As nice as it was to see The History Channel take a break from what is seemingly an endless Pawn Stars marathon, the ten hours dedicated to The Bible were spotted with poor choices, performances, and storytelling.
Despite being somewhat inconsistent, the Mark Burnett (creator of Survivor)/Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) project, which they deemed “their calling”, broke viewing records and even toppled the one time unconquerable American Idol in the ratings. So it was no surprise that the DVD would be rushed to store shelves to further feed those still hungering for more of the greatest story ever told. 20th Century Fox released the four-disc set of the 440-minute miniseries on April 2nd full of bonus material including the music video “Mary Did You Know” and six short documentaries. Oh, and just so you know; many people who bought The Bible on Amazon also bought The Hobbit.
Obviously attempting to tell a story so valued and revered by a large portion of the population was sure to be an invitation to criticism and comparison to previous incarnations, and though the aforementioned producers admitted to having limited funding for the project, this does not excuse poor casting choices that hampered the project from start to finish. Adding to the poor performance of actors clearly in over their proverbial heads was the poor decision to fill the first episodes with stories told before on the big screen, and told better.
In the simplest of terms; if you can’t afford to make the parting of the Red Sea look better than it did when put on film more than 50 years ago, then you should not try. If you can’t tell the story of Samson and Delilah better than it was told on film more than 60 years ago, then pick another story. Like most of the first stories chosen, that of Samson and Delilah seems clearly abbreviated for the sake of time, but ultimately it is the casting of Nonso Anozie as Samson that causes this portion of the series to fall short. His performance is adequate, but the child-like face on the body of such a large man is simply too distracting.
It appears that the writers and producers made choices to illicit conversations at the water cooler on Monday and at the baptismal pool on the following Sunday, as controversy sells, but starting the series with so much darkness and violence may have caused the series to fail to reach many of those targeted. Roma Downey stated that she hopes the series will bring people back to the book itself. There are certain choices made by the filmmakers that will certainly have many looking things up, but in some cases, it may have been more conducive to give the audience what they expect. Sure, the Bible may not say that Eve ate an apple, but will the choice not to provide the audience with the common belief cause them to look it up, or become disenchanted?
Like the series, the bonus features are hit and miss. The majority of the bonus material focuses on the making of the series and the involvement of Burnett and Downey. Their passion is obvious and certainly evokes forgiveness from any member of the audience that found the project lacking. The biggest miss in the bonus features is that which focuses on the visual effects. It’s rare to find something so thrown together to serve the purpose of being called an “extra”. Little insight is lent to how the effects were accomplished other than showing (no vocal information provided) computers multiplying shots in this project, no credit to those who accomplished the effects, and obviously missing are the effects most fans would be interested in. Ultimately, though occasionally redundant, the bonus material will please fans of the series despite the special effects vignette which is a huge fail.
Looking at the series as a whole; one could easily give the writers and producers much praise as the series clearly goes from dark to light with the birth of Jesus and sustains an energy and consistency though those chapters involving the life of Jesus that is sure to pull back any viewer who may have drifted away during the previous abrupt storytelling efforts in the first episodes.
Though Diogo Morgado gives an uneven performance at times as Jesus, he displays the look and energy of Ted Neeley (Jesus Christ Superstar) and the intensity of Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) throughout the production. Morgado has an endearing quality, much like one would imagine Jesus had, and said quality makes him enjoyable to watch.
So, do we applaud those responsible for what appears to be a ten-hour message showing life before the birth of Christ and after that truly reflects The Bible, or do we roll our eyes at the same people who filled the story with horribly over-produced fight scenes that look like they came out of a martial arts B-movie?
Recommendation: If you had the time to collect the many productions based on the Bible such as the previously mentioned Jesus Christ Superstar and The Passion of the Christ, as well as others such as The Ten Commandments and Samson and Delilah (1949) to name a few, you could assemble a superior product to The Bible. Nonetheless, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey set out to provide an updated telling of several of the stories in the Bible that would appeal to a younger audience and endure. They accomplished their goal.
With a topic so ripe with controversy in today’s society, such an endeavor is sure to get picked apart by skeptics and embraced by the faithful. Ultimately The Bible has numerous endearing qualities that make it worth watching and many poor decisions that serve as distractions.
So, a project about He believed to be perfect created by those who are not, is also not perfect. Also, like all of us, it could have and should have been better. Not a huge surprise.