June 10, 2023

Mel Gibson released “Passion of the Christ” in 2004, which has become one of the most controversial films to date. Now, 14 years later, a sequel is heading to theaters.

Actor Jim Caviezel, who portrayed Jesus Christ in the 2004 film, has hinted a sequel would be coming and would also be directed by Gibson. Although Caviezel has not given away many details about the film, he said it is “going to be the biggest film in history,” to USA Today.

“Lightning doesn’t usually strike twice,” said Dr. Melissa Croteau, professor of film studies at California Baptist University. “I don’t think it’s going to be the huge phenomenon of ‘Passion of the Christ,’ simply because that was the first time a film about the life of Christ had been done and particularly marketed in that way.”

When “Passion of the Christ” released, many said they were in shock and awe at the depiction of Christ on the big screen.

For 127 minutes, moviegoers witnessed Jesus in the final 12 hours of his life being brutally beaten and tortured until his ultimate crucifixion.

Although a huge box office success, earning over $600 million internationally, it received backlash from critics over biblical accuracy and its depiction of Jewish people in the film.

Many things have changed in the film industry and the world since the film’s release in 2004, some of those changes are bound to have an effect on the sequel.

One of the more notable changes in the past few years is that the audience has gained a louder voice because of social media. Instagram, Twitter and other sites have empowered audiences, giving them a chance to voice their opinions collectively about a film.

The power of people’s opinions on the Internet has proven to be critical in how a film is received. Recently, audience responses have shown they have become less tolerant of whitewashing in films — when white actors are cast as historically non-white characters. This has happened in movies such as “Ghost in the Shell” (2016) and “Gods of Egypt” (2016), which both under-performed at the box office.

In “Passion of the Christ”, non-Middle Eastern actors portrayed biblical figures of Middle Eastern ethnicity, including Caviezel, who is of Irish and Swiss descent.

Although his role was cast more than 10 years ago, it is possible a sequel could spark some controversy.

“There will always be controversy with anything religious,” said Austen Heldoorn, freshman film studies major. “It will come, the film will be persecuted, but it will be an exciting thing to see how it will do in a social media era.”

Another factor that could affect the film’s success is the audience’s reception of Gibson making his return to the public eye.

In the mid-2000s, Gibson was arrested for drunken driving. Afterward, he was heard using anti-Semitic language towards the arresting officers, fueling the idea that his film intentionally and negatively portrayed those of Jewish heritage.

He was later recorded by his ex-wife admitting to physically abusing her and using foul language toward her.

With women becoming more empowered in the film industry, some were surprised to see the actor plastered on posters to promote his latest role in last year’s “Daddy’s Home 2”.

“Gibson came back in a big way. His first big project as a director was ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ (2016) and it is absolutely a story about redemption and compassion,” Croteau said. “To some degree, when you behave as badly and as publicly as he did, if you then seek healing, that person can be an even more relevant and profound filmmaking talent than ever before.”

Although the next “Passion of the Christ” has no release date, Caviezel assures he will reprise his role as Jesus in the near future with Gibson directing.

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