Monday, February 22, 2016

Risen [2016]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  ChicagoTribune (1 1/2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (1 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review (Sr. R. Pacatte) review (K. Schiffer) review (M. Foust) review

ChicagoTribune (K. Walsh) review (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review  

While many Catholic / Christian reviewers (above) have dutifully even surprisingly gushed over the recent film Risen [2016] (directed and screenplay cowritten by Kevin Reynolds along with Paul Aielo on whose story the film is based) I left decidedly unimpressed. 

Call it a rather poor mash-up of Ben Hur [1959] and CSI [2000-2015] that expects its audience to be not particularly bright:   The story follows an invented Roman Legionary named Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes) who is tasked by Pontius Pilate (played by Peter Firth) to investigate "the Rumors" that the Galilean preacher Yeshua (Jesus, played by Cliff Curtis), who was brought to him by the Sanhedrin (the Jewish temple authorities) in the midst of the already quite chaotic Jewish festivities of Passover and who he had crucified, had now somehow "risen from the dead."

Okay, the premise itself does not sound bad.  Wouldn't Pilate have made such an investigation?  Perhaps or ... PERHAPS NOT.

Pilate is presented _in all four of the Gospels_ as NOT HAVING EVEN KNOWN who Jesus was (esp. John 18:33ff) prior to him being presented to him by the Sanhedrin for quick trial / crucifixion.  Yes, Pilate did order a plaque be put over Jesus' head on the Cross declaring him "The King of the Jews" but the conventional interpretation of the gesture was that it was sarcastic: "Yes, this is 'YOUR KING', nailed to OUR CROSS.  This will happen TO ANYONE who defies OUR AUTHORITY."

So Pilate could well have been "done" with the affair as soon as Jesus was dead / put in the grave.  Yes, the Gospels report that Jewish Authorities came to him and asked for a guard be placed by the tomb and that he obliged.  BUT THE GOSPELS DO NOT REPORT THAT PILATE CONCERNED HIMSELF ONE WAY OR ANOTHER after the tomb was empty.  Besides by the day of Jesus' Resurrection the "annual Roman nightmare" that was the Jewish Passover was over.  It was time to just pack-up go home (to Ceasarea Philippi). As the Pilate imagined in (1970s-era) Jesus Christ Superstar declared: "You Jews (back in Jesus' time) pick your Messiahs (anointed ones) by the sackful ..." 

Where the story here collapses however, is in its imagining of how EASY such a ROMAN investigation would have been, almost like in the NY based Law and Order [1990-2010] series.

Why would it be hard?  Well (1) The Romans and the Jews didn't speak each others' language, (2) The Romans were OCCUPIERS and THE JEWS HATED THEM, (3) Beyond the "normal" hatred that would have existed between the Roman occupiers and the Jewish occupied populace, the Jews of the time took it even a step further, where they wouldn't normally even talk (even if they could) with the Roman occupiers (hence why Pilate didn't even know who Jesus was prior to him being brought to him by the Jewish authorities).

So a ROMAN investigation into Jesus' rumored Resurrection wouldn't have been a simple calling of Mary, mother of Jesus (played by Frida Cauchi) / Mary Magdalene (played by Maria Botto) "over to the Constabulary" "for a chat": "Before we get started, would you want some coffee or perhaps a donut?"  It would be more like our troops investigating "the whereabouts of some random Islamic mystic / perhaps two-bit terrorist" after some incident at some Shiite holy day celebrated in (the Shiite holy city of ) Karbala during the years of our recent occupation of Iraq -- Who'd honestly "talk to us"?  We'd have to go out and capture them.  Would "our people" even be able to understand what they had to say even if "they" did talk to us (first in terms of language, then of custom)?  And could we trust anything that "they" told us even if we did (sort of) understand?

So this film is horrendously, even arrogantly naive -- all the characters in the film, of course, speak English (the Romans, English accented of course).   And Clavius, of course, is largely "converted" by the experience after being _welcomed_ into THE INNERMOST CIRCLE of Jesus' disciples (the Apostles), this even before Pentecost, heck even before Jesus' Ascension.

Anyone who doesn't see a problem with this, PLEASE READ THE BOOK OF ACTS  to appreciate "the journey of conversion" that it was FOR THE EARLY CHURCH to begin accepting non Jews into the Christian faith:  Long after Pentecost (Acts 2), St. Peter (played in the film by Stewart Scudamore) had difficulty EVEN ENTERING A ROMAN LEGIONARY'S HOUSE (Acts 10), and even afterwards, after the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15, Gal 2) where the Early Church formally accepted non-Jewish Christians (mostly Greeks) into the Church, St. Paul wrote to the Galatians that he had to reprimand him for his inconsistency of not eating with Greek Christians when Jewish Christians were around (Gal 2:11ff).

So it's just a sloppy film that assumes that its audience is too either dumb or simply too Anglocentric to appreciate the complexities -- ethnic/linguistic, religious, political -- of Jesus' time.

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1 comment:

  1. Dear Fr. Kriz,

    Excellent points. But Father, I wish you would please stop/cease using/abusing slashes/virgules/strokes randomly/willy-nilly repeatedly/unceasingly in each/every review/critique!

    (I'm trying to be funny, not mean, I hope it came across the right way.)
    Seriously, it really interferes with being able to read clearly and quickly. If you post a review sans slashes, please let me know, and I will donate immediately!