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Courtesy of Catherine Hardwicke, and adapted principally from the books of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament, The Nativity Story is a fairly high-budget movie adaptation of a story particularly popular in churches during the Christmas season.
While most of this film does focus on the conception and birth of Jesus as indicated in the title, several subplots also get considerable screen time:
- King Herod the Great gets plenty of screen time to demonstrate both why he was "great" and why he's mostly remembered as a cruel and paranoid tyrant; his son Antipas also spends considerable time with him in many of these scenes.
- Mary's cousin Elizabeth, though past her child-bearing years, is also having a baby. After all, as Gabriel explains to Mary, if God can do that for her, getting a virgin pregnant can't be too much more difficult, can it?
- Meanwhile, somewhere to the east, the Three Wise Men have noticed some odd behavior in the stars telling them a child of some significance is soon to be born in Israel; naturally, they decide they'd like to see this for themselves.
- We also get some background on the townspeople and the culture in which Mary lives, seeing how they're mostly tax serfs slaving away on Herod's plantation.
This film contains some examples of the following tropes:
- Affably Evil: Herod's son Antipas usually comes off as much nicer than his father, but when he recommends the Three Wise Men be arrested and interrogated, it's Herod who proposes inviting them to dinner for some friendly conversation instead.
- Amicably Divorced: Joseph plans on quietly divorcing Mary after she is pregnant...until Gabriel convinces him otherwise. In the end, he will raise the kid as his own.
- Anachronism Stew: Mary's question of why she has to marry a man she does not love is a mild case of Values Dissonance, relating to a wholly modern concern and therefore a question no one in her culture would have asked in the first place.
- Several scenes also have more concrete historical inaccuracies, such as Roman soldiers having beards and their horses having stirrups.
- And the Adventure Continues...: Our loving couple and their new baby got away clean, but they aren't home free yet.
- Archangel Gabriel: Doing what he does best.
- Arranged Marriage: Mary's marriage with Joseph.
- Away in a Manger: The Trope Maker receives its umpteenth adaptation in this film.
- Backstab Backfire: Herod has his suspicions about Antipas' motives. So he reminds him about the last time his family members tried to betray him, and warns him that the same fate will befall him should he try to screw him over.
Herod: I have had a wife betray me. I have had two sons do the same, before you. Where are they now?
Antipas: No more.
Herod: No more.
- Badass: Joseph. Not only does he build his house with his bare hands, but after Mary's pregnancy is revealed he has to do it alone. He saves Mary and their donkey from drowning, protects them against thieves and pickpockets in Jerusalem, and after Mary goes into labor and can no longer travel just a short distance from their destination, he carries her into Bethlehem going door to door before finally finding a safe place for her to give birth.
- Big Bad: The Roman soldiers commit several atrocities and the tiresome tax enrollment comes from the distant Emperor Augustus, but it's mostly King Herod the Great who's running the show on the villains' side of the story.
- But I Can't Be Pregnant: Kind of the ultimate example - this birth has to have been truly miraculous because Mary hadn't had sex with anybody.
- Also covers Elizabeth, though in her case it's because she's supposed to be too old to have a baby.
- The Bible: Our source, of course.
- Deadpan Snarker: Joseph, believe it or not. As the couple makes their journey to Bethlehem they must face the angry and disapproving stares of their neighbors.
Joseph: They're going to miss us.
- Foregone Conclusion: "A gift of myrrh...to honor thy sacrifice."
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: Suggested with Gabriel. He effortlessly changes forms and it seems that he has no physical form to begin with as he mostly appears in visions and dreams.
- Intimidating Revenue Service: The Roman tax collectors are feared in Nazareth, for reasons that quickly become obvious.
- Irony: Shohreh Aghdashloo is a Muslim actress playing a Jewish character. She even notes this fact in a past interview.
- My Secret Pregnancy: Averted; although no one speaks up to complain, the whole town pretty quickly surmises Mary's situation.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Herod: This movie reminds us once again why Herod is the Trope Namer.
- Nightmare Sequence: Joseph's dream about the stoning of Mary.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: parodied: Arguably; the tremendous honor of getting pregnant with God's own son was actually intended as a reward and a blessing for Mary's virtue, but it feels a lot more like a punishment throughout this movie.
- Now I Know What to Name Him: Take a wild guess.
- Also counts for Zechariah being told by God to name his son John.
- Oh Crap: Joseph, after Mary tells him that her water just broke upon reaching Bethlehem.
- Our Angels Are Different: While not a huge departure from the Renaissance-inspired image (of happy and well-fed Italian guys with curly blond hair) most viewers would have of an angel, Gabriel's very Jewish appearance in this movie, while wholly justified, did look rather odd to some people.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: This not being a musical, some of the the poetry traditionally identified as "songs" in the book of Luke was understandably either trimmed down or trimmed out.
- Romance Ensues: Between Mary and Joseph having to join forces against suspicious parents and neighbors, and taking a long journey together to Bethlehem and beyond, how could it not?
- Of course, it didn't hurt that in this version of the story, Joseph was already into Mary. The movie suggests that he actually requested permission from her parents to marry her.
- Rule of Three: This movie goes with the very traditional (though not strictly Biblical) Three Wise Men.
- Traditional, of course, because they are stated to have brought three gifts.
- Star of Bethlehem: As in the original, this sets up the quest of the Wise Men, and makes a big appearance in the climax.
- The Three Wise Men: Naturally.
- Talking with Signs: Until the birth of John, Zechariah is forced to communicate by writing on a tablet.
- Teen Pregnancy: Played brutally straight, despite the unusual circumstances (see No Good Deed Goes Unpunished): Mary's reputation with the townspeople takes a serious hit, as does Joseph's when he decides to go through with the marriage.
- Which is amusing seeing as how Castle-Hughes was actually pregnant during the filming of the movie.