If you really need a synopsis, where have you been hiding for the last 2000 years? Anyway,the film follows the last twelve hours of Jesus’ life, beginning with the Garden of Gethsemane,where he is tempted by Satan and betrayed to the authorities by Judas. We then move on to thetrial, the whipping, scourging and crucifixion (interspersed with little sepia flashbacks of Jesuspreaching to his apostles). At the very end, we get the resurrection (oops, was that aspoiler?).
If you take this film seriously, stop reading this review now and skip to the technical aspects.I’ll wait for you to leave. [Pause.] Okay, for those who are still reading, this film, perhaps theultimate in Christploitation, is as extreme an example of preaching to the converted as could beimagined. Audiences pre-sold on the story will react big time, as the movie hammers the easyemotional triggers in a way that Jerry Bruckheimer would dismiss as too much. Gibson has had asubtlety by-pass operation, and comes from the school of filmmaking that demands that allimportant moments be shot in slow-motion. Problem is, Gibson feels that ALL his moments areimportant… The film’s claims to authenticity are, of course, nonsense. This is no more How ItReally Happened than Monty Python’s Life of Brian (though the latter is rather moreintelligent). As for the criticism that Gibson’s work is anti-Semitic, there is no getting away fromthe fact that the portrayal of the mob wouldn’t be out of place in Nazi propaganda, and thecontroversial blood libel line, while unsubtitled, is very much present and only the mostoblivious viewer could fail to pick up on what Caiaphas is saying.
Then there’s the film’s reputation for violence. Viewers hoping for the most balls-to-the-wallsplatterfest since Dead/Alive will be disappointed. True, there is a nice OTT moment of achunk of flesh flying across the screen during the whipping, and during the nailing to the crossthere’s a slo-mo spurt of blood strongly reminiscent of the bloody ejaculation fromNekromantik, but some of the bloody torso make-up is laughably obvious. Much of thefilm is shot as if it were a horror movie, particularly the opening and the conclusion (theresurrection scene, one of the big howlers, is a cross between The Terminator and theFriday the 13th sequel of your choice). All of this means that camp and sleaze fans willfind a number of compensating factors to see them through the duller bits (you can only show aguy falling down so many times before the pace begins to drag). The most hilarious scenesinvolve the female Satan (what are trying to tell us, Mel?) and the Mini-Me demon baby with theDon Rickles smile. I could go on, but all in all, this is a crass, insulting, spectacularly overblown,frequently very funny mess.
Now this is some kind of fine audio. The music, heavy-handed though it might be, is given avery expansive mix, but it never overwhelms the dialogue. The voices, however loud they get,are never distorted. The surround effects are spectacular from the opening second. Whether weare hearing the ominous night sounds in Gethsemane, or the howling of the mob, the placementand volume level of the effects are beyond reproach. There is also a very nice use of a raven’scaw which emerges from alternating left and right rear speakers, building up a presence for thebird that is stronger than it was in the theatres.
The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is sharp, and has terrific colours, contrasts, fleshtones and blacks (so all that scouring comes through very vividly). There is no visible edgeenhancement, but the picture falls short of perfection due to some grain (most visible in the nightscenes) and a slight case of pixelation in the reds (also during the night scenes).
Not a thing. And you can’t even change subtitles on the fly. The menu’s main screen andintro are animated and scored. The intro is excessively long as you have to wade through variouscompany logos before you actually hit the main screen.
Well, it sounds absolutely terrific, and looks pretty sharp, but it’s a hugely silly movie. Iknow, I know, you don’t have to tell me, I’m going to Hell.