NOTE: I’M NOT BOTHERING TO PUT UP THE SPOILER ALERT NOTICE FOR THIS MOVIE… IT’S NEARLY 40 YEARS OLD AND IT’S ADAPTED FROM THE MOST FAMOUS PARTS OF THE BIBLE, SO ODDS ARE, YOU PROBABLY ALREADY KNOW THE STORY. Also, be warned – I had to bring the profanity to this post. It couldn’t be helped.
Passover got its due, now it’s Easter’s turn – except I think we can all agree that Easter is getting the worst of it. In fact, Jesus Christ Superstar (1973 version) is more like a few weeks after Easter when you find some of those hard boiled eggs you so painstakingly colored and forgot about, tucked away in the fridge behind one of those unnecessarily huge jars of Miracle Whip. Hence, JCS earns my award for The Worst Movie Ever, Movies About Religion Category – it probably also deserves to be the worst musical ever, but I’m saving that one for now.
If you made it through that entire clip, you’re a stronger person than I am. But if you made it through even some of that clip, the first question on your mind was probably, “What the fuck is this?” I’m betting the second question was, “Why?” I bet it was also the third, fourth and fifth questions you thought of, too. Why ask why? Where to begin…
- Why are people singing boisterously about the death of Jesus?
- Why do the guys crucifying Jesus appear to be stereotypically gay construction workers?
- Why is that cross fade on Jesus so awkward?
- Why does the camera keep cutting like that? What’s with the dancing spot lights in the background? What’s with the half naked dancers? And why do they keep multiplying? Where the hell do they keep coming from? Who directed this piece of shit? Norman Jewison, which is strange, because he directed good movies, too. So why does Jesus Christ Superstar suck so bad? Probably for the same reason that after Al Pacino’s rousing “You’re out of order!” speech from ...And Justice For All ends on a freeze frame.
- Why do the lyrics run out of steam after just one verse? “Do you think you’re what they say you are?” Uhm, you really think the guy who said, “…if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do” had doubts?
- Really, you cast a black guy as Judas? Really? And he rode into the scene on a cross?
- This song is at least a minute two long.
Ugh. And that’s just four minutes out of the movie.
For me, the most important ‘why’ question that needs answering is, why would you want to make a musical out of the passion play? Aren’t there some topics that just don’t translate from the page to a full blown musical? I say yes, and this is one of them.
This movie is terrible. The fake opera dialogue is terrible, the lyrics are terrible, the choreography is terrible, the directing is terrible, the music is terrible and for the love of Jesus, couldn’t they get a better actor to play Jesus? But it must have been tough – he’s written so poorly. But then, sometimes, just for fun, the director steps in to make things worse: fast forward to 3:50 at the previous clip… if you dare. “Just watch me die!” You got that right.
I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not an attack on Jesus, the Bible, Christianity or religion. This is a verbal attack on Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, Norman Jewison, Melvyn Bragg and anyone else who had anything to do with this terrible, terrible movie musical. In fact, Christians should be outraged at how awful this is – they should collect and destroy all copies of this awfulness and ask YouTube to take this abomination off their servers. If you want to see a movie about Jesus, stick with King of Kings. That’s how it’s done. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” that’s it – that’s where it’s at – not this, “Who are you, What have you sacrificed/Do you think you’re what they say you are?” nonsense the show’s title song repeats over and over and over and over and over and over!
Oh and one more thing – obviously when it comes to movies about Jesus, King of Kings is the best, but to take it a step further, that movie ends at the logical closure point – after the resurrection of Jesus! If you must have a musical about the end of Jesus’ life, couldn’t you end it with the resurrection instead of the crucifixion? If you were going to sing about any part of Jesus’ life, would that be the part? I just don’t get it. Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the worst movies ever.
(Oh, and the play sucks too – I only worked on it for about two weeks, but it was my own personal Vietnam and was a direct cause of the end of my career in technical theater. It’s that bad. I was thinking, “If these are the kind of shows I’m going to have to work on to stay in this business, then forget it.”)