It has been two millennia since we first began waiting for Christ’s big comeback, a period of reclusive, semi-retirement in which the only way we’ve been able to experience Jesus is through reissues of his earlier works, cover versions, and—some say—in your heart. But as we’ve already seen with Tupac and Liberace, these days there’s no resurrection so unlikely that we can’t just figure it out through technology. And it came to pass that, on the second day of the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, in a humble casino theater where dwelled the money-changers and anyone with an accredited badge, that Jesus did return as a virtual reality experience, appearing in a preview of what angels herald as the coming of the first feature-length virtual-reality film ever: Jesus VR – The Story Of Christ.
As The Hollywood Reporter notes, many other films have claimed to be the first true VR feature, but these are but false prophets. Technically speaking, Jesus VR “seems to be the first high-budget VR film with a distribution strategy from festival to consumer”—like Jesus starting out small with a few test markets in Galilee, before his big Multiplatform Rollout on the Mount. And these early disciples will be the first to experience the film that reportedly required more than 100 crewmembers and hundreds more extras to shoot, before its gospel spreads to Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, and other needy formats this Christmas. If it proves successful, Jesus VR could set an example for all virtual-reality films to follow, before they, too, devolve into wickedness and porn.
Jesus VR promises to tell the story of Christ’s life, from birth to death to resurrection—and excepting only those “[SCENE MISSING]” years in between—all in an up-close-and-personal format in which the guilt practically leaps off the screen. Audiences in Venice will also be given personal headsets and individual seats that pivot 360 degrees, which will allow them to look around during Jesus’ sermons and see firsthand the faces of the meek as they say, “Hey, whoa, get a load of this guy. Did you see how he just whipped out all that fish?”
Will it be as cool or as apocalyptic as seeing Jesus in the flesh? Oh, Virtual Jesus, no. But normally to be so fully immersed in this kind of uncanny-valley simulacrum of Jesus’ word, you’d have to live in America.