is a 1999 Made-for-TV Movie
, originally broadcast in two parts, about the life of Jesus
from The Bible
. It stars Jeremy Sisto
as Jesus, Gary Oldman
as Pontius Pilate, Debra Messing
as Mary Magdalene, and Jacqueline Bisset as Mary the mother of Jesus.
Its narrative combines and condenses The Four Gospels
and expands upon
several details like Jesus's human characterization and the socio-political context of the time.
It has been called a "kosher
" counterpart of The Last Temptation of Christ
due to its similar focus on the humanity of Jesus, while still being more orthodox in doctrinal matters.
This work includes examples of the following tropes:
- Adaptation Distillation:
- To harmonize the Gospel accounts. For instance, Jesus first meets his disciples Andrew and John in the company of John the Baptist, as in the Gospel of John. Andrew and John take them to their brothers Peter and James, who are fishing as in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke (albeit with Andrew and John).
- The post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus are condensed to just two: First he appears to Mary Magdalene outside his tomb. When Mary tells the other disciples in a locked room, "doubting" Thomas openly voices his doubts, then Jesus appears in their midst.
- Adaptation Expansion: Quite a few scenes are added to supplement the Gospel accounts.
- All-Loving Hero: Jesus loves everyone, even the Roman invaders, to the extent of crying over their bodies after a battle with Zealots. Barabbas the Zealot leader is disgusted, so he punches Jesus in the face. Jesus doesn't retaliate. Jesus is even willing to forgive Satan, but Satan doesn't want forgiveness.
- Anachronism Stew: Deliberate. Satan appears to Jesus as a man in a modern black suit (also as a seductive woman in red, but the former guise is more prominent.)
- Anti-Villain: Caiaphas the High Priest is given some context as the Jewish religious leader, willing to stand up to Pontius Pilate when he decides to make a big entrance, ordering images of the Roman Emperor to be displayed in the Temple. While Caiaphas decides Jesus should die, it's because he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
- Ascended Extra:
- The film adds some father-son bonding scenes with Jesus and Joseph the carpenter. Early on, they're on the road looking for work. Later when Joseph dies of a heart attack, Jesus pleads with God to raise him... this is before he fully realizes who he is.
- The film hints that Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, had a Childhood Friend Romance with Jesus, but he believed it was not his Father's will that they marry.
- The film fleshes out Barabbas as a Zealot, fighting the Romans and butting heads with Jesus on occasion, before Jesus is crucified in his place much later.
- A Flash Back shows Jesus and John the Baptist visiting the Temple together as children.
- Matthew first shows up collecting taxes door to door, backed up by Roman soldiers. He goes to Jesus's family house in Nazareth and takes their few chickens. The stress leads to Joseph's death by heart attack. Later, Jesus saves Matthew when Zealots attack and kill his escort, and he recruits him to be his disciple.
- Satan is made into a visible antagonist tempting Jesus at key points of his life.
- Bible Times: Of course.
- California Doubling: Filmed in Morocco and Malta.
- Canon Foreigner: The film has a tag-along Roman official named Livio who is recording the administration of Pilate. He also hangs out at the court of Herod Antipas and watches the crucifixion of Jesus.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: The film opens with Jesus dreaming about The Crusades, a witch burning at the stake, and a World War One battlefield where people all invoke his name. This gets a Call Back when Satan tempts him not to go through with his crucifixion and death and runs him through the same scenes.
- Distant Finale: The film ends with a presumably symbolic scene of Jesus in the present day, wearing modern clothes and walking with children.
- God in Human Form: Jesus, with emphasis on the "human" part. He isn't as quite as solemn, grave or ethereal as in other Jesus films like The Greatest Story Ever Told and Jesus of Nazareth. Comparable to the Jesus in The Visual Bible: Matthew.
- Humans Are Flawed: When Satan tries to dissuade Jesus by showing him the evil that will be done in his name, Jesus says people have free will to do good or evil.
- Jesus Was Way Cool: Jesus is portrayed as a warm, cheerful man who loves children and starts water-splashing fights with his disciples. While some critics welcomed the departure from past films, others thought the portrayal lacked gravitas. Comparable to the Jesus in The Visual Bible: Matthew.
- La Résistance: Barabbas and the Zealots.
- Messianic Archetype: Jesus Christ.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Jesus sounds very American.
- The Queen's Latin: Gary Oldman as Pilate.
- We Will Meet Again: Satan to Jesus after he overcomes temptation in the desert.