Jesus, Origins Movies and Robin Hood

16/05/10 | Posted by MattPage

Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood hit cinema screens this week, hitting the middle of the target at the box office as well as opening the Cannes film festival (where it’s portrayal of the French as scheming, bad-fighting cowards must have gone down really well).

 Russell Crowe plays Robin Hood returning from the Crusades.

It’s yet another in the growing line of ‘origins’ movies. Rather than retelling the stories audiences know and love, more and more filmmakers seem to be opting for telling the story before these stories. The last few years have given us Batman Begins, Wolverine,  three Star Wars prequels and now Robin Hood.

All of which got me thinking about what a film about Jesus’ origins might be like. Like Robin Hood we know almost nothing about the life that he lived before he became famous. There are a couple of stories about Jesus’ birth and very little else. All we know is that when he was about 30 he got baptised and began to teach. This leaves a lot of unanswered questions. What became of Jesus’ father Joseph? Whatever happened to the gold, frankincense and myrrh that the wise men brought him? Did he know any of the disciples before he began his ministry? And when and how did he first discover he could do miracles?

One or two films about Jesus have sought to explore the issue. the gospels are not like modern biographies. Rather than telling us interesting facts about Jesus’ life, they sought to convince their earliest readers that Jesus was the messiah and “that by believing you may have life” (John 20:31). It wasn’t just a plot for a film, it was important news, good news.

However, should such a film ever get made, it would need to be a good deal better than Robin Hood. Whilst it’s reasonably entertaining for most of its 140 minutes, it ends up re-hashing Braveheart and Lord of the Rings, pulling out cliché after cliché and selling short the very stories it has drawn its inspiration from.  Both King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham are so weak, feeble and monumentally dull that they have to invent a whole new baddie for Robin to fight instead. And if Robin really did mastermind a vital victory over the French, then why do we only remember him redistributing a bit of wealth and winning an archery competition? I’d take Errol Flynn, or even Kevin Costner, over this drivel any day of the week.

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Thanks Matt, you’ve saved me a trip by confirming my expectations. By the way, would you agree with the Radio4 front row interviewer that his accent is ‘Irish with long holidays in Australia’?

#1. By Bruce on May 17, 2010

I’ve seen it and would agree there’s definitely a hint of Irish in there!

#2. By Laura on June 06, 2010




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