We gave it a C-
When will Hollywood give us a biblical epic we can believe in? Something that isn’t cheesy and evangelistic. Something that isn’t irreverent and revisionist. Something that doesn’t have Britishy thesps and Heston-esque himbos playing Middle Eastern people and Italian conquerors. Something that doesn’t have Russell Crowe going psycho. Something without Mel Gibson.
A.D. comes from the makers of The Bible. No, not Gutenberg. I speak of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, producers of the hit 2013 miniseries. Their sequel is ambitious: It aspires to make complex melodrama out of the political, social, and spiritual consequences of Christ’s crucifixion. The first two episodes see Team Jesus—led by Peter (Adam Levy)—grieve their fallen leader and doubt his resurrection claims. Meanwhile, the Jewish high priest Caiaphas (Richard Coyle) and the Roman governor Pilate (Vincent Regan) sweat the prospect of unrest created by the growth of Christianity and crack down on it with brutal realpolitik.
Interesting in theory. But A.D. is one more piece of Christian pop that’s poor in creative spirit and poorly served by true-believer passion. The production is chintzy, the acting is too broad or too earnest. The writing dotes on emotions and lacks sophistication. Superficial characterizations abound. The risen Jesus (Juan Pablo Di Pace) is so soft, so beatifically delicate, he might blow apart with a sneeze. “It’s time we shut this story down!” thunders Pilate at one point. A.D. is more proof that it’s time for Christians to tell their stories with more artistry. C–