"A Kinder, Gentler" Passion:
Any resemblance to authenticity should be abandoned totally when referencing 'Judas', for any consideration whatsoever to this being biblical or even credible is beyond belief. Anyone with an ounce of scriptural sense would see this film as nothing more than a puff peace to please the politically-correct pundits who poured such hate out on Mel Gibson's authentic depiction of the Passion of Christ.
"One of the criticisms against Mel was that some of his dialogue would never have been used in the time of Christ. Well, I was amused by the constant, current sounding phrases and comments heard throughout 'Judas.' My favorite phrase had Pilate's wife state that Jesus should be "sent packing"! Boy, how historically realistic! I expected one of the Romans to say, "My bad!" upon seeing Christ on the cross!"
After seeing Mel Gibson's masterpiece 'The Passion of The Christ,' I approached ABC's broadcast of 'Judas' on Monday, March 8th, with some skepticism. I mean this is the network that gave us the absurd "investigative report" on 'The DaVinci Code' which was nothing but a blasphemous insult geared to generate ratings. 'Judas' is produced by Paulist Productions, which has been creating religious movies since 1960 and was founded by the late Father Ellwood "Bud" Keiser, CSP. Given the criticisms thrown at Mel's film, the network involved, the more "industry involved" Paulist Productions, who are known for their liberal bent, and the general limits imposed by the television industry, I did not expect much.
One Confused Guy
I realize that Paulist Productions is too tied to the filmmaking industry, too financially limited, and too compromised to the powers that be to have the kind of artistic freedom which Mel had, so I see 'Judas' more as a combination of its creators' tone and ABC's bias. 'Judas' is billed as "ABC's interpretive dramatization covering the 2 years which Judas spent with Jesus." One of the criticisms thrown at Mel was that his film did not give us enough background to fully explain the context of the movie itself. 'Judas' gives us an 8 year-old Judas witnessing his father's crucifixion and subsequent life with his widowed mother. He works as a wine seller and encounters Jesus when Christ overturns the moneychangers' tables. The entire story has Judas, played by Johathon Schaech, misinterpreting everything Jesus does and remaining determined to convince Jesus to lead an armed attack on the Romans.
We also see a closer connection between Judas and Caiaphas than I ever recalled reading in scripture. From this interpretation by ABC and Paulist Productions, Judas is simply looking in the wrong place for the wrong guy to lead his revolt against the Romans.
His confusion, eventual realization, and subsequent frustration with this erroneous search is what leads him to betray Christ.
Find Mel and Run The Other Way
To see 'Judas' is to see what more mainline religious production would have done to 'The Passion of The Christ.' First of all, we have a more hippie-like, flower power, 'Godspell'-like Jesus played by Jonathan Scarfe. Secondly, we have that Jesus goofing around with Judas as if they were blood brothers, wrestling and such. I guess this is an attempt to show a more human, loving, guy next door Jesus! Thirdly, Judas is made to look almost like Peter in standing and voice among the Apostles. When Jesus chooses Peter as the head of the group, Peter tells Judas, "I thought he was going to choose you." Fourth, Pilate's wife Claudia is a tough feminist-style tell your husband what to do gal who gives Pilate the idea on the best way to arrest Jesus and comes up with the "offer Barrabas or Jesus" tactic. Pilate, played by Tim Matheson, finds everything she says brilliant and follows along like a puppy.
Every attempt is made to make Pilate look like the main culprit behind the arrest and even the death of Jesus. The Jewish leaders are not exactly against the idea, but they realize Pilate is at the wheel and follow along rather well.
It is the Roman soldiers who lead the arrest of Jesus at Gethsemane, and it is Pilate who comes up with the idea to act at night so as to avoid problems. The scourged Jesus looks barely touched compared to the dramatic realism of Mel's tortured Christ.
When Pilate offers the crowd the choice between Jesus and Barrabas, the crowd is clearly mixed in reaction and Pilate practically decides on his own, making the public offer look more like a sham than a legitimate choice. Although Pilate tries once or twice to help Jesus avoid death, he has little of the personal struggle described in the Gospels. In fact, a clear attempt is made to show Pilate as relatively ruthless and more interested in saving his own neck than any form of justice.
Upon Jesus's death, it is the centurion Flavius who practically takes Christ down from the cross on his own. We then see James, Peter, and Andrew bring Judas down from his noose and pray over his body because "Jesus would have wanted us to."
One of the criticisms against Mel was that some of his dialogue would never have been used in the time of Christ. Well, I was amused by the constant, current sounding phrases and comments heard throughout 'Judas.' My favorite phrase had Pilate's wife state that Jesus should be "sent packing"! Boy, how historically realistic! I expected one of the Romans to say, "My bad!" upon seeing Christ on the cross!
It is clear that 'Judas' is what happens when you run in the opposite direction of where Mel Gibson was going with his 'The Passion of The Christ.'
I find myself feeling a sense of Déjà vu with this review. I recall writing that CBS's Joan of Arcadia is sadly the best television can offer in terms of "religious programming" and that even at that Joan is a packaged, New Age, politically correct, nauseatingly modernist vision of God and religion. I was criticized for daring to put down any religious program and lectured to by Neo-spirituals that I should be happy that God is mentioned at all on television and therefore kiss those who do it as saints.
Unfortunately, while I guess that it is something that ABC even showed 'Judas' at all, its bland, politically correct, feminist, and yawning interpretation of these events looks pathetic in the shadow of Mel's artistic masterpiece.
Father Frank Desiderio, the head of Paulist Productions, admits that Mel's film is "superb technically" but adds that he left the theatre "feeling sad and sick to my stomach" noting that the "violence made it too painful to stay involved in the story". He admits to having pangs of envy for Mel's star power and budget ( 30 million versus 5 million for 'Judas'). It is obvious that even with a bigger budget, Desiderio's vision would have been nowhere near Mel's given that latter's neo-Catholic views.
Editor's Note: We are pleased to announce Gabriel Garnica will be contributing many articles in 2004. Heaven is once again under attack by those who would seek to ignore and overthrow God's majesty and authority. Gabriel Garnica, educator and attorney, will submit regular insights and commentaries to remind and help guide readers toward a deeper and more assertive faith. Touching on topics and issues ranging from personal faith, doctrine, education, scripture, the media, family life, morality, and values, Gabriel's notes will be music to traditional ears but unpleasant tones to those who have bought into the misguided notions so prevalent and spreading in today's Catholic world.