This time, the creators of a mini-series on the Bible stick with scriptural text, beginning with the crucifixion of Jesus and ending with Pentecost.
For fans of the 2015 television series A.D. The Bible Continues, there will be few surprises in the new feature film Resurrection. That’s because the movie’s producers, LightWorkers Media, have taken the roughly 12 hours of that miniseries and whittled it down to a single-sitting viewing experience. It’s much the same tack they took with their previous feature length film, Son of God (2014), and the results are much the same as well: a faithful and serviceable retelling of New Testament tales that plays out more like a Cliff Notes version of events than it does a dramatic story.
For those who prefer their religious epics to stick to the facts, this may actually come as something of a relief. Gone are the extra-biblical elements that made up much of the running time of the miniseries. Plot lines such as the continuing conflict between the Zealots and the Romans and the pending arrival of an idolatrous statue of Caligula are excised and left on the cutting room floor. Instead, Resurrection begins with the crucifixion of Jesus and ends with Pentecost, sticking with the Scriptural text for the most part.
In that sense, Resurrection is timely viewing, as it takes in all the highlights of the Easter Season that will appear in the Sunday readings at Mass over the next month or so. Along with the crucifixion and the film’s titular event, the movie also touches upon the Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. Given this, Resurrection may be the only film in its genre to concentrate solely on Paschaltide.
That’s admittedly nice for those familiar with the narrative who might appreciate a companion piece to watch as they journey through the Easter season. But what about those who are newcomers or who, Heaven forbid, don’t really pay as much attention to the weekly readings as they should? Well, here, the film’s tendency to “sing to the choir” might leave such folks a little bit confused.
As an example, take the aforementioned Day of Pentecost. When that scene arrives in the movie, those who know the story well will immediately recognize what is going on in the upper room as the third Person of the Holy Trinity makes his public debut. However, as the Holy Spirit is never actually named as the cause of what is happening onscreen, those unfamiliar with the text may wonder exactly why the Apostles are suddenly screaming in foreign tongues while a massive CGI firestorm rages in the sky over Jerusalem.
And yes, there is a literal firestorm depicted onscreen. The filmmakers make liberal use of readily available digital effects to showcase some of the story’s more supernatural elements, as well as provide what are surely the most buff superheroic looking angels you’re likely to find in a movie this decade. This is not necessarily a criticism. Any fan of Charlton Heston’s The Ten Commandments will tell you spectacle certainly has its place in religious storytelling. It’s only to point out that those viewers who might prefer more naturalistic or contemplative fare along the lines of, say, Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew may want to look elsewhere for their Easter time viewing.
All in all, Resurrection does what LightWorkers Media does best. It provides a high-quality, Sunday School safe recap of the major events in its source material. And while the movie ultimately sheds no new light on the story it is telling (unless you count all those glowing special effects), it does indeed tell the actual story. Perhaps, in an age riddled with constant revisionism, that alone is no small praise.
Resurrection is now available for viewing on the Discovery+ streaming service.