We went to see Risen last night with some friends. I admit that I went with certain expectations. I tried not to, but it was no use. Some of those expectations were met, some were not, and some were exceeded.
I thought I’d take a minute or two and share some of my thoughts. This may contain spoilers so be advised.
- This is a work of fiction. For those with little or no familiarity with scripture this should be noted. Scripture contains no information whatsoever about a Roman Tribune named Clavius and his investigation to find the body of Jesus. However, the details of the case being investigated are real. Except for some changes in the chronology and context of some of the quotations and events it was remarkably faithful to the text. I guess you would call it “historical fiction.”
- The movie was well done. One of the expectations I had was that I would be disappointed with the production value of another “faith based” film. Certainly, it was no Star Wars in this area. It clearly did not have a huge budget. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. The characters felt authentic. I absolutely loved the casting of the disciples. They did a good job of taking these men down off the pedestal we often put them on, and presented them as the down-to-earth, sometimes befuddled, crew that they were.
- Why do movies based in Bible times give the characters British accents?
- I loved the concept. The idea of inserting an investigator into the story is a creative way to point out the real, solid evidence that Jesus indeed rose from the dead. But, I was a bit disappointed in how that played out.
- SPOILER HERE: My expectation, from seeing the trailers ahead of time, was that Clavius would dive into the investigation and, based on his examination of all the evidence, would come to the inescapable conclusion that the body would never be found because he had, indeed, risen. I didn’t even expect to see Jesus as a character in the movie. Instead, his investigation leads him to the “upper room,” described in scripture, where he barges in to discover Jesus sitting with his disciples. Actually, I thought they played that scene pretty well. It just wasn’t what I had expected. He continues with the disciples until Jesus’ ascension into heaven. While some of the best dialog of the movie takes place between Clavius and the disciples (especially Peter) during this time, I still think my way could have made for a better movie.
- That said, I thought the casting for Jesus was excellent! He actually looked middle-eastern!
I sometimes wonder about our (Christians) expectations for movies like this. I think we need to be careful not to depend on a well-produced movie to do the work of presenting the gospel. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m glad movies like this are produced and gain the attention that they do. This is a movie that, depending on your relationship, you could go see with a non-believing friend. It could lead to some great conversation. There are lots of good reasons to continue making them and to continue to improve their quality. But let’s not kid ourselves. A person doesn’t come to faith because of good special effects. Jesus’ story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16 reminds us of this. “He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” -Luke 16:31
Also, they don’t generally come to faith simply through a persuasive presentation of the evidence. Which, the more I think about this, might be the reason the producers of this movie chose the path they did. It was Clavius’ face to face encounter with Jesus, and the testimony of his disciples that impacted him.
The same is true today.