Counter-programming works when avoiding cinema crowds too: suspecting the biggest invasion since the Crusades, we dropped our usual Sunday morning trip, and went at 10:30 pm Friday night. Result. The theatre was 95% empty, just the way we like it. Even so, the seat felt pretty uncomfortable by the end of 120 mins watching JC (Cavaziel or Christ, you choose) suffer nobly through crucifixion, floggings and sundry abuse. This is a Hardcore Death Match version of Christ's life; one tool picked up by a Roman soldier seemed more appropriate for use on Mick Foley than our Lord and Saviour. And in the end, you just get numb.
Part of the problem is there's no background. Yes, we "know" it's Jesus, loaves and fishes, water-walking, etc. But we see little of that, and it's a shame, as these fragments are wonderful, giving Christ a humanity which the rest of the film desperately needs. Instead, we are cinematically cast adrift, with little reason to care, beyond this being treatment you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Though I suspect this wasn't made for us non-believers, and if you go to church every Sunday, faith is as easy as breathing. More successful is the film's portrayal of evil: the Devil is portrayed by an androgynous figure looking like a bald Marilyn Manson, while Judas and his vision are also extremely creepy.
Couple of points. Gibson depicts the nails being driven through Christ's palms; I believe in reality, they went through the wrists. Also, after Veronica wipes his face, the cloth bears an imprint on it; this icon is supposedly now located in an obscure Italian friary
As for the supposed bigotry, no-one comes out here with much credit, save big J, of course. Doubt it'll be read as promoting modern anti-Semitism, by anyone with a shred of intelligence - those without are most unlikely to sit for two hours of subtitled Latin and Aramaic.