‘The Miracle Maker’ (Film)

‘THE MIRACLE MAKER’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

The Best Animation of the Greatest Story Ever Told

At the time of this review, it’ll be the film’s 20th anniversary!

‘The Miracle Maker’ is an animation film I vividly recall seeing on the big screen back in the year 2000! I was with a youth group from my church at the time. We went on a day trip outing to see ‘The Miracle Maker’. I didn’t know what to expect when seeing this film, yet I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. 🙂

Over the years, the story of Jesus and the wonders he did in Israel that led to his death on the cross as well as his resurrection have been preached and told about countless times in churches and many parts of the world. At the time ‘The Miracle Maker’ was released, it celebrated 2,000 years of Jesus’ birth!

Other dramatizations of the Jesus story from the Holy Bible include the miniseries ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ starring Robert Powell and ‘The Passion of the Christ’ 2004 film, directed by Mel Gibson. For me, ‘The Miracle Maker’ is a beautiful intepretation of the story of Jesus in animation form and is the best version. 🙂

‘The Miracle Maker’ is a good film to watch over at Easter time. I recall seeing ‘The Miracle Maker’ one Good Friday when I was in my first high school year in 2001, I believe. It’s a great way to remember what Jesus means to us as our saviour when he died on the cross and the wonders he did.

This film is a collaboration of many efforts from many parts of the world, including Britain, Wales, America and most especially Russia. It was released by S4C Films with help from British Screen and Icon Entertainment International associated with BBC Cymru/Wales and Christmas Films. Amazing! 🙂

The animation consists of stop-motion animation for the main story as well as cartoon animation for various sequences; including flashbacks, Jesus telling the parables, and dream sequences. I’ve seen this kind of animation before, since at school, I recall watching ‘Testament: The Bible In Animation’. 🙂

That was a single season of nine episodes that told certain Bible stories from the Old Testament, either using stop-motion animation or cartoon animation. So, as I got into watching this film at the cinema, it gradually dawned upon me that the animation style was very similiar to the ‘Testament’ series.

The stop-motion animation for ‘The Miracle Maker’ was done by animators in Russia. I found it amazing to discover that when checking out the DVD special features. I admit, the stop-motion animation isn’t as great as you would expect, compared to Aardman Animation films like ‘Wallace & Gromit’ and ‘Chicken Run’.

But at least the stop-motion animation allows us to see the Bible characters talking as human beings. It’s quite a painstaking process to do stop-motion animation anyway and to give credit to the Russian animators working with Wales and England; they put in a lot of hard work and effort into making this film. 🙂

The way ‘The Miracle Maker’ tells the story of Jesus performing miracles in Israel is done rather uniquely. The filmmakers had the story told through the eyes of the terminally ill daughter of Jairus, the priest in Capernaum. The daughter is named Tamar in the film, though she’s not named in the Bible.

Now that’s not to say that every scene in the movie features Tamar. On the contrary, a lot of scenes get told from Jesus’ point of view, especially when tempted by Satan in the desert. Even scenes featuring the Pharisees tell the story of Jesus. But it’s nice to have that emotional connection with Tamar here.

The story goes in particular stages with telling the story of Jesus. They include Jesus leaving home and preparing to start his Father’s work; Jesus beginning his ministry in Galilee; Jesus teaching, performing miracles and upsetting the authorities; Jesus going to Jerusalem; Jesus being condemned and crucified; and Jesus rising from the dead. Overall, it’s a straightforward depiction of the Jesus story.

‘The Miracle Maker’ features an amazing voice cast. At the time of watching the film at the cinema, I wouldn’t have registered who was voicing who in the film. But after 20 years seeing the film, I was really astounded to find names I recognised like Ralph Fiennes, Ian Holm, Richard E. Grant and so on.

I found Ralph Fiennes (who would later voice a character in ‘Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ and a star of the recent ‘James Bond’ films) very good as the voice of Jesus in the film. He brings across Jesus’ majesty among the people of Israel with a little touch of being down-to-earth as well.

Interestingly, Ioan Gruffudd (who I’ve seen in ‘102 Dalmatians’ and the ‘Fantastic Four’ movies) did the voice of Jesus in the Welsh version of ‘The Miracle Maker’. I had no idea there was a Welsh version of ‘The Miracle Maker’ as well. I’m sure Ioan Gruffudd would be good in the English version too.

Rebecca Callard voices Tamar, Jairus’ little daughter in the film. I’m amazed Rebecca Callard voiced Tamar in ‘The Miracle Maker’. She’s also appeared in ‘The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries’ and has done the ‘Doctor Who’ Big Finish audios ‘Time Reef’ and ‘A Perfect World’ with Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. 🙂

The film also features Jairus, voiced by William Hurt, and his wife Rachel, voiced by Julie Christie. Hmm. Has William Hurt done anything recently? Oh he was General Ross in the ‘MCU’ films! How uncanny is that?! 😀 I’ve seen Julie Christie before in the 1963 film ‘Billy Lair’ with Tom Courtenay. 🙂

There’s also Cleopas, Jairus’ friend, voiced by Daniel Massey; King Herod (not ‘The Nativity’ one, another one), voiced by Anton Lesser; Caiaphas, one of the priests plotting to kill Jesus, voiced by David Schofield (WOW!!!), and Simon the Pharisee, voiced by Alfred Molina (Doc Ock was in this film! 😀 )

God is voiced by Michael Bryant, whilst Satan is voiced by William Hootkins. The film also features the twelve disciples, including Simon Peter, voiced by Ken Stott (before he did Balin in ‘The Hobbit’ film trilogy); and Judas Iscariot, voiced by David Thewlis, the disciple who eventually betrayed Jesus.

The other disciples include Andrew, voiced by Ewan Stewart; John and James (I think), voiced by Dougray Scott; Thomas voiced by James Frain; and Matthew, voiced by Patrick Godfrey. Bartholomew; another James; Jude; Matthias; Philip; Simon the Zealot are mentioned in the film.

The film also features Lazarus, voiced by Robert Duncan, the man who died and was buried before he was raised to life by Jesus out of his tomb. There are also Lazarus’ sisters: Mary, voiced by Julie Higginson, and Martha, voiced by Sian Rivers. And there’s Mary Magdalene, voiced by Miranda Richardson.

Some of the story gets told through the eyes of Mary Magdalene herself, especially when she sees Jesus raised to life. I was amazed to hear John the Baptist voiced by Richard E. Grant, after seeing this movie in such a long time. Richard E. Grant has done both ‘Doctor Who’ and ‘Star Wars’ lately. 🙂

I enjoyed Ian Holm voicing Pontius Pilate in the film. Ian Holm appeared in the ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ mini-series before he did ‘The Miracle Maker’. And of course he played Frodo Baggins in the radio version of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and Bilbo Baggins in the movie version of ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Ian as Pontius Pilate is enjoyably believable in the film!

As you watch the film, you go through how Jesus performs many of the miracles based on the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible. It’s debatable whether all Jesus did in the film is accurate as in the Bible, and it’s pity a lot was left out, including the feeding of the five thousand. 😦

But a major part of the film focuses on Jesus’ mistreatment by the Pharisees and being crucified on a cross to die before he’s raised to life three days later. Even to this day, after seeing the film in such a while, I did find it very emotional and moving through the animation as well as the film’s voice talent.

The film’s music is provided by Anne Dudley, who provided the music for the ‘Jeeves & Wooster’ TV series, starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. I found the film’s music very good in terms of providing emotional drama, especially when Jesus is performing miracles and when he’s put to death on the cross.

The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the theatrical trailer for the movie; the making-of documentary called ‘Small Miracles’, narrated by Ioan Gruffudd; and there are behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. I’m glad I purchased ‘The Miracle Maker’ on DVD with behind-the-scenes material for my Mum, Dad and I to enjoy over Christmas 2019. 🙂

If you’re looking for a really good version of the Jesus story at Easter time, then ‘The Miracle Maker’ is a film I highly recommend. I still love this film and how it portrays the story of Jesus so superbly. It’s a lovely animated film and it’s lovely to watch after all these years and remember how good Jesus is. 🙂

‘The Miracle Maker’ rating – 9/10


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