Risen – It started pretty well, but wore out its welcome

Risen 2016
Risen 2016 (Source: http://cinema.mu)
Risen – It started pretty well, but wore out its welcome
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It’s nice to see a Christian film make an effort to stick a little closer to its source material than, say, Hollywood’s special-effects-laden in-name-only “adaptations” of Noah’s story from Genesis and Moses’ story from Exodus.

It’s also nice to see the well-known story from Scripture as told from the slightly different perspective of an otherwise anonymous Roman tribune. Best of all is seeing the actors put some effort into their performances so that we in the audience don’t feel we’re merely looking at some cardboard cut-outs lackadaisically reciting their lines from the script.

Being better than Hollywood garbage like Noah (2014) and Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) is a rather low bar for this movie to clear, however. Moreover, while expecting Risen to live up to something as brilliantly well-crafted as Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ (2004) might be setting the bar awfully high, I rather have to fault the movie for not being as good as Catherine Hardwicke’s Nativity Story (2006) or even the direct-to-video animated Jesus: He Lived Among Us (2011). Honestly, a few tweaks could have made this movie much more of a contender.

To be sure, contriving for the tribune responsible for Jesus execution and for the unit guarding Jesus’ tomb to be the same person, and giving him the name Clavius (from the Latin for “nails”) to promote him to this movie’s protagonist is an acceptable bit of artistic license, though I think the movie’s makers could have gotten a lot more mileage out of following a named and known historical figure the way Christian novelist Paul L.

Maier did with his historical novel about Pontius Pilate. (I still long for the day some movie makers dare to adapt that story to the big screen.) I could even have forgiven it for its canonical errors of portraying Mary Magdalene as a former prostitute (which she most definitely wasn’t) and suggesting the guards at Jesus’ tomb had actually been getting drunk that evening (they most certainly had not) if it had kept the quality of its storytelling consistent.

After all, I was willing to overlook a few of Mel Gibson’s mistakes in The Passion (including the one about Mary Magdalene, no less) on the same grounds.

Risen (Source: http://www.gospelherald.com)

Pilate and Clavius in particular are fun to watch throughout much of the movie, and some of their lines were particularly witty, though I would have liked to hear some more. Pilate’s sardonically asking Clavius “Did you win?” when he reports to him in something less than a presentable condition right after a battle, for instance, was a good line, but I kept waiting for Clavius to make some witty retort (“You should see how the other side looks!”) that he never did.

To increase the potential irony, he also really should have made some snark about how frequent and forgettable these battles with Israelite insurrectionists were. (“The stones and arrows were raining down on our shields.

In Judea, this is what we call ‘Friday.'”) While the circumstances under which Clavius is called upon to investigate Jesus’ resurrection are awfully contrived, casting this as an open-ended mystery that focuses on the character development of the detective rather than the mystery to which we already know the outcome is a workable plot. In fact, this plot works perfectly fine, right up to the moment Clavius finally sees Jesus alive. While the story isn’t completely over by then, this really should have been the climactic moment at which he either accepts or rejects the mystery’s miraculous resolution.

Instead, the movie makes the fatal mistake of forcing Clavius to continue putting off making this decision so he can tag along with Jesus’ disciples to witness several more Scriptural events.

By the time the movie’s former protagonist finally makes the decision he should have made back at the climax, it’s not his movie anymore; and alas, it’s not the movie we in the audience came to see either.

Source: RorschachKovacs – imdb


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