The Young Messiah

movie coverIt’s vital for the renewal of Christianity to produce movies that fill the blanks on the map of Jesus’ life. Almost thirty years of Jesus’ life went missing. The common version of the Bible elaborates on his birth, mentions a couple of incidents in his childhood and then jumps to his thirties. What is missing? The years that turned Jesus into Jesus. Churches that barricade the dogma that Jesus was the great exception don’t like to think about his evolution. Jesus was born a God – end of discussion. But to those who believe that Jesus was a great example and who want to follow his example, the lost years are lost treasures.

Let’s face it. Jesus was a Jew, especially when he was still a child. I expected something original from the Young Messiah, interesting and well-researched information, something archaic. In that respect, I was disappointed. The Young Messiah borrowed two incidences from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas – that’s it. Instead, the story revolves around  two fictional conflicts: little Jesus against the devil and little Jesus against a rogue centurion.

Too much fiction and a few inaccuracies. Jews speak a British accent and talk and pray like Christians. The name was ‘Jesus Bar Joseph’ – that’s a mix of Latin/English and Hebrew. We’re looking at an attempt to eat a cake and have it, being authentic without losing the target audience.

Stories without adversary don’t sell. Two are better than one, so, we are introduced to the devil and a rogue centurion. The devil is blond and blue-eyed. Your guess is as good as mine what that means. Noteworthy, in ancient Judaism, Satan is just an adversary, who tests, in the name of God, the strength of those who are called to a spiritual career. The devil who haunts young Jesus is a Medieval horror character.

The centurion doesn’t feel right either. For one, he follows Herod’s orders. That’s an unlikely scenario since Herod was a marionette of the Roman Empire, not the other way around. We know from the Bible that Pilate was reluctant to crucify Jesus, what about murdering a child? Also, the presence of Roman soldiers in the inner court of the temple is a historical no-no.

A few more cliche alerts: Herod was borderline, all Jews were poor, and the Romans crucified people randomly.

Both story conflicts feel forced. Pity, because there are so many interesting conflicts to choose from. Like the ancient conflict between prophets and priests. Or a brawl between holier-than-thous and an enlightened child. Or a powerful priest caste against a child loved by the masses. Or the antagonism between spirituality and superstition – wait, some of that occurred at the beginning of the movie.

Summary: interesting but missed opportunities. it’s nice to see young Jesus on the screen. That makes the movie already worthwhile. The Young Messiah thrives from a good intention but suffers from mediocre execution. But better this movie than none of this kind. I hope for more movies like this.

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