isn’t always culturally authentic. Elsewhere, the injury acting is quite poor. Nonetheless, despite these obvious concerns, there are some positive moments of acting, and it tends to improve with time.

Continuity Quality (1 point)

Throughout this fairly short miniseries, it’s hard to keep up with the different timelines. Many things just happen with no warning, lead-up, or explanation. Also, the tone is constantly changing throughout the saga, which hampers continuity. As such, there’s often no real driving focus even though it’s named after a historical character. Nonetheless, much like other elements there is some slight potential in the series’s latter third, which is enough to save this section from a null score.

Conclusion

In the end, there’s unfortunately not much to work with in Barabbas. It had a lot going for it to be a unique take on a biblical narrative, but fell short in nearly every category. It could never decide what it wanted to be and thus isolated all potential audiences. Now, it’s simply been forgotten by much of the Christian realm and only serves as an example of how not to do it.

Final Rating: 4.5 out of 14 points

The Passion of the Christ (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

In this landmark Biblical epic, the suffering of Christ is depicted on the big screen.  Beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane, continuing to the various trials and through brutal torture, the final hours of Jesus are shown as He struggles up the Via Delarosa to the final reckoning at the Place of the Skull.  Complete with flashbacks to Jesus’ previous ministry and windows into the spiritual battle surrounding the crucifixion, The Passion of the Christ was a game-changer in Christian-based film that opened up a whole new world by refusing to fall into the trap of cute and clean Bible movies.  The real passion of Jesus Christ was horrible and wonderful, and something that we as Christians should never take for granted.

 

Production Quality (3 points)

As a professional and talented director and screenwriter, Mel Gibson puts his gift to a greater good in The Passion.  The camera work is epic, including great angles and clear video quality.  Sound quality is exquisite and the sets and locations are diversely realistic.  Of course, the main element of the production—the gore—may seem excessive to some and may frighten young children, but it is necessary to show Christ’s suffering in this way because any other way would minimize His sacrifice for us.  First century Judea was violent and Jesus’ persecution was intensely awful, and The Passion captures this unfortunate reality.  Finally, the musical score greatly enhances the film.  In short, while Mel Gibson is not an exclusively Christian director by any means, he has shown Christians how to make a great production.

Plot and Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

All Christians are familiar with the basic Biblical account of Jesus in the Garden, before the Sanhedrin, before Herod and Pilate, and on the cross.  But before this movie, we believe that many western Christians did not fully appreciate the depth of Christ’s suffering.  Some may consider The Passion to embellish and sensationalize the torture, but we believe otherwise.  A majority of this film is violent and gory, but for good reason.  The purpose of Christ’s suffering is clearly communicated.  The Biblical characters are realistic and are enhanced by flashbacks.  From the beginning to the end, The Passion highlights an important and too-often forgotten aspect to every Biblical narrative: the spiritual battle that takes place away from human eyes.  Jesus’ interactions with Satan are epic and make this movie all that it is.  Of course, there are slightly too many unnecessary elements to this plot, including unusual personal beliefs of Gibson, overly sensationalized subplots, and a slight deification of Mary.  These keep it from being all that it could be.  But nevertheless, the plot, though it covers a short period of time, is very deep and profound.

Acting Quality (3 points)

The decision to use Aramaic and Latin instead of modern English was a success.  Though some of the actors and actresses are American, most are actually Middle Eastern and Jewish, which is a huge step.  The cast is obviously coached well and perform well, though most of them are not blockbuster actors and actresses.  Emotional delivery makes this movie what it is.  In short, this cast proves that ‘big names’ aren’t always needed to make a great film.

Conclusion

The Passion of the Christ was an early indicator of Christian audiences’ hunger for quality Christian films.  Some churches were criticized for publicizing a ‘secular’ film, but Mel Gibson simply did something no one else would do—he shattered Bible movie stereotypes by crafting a gritty and terribly realistic screenplay on the ultimate act of love and suffering in human history.  As mostly sheltered Christians who sometimes take for granted the gross realities in the Bible, we all need to be reminded of how real and painful Jesus’ crucifixion was, lest we forget how monumental His sacrifice for us was.  It’s only a shame that The Passion was not a perfect film, yet it still lands on the Hall of Fame as one to be remembered and one that made a difference for Christian film forever.

 

Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

 

The Final Inquiry (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

Tito Valerio Tauro, a Roman tribune, has been called from his post in Germania by the emperor himself in order to investigate the mysterious events surrounding the death of a Jewish rabbi in Judea.  Tauro elects to enter the province in secret, along with his German captive-turned-right-hand-man.  He comes into contact with people unlike any he has seen before, including a Jewish girl named Tabitha, who challenges him to look beyond Roman power and to look to other things, like love.  Tauro faces off with Pontius Pilate and rabid Jewish religious leaders in route to discovering the answers he is looking for.  Little does he know that he will find them in the places he least expected.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

On the surface, The Final Inquiry does not seem like a bad movie.  The production quality is average—the camera work is pretty good.  The sound quality is all right, but the video tends to be low quality.  The costuming is realistic, a contrast to many Biblical and historical independent films.  However, the editing is not up to par—this could be due the confusing and varied amount of plot content.  Overall, the production of this film is good, but not good enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

There are many interesting ideas packed into this film’s plot.  The concept of a Roman official investigating the death of Jesus is not necessarily new, but there is nothing inherently wrong with it.  However, the creators tried to force too much content and too many characters into this narrative.  There are too many subplots—not all of them are completed in the end; some of them just fall away.  Due to the large amount of characters, they all become shallow.  Some of the Biblical characters are downright creepy.  Most of the dialogue is forced and contrived.  Some scenes, especially those at the end, are very unrealistic and leave the audience wondering what actually happened.  It seems like multiple writers wrote this movie since it cuts back and forth without warning and changes tone in arbitrary places.  It is as if this is several movies that have been forced to be one movie.  In short, there are plenty of potentially interesting ideas in The Final Inquiry, but they are not delivered properly.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

The acting is the strongest point of this movie, but that is not saying much.  The actors are not dynamic; they mostly avoid major mistakes.  Some of the acting has a cheesy air of ‘Biblical drama’, as if people in first-century Roman provinces could not talk normally.  Also, this movie commits the typical error of Bible movies by exchanging Middle Eastern actors for mostly white British actors.  In short, there are no real glaring errors here, but nothing game-changing either.

Conclusion

Having an interesting idea for a Biblical-historical movie is not enough—it must be followed through with.  Characters must be developed and the plot must be focused.  Tossing a collection of intriguing subplots together does not make a movie.  Where The Final Inquiry could have brought more interest to Biblical movies, it only causes more disillusionment and confusion.  Hopefully future film makers will learn from its mistakes.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points