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Film Review - Jesus Christ Superstar
"Would they burn this film if it were released today?" I wonder while watching Jesus Christ Superstar for the first time in several years.
I recall the fate of The Last Temptation of Christ. Christian Fundamentalists boycotting the movie, even though they hadn't seen it. Later, they would steal any copy that made it into the video store. (Isn't there a commandment about stealing?)
Jesus Christ Superstar was
Released in 1973 when the country was exhausted from the turmoil of the '60s. Jesus Christ Superstar is light and mostly filled with happy music. Did no one see the doubt that is portrayed in Christ? His inability to reassure Judas? His fear on the cross? All of this was buried in music that masterfully moves the plot of this once-stage musical ahead.
Christ has been preaching for three years. He's tired. The authorities are beginning to worry if Jesus becomes too popular, it might incite Rome to put down the "rebellion." Jesus must die. The rest of the film is the progression of capturing Jesus, then convincing Rome to crucify him.
The characters are built to draw you to the center, Jesus himself. Characters on the fringe are developed minutely with no wasted effort. The characters of Mary Magdalene, Judas Iscariot and Jesus are fully fleshed out. This is the crux of my concern.
If you fully develop the Jesus character in film, you leave little wiggle room for the audience to fit him into their belief model. I think it is this which drove the Bible thumpers nuts over The Last Temptation of Christ and would with Jesus Christ Superstar were it made today. I'm glad it wasn't.
This is a wonderful film shot in the Holy Land which never lets you forget that it is being staged. The music alone is worth the rental or purchase.
Directed by Norman Jewison
Released in 1973
MPAA Rating: G
Reviewed by Mongo