Common Sense Note
Parents need to know that Jesus Christ Superstar, a filmed version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hugely successful staged rock opera, is a fantastical departure from its biblical source. Using a "play-within-a-play" format, the last week of Jesus' life is acted out by a ragtag group of 1970s bohemians (or "flower children) in a desolate desert setting. There is no dialogue. Rock music provides plot and mood and accompanies all the action. Director Norman Jewison blends modernity with antiquity throughout. Costumes change from 1973 to 29 A.D. and back again. Twentieth-century weaponry, dancing, and, of course, rock music, become the means of retelling this age-old story. Despite the G rating the film earned in 1973, there is considerable violence, including Jesus receiving 39 lashes (with lots of blood); Judas Iscariot taking his own life; and a lengthy, intense sequence depicting Jesus' crucifixion. This is an experimental work, controversial when it was first released. Audiences expecting a traditional Christian recounting will be surprised, at the very least. Given the graphic nature of the violence, as well as the unconventional treatment of Jesus' last days, the movie is best for older or very mature kids.
Some women (particularly dancers) wear provocative clothing. The choreography is purposefully sexual, sometimes designed to be exaggerated and comic. Mary Magdalene is portrayed as a sensual woman, especially when she interacts with Jesus.
Judas commits suicide by hanging himself. Jesus is flogged; thirty-nine lashes leave him bloody and weak. The crucifixion sequence is lengthy and graphic, with many shots of bloodlust on the faces of those who watch; most are gleeful. Jesus' followers are intimidated by modern-day weaponry (tanks, rifles) as well as pitchforks, swords. In a fit of temper, Jesus destroys a marketplace. A group of poverty-stricken and diseased citizens crawls along the ground, begging for help.
Reworks some New Testament biblical doctrine: Jesus' martyrdom is portrayed as the only way to ensure dissemination of his messages. Judas Iscariot's motives for betraying his friend were wrong-headed but based on his belief that Jesus's celebrity would destroy the Christian movement's purpose.
One Coca-Cola shirt.
Drugs / Tobacco /