Thursday, February 23, 2006


a Mel Gibson project about a lone messianic figure who emerges from the wasteland, promises a new path to salvation to a besieged, if somewhat less than appreciative, desert community, and, through his suffering and by his sacrifice, redeems them... man, I LOVE The Road Warrior! So when I noticed The Passion of the Christ sitting on the shelf at the library, I had to check it out.

No car chases in this one, though -- just 2+ hours of Jim Caviezel getting the, well, bejeezus beaten out of him...which, if you've seen The Thin Red Line, you know isn't necessarily a bad idea.

This was a good movie for people who think the problem with The Last Temptation of Christ is that it's not graphic enough...y'know, not enough bloody realism. New Jesus X-treme: Now with 75% more blood!

Actually, forget Last Temptation -- this was bloodier than Raging Bull, with Kid Galilee telling the Romans, "You never knocked me down." This was bloodier than GoodFellas, with JC telling the Pharisees to go home and get their shine boxes, then being dragged away and mutilated by a bunch of Italians. JC was bloodier, and had more of a death wish, than Travis Bickle at the end of Taxi Driver. I haven't seen a character so awash in his own blood since Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs -- and there were just as many severed ears in this movie as in that one.

Blood bloody bloodier bloodiest bloodacious blooderific. Does all that blood turn into wine, or does the miracle of transubstantiation only work in one direction?

There was criticism of this movie for turning the New Testament into a Hammer horror film and skipping the message of the gospels. I thought the flashbacks were very well integrated into the blood and gore, particularly the "cast the first stone" bit and the Sermon on the Mount. I am just another lapsed Catholic, but those are some of the great philosophical expressions in recorded history, and, as in Last Temptation, they were wonderfully presented.

Like any great art, this movie is both timeless and completely relevant to contemporary times. It uses its Biblical setting to hold a mirror up to the world of today. Think about it. A young man from the Middle East is suspected of being an enemy of the world's lone superpower. Tribal leaders capture him and present him to the occupying force. The occupier renders him to an allied state power known to use coercive interrogative techniques. He's then brought back before the leader of the occupation, who finds no specific cause to convict him, but orders him detained and punished nonetheless. The top brass issues vague orders to that effect, with no real guidance regarding the details. The lowly privates and sergeants carrying out those orders go a bit overboard, but the top brass claims they were just a few ill-trained bad apples -- their actions didn't represent official policy, just frat-boy-esque hijinks -- y'know, for shits and giggles. Hey, at least Christ was given something resembling a trial!

Not so sure about the last scene. (SPOILER ALERT: He's not really dead.) With its closeup of a nude, muscular dude striding off stiffly toward Judgment Day, it kinda looked like the beginning of The Terminator. It even had similar "buh-buh, buh-buh-buh" theme music. But then, what is "I am the resurrection" but a polysyllabic version of "I'll be back"?

As ever, JC is hugely profitable. This movie has made over $600 million. With that kind of box office, it's inevitable that there'll be a sequel. I can't wait!

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