Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Young Messiah Review

Easter is around the corner and, as I have said previously, there are quite a handful of faith-based films coming out in honor of the season. I was rather high on last month's Risen as it was a really fascinating story about the resurrection taken from a unique angle. Later this week you'll learn of my opinion of Miracles from Heaven, which comes from the same studio that made Heaven in for Real a huge success. In April comes God's Not Dead 2, a sequel which I am quite honestly dreading. But right now it is time to talk about The Young Messiah, a movie that definitely piqued my interest. Reviews have been all over the place, so I didn't know what to think going in. The anti-Christian trolls were very active on IMDb, bringing it down to a 5.3 score. Critics were mixed with a 55 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score there was more positive with a 72 percent while the Cinema Score was a very strong A-. In the box office, though, this bombed with an abysmal $3.3 million. So yeah, I had no idea what to think. Turns out I have mixed feelings at best about this movie and thus I can't recommend you spending your money to see it.

The reason this movie was so intriguing to me is because it attempted to tell the story of what life was like for Christ as a young child. As I stated in my review of Risen, the story of Christ's life is one that has been told over and over in the history of cinema. Some of the first movies ever made were movies about Christ. This makes sense because Christians are obviously adamant about getting the story of Christ out to the world. But now with so many movies about this same subject having been made already, in my opinion you plan on doing this again then you have to do something new and unique. This is what this movie did. No one has really attempted to dive into the childhood of Christ. And there's good reason for that. Almost nothing is written about the childhood of Christ. We obviously have the story of his birth. Then we have the story of him teaching the priests in the temple when he was 12. Outside that, we have one small verse that says that he increased in wisdom and knowledge. That's it. The rest of what's written about him in the Gospels is him as an adult. That means there would have to be a lot of creativity to make this work as well as a lot of intelligence to make Christian audiences accept this as plausible.

That's the problem here. This didn't feel plausible to me. No, I'm not going to sit here and be a New Testament purist and yell at this movie for not being perfectly accurate. The biggest reason for that is that with this subject matter, we just simply don't know what happened. I can't say for sure that something they did was right or wrong because we just don't know. Even if we did know, I'm usually fairly forgiving with Biblical movies as long as they don't pull a Noah and do something completely bogus and disgusting with an amazing story just for the sake of using it as a basis to jump on your political high horse. The Young Messiah didn't feel blasphemous or awful. It just felt off. I wasn't offended. I was just raising an eyebrow at everything that happened. We start the movie off by a bully running to hurt a girl. Jesus yells at the guy to stop which is followed by the devil throwing an apple in the kids way, tripping him and killing him. Of course Jesus is the only one that can see the devil and so the whole crowd claims 7-year-old Jesus for killing him. After a bit of an uproar, Jesus raises the kid from the dead. What? Jesus raised people from the dead when he was only 7-years old? That just doesn't feel right.

The rest of the movie is essentially a coming of age story, so to speak. Jesus is realizing that he has these amazing powers to perform miracles, but he doesn't know why he is so special. But Mary and Joseph won't tell him because they feel he is too young to know this. In theory, I can understand the struggles Mary and Joseph have as parents in this situation. How do you teach God's only begotten son about God? Is it right to tell a 7-year-old that he is in fact the savior of the world? It's also possible that Mary and Joseph at this point don't fully comprehend exactly what this means themselves so they might not be sure how to explain in. But still. These are two very faithful human beings as the Bible explains. An angel came to them before he was born and told them who this was. Why would they hold back in explaining to him who is? Especially after, according this this movie, he's definitely proven that he deserves to know since he's already performed miracles and can quote all scripture. But anywho, they don't and so most of this movie is young Jesus trying to figure it out on his own which includes him travelling from Nazareth to Jerusalem by himself to figure this out. It just didn't feel right to me.

The other thing about this movie is that the tone felt off. This is Easter time. And this is a movie about Christ. This should be more light-hearted and spiritual in tone. Even if the facts are off in a Biblical movie, if I come out feeling uplifted and inspired, I can give it a pass. That's the point of a faith-based movie, right? That doesn't happen here. This movie is surprisingly dark and creepy. It also definitely earns its PG-13 rating. Now I'm not against the idea of making a faith-based movie PG-13. Risen from last month and Son of God from 2014 were both PG-13 and I enjoyed those movies. But those were PG-13 mainly because of the crucifixion scenes. The tone was still great and uplifting. The Young Messiah was just creepy and depressing for much of it. First off, we had the crazy new young Herod trying to hunt down this child. They did a great job of making him feel evil and crazy, but they got a little carried away with it, especially when they threw in a scene of a scantily-clad female dancing for him for an extended period of time. Because of him, much of the movie was the Roman soldiers chasing Jesus and his family. They were terrifying. We had a few gruesome crucifixion scenes. As in while travelling, the family walked down a path full of people being crucified. Was this necessary? And when all that wasn't happening, we had the devil creeping around.

Yeah. I wasn't expecting all that. Not that I really mind a dark and creepy Biblical movie, but when we're talking about the life of Christ, especially 7-year-old Christ, I would think that we would at least have some spiritual aspect to this. Right? No. This wasn't a spiritual movie. I don't think they were trying to help people find faith in Christ or rekindle the fire in believers during this Easter season. They were just telling a dark and creepy fictional drama of what life may have been like for a 7-year-old Jesus. No, this is not a bad movie by any means. I wasn't offended and turned off. I was just let down because I was confused for most of the movie about why certain things were happening. And the overall narrative of this coming of age story was just not that interesting to me. Sure, the production quality of the movie was fantastic. Great cinematography. Great set designs that made us look like we were in first century Jerusalem. Fantastic casting choices and phenomenal acting. So this definitely had potential to be really good. It's just the choices they made with the story and tone were off. Perhaps this could be traced back to the source material, but I haven't read the book this was based off of and I don't know much about the author, so I can't make a fair judgment there.

In this end, there's a lot of choices for Christian audiences this Easter season. As a Christian myself, I really enjoy a good faith-based movie, especially during Easter or Christmas seasons. I want to be able to recommend these movies to you if you are also the target audience. If you aren't a person of faith and you don't like Christian movies regardless of how good they are, well, I don't really know why you are reading this because you already probably knew that there wasn't a chance that you would go see this movie. Unless you just like reading my reviews. In which case, thanks. But if you are a Christian looking for a good faith-based movie to see, my recommendation is that you skip this one. I did think the production quality of the movie is great and while this isn't a bad movie, the story was just not interesting, it was way too dark and creepy than it needed to be, it wasn't very spiritual at all, and, although we don't know much about the life of Christ when he was this young, this just didn't feel like it was even in the right ballpark. I didn't hate this. But I didn't enjoy it either. I'll let you know if Miracles from Heaven or God's Not Dead 2 are worth seeing, but as of now I can send you to see Risen instead of this. That's my recommendation. My grade for The Young Messiah is a 6/10.

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