Its roots as a television series are obvious, and it’s a long way from the likes of “Ben-Hur” or “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Still, “Son of God” has a couple of sequences that make it an above-average picture.

Roma Downey (television’s “Touched by an Angel”) and her husband, TV “Survivor” producer Mark Burnett, added some extra footage to sequences that were part of “The Bible,” the hit series that was shown on cable TV's History channel last year.

The story of Jesus begins with a brief scene of the Nativity, depicts some of Christ’s miracles and continues through the Resurrection. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado stars as Jesus, and Downey plays his mother, Mary.

You may recall that the television series depicted Satan tempting Christ. Some viewers complained that Satan closely resembled President Obama. Photos are easily found with an Internet search, so you can be the judge of whether the controversy is valid. At any rate, those scenes are not part of the movie.

Greg Hicks (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) plays the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate, and Adrian Schiller (“Bright Star”) portrays Caiaphas, a high priest. We watch them begin to feel threatened by the presence of Christ as he gathers his disciples and attracts hundreds whenever he speaks.

Several familiar scenes include Christ’s meeting with fisherman Peter (Darwin Shaw — aka Daud Shah, “Casino Royale”), Jesus in the temple, the Last Supper, Jesus walking on water and a strangely truncated scene in which a woman (the adultress) is about to be stoned with nothing mentioned about what she did or how this tableau came to be. The finest of the miracle scenes is the “fishes and loaves” sequence, which is shown as a joyous celebration and is uplifting to watch.

Not so admirable are the obvious computer-generated images that include cityscapes and other environments.

I wanted to know more about the disciples, about Mary Magdalene, about Jesus himself. But there’s little time to develop these characters because of the hurry-up approach — evidence that the movie is both a condensation and augmentation of the television series — to the finale that mostly involves the Crucifixion, which is the most stirring, memorable part of the film. It includes a beautiful tribute to "The Pietà," Michelangelo’s masterpiece in St. Peter's Basilica at Vatican City.

One of the finest moments comes during the end credits with Cee Lo Green’s gorgeous rendition of the tender “Mary Did You Know?”

It’s sincere and sometimes inspiring. But it’s not the greatest biblical epic ever made.

To read the complete review, go to

Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Broadcast Film Critics Association member. College instructor for criminal justice, English and math. Serves on Safer Foundation and The Salvation Army advisory boards. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church

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