Jim Vs. David
Selling out with The Passion Recut
By Jim Van Nest & David Mumpower
April 26, 2005

Jim Caviezel thinks about all the great parts he'll get now that he's made a blockbuster.

Welcome to Thunderdome, population BOP staff. Face it, the concept is all the rage in Hollywood these days. Two major Hollywood franchises are faced off against one another in an epic struggle. The prize is not the salvation of the planet, though. Instead, the mutually beneficial goal is a blockbuster opening weekend, a long existence on DVD and renewed life for the franchises in question. We don't have quite the same greedy goals as our Hollywood brethren, but we do like the concept of pitting irresistible forces against immovable objects just to see what happens. It's pretty much the only excitement we get during the NFL off-season. So, with this in mind, we debut our new column this week. With each outing, our readers may look forward to seeing the most bellicose members of the BOP staff square off in debate over the current movie issues of the day.

The Passion of the Christ was THE movie story of 2004. We even ranked it as such in our annual review of the Top Ten Film Industry Stories. Mel Gibson used the novel tactic of grass roots marketing in unconventional, historically anti-Hollywood areas (read: churches). The staggering success not only took the box office by storm but also foreshadowed American politics during an election year. Clearly, there was a populist sentiment that was not being represented by the mainstream media (save arguably Fox News). Gibson tapped into this silent zeitgeist and its unspoken yearning for a more conservative, religious point of view. The result was a box office success story that surpassed any reasonable expectation for the $30 million production.

The artist formerly known as Lethal Weapon was hailed for his maverick movie making and his daring decision to make the film using the archaic language of Aramaic rather than English. In short, he was championed as an auteur who refused to sell out to make a quick buck. His cosmic reward for such a practice was the kismet of receiving a monetary perk that was tenfold what had been considered to be a best case scenario for The Passion of the Christ only three months prior to its release. The artist held true to his vision and was remunerated in proper karmic fashion for holding firm to his artistic sensibilities.

Fast forward to the first quarter of 2005. A family-friendly version of The Passion of the Christ was released in order to further expand the Message of Mel. This director's cut saw the most scourging of sequences wholly excised in order to relieve the audience of some of its discomfort. Word had spread over the year that a certain percentage of people claimed to want to see the movie, but they were put off by the harrowing account of the Biblically accurate final days of Jesus Christ. In order to appeal to their more delicate sensibilities, Gibson kowtowed to their request, something he had been unwilling to do with Hollywood executives. The results were middling. The Passion Recut added less than half a million to the prior 2004 total. The financial failure of the re-release notwithstanding, did Mel Gibson sell out and betray himself as a hypocrite or did he prove himself willing to do whatever was requisite in order to get his message out?