The Message, Moustapha Akkad’s $17 million saga of the birth of the Islamic religion, bears favorable comparison as a religious epic. H.A.L. Craig’s screenplay is remarkably literate, sometimes witty and ironic, but ultimately and perhaps inevitably simplistic.The action snowballs from underground cell meetings by followers of Mohammad, through brutal harassment, expulsion from Mecca, pitched battles in the desert, and the final conquering pilgrimage back to Mecca. Throughout the narrative there is uncommon respect for the mind and the eye. Ultimately it’s a triumph for Akkad who welded a logistically sprawling epic into coherence. His crowd scenes are credible and the battle scenes superbly rendered.