Thursday, March 28, 2013

"The Bible"

Updated: this series is now available to stream in HD on Netflix. Jeremiah also reviewed the series.

Original Post:

Those of you who read my posts know I get very passionate about films. I love films and I love the medium of visual storytelling. A good story is hard to come by, so when I see one I latch onto it and don't let go. My latest obsession is not a blockbuster, but a modest $22 million project; the ten-hour television miniseries entitled "The Bible."

David, with his friend Uriah,
invades Jerusalem.
This title is both deceptive and shockingly descriptive. For you see "The Bible" is not the scriptural summary it might lead you to think it is, but a lean, focused story about Jesus Christ. Don't let the fact that it spends 5 hours on a selection of Old-Testament characters fool you. Their stories are incredibly abbreviated, and though there are still two hours yet remaining, they have already spent four times the amount of screen-time on Jesus then they have on anyone else. This reveals a hidden bias on the part of the filmmakers: the the message of the Bible is primarily about the redemptive mission of Christ, and that the earlier stories primarily exist as the context and introductory chapels of the main narrative. That we should see the sacrifice of Christ in the context of the proposed sacrifice of Isaac, the deliverance he brings in light of Moses and Joshua, his kingship in light of David, and his faithfulness and power in light of Daniel.

Moses, as deliverer, is a Proto-Christ.
If you've read the Bible, you know the story. What's impressive is how closely the series adheres to it. It is surprisingly Protestant in its depiction. Now yes, I'm sure you've heard about the myriad departures and omissions made by the creative staff. But if looked at from the perspective of the many adaptations we've seen over the last ten years, its extremely faithful. More faithful than "The Hobbit" or "The Fellowship of the Ring." If you are looking for an exact visual record of the text of Scripture you will be disappointed. But there is no better way to experience the story of God's redemptive plan this Easter season than watching "The Bible."

The series is beautifully shot in Morocco, and since they shoot all the installments in the same general area, you see great continuity between the time periods. The actors are all unknown in the United States (though if you are like me, you might spot an Indiana Jones villain in there somewhere), and they use a wide ethnic diversity to represent a variety of characters. This is a reaction to the reality that most Bible characters were not British, or likely even white. Jesus is played by a Portuguese actor, angels by a variety of ethnicities, and yes, Samson by an African. If this offends you, I challenge to examine your pre-conceptions of the Bible. Many of the extras are clearly of North African descent (leading to some humorous comparison between one of the characters and President Obama), but again, this is due to the location of the filming of the series.
Only Jesus can throw the stone.

So now you're sad you've missed the show. Even though the first episode was the cable event of the year with 13 million viewers, and subsequent installments have hit 10 million, you weren't among them. Only one more episode left to air (and on Easter night) on the History Channel. Well I have some suggestions for you.

1: History will probably re-air them. If you have cable you can watch for free.
2: iTunes currently sells a season pass at a very reasonable price. Downside: cut up into hour installments instead of the 2 hours they were aired in. Also poor sound mix.
3: The series gets released on Blu-Ray and DVD on April 2nd, two days after Easter. This is the best way to experience the series, and a wonderful way to host showing for your friends and neighbors.
4: UPDATED in 2014 - the series is now on NETFLIX, in HD, with surround sound, and a spanish language track as well. For those of you with Netflix accounts, this just became a no brainer.

I am a huge fan of this series. Even the soundtrack is top notch with work by Hans Zimmer. I cannot recommend it to you enough. So from me to you, Happy Easter.

Click here for more movie reviews.
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