I know, I know. The TV miniseries The Chosen has been out for a while and is already through its second season, and I’m just now writing about it. Better late than never?
Last Christmas a good friend and neighbor (avid Christian, not of our faith), gave us a DVD of the first season of The Chosen, and shared with us how much he loved it. I’m embarrassed to say that it sat on our counter until last week, when we binged all eight episodes.
First, some backstory: The Chosen was written and directed by Dallas Jenkins (Avid Christian, not LDS). He had an idea for a miniseries based on the life of Christ as portrayed in the Gospels. An interesting component is that it was crowd-funded with donations, making it the most $$$ crowd-funded movie project to date. People are apparently hungry for goodness. For more information on how it was brought to be, check out the wiki page here.
Although it was not created by someone from the Church, the Church has its fingerprints all over it. Much of it was filmed at the Church’s New Testament movie set near Goshen, Utah, and the Executive Producers are from VidAngel and members of the Church.
How does it measure up?
We loved it.
The first season is eight episodes and introduces the main characters, i.e. Jesus, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Nicodemus, the Apostles, etc. One of the beauties of having more time than just a two -hour movie is that they are able to develop the characters more deeply.
Granted, the New Testament isn’t full of detail, and is relatively short, which required the writer to create backstory, characters and situations to make the familiar Biblical stories accessible. I think he did a fine job of that. I didn’t see anything that put me back on my heels saying, “Whoa, that doesn’t seem right.” Rather, I felt that the most important stuff – the text and situations taken directly from the scriptures were played pretty straight-up, without much embellishment.
Doctrinally, I felt the same way. I was never offended by any weird takes on the doctrine. It seemed to be treated with respect and follow the New Testament quite accurately. (At least the first season.) Christ’s gospel is presented as simple and pure. (The core of Christ’s gospel is not complicated.)
The actor that plays Jesus is named Johnathan Roumie, from New York City. (He’s Catholic, btw). I had to look him up, because he definitely does not come off as the typical “Americanized” version of Jesus with the blue eyes and wavy blondish hair. He looks and sounds authentic. (As authentic as he can be while speaking English.)
What impressed me more is how Jesus is portrayed. So often we see Jesus as very somber and stoic. All my life I’ve watched those portrayals (Many of them produced by the Church) and asked myself, “He is so boring! Why would anyone give up all they have and follow him?”
The Jesus in The Chosen shows emotion and charisma. I get why people would drop what they were doing and follow him. One thing I especially adored about the portrayal is that when Christ heals someone, a leper for example, not only is the healed man thrilled about the miracle – Jesus is thrilled for him, too. He smiles, laughs and shares in the joy that the man is experiencing. It seems so much more real to me that he would be happy, too – not just somber (and boring.)
I did notice that Jesus is nicer in the mini-series than in the New Testament. In scripture, he is often mean and biting with some of the things he says. In The Chosen, they omit those things. That’s fine. Not everybody can deal with the idea of an abrasive Savior. I get it.
Overall, I enjoyed it immensely and am looking forward to starting Season 2, which is out now.
How to watch it? Well, that, too, is a cool thing. There is an app for your phone or tablet called ‘The Chosen: Jesus TV Show.” You can get it on the Apple App Store or the Google Play App Store. The app is free.
On the app you can play any of the episodes on your phone, or stream it to your TV via Apple TV, Roku, Firestick etc. So, instead of having to subscribe to another service to watch it, it is free on the app. Very generous, and forward-thinking.
Anyway, the series did a few good things for me:
- It made me think more about Jesus and his life. which is always a good thing.
- It reminded me that there are some really good Christian people out there who really love the Savior and desire to share that with the world.
- It reminded me of the beauty of his ministry, including the power of the miracles he performed and the things he taught.
- It made me jump into the scriptures to follow/check what I was watching for accuracy. Anything that ends up with me in the scriptures is a plus.
We enjoyed it, and recommend it. No matter what faith you are, or what faith it came from, it is sharing the gift of Christ, and for that, I am grateful. (Even when I’m late to the party.)