Kam and I went to see the Passion a few weeks ago. When we were deciding which movie to see I discovered that even though when it first came out I had said I wanted to see it, I sort of didn't want to see it any more, feeling like it wouldn't really be a 'movie'. But in fact I ended up being glad that I saw it. I don't think it would be much use to people who don't already know the story in some detail, though. I thought it was fascinating in parts, I was very interested (with my historian hat on) in the power
relationships between the Romans and the Jews, not so straightforward;
though the way Herod was shown was a bit of a joke. I was mystified by some
of the appearances of the devil - in particular the appearance during the scourging may have been more at home in a David Lynch film! I would accuse Mel of trying to grab attention with the tried and tested combo of gore and a bit of the supernatural; but to be honest I think he was just reflecting his medieval conception of his religion... I suspect he did not make it with an Oscar in mind, nor box office. I could be totally wrong though.
The flashback with Jesus making the table really didn't work - we thought maybe if they had left out Mary's punchline 'it'll never catch on' they might just have gotten away with it. But the time could have been used better to show Jesus' character - this scene was trying to show some character, (or maybe light relief) but it was not based on the bible, and more importantly, also not consistent with all
the preachy flashbacks, where he was very dull.
Essentially the movie was the 'stations of the cross' come to life, and should be enormously useful for churches and christians as a tool to appreciate and focus on the suffering of Christ for all our sins. It will not be so useful as an evangelistic tool, however! I would think it would be fairly impenetrable for non-Christians.