My first real movie critique! I’m excited. The reason I chose to write up a critique on this movie is because I have quite a lot of thoughts about it, and when it comes to God’s Not Dead, I have an opportunity to unleash all the critic within me, though I don’t have the space here to do all of it. No better movie to start out with, right? Maybe the next movie critique I’ll do will be on Guardians of the Galaxy, so stay tuned.
I am a Christian and I disliked the movie. If you’ve seen the movie, and you’re a Christian, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about. I do know of quite a few Christians who actually didn’t like it very much at all.
God’s Not Dead was released in 2014, directed by Harold Cronk, and starring Shane Harper (Josh) and Kevin Sorbo (Radisson). For a memory refresh or for those of you haven’t yet seen the movie, here is my brief summary on just the first half of the movie …
Josh is a normal college student. He has a girlfriend, good social status, and is looking forward to the school term. He is also a Christian. This proves to be the cause of a very unexpected semester, and it begins when the staff at the sign-up tables, after noticing Josh’s Newsboys shirt and cross necklace, warns him that taking this particular philosophy class may not be a wise decision.
Josh takes the class anyways. The professor, Jeffrey Radisson, is an atheist and right off makes each student sign his or her name acknowledging that God is dead.
Josh refuses. Radisson sees this as an advantage and pounces. He assigns Josh to come to class with a speech ready, on why he believes that God isn’t dead. Josh decides to take him up on the challenge, and even though his girlfriend doesn’t appreciate the commitment, and though this takes time away from other studies, he comes to class each day prepared to support his Christian beliefs and defend the faith.
That’s only the first half of the whole movie. There are a bunch of other plots involving other characters who go through some trials that bring them to God in the end: a single lady encounters cancer and she is going to die. A Muslim girl who coincidentally goes to Josh’s college is found listening to the Bible on tape and her father throws her out of the family. Radisson’s wife is a Christian and is struggling with the fact that she is “unequally yoked.” A young Chinese guy, in Josh’s philosophy class, questions his earlier worldview and talks about Josh on the phone to his father in China. All of these people do, eventually, end up in the same place in the end: a Newsboys concert. This rest of the post contains spoilers, so:
SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS!!! SPOILERS!!!
Okay, moving on. So you get the gist of it, not so bad, right? Well, the real stuff starts now.
First off, and most importantly, this movie presents totally inaccurate views on atheists so much. Here the narrative paints the Christians as good guys and the atheists as bad guys. What. Talk about the hypocritical propaganda. Here’s my point: I believe that all human beings are horrible, fallen people and we are all in need of a Savior. As far as I can tell in my limited experience, I think that to point out that the atheists are the bad guys and the Christians are the good guys is flat out unrealistic, and I could not state this more clearly. I know arrogant, horrible Christians and I know amazing, humble Christians. I know arrogant, horrible atheists and I know amazing, humble atheists. My dad is an atheist, and he is an awesome person who actually knows a ton more about God and Christianity more than I do (and used to be, ironically, a college philosophy professor). This movie offended and upset him way more than it did me, which means a lot of other atheists, as well as the average college professors were probably very ticked off too.
Josh and all the other Christian people in this movie are always moral, righteous and blameless (except for his girlfriend, oddly enough). Professor Radisson and other atheist characters are unrealistically unkind and proud, portrayed as either God haters, idiots, or abusive, terrible people, when some of the kindest men my dad has known were atheist philosophy professors. No. There are some pretty arrogant and belligerent college professors out there, though not necessarily over the God question. But sorry. If you want to make a realistic movie, you’re going to have to go on and do something different. I’m not saying that I disliked the movie hands down, there’s just a lot of things wrong with it, and I’m pointing out these things right now.
My overall impression?
Second, the way the classroom scenes are set up are also improbable.
- Try to think of someone you know, a college professor or teacher. Would he/she, on the very first day of class, make everyone sign a sheet acknowledging that God is dead? I wouldn’t think so. At least, most people wouldn’t, and if someone did, well, you’re going to have a lot of upset people on your hands.
- Josh is the only Christian student in the philosophy class. Perfect, he is, after all, the main character. Everyone else signs the sheet of paper without any problems, and Josh is the center of attention suddenly, because he’s the Christian. Again, not very probable.
- Why does Radisson hate God, Josh asks him? “Because He took everything from me. I. Hate. God.” He goes on then, to explain his past and why that led him to hate “someone who doesn’t exist.” Now I could say a lot on this point here, but again, this is not a full orbed review, so I’ll keep it simple. Radisson could have brought up the whole problem of evil, (which is, by the way, considered to be the most powerful argument about God) but instead of stressing the “why such a good God would let evil run rampant” question, he simply says he just doesn’t want a God like this, a God who would take his mother away from him. Plus, being an atheist doesn’t always mean that the atheist hates Christianity. Most don’t hate God: They just believe He doesn’t exist.
Third, what about the Newsboys coming on stage at the end of the movie? Even Duck Dynasty was in there, for Zark’s sake! This was probably a way to get people in the seats. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Newsboys band, and it was kinda cool to see them in the movie and have it end that way. But really, I think there are other ways to get a good box office total without putting in some celebrity dudes that a lot of people like.
Fourth, if you were expecting the movie to be about a huge realistic God vs. Science debate, you’d be disappointed. This movie does have some good intelligent points, and Josh and Radisson bring up the God vs. Science argument several times, and this is probably the only parts in the movie that are unbiased. Of course, since this movie was made by Christians, there are Christian bias, just like movies made by atheists might have atheistic bias. I have not gone over and analyzed the dialog in the debates, but I plan on it sometime in the future. Again, this review won’t cover everything in the movie, I’m just raising the points I think are the most interesting.
Fifth, at the end of the movie, Professor Radisson decides to try out the Newsboys concert. He believes that Josh did have some valid points, especially after reading his mother’s letter to him before she died. Walking in the rain to the concert, however, he gets hit by a car and lays wounded on the road. The pastor, seen off and on in the movie, finds him amid the crowds and sirens and tells him that this is his last chance to believe in Jesus as his Savior. Radisson accepts God and dies. This scene may have been a redemptive one, but very unrealistic. How typical is that?
Oh, and is Josh’s hairdo super annoying, or is it just me? And I really don’t think his name is a coincidence … (Josh Wheaton vs. Joss Whedon? A-ha.)
So, that is my critique. Just go on the IMDb reviews and read them. They all talk about the points I have discussed, and more. Some of them are written by Christians and some are written by atheists and the majority of them are negative. As a Christian, I was unhappy after watching the movie, sad that a Christian would make a movie that portrays Christians and atheists in such a way in relation to each other. An atheist, however, would be even more offended. This is what we’re supposed to be labeled as Christians? This is the way the rest of the world is supposed to view us in relation to themselves? Please. As Christians, we are called to reach out lovingly to others who are not. However, these Christians made a movie that not only portrays Christians as awesome, flawless people (though his girlfriend was pretty bad) and atheists as terrible idiots, but set up the story so that it totally went against reality. It’s drama, and it’s fiction, but it’s one-sided, and if you’re a Christian and want someone you know who isn’t a Christian to watch God’s Not Dead, I wouldn’t recommend it, he might turn against Christianity altogether. Recommend him read the Bible instead.
“To say God’s Not Dead preaches to the choir would be an understatement. It’s the pastor, staring in a mirror, preaching to himself.” – Todd VanDerWerff
Have you seen this movie? If so, what are your thoughts, opinions? If not, would you want to see it? I’d love to hear from others’ point of view. This is a matter of true discussion.