Saturday, February 28, 2004

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Vacuum Energy rating: no stars
Background information about "The Passion of the Christ" is available at The Internet Movie Database.

"The Passion of the Christ" is the story of the last hours of Jesus Christ, beginning with the Agony at Gethsemane and ending with his death upon the cross and Resurrection. This film is therefore not entirely intended to be viewed for entertainment, which makes a review superfluous for a large portion of its intended audience.

Assuming that you're willing to view this movie purely for entertainment purposes, it's outstanding characteristic is a highly-graphic non-stop beating of Jesus that lasts for nearly the entire length of the movie. From the moment Jesus is apprehended at Gethsemane, he is shackled, pushed around, punched, kicked, whipped, tortured, pummeled with stones and scourged left, right, up and down over and over until he's dead. The Roman soldiers who execute all of this punishment are for the most part giggling sadists who are having the time of their lives dishing out pain for a living. When I was buying my ticket at the theater, the salesperson warned me about the graphic violence and the Latin and Aramaic speech with English subtitles, but take it from me, when they start punishing Jesus you're not going to be too terribly offended by the choice of language.

On the other hand, Mel Gibson at least avoids the kind of psychological torture games that are so prevalent in our media culture. Nobody tries to feed Jesus portions of his own fried brain, brainwash Jesus into an assassin, or ask Jesus how many lights he sees. But the violence here is still influenced by the "males 18-35" demographic at times. At one point, for example, when Jesus has just been nailed to the cross, the Roman soldiers flip the cross over through the air to land Jesus on his face; this is the kind of violence that seems more inspired by "Jackass: the Movie" than by the Bible.

Another element of violence that is depicted in far too graphic a manner is the fate of Judas. In the first moments of the movie, we see Judas getting paid off for betraying Jesus to the authorities, and psychologically speaking it is all downhill from there. Judas seems to go insane from the thought of having betrayed Jesus, to the point where he seems to hallucinate children as horrible monsters who persecute him into comitting suicide (graphically, of course). As far as I'm concerned, this aspect of the movie alone earns it null-rating on my scale. I don't even want to think about what would happen if younger viewers are allowed to watch this movie.

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