The Passion of the Christ opens today in theaters across America. According to Box Office Mojo, the film is opening on just over 3,000 screens. Relatively, Lord of the Rings opened on 3,700, Lost in Translation maxed out at 800 or so, and In America maxed out around 400 after opening on just 11 screens. Even more interesting is that Box Office Mojo is predicting a first weekend gross of $81.9 million. That is crazy.
Metacritic is giving it a score of 50 and Rotten Tomatoes is rating it at 54%, which is officially a stinker. One of my favorite critics, A.O. Scott, panned it whie Roger Ebert loved it.
I am presenting you with all this information because this movie is an anomoly. It is a religious movie that is making it big due to its hype, which includes the strangeness of having an action star directing a movie about the death of Christ and accusations of anti-Semitism. Personally, I don't plan on seeing it in the theaters. From what I've heard, the film is anti-Semetic on some level and I don't want to contribute to that. As people I know start to see it, I may change my mind, but for the moment I don't want to give money to a project that is potentially racist.
Despite my personal views, I am intrigued by the film's potentially huge first-weekend gross. On the one hand it is frustrating that a religious movie, which I wouldn't expect to have mass appeal, is expected to do so well and open so wide when movies that I think are amazing get overlooked. As I mentioned earlier, it sounds like this movie is riding on its hype. Think about it logically -- do you think that a highly controversial religious film that is mostly in Latin and Aramaic would do well in the theaters if done by a no-name director? Of course not, but that discussion will be saved for a future post.
I shall leave you with a final thought on the violence in this film, from my home-town critic, Roger Ebert.
Note: I said the film is the most violent I have ever seen. It will probably be the most violent you have ever seen. This is not a criticism but an observation; the film is unsuitable for younger viewers, but works powerfully for those who can endure it. The MPAA's R rating is definitive proof that the organization either will never give the NC-17 rating for violence alone, or was intimidated by the subject matter. If it had been anyone other than Jesus up on that cross, I have a feeling that NC-17 would have been automatic.