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The Passion of the Christ

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I finally got to see this yesterday at a pre-screening. My review is here on the official reviews page. (Not sure whether I'm official enough to post it, but I'm sure I'll be told. I'll write up some additional thoughts below.

I've not done much in the way of reviewing so any more technical tips would be welcome (as well as the usual artistic disagreement).

Matt

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Yes.

So part of me cheers, I must admit, when Gibson gives America's warm and fuzzy Jesus the spiritual equivalent of the middle finger. I can't help applauding Gibson's sincerity, and I must admit that part of me envies his conviction. Apparently I am not alone. The boffo box-office numbers

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One day I will go back and read the last few pages of this thread and respond to them ... one day ... but in the meantime, another box-office update. As of Thursday, The Passion of the Christ had grossed $160.6 million, propelling it to #98 on the all-time domestic chart (between 2002's Die Another Day and 1965's The Sound of Music) and #13 on the all-time R-rated chart (between 2001's Hannibal and 1993's The Firm). Note, though, that two of the top three R-rated films of all time were released at least 20 years ago (1984's Beverly Hills Cop, $234.8 million; 1973's The Exorcist, $232.7 million) -- given inflation and all that, this leads me to think those films must have been much, much bigger hits in their day -- and indeed, even if The Passion DOES make the $350 million that some pundits predict, it still will not crack the Top 50 of all time in adjusted dollars.

BTW, has anyone done any stories on the effect this film is having on popcorn sales? I know mainstream bars and pubs hate to host Christian bands because liquor sales take a dive, and since theatres make their money off the food and not the films, I'd be curious to know what impact this film was having on their revenues -- the fact that the film may be bringing in crowds does not, in and of itself, necessarily endear the film to exhibitors.

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I know, I'm obsessive.

On its second Friday, it is estimated that The Passion made $14.1 million, thus bringing its ten-day total to $174.7 million.

This is ahead of the $10.3 million The Matrix Reloaded (currently the top-grossing R-rated movie of all time, in unadjusted dollars), which opened on a Thursday, made on its second Friday, which brought its total to $174.2 million (the film went on to gross $281.6 million as a whole).

This is also marginally ahead of the $13.5 million The Phantom Menace, which opened on a Wednesday, grossed on its second Friday, which brought its total to $153.7 million (the film went on to gross $431.1 million as a whole).

But it is significantly behind the $19.2 million The Return of the King, which also opened on a Wednesday, grossed on its second Friday, which brought its total to $190.8 million (the film has grossed $365.9 million so far).

And it is just a touch further behind the $19.9 million Spider-Man, which opened on a Friday, grossed on its second Friday, which brought its total to $171.5 million (the film went on to gross $403.7 million as a whole).

So, The Passion opened marginally bigger than The Return of the King, but is falling faster. And it probably doesn't have quite the staying power of Spider-Man or The Phantom Menace. But we shall see.

FWIW, if the film passes $200 million on Saturday (its 12th day), which seems likely, it will tie with Attack of the Clones and The Two Towers for 4th-fastest to hit that mark (the record being Spider-Man's 9 days, with The Matrix Reloaded and The Return of the King tying for 2nd place with 11 days).

Also worth considering: Fourteen films have grossed $200 million in 25 days or less, and of those fourteen films, only two have failed to make $300 million -- said films being The Matrix Reloaded and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($262 million).

So, on the bright side, The Passion of the Christ would seem to be guaranteed to cross that next line. But on the not-so-bright side, if it fails to gross that much, it will probably be perceived as an open-big,-fall-fast "cult following" film, and perhaps a disappointing one, just like those two. Or, perhaps, it will be perceived as one of those things that benefited from a LOT of advance hype, but failed to live up to it, a la the series-finale episode of Seinfeld.

I know, I know, these things are irrelevant in a discussion of "art", but since the film is being touted as a chance to "change the industry" and to show what sort of box-office clout Christians have (or should that be "churches", not "Christians" -- there aren't many individual believers buying up entire theatres on their own), such considerations do have their place.

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And in more discussion of money matters, the weekend Box Office estimates are now in.

Passion took in $51,392,000 this weekend, giving it a 38.7% drop from last weekend's 81 million dollar figure. The big screen remake of Starsky and Hutch placed second, with around a 29 million dollar gross.

By comparison, here's how a few other recent films (the ones Peter chose in a recent post, with the exception of The Phantom Menace) that have a gross overall total of more than 200 million dollars performed from weekend 1 to weekend 2:

Return of the King dropped 30.3%

Spider-Man dropped 37.8%

The Matrix: Reloaded dropped 59.8% (50.8% if you factor in the four-day Memorial Day weekend)

It should be noted that word-of-mouth can (and should) be factored in at this point - it might explain why Reloaded performed so poorly the second weekend.

For the record, the highest grossing R-Rated film in history is The Matrix Reloaded, with $281,553,689 total. It looks like Passion might be able to top that.

So Passion, while not ahead of ROTK and Spider-Man in percentage, is doing somewhat well in comparison.

I suspect that it might slip out of the #1 spot next weekend (Secret Window and Cody Banks 2 will be released), but might regain it the weekend of Easter.

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I also loved the comment (forgot the source), that the Sanhedrin looked like the cast from a bad dinner-theater production of The Merchant of Venice.

I still say they reminded me of Klingons.

:crush:

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Regarding box office drop off, its worth considering that whereas "Matrix Reloaded, LOTR & (IIRC) Spiderman" all had simultaneous releases with the UK, the Passion has a month lag, so tho' there's a drop off it may pick up again when the UK market kicks in (tyhe Uk narket is a lot smaller obviously and not as religiously minded but then its also less comic book minded so who knows?

Matt

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I also loved the comment (forgot the source), that the Sanhedrin looked like the cast from a bad dinner-theater production of The Merchant of Venice.

I still say they reminded me of Klingons.

:crush:

Matthew 26:63-64

'ach Jesus held Daj roj. The jen lalDan vumwI' jangta' ghaH,

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Another important point on box-office returns: TPOTC still hasn't opened in heavily-catholic Latin America (or Italy, Poland, Ireland, etc.). I would suspect it would do quite well there.

It will also have another huge rush to the box office on or around Good Friday--I don't think there was a "balloon" at the end of the runs for the others.

It should be said that the last (big) film Mel Gibson acted in, Signs, did have two #1 weekends, then went down to #2, then went back to #1 again. So I suspect the same thing might happen here.

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UPDATE: An Icon rep tells me that the following IMDb.com news story is NOT true.

The Passion Of The Christ star James Caviezel is being protected by a security team from attack by religious fanatics following his performance as Jesus Christ in the Mel Gibson movie. Studio bosses are concerned that zealots will attack Caviezel for his role in the controversial film and have hired a 'protection squad.' A furious mob have already screamed 'anti-Semite' and hurled a bucket of lamb's blood at Oscar-winning actor and director Gibson in a New York street. A studio source tells British tabloid newspaper Daily Star On Sunday, "There are some crazy people out there and everything is being done to protect Mel and Jim from physical attack." Caviezel, a devout Catholic, says, "Of course I'm scared that someone could get it in his head to make me a target. But I won't let this stop me doing my business. I'm an actor, helping to promote a movie I truly believe in."

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Clint M wrote:

: It should be said that the last (big) film Mel Gibson acted in, Signs, did

: have two #1 weekends, then went down to #2, then went back to #1

: again. So I suspect the same thing might happen here.

So which film will be this year's XXX, I wonder. smile.gif

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The actual figures are in, looks like the estimate was short again:

$53,246,801 - $51,392,000 was estimated

That's means the 38.7% figure should be revised to 36.6%.

The Passion now claims the third highest spot on the second weekend gross.

And SDG, the IMDB news is usually pretty rampant about gossip more than actual fact. It's not known for being too accurate.

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And now this from Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales, supposedly reviewing ABC's Judas, which airs tonight:

----------------------------------

At least these filmmakers adhere to the physicians' credo "First, do no harm." Unlike Mel Gibson's notorious "The Passion of the Christ," ABC's movie seems happily lacking in anti-Semitic aspersions. Writer Tom Fontana, whose impressive credits include the uncompromising "Oz" on HBO, has Pontius Pilate's wife tell her husband, as the assassination of Jesus is plotted on Palm Sunday: "Fix it so the Jews themselves are held responsible."

It might have been better still if the conversation had continued with Pilate scoffing, "Who'd believe that?" and his wife replying, "You can always find a few bigots and idiots who'll believe anything." Regardless, the Big Lie was born, and two millennia later, Gibson would find a way to recycle it and gross more than $200 million in the process. Surely his parking space in Hell has already been reserved.

------------------------------------------

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David Brooks chimes in at the New York Times: "Sure, let's get angry at Mel Gibson if he deserves it. But let's not forget that the really corrosive cultural forces come in the form of the easygoing narcissism that surrounds us every day."

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Christian wrote:

: Sorry to sing the praises of David Brooks once again . . .

Let the record show that I beat Christian to this by 2 hours and 32 minutes. smile.gif

In other news, I just discovered this item that was posted at CT Movies last week, in which Gibson addresses the question, "What's up with the ugly baby?"

When asked why he portrayed Satan -- an androgynous, almost beautiful being played by Rosalinda Celentano -- the way he did, Gibson replied: "I believe the Devil is real, but I don't believe he shows up too often with horns and smoke and a forked tail. The devil is smarter than that. Evil is alluring, attractive. It looks almost normal, almost good -- but not quite.

"That's what I tried to do with the Devil in the film. The actor's face is symmetric, beautiful in a certain sense, but not completely. For example, we shaved her eyebrows. Then we shot her almost in slow motion so you don't see her blink -- that's not normal. We dubbed in a man's voice in Gethsemane even though the actor is a woman ... That's what evil is about, taking something that's good and twisting it a little bit."

But what about the ugly baby?

"Again," said Gibson, "it's evil distorting what's good. What is more tender and beautiful than a mother and a child? So the Devil takes that and distorts it just a little bit. Instead of a normal mother and child you have an androgynous figure holding a 40-year-old 'baby' with hair on his back. It is weird, it is shocking, it's almost too much -- just like turning Jesus over to continue scourging him on his chest is shocking and almost too much, which is the exact moment when this appearance of the Devil and the baby takes place."

That's IT!? That's ALL Gibson was trying to do with that scene? I much prefer SDG's explanation in his provocatively-titled essay 'Will Mel Evangelize Evangelicals?'

Still more challenging is the way the film casts Mary as a kind of visual counterpoint to its Satan figure. In the opening scene, when Satan tempts Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane to abandon his mission, the devil appears both as an androgynous robed figure and also as a literal serpent, echoing an earlier temptation scene in another garden. When Jesus smashes the heel of his foot down on the serpent's head, Protestants will recognize a symbolic allusion to Genesis 3:15: "He will crush your head, and you shall strike at his heel."

But Gibson's film also plays with the Marian interpretation of the earlier part of the verse: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed." In traditional Catholic exegesis, "the woman" is ultimately Mary, and her "seed" is Christ himself. The "enmity" between Satan and "the woman" signifies nothing less than a total opposition of wills untainted by the slightest fault or sin on Mary’s part, and thus points to her Immaculate Conception.

The Passion of the Christ evokes in an imaginative and poetic way this complete opposition between Mary and Satan in a number of scenes. One occurs as Jesus carries his cross through the midst of the crowd, with Mary anxiously following him on one side and the Satan figure on the other side, mirroring and thus opposing her. Another takes place during the scourging at the pillar, as the satanic figure manifests itself in a vision that seems a deliberate parody of images of the Madonna.

I always thought the Marian element to the "ugly baby" scene was obvious, and people at church have been both amused and chagrined whenever I have recalled how the Campus Crusade guy at the pastors' screening I attended said it took him several screenings to figure out that that scene was all about Mary. (The one thing I hadn't figured out, until reading SDG's article, was how the Catholic interpretation of Genesis 3 might fit into all this.) So now I'm wondering if Gibson really did intend no more than what he says here, or if he's just cloaking his Catholicism for the benefit of his more evangelical readers. (I believe CT also ran an article quoting Gibson to the effect that evangelical support for the film surprised him, because the film was "so Marian.")

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I don't believe there is any question, any at all, that the evil Satan-and-baby image is a hideous Madonna-and-Child parody. Even if Mel Gibson said in so many words (which he hasn't) "I never consciously thought of it as a Madonna and Child parody," it wouldn't change my certitude about the reality of the Marian inspiration for the image. If I were forced to accept from his own words that there was no conscious evocation of the Madonna and Child, I would simply conclude that it was subconscious and inchoate, much like Tolkien's realization after creating Galadriel that the character (and Gimli's feelings for her) had roots in Marian piety.

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The Politics of Culture today is: The Passion: Aftermath. After a second weekend, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ continues to rake in mega-millions in ticket sales. Will it change religion? Will it change the business of Hollywood? Will it change cinema? Join Variety's Claude Brodesser for a discussion of the aftermath of this movie phenomenon. Will air Tuesday, March 9, 2004. The listening link is already working.

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Guest Russell Lucas

Re: the warped mother/child image, my favorite comment about it is the conversation Barbara Niccolosi relays about Gibson being grilled about the scene by an evangelical pastor about the scene's non-biblicity.

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I don't believe there is any question, any at all, that the evil Satan-and-baby image is a hideous Madonna-and-Child parody.

Oddly, I don't take it in this way when when I see it.

I saw the representation of Satan's mockery of all that God creates, and the bastardized mirrorization of the current scourging situation, as if to say 'This is how Daddy treats His child, His only love. See how you are comforted, see how you are embraced.'

(Also, I don't recall--I thought it was only Christ who saw the Satan/baby vision; I don't remember Mary as taking that particular scene in save for her staring from the doorway and then leaving to go to the outer court, where Pilate's wife hands her the swabbing cloths. I only remember the direct 'mirroring of mary' when he's carrying the cross. Is this accurate?)

I can see the Marian aberration, obviously, but what I receive is less specifically directed at the Mother/Son relationship and more of the 'I am the lord of this earth, here to supplant your faith in your Father, to dishearten you by casting a crooked-glass reflection of what is Truth.

So I really didn't think about it as an issue of Mary and Christ. I took it as a depiction of Satan's tireless mockery of even Christ Himself, and the ridicule of God's plan in the eyes of the world.

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I hear you Alan--thing with me was, I didn't ascribe it directly to a "strictly Catholic commentary" if you will on the Marian relationship. Though I am familiar with the madonna/child image, in that scene, for me, it was more about Satan's mockery of God's relationship with His son, as I said: Is this how a loving Father carries His son? (Cue the robe slipping from the child's shoulder) He punishes him? Kills him? (The child turns) View yourself, Messiah. You are old enough to carry yourself, yet helpless as a babe--and you die a freak, a pariah.

But hey, I'm a little different than a lot of folks. Maybe I'm projecting. biggrin.gif

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Christian wrote:

: Sorry to sing the praises of David Brooks once again . . .

Let the record show that I beat Christian to this by 2 hours and 32 minutes. smile.gif

Good call, Peter! Sorry that I once again missed your earlier message. I'm getting worse, not better, at duplicating posts. I'll try to reform my ways.

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Jason Bortz wrote:

: I saw the representation of Satan's mockery of all that God creates, and

: the bastardized mirrorization of the current scourging situation, as if to

: say 'This is how Daddy treats His child, His only love. See how you are

: comforted, see how you are embraced.'

Well, that could certainly explain why the Marian parody turns up WHEN it does.

: So I really didn't think about it as an issue of Mary and Christ. I took it

: as a depiction of Satan's tireless mockery of even Christ Himself, and the

: ridicule of God's plan in the eyes of the world.

But as SDG points out, from a Catholic point of view, Mary herself plays a big part in God's plan, and thus she would be an object of Satanic ridicule, too.

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I don't believe there is any question, any at all, that the evil Satan-and-baby image is a hideous Madonna-and-Child parody. Even if Mel Gibson said in so many words (which he hasn't) "I never consciously thought of it as a Madonna and Child parody," it wouldn't change my certitude about the reality of the Marian inspiration for the image. If I were forced to accept from his own words that there was no conscious evocation of the Madonna and Child, I would simply conclude that it was subconscious and inchoate, much like Tolkien's realization after creating Galadriel that the character (and Gimli's feelings for her) had roots in Marian piety.

I absolutely agree with you, Steve, but I was astonished during my TPOTC conversation with my (very) Protestant church-mates--none of them picked up on this. They all asked "what was that?" and I had to explain what a madonna & child image was. sigh.

I've had 8 different people ask me (at a seminary!) what that represented. When I said it was a mockery of the Madonna, they went "what?" :oops: 8O :? :roll: "The Madonna, an image that started in the Catholic Church of the mother Mary and the Christ child." "Oh, OK!" ARRUGH.

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