Originally published August 2005 in DVD Review magazine

They’ve come to save us! Whether it’s from slavery, evil machines or just really “bogus” music, they’re the chosen ones- the ordinary people thrown into the limelight to fulfil their destiny. Right from the moment the first movie about Jesus was made, filmmakers have loved taking the traditional Saviour story and twisting it into ever more exciting and bizarre shapes- so join us now, as we pay homage to the greatest Cinematic Messiahs of all time…

Jesus of Nazareth

Sightings: The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Place of Birth: A little town called Bethlehem you may have heard of…

The Mission: Everybody thinks he’s the humble son of a carpenter- but the Son of God is here to take the burden of human sin, defeat Satan, and put up with a level of torture that’d have any sensible man running for the hills.

Messiah Fashions: He starts out in a fetching ethnic combo of cloaks and robes, but soon Jesus is sporting little more than a loincloth and a boggling number of flesh wounds.

Disciples: His mother Mary, Peter, John, and the highly gorgeous Mary Magdalene.

Enemies: Moustache-twiddling Jewish priest Caiphas, lots of beastly Roman Guards, and an androgynous Satan carrying a hairy baby for no apparent reason.

Miracles Performed: You name it- turning water into wine, feeding the five thousand, raising the dead, restoring a Jewish guard’s ear, and setting off a major earthquake with his death in a spectacular version of “I told you so”.

Final Destiny: Death by crucifixion, followed by resurrection and a distinctly annoyed Satan.

Messiah Speak: “Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.”

Paul Atredies

Sightings: Dune (1984)

Place of Birth: The planet Caladan, in the year 10,175.

The Mission: On the desert planet Arrakis (imaginatively known as “Dune”), Paul discovers he’s the warrior prophesised to lead the nomad race of the Fremen, while fighting for freedom and dodging mile-long phallic Sandworms.

Messiah Fashions: Initially, Paul dresses like a Ruritanian Prince, but he’s soon wearing enough black rubber to fit in a treat down the local fetish club.

Disciples: A whole race of Fremen waiting for the chance to bust some Harkonnen heads.

Enemies: The Harkonnens, leather-clad meglomaniacs who don’t believe in a proper skincare regime, and their obese leader, the Baron.

Miracles Performed: Scarcely a minute goes by without Paul tripping out on water-related visions, and by the end of the film he’s causing it to rain on Arrakis, as well as blowing poor old Sting to shreds with the sound of his voice.

Final Destiny: To rule the universe in wisdom- although those who’ve read the Dune books will be happy to know it all goes horribly wrong.

Messiah Speak: “Father!! The sleeper will awaken!!”

Thomas “Neo” Anderson

Sightings: The Matrix (1999), The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Place of Birth: A gloopy stasis tube full of slime, somewhere in the future.

The Mission: Discovering that the everyday world is actually a computer-generated fantasy, Neo is “The One”- destined to save humanity, end the war against the machines, get insulted by a Frenchman and say “Whoah” as many times as he can.

Messiah Fashions: In the real world, it’s clothes apparently made out of potato sacks. As if to make up for this, in the Matrix it’s ultra-cool shades, leather trenchcoats and PVC all the way.

Disciples: The chubby guru known as Morpheus, wall-running sexbomb Trinity and lots of the rave-happy (if slightly boring) inhabitants of the city of Zion.

Enemies: Every single intelligent machine on the planet- but especially the effortlessly suave, self-duplicating villain Agent Smith.

Miracles Performed: As well as gravity-defying kung-fu abilities, Neo can raise the dead, beat up the super-cool Agents and blow up machines outside the Matrix with the power of his mind. He can also fly- but it only seems to occur to him after big fight sequences, rather than before…

Final Destiny: He dies saving the world. Or maybe he doesn’t. It’s all rather difficult to tell…

Messiah Speak: “There is no spoon…”

Bill S. Preston Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan

Sightings: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1987), Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1990)

Born: San Dimas, California, in 1979

Messiah Fashions: Eye-searing Eighties gear, complete with baggy shorts and midriff-exposing t-shirts.

The Mission: Adorably brain-dead teens Bill and Ted are as surprised as anyone to discover their band Wyld Stallynz is destined to bring about universal enlightenment. With help from the future they’re going to create, they zoom through time to complete their history report, and follow up with a trip to both Heaven and Hell.

Disciples: They’ve got the effortlessly cool future dude Rufus on their side- and they’re soon befriending historical figures like Freud, Beethoven, Socrates and Joan of Arc.

Enemies: Future megalomaniac Chuck De Nomolos, and Ted’s seriously bogus, army-obsessed father.

Miracles Performed: As if converting Genghis Khan to twinkies and Napoleon to the art of watersliding wasn’t enough, Bill and Ted also manage to come back from the dead after beating Death at Battleships, Cluedo and Twister.

Final Destiny: After completing their history report and foiling DeNomolos’ robot duplicates, their music ends war and poverty, as well as aligning the planets in universal harmony. Plus, it’s excellent for dancing…

Messiah Speak: “Be excellent to each other!”

Bethany Sloane

Sightings: Dogma (2000)

Place of Birth: McHenry, Illinois, in 1969.

Messiah Fashions: A white shirt, and black trousers- an unexciting ensemble, but she never gets the chance to change…

The Mission: A pair of psychotic angels set out to re-enter heaven- even though it’ll mean the end of all of existence. Abortion clinic worker Bethany is the befuddled last descendant of Jesus dragged in by the Heavenly powers to stop the angels- and also to have the plot explained to her by everyone within range.

Disciples: Foul-mouthed stoner Jay and his “hetero life-mate” Silent Bob, thirteenth apostle Rufus, Muse-turned-stripper Serendipity, plus the eternally moody “voice of God”, the Metatron.

Enemies: Killing-spree-happy angels Bartleby and Loki, devilish mastermind Azrael, plus a highly whiffy Excrement Demon…

Miracles Performed: Other than sanctifying a sink to deal with three demonic skaters, Bethany does save the world- but only by the atypical method of switching a hospitalised old man’s life support off.

Final Destiny: With existence safe once again, Bethany is unexpectedly (and miraculously) pregnant- but she’s also still got Jay bluntly attempting to get into her knickers.

Messiah Speak: “You know, yesterday I wasn’t even sure God existed- and now, I’m up to my ass in Christian Mythology…”

Brian Cohen

Sightings: Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

Place of Birth: A Bethlehem stable, just down the road from the birth place of a certain Mr J. Christ.

The Mission: All Brian’s trying to do is catch the eye of foxy revolutionary Judith. It’s not his fault that he ends up on the run from the Romans- and then gets mistaken for a Messiah just for telling people to be nice to each other…

Messiah Fashions: He usually sports a rough, smock-like ensemble and sandals- except for one unfortunate moment involving his followers, when he’s wearing nothing at all.

Disciples: The howlingly ineffective People’s Front of Judea, and a whole multitude of dim-witted followers who’ll misinterpret his every syllable.

Enemies: His monstrous mother Mandy, arrogant, word-mangling Roman tyrant Pontius Pilate and a grammar-correcting Centurion.

Miracles Performed: None, but it hardly seems to make any difference with a crowd that’ll interpret a dropped sandal as divine lore.

Final Destiny: As with Jesus, Brian ends up crucified- but going out singing “Always Look On The Bright Side of Life” doesn’t seem too bad…

Messiah Talk: “Of course they’ve brought forth Juniper berries, they’re Juniper Bushes!! What did you expect?!?”

Moses

Sightings: The Ten Commandments (1956) .

Place of Birth: Egypt, circa 1400 B.C.

The Mission: Pampered prince turned religious saviour, Moses finds out that instead of being a Pharoah’s son, he was plucked from a basket on the Nile. One Burning Bush later, he’s parting seas and distributing plagues, all so his enslaved people can head for the “Promised Land”.

Messiah Fashions: He might start out wearing the funky duds of an Egyptian Prince, but soon Moses is decked out in burgundy robes and a spectacular blonde dye-job on his immaculately coiffured hair.

Disciples: Aaron, Miriam, and the traditionally Biblical cast of thousands.

Enemies: Ex-girlfriend turned heartbreaker Queen Nefertiti, and the brilliantly inscrutable Pharoah Ramses.

Miracles Performed: He turns staffs into snakes, brings down locusts, frogs and the angel of death- but the whole “Parting the Red Sea” thing was always going to be tough to follow.

Final Destiny: Liberates his people, spends forty years wandering with them in the desert, and then, in a glaring display of bad timing, goes and dies just as they finally reach the Promised Land.

Messiah Speak: “Let my people go!!”

John Connor

Sightings: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Place of Birth: Mexico, 1984.

The Mission: In the year 2029, John Connor will be leading the war against the machines in a wrecked future world. To do that, he’s got to survive the shape-changing robotic Terminators that have been sent back through time to showcase their funky morphing effects at every opportunity.

Messiah Fashions: Brown jacket, Public Enemy t-shirt- everything a punky L.A. kid would want to wear; while when older, he prefers practical brown fatigues.

Disciples: His entertainingly trigger-happy mother Sarah Connor, future girlfriend Kate Brewster, plus a very tall Austrian Cyborg with a taste for leather and Harley Davisons.

Enemies: The slick, tidy liquid metal T-1000, and the cleavage flaunting robo-minx called the T-X.

Miracles Performed: Aside from hacking a couple of computers, running lots and surviving an onslaught from a Truck, John mostly gets the Terminator to do all the tricky stuff.

Final Destiny: With the Governor of California on his side, how can Connor go wrong? Although he does end up appearing in Terminator 3, so it’s not all good news…

Messiah Speak: “Listen to me- you’re not a Terminator anymore, okay? You can’t just go around killing people!”

William Wallace

Sightings: Braveheart (1995)

Place of Birth: 13th Century Scotland

The Mission: He’s an educated commoner out to live a quiet existence- until the local English lord executes his girlfriend. Soon, he’s uniting the Scottish clans into a fighting force and lopping off a spectacular number of English heads.

Messiah Fashions: Kilts and tartan feature highly in Wallace’s fashion statements- he’s also not averse to daubing lots of blue paint on his face before a fun afternoon of English-slaying.

Disciples: Robert the Bruce, French princess Isabelle and thousands of fearsomely bearded Scots warriors itching for a scrap.

Enemies: All the dastardly English- but especially psycho king Edward I and his pasty-faced, horribly unmanly son.

Miracles Performed: Wallace wins against a vastly superior force at the battle of Stirling, and nearly mounts a full-scale invasion of England.

Final Destiny: He inspires generations of Scotsmen to fight back against their oppressors- but in the end, Wallace gets sold out by treacherous Scots noblemen to the English, who treat him to a disembowelling at dawn.

Messiah Speak: “They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!!”

Annakin Skywalker

Sightings: Star Wars- Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Place of Birth: The desert planet Tatooine

The Mission: Conceived thanks to the least convincing plot device ever (aka the Force-creating “midi-chlorians”), he’s the brattish moppet turned moaning Jedi apprentice who’s prophecised to bring balance to the Force- if only he could stop aiming slushy looks at the gorgeous Senator Amidala…

Messiah Fashions: The traditional brown cloaks of the Jedi order- although nobody seems to notice his growing liking for black…

Disciples: Father figure Qui-Gon Jinn- at least until he’s run through with a lightsabre. Amidala- but for slightly more hormonal reasons.

Enemies: Nefarious, chin-stroking Count Dooku- but avuncular Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi could easily get onto the list…

Miracles Performed: To be honest, there’s little he does that any other Jedi wouldn’t be able to- unless you’re counting slaughtering an entire settlement of Sand People…

Final Destiny: Annakin does, in fact, eventually bring balance back to the Force. The fact that he has to dress up in black, develop a breathing problem and kill lots of people before doing this is something the prophecy chose to gloss over.

Messiah Speak: “Some day, I will be the most powerful Jedi ever! I promise you!”

Originally published in DVD Review magazine
© Highbury Entertainment 2005

< BACK

BACK FROM THE BEYOND

You don’t always have to be a Messiah to return from the grave…

E.T.
The podgy, butt-ugly alien stranded on Earth sent an entire generation into floods of tears thanks to an untimely demise- and then did it again by rising from the dead to bid a sad farewell to his best friend Elliot.

MICHAEL MYERS
There’s no explanation for the William Shatner-masked killer’s strange invulnerability. He just keeps coming back for more, no matter how many times he’s sliced, burned, decapitated or shouted at by Busta Rhymes…

BUFFY SUMMERS
Everybody’s favourite Vampire Slayer bites the bullet at the end of her Fifth TV Season- so the opening of Season Six sees her unwillingly brought back from the dead to once again battle the bloodsuckers.

THE BRIDE (BEATRIX KIDDOE)
Okay, she’s not exactly dead- but for sheer emerging-from-grave style, it’s difficult to beat Uma Thurman’s desperate (and rather painful looking) escape from being buried alive, thanks to Michael Madsen’s evil desperado.

JESUS VS JESUS

The latest cinematic Christ might be able to handle plenty of violence and ketchup- but how would Jim Caviezel fare against other screen Jesuses?

TV JESUS (Robert Powell, Jesus of Nazareth)
Powell has the spooky staring eyes and the heavenly manner down pat- but then, he also ended up co-starring in a sitcom with Jasper Carrott, a fate Caviezel’s probably going to avoid…
FINAL SCORE: CAVIEZEL 9, POWELL 4

MOVIE JESUS (Jeffrey Hunter, King of Kings)
He’s the clean-cut, soulful Jesus you wouldn’t mind taking home to meet your Grandma. Caviezel has the edge in terms of grit, but the late Hunter scored the ultimate comeback as the first Captain of the Enterprise… (Trek pilot episode “The Cage”)
FINAL SCORE: CAVIEZEL 7, HUNTER 8

CARTOON JESUS (Jesus, South Park)
Where Caviezel stands up to Satan, South Park’s cartoon version gets pounded embarresingly in the boxing ring. He does, however, have his own Cable talk show- a gig that Caviezel is unlikely to be able to top…
FINAL SCORE: CAVIEZEL 6, JESUS 7

BOWLING JESUS (John Tuturro, The Big Lebowski)
Caviezel’s torture-enduring Son of God wouldn’t last long on the alley against a fast-shooting champion like Jesus Quintano- but, with his worrying bowling ball/tongue action and scary hairnet, he’s nobody’s idea of a Messiah.
FINAL SCORE: CAVIEZEL 5, TUTURRO- DISQUALIFIED!!

JESUS TIMELINE:

0 AD: A child is born in Bethlehem.

1898 AD: The first film of the Jesus story is commissioned by a French Book company…

1926 AD: Movie supremo D.W. Griffith directs the first major Hollywood movie on the Son of God.

1961 AD: Rebel Without A Cause director Nicholas Ray helms King Of Kings- soon to be unofficially known as “I was a Teenage Jesus”….

1965 AD: John Wayne gets to say “Truly he was the Son of Gahhd!!” in Hollywood’s overblown The Greatest Story Ever Told…

1976 AD: Franco Zefferelli directs the TV drama Jesus of Nazareth- while producer Lew Grade asks if he can cut down the number of apostles…

1979 AD: The Monty Python team get accused of blasphemy, just for taking the mickey out of organised religion in Life of Brian

1988 AD: Everyone gets terribly upset by Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Box Office success, however, fails to follow…

1994 AD: The Stone Roses release The Second Coming. The Son of God is “unavailable for comment”…

2002 AD: Mel Gibson announces he’s filming The Passion of the Christ. In Latin. With subtitles. Everybody laughs.

2003 AD: The Second Coming turns up again- this time as a TV drama starring Christopher Eccleston as a Salford-based modern day Messiah.

2004 AD: After headline-grabbing accusations of anti-semitism, Passion of the Christ smashes US Box office records. Everybody stops laughing…

Originally published in DVD Review magazine
© Highbury Entertainment 2004

< BACK