HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Young Messiah
HTS Overall Score:73
I will be the first to admit that I’m rather critical of films about Christianity. Not because I have anything against the belief, or that I find it childish (as some do), but being a believer and a person of faith myself I’m much closer to the heart of the religion and am naturally critical of anything that I know well. Kind of like how watching action movies I have to gnash my teeth and bang my head against the walls when someone is magically firing a weapon with the safety on, or racks a round from the chamber and nothing comes out (being a gun person these things drive me nuts). I had heard decent things about “The Young Messiah” from many a source, including “Focus on the Family” who I respect a great deal. Sadly the movie has some serious flaws (and numerous small ones that really don’t amount to a pile of bean in my personal opinion), the biggest of which comes from the biblical accuracy of the film. Still, it’s not blasphemous by any stretch of the imagination, and is actually pretty entertaining from a narrative point of view.
We all know the basic story of Jesus and his rise from a virgin birth to his work in his adult life, culminating to his inevitable death on the cross. This particular tale deals with the life of the Messiah as a young boy and spans about one year according to the description. They are initially living in Egypt after being chased out from King Herod the Great, but have just learned of the mad king’s death. On their way back from Egypt to Israel, Jesus encounters a roman soldier named Severus (Sean Bean), a man whose entire life will be changed by the encounter. While much of the biblical lore is still intact, there is also a great deal of fictionalization that is going on (as there must if you’re trying to make a 2 hour movie out of a few lines of text in the New Testament, being that much of the life of Jesus recorded is during his adult days). The Severus is a roman Centurion who is trying to put down the rebellion that certain Jews are formenting against the Roman Empire, and the news of Jesus and his miracles is spreading fast, inflaming the people into rebellion.
Using every method at his disposal under the orders of the new King Herod, Severus tracks down the boy across all of the Israelite territory, only to finally come face to face with him in a temple. An interaction that may be more than the man is willing to take. While Jesus is the main character, Severus and his journey take up a lot of the run time. However the good and the bad tend to be with the Jesus narrative. We have some rather interesting inaccuracies that pop up, such as Jesus resurrecting a boy who died beating him up, as well as healing the eyes of a blind man in the temple despite the fact that the earliest recorded miracle was his turning the water into wine. Now I’m not too wildly upset about that, being that just because it was the first RECORDED instance, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen earlier in his life. The same goes for a myriad of other inaccuracies (such as the time period that they were in Egypt doesn’t make sense historically), but these are all just simple issue that don’t detract from the bigger picture except maybe to someone who is more intimately familiar with the source material.
The bigger issues that crop up tend to be from the source of the SCRIPT rather than anything. The film isn’t based DIRECTLY on the Bible, but rather the book “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt” written by famed horror/vampire author Anne Rice. Now Anne Rice was catholic at the time of the book’s writing, but she also claimed that she took inspiration from gnostic books such as “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas” which is widely considered as fairly heretical by biblical scholars. The opening sequence where a boy dies fighting Jesus seems to have been lifted straight from there, as in “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas” writes about Jesus cursing a young boy to death. The same goes for his inability to understand WHO he really is. The entire movie Jesus has no idea who he is, or what he’s doing on this earth. He just knows he can perform miracles and some prescient knowledge. The same goes for the film’s representation of Satan (played as a blue eyed, blonde haired man who seems to be a ghostly presence as only Jesus can see him), with Satan also not knowing who the boy is, but just knows that he’s important. There’s a moment where the two face off and Satan is frustratingly trying to command Jesus to tell him WHO he is, even though it’s very clear that not only was Christ fully man and fully god, but Satan certainly knew of his presence, especially since it was kind of foretold to all the heavenly hosts.
As a narrative the film itself is rather slow paced, and lacks much of the poignant parts of the Bible to make it really entertaining. The film just languidly plods along, with instances of Severus and his men to liven up the plot a little bit, culminating in a face off in the Jerusalem temple where Severus sees a little bit into his own soul. Sadly, the source material is not much better, with Anne Rice’s novel being one of her worst selling novels to date.
Rated PG-13 for some violence and thematic elements
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73001[/img]Universal’s 2.39:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray looks quite pleasing, with a wonderfully shot film that shows off all sorts of impressive detail. The actual skin bumps and textures of Joseph’s neck stand out with jaw dropping clarity in one shot, and the Israeli landscape is absolutely magnificent. Rolling green hills, the dusty streets of Jerusalem, and the rough mud brick huts of the Jews all are stunning. Blacks are decent and show off some impressive shadow detailing, and there were only two instances of banding that I even noticed in the entire film. The raw detail that is present is simply magnificent, and while there is some softness around a little bit of the CGI, the overall picture doesn’t suffer at all.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=73009[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is simple, yet quite effective for the sword and sandal biblical story. There is quite a front heavy mix at times, with plenty of dialog in the center speaker to command an audience. However there are several times where the sound stage opens up a good deal, such as the Centurion Severus and his men under attack, and the busy streets of Jerusalem, let alone the hubbub of the temple when the surrounds are kicking in with full power. The LFE is light, but effective, with strong support during the heavier action scenes, but also comes into play as a support device for lower level sounds. Once again, it’s not demanding at all, but still a very well done and strongly defined track.
• Feature Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Cyrus Nowrasteh and Co-Writer Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh
• Deleted Scenes
• The Making of The Young Messiah
“The Young Messiah” is a beautifully shot film, and looks amazing on Blu-ray, but sadly it’s a slightly dull and rather flawed film, mostly having to do with the source material for the script. Anne Rice made my eyebrows raise when I saw some of the credits initially, but it all made sense when I realized that her novel was the inspiration for the script. As flawed as it is for Christians, the story is decent enough and worth a rental at the very least, but sadly not much more than that.
Starring: Vincent Walsh, Sara Lazzaro, Adam Greaves-Neal
Directed by: Cyrus Nowratesh
Written by: Anne Rice (Novel), Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1
Runtime: 111 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 14th, 2016
Buy The Young Messiah On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Recommended as a Rental
More about Mike