The Bible Collection: Jesus

Film Jesus

Plot Summary

Jesus was and is the most significant figure in history. As God in the flesh, He lived among humanity for three years, establishing His earthly ministry with the least likely people. However, Jesus always knew that His ultimate purpose would be fulfilled in His sacrifice on the cross, paying the sin debt for all humanity. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t end there since He would rise again victorious.

Production Quality (1.5 points)

Like over Lux Vide offerings, Jesus sports a fine production, including good sets, locations, and props. Camera work and video quality are also professional save for some wild action shots. Audio quality is okay, even if the soundtrack is a bit generic. However, generic special effects and poor editing drag this score down to the middle line. At times, cuts and transitions are very abrupt, creating a confusing experience for the viewer. Therefore, this is the best rating that can be awarded in this category.

Plot and Storyline Quality (-1.5 points)

Throughout the movie, Jesus is portrayed as having a strange attitude, as if He’s unsure of what’s happening or even surprised at events. This assumption seems to rise out of an odd theological implication that Jesus only became God after His baptism. It also impacts the temptation sequence as Satan appears to know more about the future than Christ does during this experience. Because there’s too much content to cover in this narrative, expository dialogue poorly bridges the gaps as precious time is wasted on unnecessary extra-biblical asides, such as a pointless romantic suggestion between Jesus and the sister of Lazarus. These tangents are included while more pertinent points are glossed over, and most scenes are generally disjointed as they typically end in abrupt ways. Besides these obvious concerns, the sheer amount of information that’s thrown at the audience in less than two hours is overwhelming. There are simply too many subplots and characters to keep up with, which predictably leads to low quality. Overall, due to the gross alterations of historical record, a negative rating is warranted in this section.

Acting Quality (1.5 points)

In keeping with many other biblical entertainment options, the acting of Jesus tends to be theatrical and dramatic. However, it’s not always bad as emotional and line delivery is inconsistently acceptable. Nonetheless, the casting isn’t always culturally authentic, which is another common misstep in films based on the Scriptures. In the end, despite its faults, this section still keeps the overall rating from being zero.

Conclusion

Why are movies about Jesus usually among the worst? What’s the point of fielding such bizarre portrayals of the Christian faith’s central figure? It’s clear that such failed attempts at capturing the true essence of a historical figure Who changed the course of history are based on faulty information. Screenplays like this one only further turn people off to Christian entertainment, but hopefully, things will continue looking up in the future.

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

Saint John: The Apocalypse [2000] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When a Roman soldier is exiled to the island of Patmos for insurrection, he does not expect to meet the infamous and fabled Theophilus, who happens to be the aging Apostle John.  A group of Christians whom the Roman solider knows also comes to the island in search of the mysterious Theophilus, all the while John is experiencing the visions from God that later became the Book of Revelation.  All of their lives intersect in a way they could not have previously believed.

 

Production Quality (1.5 points)

There is a lot going on this early 2000s production from Trinity Broadcasting Network and others.  Though there are plenty of attempts to create historically and culturally authentic sets, locations, and props, there are some other issues here that hamper the production.  These include some randomly poor lighting and wild zooms for dramatic effect, as well as some unnecessarily overdubbed audio.  The voice of God that echoes throughout the film is also a bit annoying.  A lot of the special effects used are very obvious and poorly done—if you are making a production about the Book of Revelation, you’d better have some well-funded special effects.  Yet on top of this, there are plenty of realistic gritty elements throughout, as well as good video quality and average editing.  Essentially, this is a very unique production and is a mixed bag at that, thus warranting the average score.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Unfortunately, the plot writers decided to consult The Robe and the old Ben-Hur for how to make a first century Roman\Jewish story and cast of characters most like a soap opera.  This includes a cheesy romantic subplot and a lot of overly dramatic dialogue.  All of the characters are impossible to access due to their lofty and inhuman demeanors.  However, there is a very realistic historical context portrayed here, as well as a lot of good plot ideas that are basically wasted.  Yet these elements save the plot from being a total loss.  There is a lot of content here, and in the right hands it could have made a great two-part movie or miniseries.  They needed a better writer to be able to handle the complex content from the Book of Revelation properly.  But unfortunately, anything that involves TBN is guaranteed to be overly dramatic.

Acting Quality (1 point)

The same can be said for the casting and acting, as nearly every cast member uses a breathy line delivery reminiscent of Nicholas Cage and the actresses from the old Ben-Hur and The Robe.  Thus, line deliver is too measured and drawn out, like a Bible soap opera.  However, though the cast is not entirely culturally authentic, the costuming is at least historically accurate.  There are also some good acting moments that save this section from being a total loss.

Conclusion

One thing can be said for this film: it’s not your run-of-the-mill cute\boring Christian film.  It’s ambitious, but perhaps too ambitious for the resources the creators had at their disposal.  It’s very difficult to depict the visions of Revelation properly—this requires state-of-the-art special effects, which usually do not exist in Christian films, unfortunately.  Yet there is no excuse for having acting this bad, even though it’s not BRITISH.  This plot needed a total rewrite, but the idea definitely needs to be retained for future reworking and improvement.  Maybe one day it will be remade.

 

Final Rating: 3 out of 10 points

 

Esther [1999] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

When King Xerxes banished his wife, Queen Vashti, for refusing to obey him, he called all the young women of the Persian kingdom to come and audition to be his new queen.  Among them was Esther, a Jewess, whose cousin Mordecai instructed her to hide her ethnic identity from the royal leaders.  Little did either of them know that she had been raised up by God for such a time to save His people from certain destruction.

 

Production Quality (2 points)

Though this film was made before the 2000s, Affirm Films demonstrated even in 1999 that they were committed to professional production quality.  Video quality and camera work are good in this film, even if lighting is sometimes inconsistent.  Audio quality is average, and the soundtrack leaves something to be desired.  The biggest win for this production is the professional and historically authentic sets, locations, and props which demonstrate care for accuracy.  The editing is fine but it could use a little improvement.  Overall, this is a respectable production and shows why Affirm is where they are today.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

This rendition of the story of Esther was likely the first of its kind in the modern era, later to be follow by For Such a Time As This, One Night With the King, and the deplorable Book of Esther.  In this 1999 version, care is also given to an accurate retelling of the story, even if it is a little too literal.  This is the only film we’ve seen that portrays Xerxes very well and likely accurate to the historical figure.  At least this story shies away from the silly ‘love story’ trope that modern film writers try to force into the account.  However, the characters in this version still don’t seem like real people as they are too dramatic and boring at the same time.  There are a lot of dead sequences and not enough substantial dialogue.  Overall, this was a nice try, but not good enough.

Acting Quality (1 point)

This cast, though semi-professional, is overly theatrical and too practiced.  Though costuming is culturally authentic, the casting is not always this way.  Emotions are also forced and feel manufactured, like this is some sort of Bible play.  Yet not all is bad here and this rounds out an acceptable effort.

Conclusion

A lot of time and money was likely spent on sets and costumes in this film, much like its later relation, One Night With the King.  However, what both of these films forget is substance.  Though Esther is better at adhering to the true historical account, it is still not presented in an interesting way that will engage audiences.  Biblical film makers can learn from this to not abandon accuracy but still develop the characters like they’re real people, not lofty ‘heroes’ that have no connection to us today.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points