Produced by husband and wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, Son of God is the story of Jesus of Nazareth from birth to crucifixion to resurrection and includes footage from the wildly popular 2013 Emmy-nominated TV series The Bible, also a Burnett-Downey production.
Set for nationwide release Friday,Â religious leaders around the country are renting screens to premier the film on Thursday, including megachurch Pastor Rick Warren, who is encouraging pastors to use the film as a launching pad to form groups and hold discussions and â€œreach more people for Jesus.â€
Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., said he has created a six-week series using scenes from Son of God, centered on themes such as baptism, temptation and suffering.
“Our entire church is going to study this series after the movie,â€ he said. â€œFor the six weeks leading to Easter, this is just the hand of God, that this movie comes out 10 years exactly after ‘The Passion’ and six weeks before Easter. This is the perfect Lent series.”
The movie is rated PG-13 â€œfor intense and bloody depiction of The Crucifixion, and for some sequences of violence.â€
It stirred minor controversy when producers cut the Satan character after some said the actor bore a striking resemblance to President Obama. In a column published inÂ USA TodayÂ on Feb. 17, Downey explained that someone making reference to the Obama-Satan resemblance caused the media to â€œgo nuts,â€ resulting in â€œspiritual warfare.â€ The Satan character became a distraction for a film intended to spread goodness, Downey wrote, so they cut it.
Biblical Drama Son of God opens in theaters on Friday and if it lives up to the buzz, the experience will be a celestial one for both moviegoers and its producers.
BreitbartÂ reports that industry estimates for opening weekend have catapulted from original projections of $13 million to a whopping $22.5 million.
â€œBut for our movie, Son of God, I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus,â€ she explained. â€œI want his name to be on the lips of everyone who sees this movie, so we cast Satan out. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the devil is on the cutting room floor. This is now a movie about Jesus, the Son of God, and the devil gets no more screen time, no more distractions.â€