More than a year after “The Passion of the Christ” bowed in U.S. theaters to controversy and long lines, Mel Gibson’s version of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion will debut theatrically again—this time lacking its more brutal shots.
“The Passion Recut” will be released nationwide in about 500 theaters Friday, with this version clocking in at about 121 minutes as opposed to the original’s 127. Gone are some of the more disturbing images of flesh being ripped from Christ’s back during the scourging sequence.
“Many of you who really loved the film wrote in and told me,” said Gibson in a video introduction at www.thepassionrecut.com. “But some of you actually said that you wish you could have taken your Aunt Martha or Uncle Harry or your grandmother or some of your older kids, and you thought that perhaps the intensity of the film was prohibitive to those people.”
“So I listened to that, and it inspired me to recut the film to cater to those people that perhaps might not have seen it because of its intensity or brutality,” Gibson continued. “It’s about five minutes, six minutes less, and indeed I have softened it somewhat. It’s still a hard film.”
The recut’s Web site calls the film “a new version for new audiences to discover and everyone to be inspired by.”
The original was released Feb. 25, 2004—Ash Wednesday. It was rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of graphic violence. Despite the rating, it went on to earn more than $370 million in the United States and about $240 million more overseas. It now stands as the largest-grossing R-rated movie ever.
When Gibson’s Icon Productions submitted the recut to the MPAA, Gibson was hoping for a PG-13 rating, according to the Dallas Morning News. It didn’t happen, and the MPAA slapped the recut with another R.
Icon Productions and the film’s distributor, Newmarket, have thus decided to release the recut “unrated.”
“Exhibitors can decide for themselves how they want to handle the situation,” Newmarket President Bob Berney told the News. “Some may choose to still treat it as an R and not let teens in, unless accompanied by adults. Others may be willing to treat it as a PG-13. The film is still probably too intense for children, but Mel hoped to make it more available for teens.”
Submitting a film to the MPAA for rating is voluntary, but most production companies seek a rating because exhibitors aren’t inclined to carry unrated films. A theatrically released recut, however, is rare. (Unrated versions for DVD are becoming more common, though material is usually added, not cut.)
“I maintain the integrity of the film that I wanted to make, yet alleviated some of the more horrific aspects of it,” said Gibson in the video introduction. “So I’m hoping that it will attract wider audiences, and I hope you like it. I like it.”
He also thanked viewers “for all the support you gave me out there.”
“The Passion Recut” Web site also promotes “The Passion of the Christ” Church Resource DVD, billed as “an important tool for your Easter & Holy Week worship services.” The DVD includes various clips (between 2-8 minutes) and still photographs from the film. The DVD costs $24.95.
Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.
The movie’s Web site is here.