What’s not to love about “Jesus Christ Superstar”? My planned Easter re-watch was thwarted by Netflix suddenly removing it from instant play (bastards), so I ordered up the DVD. Better late than never! Besides, Lexie was mesmerized by a commercial for the new Broadway production and then danced around while I sang the title song, so I decided it was time for baby’s first rock opera. These are just a few of my favorite things about the movie.
- The music. “Superstar” is a rock opera, so every single word of dialogue is sung. Sure, Andrew Lloyd Webber has become a bit of a cliche, but I don’t even care when it comes to the earlier shows. I’ve only watched it once or twice in the last decade but still remember almost all of the words.
- The costumes. The movie was released in 1973, and rather than even pretend to be historically accurate, everyone’s a hippie. Herod’s court has enough androgyny and brightly colored wigs to pass for the Capitol from “The Hunger Games.”
- The hippies gyrate a lot.
- The cast is amazing. Ted Neeley’s Jesus may be a stereotypical bearded white dude in a robe, but damn can he sing. He was still playing Jesus in the national tour in 1995; I made my poor family wait around until almost 1 a.m. so I could get his autograph, and he prayed with several of the other fans. It was so cool!
- I don’t know if you could get away with a black Judas today without a shitstorm, but Carl Anderson is perfectly angsty and conflicted. He tries really hard to keep Jesus on message and worries that the whole thing is gonna go horribly awry. The foreshadowing kinda beats you over the head, but it’s not like you don’t already know how it ends. Although, I am slightly disturbed that he seemed to be Lexie’s favorite character. I gotta watch my back.
- I would kill for Yvonne Elliman’s voice, and Mary Magdalene’s songs are the best. I dare you to not tear up during “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” or “Could We Start Again, Please?”
- Caiaphas and Annas have voices that play off each other really well; Caiaphas has a diabolically deep voice and Annas is piercingly falsetto.
- The anachronisms are bizarre but fun. I’m reasonably certain that the moneychangers in the temple weren’t selling machine guns and British pounds with Queen Elizabeth’s face on them.
- Speaking of the temple, I desperately need gifs of Jesus flipping the tables. Somebody make that happen, please!
- Judas gets chased by tanks and fighter jets. I don’t even know, but it’s hilariously absurd.
- In Gethsemane, the last supper is a picnic and there’s a brief freeze-frame restaging the Da Vinci painting. I don’t know if I’d never noticed that before yesterday or if I had just forgotten.
- Throughout the entire movie, Jesus is tormented by the knowledge that he has to die. The look on his face when his adoring fans cheerfully sing “Hey JC, JC, won’t you die for me?” is heartbreaking. After yelling at God for a while, he gives in and agrees to it with a wail in an octave that even I can’t hit.
- Judas somehow manages to be a sympathetic character. He really feels like he’s trying to protect Jesus’ message and it just goes horribly wrong.
- In the grand finale, Judas wears the most spectacular fringed jacket ever. See video below.
- During the overture, the cast piles off a bus and unloads their props and costumes; at the end, everyone except Jesus gets back on to leave. The final shot is a cross silhouetted against the setting sun, and I’d never noticed until this watching that there’s the faintest shadow of someone walking across the screen at the bottom of the hill below the cross. Spooky!
(While the movie is somehow rated G, there are a lot of scantily clad ladies in this clip, and the dancing starts getting interspersed with crucifixion scenes at 3:08. Not graphic, but possibly NSFW.)