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!