• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Thursday, April 30, 2020

    Still No Real News on The Passion of the Christ 2: The Resurrection

    About a year ago a strange thing happened. Noticing IMDb had a poster image for a sequel to Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004) I began preparing a blog post on the subject. After all despite the rumours of a sequel about the resurrection that have swirled for roughly the last fifteen years, none of them had ever really seemed substantive enough to actually write up. Yet when I sat down a couple of days to write the thing the page was empty. The body poster had gone. Actually it was probably a fake poster designed by a fan, which IMDb swiftly took down once they were alerted to the fact.

    However, there has been a fresh flurry of headlines about the film in the last few weeks following an interview that Jim Cavaziel, the star of the original film (my review), gave to Fox Nation. It was Easter after all.

    Sadly, I'm not able to comment on the interview as it's not available in the UK, but that didn't seem to be a problem for our tabloid The Daily Express who also published an article on it containing most of the pertinent parts and there were a few more bits in a piece by Fox News.

    Perhaps the most surprising thing about this story is Caviezel is still lined up to play the title role. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) star was 36 when The Passion came out in 2004; if the sequel - which has the working title The Resurrection - comes out as planned next Easter, then Caviezel will, by then, be 52. To put that in context, H.B. Warner, the oldest actor yet to play Jesus in a major biopic, was 51 when his role in DeMille's silent The King of Kings arrived in cinemas in 1927. While my long-time ally Peter Chattaway noted recently that actors playing Jesus have been getting older, this would still make Caviezel the oldest. And that's assuming that Easter 2021 is even remotely realistic. Given there's been no news of filming (certainly Caviezel doesn't mention it) and the current situation with the Coronavirus, it's starting to seem unlikely.

    What Caviezel did say seemed somewhat underwhelming. He confirmed the script is on it's fifth draft and said he "It's going to be a masterpiece. It's gonna be the biggest film in world history, I believe it will be based on what I feel in my heart." He then made some comments about how easy it is to get super hero films made relative to Bible movies and that he will get "to play the greatest superhero there ever was."

    All of which is much less interesting that the details Gibson himself has given. In an October 2016 interview with USA Today he said "We’re trying to craft this in a way that’s cinematically compelling and enlightening so that it shines new light, if possible, without creating some weird thing". Earlier that year Gibson was interviewed by megachurch pastor Greg Laurie and explained Randall Wallace, who wrote the Braveheart script, was looking at the screenplay. The relevant bit starts at 3:30. He also said:
    "That's a very big subject and it needs to be looked at because we don't want to just do a simple rendering of it. We can all read what happened but in order to experience and explore probably deeper meanings of what's about, it's going to take some doing
    Then in November 2016, he had this interview with Stephen Colbert where, explaining the scale of the film he was planning:
    "It's more than a single event, it's an amazing event and to underpin that with the things around it, is really the story, to enlighten what that means. It's not just about the event, it's not some kind of chronological telling of just that event, that could be boring."
    His interest isn't in a straight telling, but asking the question "what are the other things around it that happen?" When Colbert queried if there were any "bad guys" Gibson replied "There are. They're in another realm. Sure. You're going all over the place. What happened in three days?...I'm not sure but it's worth thinking about isn't it"

    This seems to tie in with this interview with Raymond Arroyo from around the same time where Gibson explains
    "It's not the Burnett version. It's not man comes back walks through walls, has holes in hands, eats a piece of fish. It's a vast theological experience and I think you need to delve into what that means in a way that you take that as the centrepiece and you juxtapose against many things that go on around it and in other realms so that...it gets pretty wild. It's like an acid trip."
    When Arroyo asked if it was nearly ready, Gibson indicated not:
    "It just keeps revealing itself more and more the further you get into it, everything from the fall of the angels to the... it's just crazy...It's opens up all these channels...It’s like, why didn’t they recognise him on the way to Emmaus, y'know?
    Finally, in another Autumn 2016 interview (this was during the promotional tour for Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge) he gave an interview to Deadline where he explained The Resurrection as "Sort of a sequel, that moves on from the Resurrection, but jumps back before, after, back to the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a pre-figurement of everything and the New…you can correlate them in an uncanny way."

    One of the things that always seemed odd to me growing up was the line in the Apostles Creed that says that Jesus "descended into Hell". The biblical justification for all this is fairly tenuous, but the "Harrowing of Hell" is an ancient tradition and it sounds to me like this is what Gibson is working on.

    If so, that will be interesting for two reasons. Firstly, because in the run up to The Passion Gibson promised a film that would show events "just the way it happened", but actually delivered a whole load of supernatural (and some would say "horror") elements happening on another level. From the sounds of it, the sequel could either follow a similar pattern, or even largely abandon the pursuit of "realism" in favour of something more fantastical (for want of a better word).

    Secondly, it looks from the megachurch clip above that this will be marketed heavily towards the evangelicals who turned out in spades to "support" The Passion. If so it will be interesting to see how well that works. Evangelicals don't tend to talk too much about the Harrowing of Hell - as I say the Bible doesn't talk about it much and so aside from a few hangover traditions from more traditional churches, and the agreement that Jesus' death beat the devil it's something no-one ever seems too keen to flesh out. Of course similar points were made about traditions about the stations of the cross and meditations on Christ's wounds, only for those who made them to be fairly surprised how the film did, so it will be interesting to see if something similar happens if, and indeed when, this film makes it to cinemas.

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