Director: Martin Scorsese
Writers: Nikos Funnylastname (novel) Paul Schrader (screenplay)
Staring: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey, David Bowie
A white man playing a brown man, speaking english not Aramaic, fights the temptations presented by Satan in order to die so he can come back and forgive people for being descendants of apple picking sinners.
We learn right away that Mr. Jesus is a tormented man, complaining of the voices in his head, which tell him He is God, and must save the world. I once knew a guy who fit this exact description, but we all thought he was out of his mind and not once did we ever consider worshiping him. Jesus, however, manages to collect a following after telling people to be good to each other, instead of bad. Which sounds smart when a four year old says it, but coming from a grown man you just want to say, "Yeah, no shit" and walk away.
In the title role, Willem Defoe plays Mr. Jesus as a bit of a whiney baby, crying to himself at every opportunity and being rude to his mother. Having said that, he portrays a very good saviour with beautiful blue eyes and golden hair, just like the real Jesus.
If I had one concern about the casting it would be Harvey Keitel as Judas Iscariot. My inability to see Keitel as anything other than Mr. White, from Reservoir Dogs, had my mind inventing all sorts of ridiculous scenarios involving Judas pulling a gun and shooting Jesus in the neck.
And if Harvey Keitel was not distracting enough, imagine how much trouble I had concentrating on the story when David Bowie showed up as Pontius Pilate. I started singing "Ziggy Stardust" the moment he appeared on screen an refused to stop until he was gone again. My wife hates watching movies with me.
Jesus is tempted again and again, by the devil himself, who makes his presence known in many different forms. The two headed, black cobra was the one that scared me the most, but Jesus is God so he already knows the cobra can't hurt him. Jesus is really smart about it too, he cry's and screams at the cobra, like a four year old on a roller-coaster, which makes Satan so uncomfortable he slowly backs out of the room to avoid a grown mans tears.
When Mr. Jesus is finally crucified the scene is sufficiently bloody, with lots of lashes across the back and angry spectators who hang out on street corners throwing rocks at anyone carrying a cross. However, when I really feel like watching Jesus get tortured, I prefer to go with Mel Gibson's, The Passion of the Christ. It has way more blood then "The Last Temptation of Christ" and "Hobo with a Shotgun," combined. And I kind of like the idea that Mel Gibson is a little nuts.
During the crucifixion, the story begins to take an interesting twist. Satan shows up disguised as a friend who rescues Jesus from the cross, and tells him he is free to live a human life. Jesus marries Mary Magdalene, has kids, raises them and grows old, essentially living a full human life. As an aside; It was kinda weird how normal looking Jesus' children were. I guess I just expected the grandchildren of God to look better then my kids.
The whole idea of Jesus surviving the cross and going on to have a regular life, was very troubling to the Christians of 1988. They protested the movie with misspelled signs that demanded the movie be "pulled from thateres" and Martin Scorsese apologize for altering their favorite fairy tale. To their credit, no Christians bothered to storm theatres with automatic weapons and explosive vests. Instead, they folded their judgemental arms and went on TV crying about blasphemy and how no one will take Jesus seriously now that they've seen him naked on a pike. This concern was obviously unfounded considering everywhere I look I still see people yelping his name to strangers and wearing little depictions of his murder around their neck.
All thing considered this is a very good movie. It has a whiney Jesus, a few good sex scenes, enough torture and violence to satisfy the BDSM community, and made Christians mad, which is everything I look for in a movie. I would defiantly recommend it to anyone who has already seen every other movie made, or enjoys getting high and watching fantasy.
Martin Scorsese is a master filmmaker who can hold your attention even when the story is as full of holes and the actors speak with a Brooklyn accent in ancient Jerusalem (yes, I'm talking to you, Harvey Keitel).