The Gospel of Boooooorrrriiinnngggg...

So to make up for my lack or churchgoing and whatnot in this season of Lent, I watched the new DVD release, The Gospel of John. It got a theatrical release around the same time as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, but nowhere near the fanfare or controversy, and understandably so. It is a very literal retelling of the Gospel of John, hence the title, from the beginnings of Jesus' ministry to his acts after the resurrection. And by literal I mean boring.

The Gospel of John is produced by a company named Visual Bible, and I can only guess that their intention was to put the book on film, for those who have poor imaginations, or can't be bothered to read what they can easily watch. I have no problem with a movie like, I dunno, Crimson Tide, or The Shining, standard Hollywood stuff adapted from books, but when it comes to the Bible, it's something you should experience with no filter. And that's what adaptation is: a filter, intentional or not, that sometimes blurs the intent of the original material, or adds opinion to an impartial piece. That's why there was such a furor over Gibson's supposed anti-Semitism with Passion, that many people that such sentiment was not contained (or was not as obvious) in the Bible, and that it was Gibson's personal feelings showing through.

Personally, I can't understand the reasoning behind blaming the Jews for Jesus' death. I just don't get it. Perhaps someone can straighten me out on this, but wasn't Jesus sent here to die for the sins of man? Wasn't it his destiny to suffer and die so that we may live? It says that in the Bible, right? So I don't blame anyone for his death, since if it was not meant to be, he could have stopped it at any time. Doesn't that make more sense? Sigh...

Anyway, back to the movie. There's not a whole lot to talk about, the cast and crew are unknowns, the acting is passable but unremarkable, and the story, well, everybody knows the story. What I find most interesting is the comparisons to be made between this film and Passion, as they are polar opposite interpretations of the same life, both in theme and in financial success.

Here's the sad truth, whether you like it or not: reading the Bible is boring. Very boring. Dull, even. The Old Testament has some good stories, interspersed with lots of begats and psalms, while the New tells the Jesus story four times, but kinda trails off after that. If we were making a movie of the whole Bible, no doubt the studio execs would be telling us to punch it up a bit, and maybe bringing in Joe Ezterhas for a rewrite. Sorry if this sounds offensive, but it's the way I feel.

So, knowing that, Gibson set out to make a movie on a very small portion of Jesus' story, specifically his suffering and death. The makers of The Gospel of John decided to visualize most of his story, but in doing so, bored me to tears with the first 45 minutes of a 3 hour movie. Every line of dialogue feels like it's repeated 3 more times, and is punctuated far too often with the condescending narration of Christopher Plummer. When the filmmakers feel I need to be told that rabbi means teacher and christ means messiah, I start to wonder who their target audience is. Obviously not someone who's been through Confirmation with the Rev. Again, sigh.

I guess I can't fault the film for accomplishing what it set out to do: visualize the Bible. But I begin to see a new aspect of Gibson's Passion because of this. The Gospel of John made barely a blip on the American box office, while Passion became the top-grossing film of the year, and I'm beginning to think it may be a bit of car crash syndrome. You know, when you're driving on the highway, and traffic slows down on your side, because there's an accident on the other side? Everyone slows a little bit to see what happened. There really is that dark side of the human psyche that wants to see somebody hurt, or at least a really smashed up automobile. I think Gibson, and shrewdly so, appealed to that dark side with Passion. I've referred to it in the past as a two-hour snuff film posing as a religious experience, and I stick by that. My question is, where were all the devout Christians when The Gospel of John was playing at your local cineplex? Yes, I know it didn't get as wide a distribution or nowhere near as much publicity, but it's a family-friendly movie that explores the teachings of Jesus, not just his death. Where was the grassroots support for this movie? I don't know, but I do know an ultraviolent, R-rated star-powered Jesus flick made almost 100 times more than a simple literal retelling of the Gospel. I begin to question whether so many people saw Passion due to their Christian curiousity and faith, or was it a bit or car crash syndrome? You be the judge.

As for The Gospel of John, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. But I kinda have to give it a score, as that's the point, so it gets a C.


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