“What’s the buzz, tell me what’s-a-happening…”
Don’t want to read our blocks of text? LISTEN TO US TALK ABOUT Jesus Christ Superstar ON OUR PODCAST ON ITUNES OR STITCHER!
The Set Up
We are all die-hard Hamilton fans here at Munch. We’ve each listened to the cast recording dozens of times, and often set it up as our background music while we cook these delicious meals. We’ve watched every minute of the play available on YouTube, read behind the lyrics of all the tracks on Genius, and have scoured the internet for any and all news regarding Hamilton. In short, we’ve consumed every bit of Hamilton media, save the play itself, as it hasn’t come to Seattle yet. But our hunger for more Hamilton was still roaring, so we decided to go deeper. We would watch one of the films Lin-Manuel Miranda stated as a piece of inspiration for his play. We would watch Jesus Christ Superstar.
We had a very Jesus-inspired meal, of course. All focused around the last supper with story notes and message-loaded imagery placed throughout the setting. We started off by breaking some bread and sharing it around the table. These baguettes were incredibly satisfying to break in two with your own hands.
Next, we had some delicious black cod. We quickly seared the cod on the skillet, threw in a sauce of mushrooms, onions, and sherry vinegar, and roasted it all in the oven. Honestly, we don’t know whether we enjoyed the cod or the mushrooms more. Both had a sweet-yet-vinegar-y taste, which we couldn’t get enough of. And for a group that is always cautious when cooking fish for fear that it will be over done, we were pleasantly satisfied.
For dessert, we had sesame seed cookies. These… Did not turn out quite as expected. They were not as crunchy as we hoped; rather, they were extremely sticky and chewy. They were that unforgivable type of sticky, where it fills every crevice in your molars and your tongue has to spend several minutes undoing the damage of each bite you take. Needless to say, we did not enjoy the process of eating these very much, even if they did taste okay. But thematically, they were also the weakest link, so of all the dishes that could have gone wrong, at least it was this one.
Here, we got really creative. We decided to have red wine while we watched a Jesus movie. Yeah, we like to keep you all on your toes.
- Drink when Jesus hits a high note.
- Drink when Judas can’t believe what’s going on (you’ll get it when you see it).
- Drink for freeze frames.
Finally not a drinking rule but, pour one out for Jesus Christ, the Superstar, when he dies in the musical.
Jesus Christ Superstar starts out so so so strong. The movie opens with what may be one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time, and then Judas jumps in with a song that shows his impressive vocal range. Meanwhile, a bus full of Jesus followers in 60’s/70’s garb is driving through the Israeli desert, and we instantly started drawing parallels between the story of Jesus and the history of the 60’s, which is exactly what you want out of play set in a different time period than the original script called for. That song is followed by “What’s the Buzz,” which has been stuck in our heads ever since, both because of it’s catchy hook and Mary Magdalene’s magnificent voice. And then Jesus has his first line and you realize instantly that this actor is going to drag the whole movie down.
Ted Neeley simply isn’t very impressive, as an actor or as a singer. He hits a couple high notes, sure, but none of us felt moved by his songs as much as Judas’s or Mary’s songs. It’s especially disappointing, considering that the Jesus on the original cast album was much better, so we had high expectations going in.
After the first half an hour, the movie really starts chugging to a halt. The songs didn’t have the same energy, and the camera spent more time focusing on Jesus agonizing over his decision to die or not rather than on the impressive choreography of the first few songs. It just couldn’t hold our attention and we spent more time chatting during the second half of the movie than we usually do during movies. If the whole movie could have maintained the momentum of the first act, this would have been a truly impressive movie. As it stands, it’s just okay. There is a lot to appreciate about the film, but the end was so egregiously boring that it leaves a bad taste in our mouth.
Of course, one of the things we enjoyed most about our viewing was looking for where Miranda drew inspiration for Hamilton. The most obvious correlation is how the murderer of the hero is the narrator in both films, and they gets a chance to have his story told. And like Aaron Burr in Hamilton, Judas gets the best songs in the production. We also drew comparisons between Angelica’s “Satisfied” and Mary’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” as they both dealt with forbidden love and the mental anguish one goes through when they can’t love their special someone in a conventional way. We also noticed both Jesus and Alexander Hamilton were very concerned with their legacy; making sacrifices today to “plant seeds in a garden they’ll never see,” so to speak.
Andre: Somehow both better and worse than I remembered. I was the only person in Munch who had seen the movie before, and I forgot just how exciting some of the songs were. But I had also forgotten how unbearably slow the end of the movie was, so that was an unwelcome surprise. My favorite parts had to be the 60’s reinterpretation of the story of Jesus, Judas, and Mary. I still like Hamilton better though.
Leanna: Jesus Christ Superstar left me unsatisfied. Being as obsessed with Hamilton as we are, I was really looking forward to diving into one of Miranda’s sources of inspiration. Let me just say, he truly took the best parts out of this movie and really made them work in Hamilton, because much of the brilliance in the first act was overshadowed by how boring the remainder was. I did love Judas’s comeback in the end with his incredible white fringe jumpsuit, but it wasn’t enough to redeem it for me. I also went into the film not expecting it to be set in the 60s, and not only was that a surprise, but it was also a disappointment when they didn’t really follow through on the theme.
Ben: 50%. I feel like it is appropriate to separate the movie from the musical for this score. The musical itself is wonderful and since watching the film has been stuck in my head every morning, in the same way that Hamilton does. The movie on the other hand leaves something to be desired. Weird choices for shot selection, seemingly trying camera tricks and effects halfway through the film, and the weird kind of pulling influences of the 70s kind of not, not really adhering to either that well ultimately coming off as confused. Also there is a noticeable dip in focus and drive about 2/3 of the way through the film. The songs themselves are wonderful though, and Judas was by far the strongest character and singer in the film.