A lot of these will continue to roll in in the next 48 hours, no doubt, but Terry’s always worth noting:
Everything you’ve heard about the violence in The Passion of the Christ is true. It’s jarring, almost sickening. Yet I didn’t find it gratuitous, given the film’s initiating premise, though the scourging of Jesus went on well past the point of diminishing artistic returns, however “realistic” it may have been. In any case, there is nothing in The Passion of the Christ that will startle viewers familiar with Western religious art. The difference—and it’s a big one—is that this is a film, not a mural. Photographs pack a punch quite different from even the most gruesome paintings. To say that The Passion of the Christ suggests a Caravaggist Crucifixion come to life, while true enough, understates its impact. Of course it’s only a movie, and we’ve all read about the special effects, but Gibson and his collaborators create an illusion of reality so enveloping that it’s possible to forget yourself.
Not that many of the people who came to the Brill Building yesterday were likely to have forgotten themselves. They were New York media types, not the viewers I had in mind when I told Janet Maslin the other day that “most of the people who see The Passion of the Christ will regard it as a film about something that actually happened. That’s something that a lot of the people writing about it are apt to misunderstand.” We live, after all, in an age when ostensibly serious art critics for major newspapers and magazines can get away with turning up their noses at the Metropolitan Museum’s El Greco retrospective because of its subject matter. I doubt that many of their cinematic counterparts will find it possible, much less easy, to write about The Passion of the Christ as a movie qua movie.
There’s more on his site.