Having recently seen the film, Risen, I was intrigued to read what the critics would have to say.
Risen is the latest "mainstream" film about Christ. In this case, the primary character is a fictional Roman Tribune known as Clavius, played by Joseph Fiennes. The plot really starts with Clavius being ordered to oversee the final stages of Jesus' death by Pontius Pilate. However when word reaches Pilate that the tomb is empty, he orders Clavius to undertake an investigation to recover the body to avoid any unnecessary controversy with the ensuing visit of the Emperor, Tiberius, just around the corner.
I found the approach interesting, for a number reasons. Firstly, it provided a different angle to retell the resurrection story for a culture that is accustomed to CSI-like investigations. Secondly, the main protagonist, Clavius, is a first century representative of the cynical pragmatist whose worldview prevents him from ever entertaining the possibility of a dead man rising, which would resonate with many in our culture. Finally, it provided a platform for a good use of imagination to appreciate some of the chaotic dynamics that would have occurred immediately after Christ's resurrection.
Reading about five different reviews in the mainstream media was also an interesting exercise. While picking on some of the things I didn't particularly like about the film (eg. the portrayal of the two soldiers guarding Christ's tomb - one reviewer quite aptly referred to them as two knuckleheads while another thought they looked like they wandered off the set of the Life of Brian), it was interesting to note that at least two found that the main flaw in the film was its descent into "religious" territory. Perhaps a sin to our modern culture, as one ended her review by stating, "render to Hollywood what is Hollywood's".
The use of film as a story-telling genre is perhaps the most powerful in our post modern culture. I don't profess to know the motivations of the film makers, but am happy that even though cynics will continue to be cynics, Christ's story continues to be re-told to modern audiences.
It will be interesting to see how audiences receive Risen, particularly as we approach the Easter season.