A couple years ago, we got a lot of backlash after posting a negative review of God's Not Dead. This weekend saw the release of God's Not Dead 2, and with it comes our review! Was it everything we hope it would be, or was it another swing and a miss? Watch our review to find out!
A couple of years ago, something incredible happened. When Pureflix Entertainment released God's Not Dead into theaters, it could have been just another small Christian movie that quickly appeared and then disappeared in theaters around the country. It could have been another quick Christian movie that was in theaters over the weekend and then gone the next. But something happened. Something about this movie, whether it was the story, the marketing, or even the film itself impacted people. Those who saw it the first weekend talked about it with their friends, and texted everyone they knew those three simple words "God's Not Dead". And before anyone knew it, God's Not Dead had become a seriously big success. More and more people began to see this movie and as more people saw it, more people told their friends. And in turn more people saw it. In the end, the result was one of the biggest word-of-mouth marketing campaigns in the Christian film industry.
This film did very well at the box-office, and because of its success, PureFlix Entertainment made the logical move to begin work on the sequel. And that's why today we're taking a look at the sequel releasing in theaters today - God's Not Dead 2.
I have to admit up front that when the original God's Not Dead movie came out a couple of years ago, I was behind and didn't get to see the movie until several months later. By the time I was finally able to watch the film, I had heard a lot of overwhelmingly positive reviews of the film, about how it was going to change the industry, and how it gave Christians a positive message to help them stand up for their faith. I was excited to watch the film.
And then I watched it.
And then I reviewed it.
And I told the truth.
I did not like God's Not Dead. I didn't think it was well-written, I didn't think it was well-acted, and I didn't even think it was well produced. The storyline was weak, there were too many characters that all tried to be the main character, and it didn't flow smoothly as a movie. I appreciate what this movie tried to accomplish and I love the idea of Christians standing up for their faith. But I didn't find God's Not Dead to be a successful or well-done film.
However, when reviewing the original God's Not Dead, it's worth noting that the film had a small budget and was from a relatively small production company. So, these things have to be allowed for in small independent films. That's why I had hope for a sequel. God's Not Dead managed to do very well at the box office and generated an ample amount of revenue that I hoped would transfer over to the sequel. God's Not Dead made back its budget 30 times over, and so I had high hopes that they would be able to improve upon their last film in the sequel with a bigger budget and better direction.
And in a lot of ways, God's Not Dead 2 has improved monumentally over its predecessor. I found the acting and production to be much more solid in this film. I enjoyed some of the cinematography, and Melissa Joan Hart and Ray Wise deliver incredible performances in their roles. While some awkward product placements still remain, it's obvious that a lot more care went into each shot of this movie as compared to the first producton. The studio has said that this film has a significantly larger budget than the previous movie and it really shows here.
You can also tell how they attempted to tighten up the story in a lot of ways. While the first film had 5 or 6 storylines all occuring at once with occasional intersections, God's Not Dead 2 attempts to trim off a lot of the unneeded excess. The film keeps a much more linear pace, which results in a smoother viewing experience while also allowing for each story to have more time and development. I appreciated this change, as I felt the vast amount of characters and story arcs was a hindrance not only in God's Not Dead, but in Pureflix's other recent film, Do You Believe?
However, despite improved production, some of God's Not Dead's core flaws remain in the sequel. I really appreciated how much they attempted to improve over the original film, but some of its key concepts simply don't work. The idea behind God's Not Dead 2 is to show examples of religious persecution in America and how we can stand up and fight back against these invasions of our freedom. The movie wants to appeal to Christians and get them motivated to stand up for what they believe in, which is great. However, the way they show this is by creating exaggerated stories and completely blowing them out of proportion. The way events play out seem rather unrealistic and overdramatic. A simple case of a teacher speaking about Jesus in a classroom suddenly morphs into a case of proving once and for all that God is dead.
The worst offense in the movie, in my opinion, is their portrayal of atheists. When I went to an early screener of this film a couple of months ago, the event coordinators talked about what a great ministry tool this would be -- how you could take your atheist friend to this film and communicate the gospel message to them through the film. However, the way atheists are portrayed in this film is honestly downright offensive. We as Christians have been called to reach out to non-believers and teach them about the gospel in a loving manner. The thing we need to remember is they're not our enemy; they're lost people in need of Jesus. But, with the exception of one character, non-believers are portrayed in this film as angry, sniveling, antagonists. These people are set up in the movie to be the characters you "love to hate", and that's exactly the opposite of the attitude we should have toward unbelievers.
So while this movie is marketed as a ministry or outreach tool, I would be scared to take my unbelieving friend to this movie for fear that they would be offended by the horrific antagonistic caricatures of the non-believers. And this, I feel, is God's Not Dead 2's greatest flaw. It attempts a two-fold purpose: to appeal to Christians who want to stand up for their faith, and to be an outreach tool to those who may have never even considered faith. And because of its split purpose, it misses the mark on both counts.
God's Not Dead 2 has a lot to like about it. I really enjoyed some of the third-act courtroom scenes as they hearkened back to dramatic courtroom dramas like Inherit the Wind or old Perry Mason episodes. It has a streamlined story and some terrific actors in lead roles. But because of its exaggerated story with an obvious agenda and failure to properly represent atheists and non-believers, it fails to hold up as a ministry tool or even as a solid Christian movie.
I really wanted to like this movie, and I know we're going to receive a lot of backlash over this mostly negative review. But I can't give this movie a pass solely on account of its popularity or ability to do well at the box office. I appreciate PureFlix Entertainment and their desire to continue perfecting their craft. I can obviously see they made a lot of improvements in this movie over the original, and I sincerely hope they can continue to do this with each new release.
Anyway, those are our thoughts on God's Not Dead 2, playing in theaters now. Now we'd like to know what you think. Have you seen this movie or are you planning on seeing it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below - we'd love to hear from you! And if you liked this video and would like to see more, you can subscribe to stay up to date on all of our latest videos. And finally, if you'd like to be informed about all the latest Christian film news, you can visit our website at www.ChristianFilmCentral.com.
What did you think about this movie? Let us know in the comments below!
On this month's Christian Film Central video, we take a look at an excellent new Christian movie that released in theaters a couple weeks ago, Risen! See what we thought of this exciting new Biblical drama! And let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
If you're interested in pre-ordering this movie, you can find a great deal over on our sponsor's website http://fishflix.com.
Disclaimer: Fishflix.com is our sponsored recommendation for Christian movies, but this sponsorship in no way affects our review of Sony Pictures and Affirm Films' Risen movie.
We recently took some time to talk to Larry Amon, president of the Christian media ministry, Christian Walk Alive. It was great getting to meet him and he had some insightful things to say on media and the Christian film industry. Read the full interview below:
Q) First off, can you tell us what is Christian Walk Alive?
A) Christian Walk Alive is a 501c3 non profit Christian media ministry.
Q)What inspired you to start this ministry?
A) I started CWA with several good Christian friends from my college years. I was someone who consumed a lot of media especially movies, watching as many as two or three new movies a week sometimes. However, I really thought there was a lack of entertainment that had lasting value and that could be enjoyed without having to endure foul language gratuitous violence or trashy situations and themes. I wanted to create the kind of media that I thought was missing. I wanted to create media that was enjoyable to watch and that had better messages than what was widely available. As a Christian I also wanted to make media that shared what I thought was the most important message of all.
Q) What films have you created so far?
A) We created a radio drama called A Work In Progress for nearly ten years before we made our first film, Homecoming. It was a feature film that we're proud of, but it was our first attempt at a film and we worked on it with a very small budget.
Q) Do you have any in the works?
A) We're just finishing up our second film, called Masquerade. It's a short film that will also be a DVD Bible study. We'll premiere it in April of this year. The film is about what it means to have integrity and to be the same person to everyone you know and not put on masks for different situations. We're about to start a crowdfunding campaign for our next feature film. This film is going to be a thriller about spiritual warfare.
Q) What has been your favorite thing about working in this ministry?
A) I love writing and telling stories but the best part is all the people I get to work with. Whether it's old friends or new ones, it's always a combination of hard work and a lot of fun to work on a film. Also, one of the coolest things for me is watching a story we've worked on, come to life right in front of my eyes.
Q) What is one piece of advice you would give to someone wanting to make Christian films?
A) Put in the work. It takes a lot of effort and also a lot of knowledge. Learn as much as you can by studying films as well as the filmmaking process at every level. There's no substitute for hands on experience. In the end you also really need to tell a story that you would enjoy watching yourself.
We really appreciate Larry taking the time to talk with us and hopefully his words will be an encouragement to future filmmakers out there! You can find out more about Christian Walk Alive on their website www.christianwalkalive.org. They will also be launching a kickstarter project for their next film which you can find out more about at kickstartthebattle.com!
Since the massive success of God's Not Dead back in 2014, Pure Flix Entertainment has been working hard on their followup film, God's Not Dead 2. This film is releasing in theaters around the country on April 1st, 2016. If you haven't already read about this movie, the synopsis says:
"Welcome back to Hope Springs … home not only of Hadleigh University, but also Martin Luther King Jr. High School, where beloved teacher Grace Wesley helps students understand and enjoy history. Her love of teaching, her love for her students, and her love of life all come from the same place: her love of Christ.
So when Brooke, a hurting student grieving the loss of her brother, reaches out to Grace, their coffee-shop conversation naturally leads to Grace sharing the hope she finds in Christ.
When Brooke later asks an honest question about Jesus in the classroom, Grace’s reasoned response lands her in big trouble—almost before she even finishes giving her answer.
With the principal and superintendent joining forces with a zealous civil liberties group, Grace faces an epic court case that could cost her the career she loves and expel God from the classroom—and the public square—once and for all!"
It will be interesting to see if this film has the same staying power and viral nature as the original. Are you planning on seeing this film in theaters? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for our full review of this film!
It's the moment you've all been waiting for - we count down the top 5 Christian films of 2015, along with a few honorable mentions. If you're looking for a list of the best Christian films of 2015, this is the list for you! What were your favorite movies from last year? Let us know in the comments below!
Synopsis: Based on the true story of an award-winning investigative journalist—and avowed atheist—who applies his well-honed journalistic and legal skills to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife … with unexpected, life-altering results.