Kevin Reynolds’ film, called Risen, told the story of Christianity’s Jesus Christ, His resurrection from the grave, and a few of His miracles before His ascension to heaven – all seen through the eyes of a Roman tribune. Since the plot centered on the cornerstone of my faith, I readied myself for disappointment. What I found surprised me.

In this article, I have analyzed the story’s accuracy, the characters’ legitimacy, and the film’s special effects and scenery. The first two film traits would fail when taken individually. Combined as a whole, and with the phenomenal scenery and costume designs, the movie receives a passing grade.

Holy Bible
Credit: Chris Yarzab

Film's Storyline Compared to the Gospel of John

Clavius, the film’s main character, was the Roman tribune whom Pilate placed in charge to find Yeshua’s missing body, also known as Jesus Christ. This role originated from the screenwriter’s imagination, as did several supporting roles. Actor Joseph Fiennes played Clavius, performing well as a deathly, powerful officer who ultimately desired peace and life. How the Roman tribune attained his dream dealt in fictional dealings based in real events as described in the gospel of John.

Observed through the fictional tribune’s eyes, viewers experienced Yeshua’s resurrection and His following miracles as defined in the fourth gospel. The story went from Thomas and his meeting with the Savior, to the Holy Spirit’s settlement, to the fish overload, and finally to Yeshua’s questioning Simon. Reynolds added extra events, but the gospel spoke of many more unrecorded miracles, so the story still seemed based in reality and flowed smoothly.

Credit: Waiting for the Word

Film's Characters Compared to Real People

To be perfectly frank, the fictional Roman tribune and his fellow officers were the best characters. They had dreams and ambition. Clavius performed his work seriously and worked hard to reach his dreams. Lucius, the up-and-coming tribune, acted believable in his youth and inexperience, growing in strength and power with the passing of time. A great twist occurred when Clavius found his dream through a different venue, proving his strength and knowledge when Lucius confronted him. Overall, the fictional characters showed extraordinary character development.

Contrary to the fictional characters, the disciples were buffoons. Though Bartholomew and Simon were real men, the film failed to grasp their characters. Nowhere in the gospel is Bartholomew described as a man who laughed in officers’ faces, or Peter as one who would laugh carelessly and hug friends easily. Two or three of the gospel disciples might have acted jovially, but realistically, the disciples had a firmer grounding. The happy, carefree nature is more in tune with modern-day, popular Christian beliefs.

Credit: David King

Film's Special Effects and Scenery Compared to History

I have no knowledge about how Romans and Jews used to dress and live. However, Pilate used cups and bowls that looked impressive, and the Roman officers wore tunics and weaponry that caught the eye and appeared rich in color. Details such as the building masonry also drew attention. In short, the scenes and costumes delighted the viewers.

Making the supernatural effects surrounding Yeshua look real must have been difficult. The film’s special effects team did wonderfully, though, ensuring the eye-pleasing scenes remained pleasing. To show Yeshua departing, the crew predominantly used flashes of blinding light, along with good acting. Elegant light and shadows, deep and rich, filled the screen.

Risen MaryTilden 2016-03-06 3.5 0 5

Worthwhile to See, Worthwhile to Learn

Comprised as a whole, the film was good. Though the screenwriter had added a fictional element, the original gospel remained unhampered. Christians can watch this movie in peace, knowing they would fill the role of the Roman tribune to see Yeshua.

If the incorporated fiction unsettled the Christians who watched this movie, then they should read through the gospel of John. Doing so will offer a clearer understanding of events and characters.  I have my Bible beside my desk now, and I plan to grow deeper in the faith with thanks to this film’s inspiration.