"I just keep thinking of that C. S. Lewis line, 'Only a real risk can test the reality of a belief'."
Ghost here! Thanks for joining me today for yet another
Did you ever have an idea pop up that you decide to act upon only to later realize it's probably not that great of an idea but you're going to do it anyway? Well that's kinda how I came about reviewing today's film. How did this come about? Well let's start at the beginning.
Ever since watching the film, I've had some desire to cover it on the blog. This is especially true because of the extreme differences in opinion on this film. I am a Christian; I am a believer in Jesus Christ. However, even though I'm purely amateur at it I like to think I do a decent job pointing out the positives and negatives of a movie and as such can judge the quality of a movie fairly well. Most people I have seen review this film are critics who may or may not have the same belief system as the filmmakers, or people such as Pastors who don't regularly offer opinions on film. Since I fit into both categories, I feel as though I should tackle this one. Is it as brilliant as many in the Christian community believe? Is it as bad as most professional critics believe? Let's find out.
What's Cinematically Good About It?
What's Cinematically Bad About It?
Is the Christian Message Good?
Speaking as a Christian, the message was a good one. Believe in Jesus Christ. Take a stand for Jesus against whatever odds. God is in control of everything and even bad situations have a purpose. You can find comfort in Jesus during your time of need. You must simply believe in Jesus Christ as your savior, accept Him into your heart and believe. God Is Not Dead. All of the messages being presented within this film are wonderful and may even be able to bring non-believers over to Christianity.
However, is the message effective? No... not really. When you are trying to get a point or a message across to people you need to have a focus and the cinematic "sins" of this film make it so unfocused that this message, while a good message, can easily be lost on people.
How Could the Message be More Effective?I would like to preface this that I am coming to this portion under the realization that this film was a commercial success. It was so successful that they made a sequel and it included characters from this first film. There was no way of knowing during development that there would be a sequel for characters to return in and I can't necessarily fault them on that. That being said, I believe the changes I suggest would have made this a far better film/set of films.
Lastly, the greatest thing they could have done was focus the film. This could be done by trimming out some of the subplots and making them sequels or included in sequels.
This would be the story of Josh and Professor Radisson. The main plotline would be intact as well as the Chinese Student, Martin, and Professor Radisson's girlfriend as these two are the only ones with real ties to the main players in this story. Pastor Dave would be there to help point Josh and Radisson's girlfriend in the right direction and would be a recurring character throughout all of the other films. The film would focus on the debate and keep those segments completely intact without jumping to other scenes in the middle. It would be more of a true debate and at the end Radisson would go to the Newsboys concert, accept Jesus and return to campus. The girlfriend's brother and mother would be removed from the series entirely. This movie's basic theme would be standing up for Jesus and finding redemption through Him.
This would be the story of God's Not Dead 2 (which I haven't seen.) This would follow the story of the teacher being put on trial for expressing her belief in God. This movie would have the blogger's side story as she would be following the case thus giving her purpose in the entire story. The main plot of that movie would be intact and would give the blogger something more meaningful and give her more time to grieve over her condition and find peace at the end. Professor Radisson could show up in support of the teacher and Pastor Dave would be there to help out everyone again. This movie's theme would be how to share your belief in a tough situation and finding peace in the midst of turmoil.
This would be the story of the Muslim girl given a LOT more thought and effort. It would start from the very beginning of the girl's belief in Jesus and take us on the journey of how she believed in a Muslim home. It would possibly still have her being kicked out but without the domestic abuse. Pastor Dave would show up to assist her through her journey, help get her back on her feet, and provide her with the ways to share Christianity to those of Muslim faith. Perhaps her younger brother would be slightly receptive or her family would still allow her to visit thus allowing her to be a Christian influence in that area. This movie's theme would be choosing to follow Jesus no matter the cost and show how to be an influence despite the religious differences.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I honestly feel if the filmmakers would have done a more focused series of films the Christian messages they were trying to bring out would have been must more poignant and effective.
Despite it's best intentions, I found this movie to be really lacking in focus. As I said previously, the trailers and box promise a debate on the existence of God. While we do get that, we end up with an onslaught of subplots that have very little or nothing to do with the overall plot... sometimes interrupting the plot itself. If i were to file this under any sort of category I'd put this in the "not great" category. It's got some enjoyable performances and it's competently shot; I actually enjoyed it more the second time I watched it because I knew what to expect. The editing and meandering of the plot just sort of killed the momentum for me the first time.
If you are a believing Christian then you will most likely enjoy this on some level. The acting is pretty good, especially Kevin Sorbo. The messages being told throughout are good and it will reinforce your belief. If you are not a Christian but are interested in Christianity.... you may find something here. I'm not going to massively dump on anything that has the potential to bring someone to Christianity. That being said, I feel as though The Jesus Film might do a better job since this one is lacking in focus. If you are not a Christian and have no intentions of becoming one then... well I couldn't tell you to not watch this film per say. You never know what might be that one thing that nudges someone in the direction of Christianity, but you probably won't find that much here.
God's Not Dead is rated PG and is available on DVD from Pure Flix. It is also available for streaming on Hulu.
This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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