Or, The Epitome of Disrespectful Film-Making
This is it – this is the movie that I can call my least favorite film without reservation. It is the perfect example of disrespectful film-making that slaps its viewers right in the face, and its audience falls for its tricks, applauds it, and brings the whole family for a second viewing. From a technical perspective, this film is not too horrendous, but if it were, it would be “so bad it’s good,” which is not the case here. What I mean to say is, it is not shot, lit, or edited too poorly, though it is shot/lit/edited in the most emotional way possible. Why? Because this is an extremely emotional movie that tricks its audience into thinking that it is intellectual. What really makes this movie disgusting is that it is offensive to atheists, Muslims, Christians, and humans everywhere.
The movie is obviously offensive to atheists, but not just because it counters their beliefs. What makes the movie offensive to them is the way that it portrays them, and the way that it portrays atheism as a concept. To say that all atheists had what I call a “Pure Flix tragedy” which caused them to hate God, leading to their atheism, is really silly. Think of how many people there are in the world who are never exposed to the god of the Bible, but are only exposed to other gods. They would assume that if there is a god, it would be whichever they thought was the “normal” god, which would be whichever god they had been exposed to previously. This video explains some things that atheists are frequently told about themselves that they find offensive, and as the fellow in the video pointed out in his own article about the film, it would seem that God’s Not Dead put just about all of them in the film.
The movie seems to try to say that the Muslims themselves are not necessarily that bad; they are just forced to be outcasts, hide any interest in other beliefs, and shun family members who disbelieve. First of all, people being kicked out of their homes for religious reasons happens in various religious households, and Christian ones are no exception. Secondly, this is to say that Islam is itself a prison that keeps its followers unhappy. It sure is good news that all those miserable Muslims can come to Jesus and be happy people!
Christians have two main reasons to be offended: the first is how the movie repeats the same old Christian movie clichés, thus insulting its audience’s intelligence, and the second is the bad influence this film can have on Christian youth. The movie almost seems to run through some sort of Christian movie cliché checklist. It has the annoying blonde girlfriend, who is a bad influence on the protagonist; the “atheistic” man (who is really an anti-theist of sorts) whose old female relative died tragically when he was just a boy; the stereotypical pastor and stereotypical African missionary; and it has a couple of Asians and a couple of African Americans so the audience will not notice that the vast majority of the cast is white. Though I must admit that that last one is kind of a Hollywood cliché too.
The movie is a bad influence because young Christians will think that all of these clichés and stereotypes are actually parts of life that they will probably encounter, and that they can use the arguments presented in the film to bring their classmates to Christ. Here is the problem with that: nobody uses those arguments anymore. This article from a Christian/creationist organization explains that an atheist with any knowledge of Christianity would be able to refute the arguments presented in the film because all of them are bad, and any Christian apologist who suggested using them would be laughed out of a Christian university in a day. What is especially bad about all this is that a Christian may lose his or her faith when these arguments fail, and said Christian would be very depressed, stressed, and confused. He/she would feel betrayed by God, when he/she should instead feel betrayed by the film. This movie will ultimately kill God for the Christian youth.
There are many ways that a film can be disrespectful to its viewers, including offending them, influencing them wrongly, and being too cliché. The greatest form of disrespect, however, is probably taking advantage of them. When a film knows that with good marketing it can make a poorly written film that will sell anyway, that is taking advantage of the audience, and that is exactly what this movie did. This suggests that the film thinks its audience is stupid, and it sadly makes the Christian community look bad for falling for the clever marketing and the seemingly harmless focus on faith. It tries to trick its audience into thinking that it is clever with its outdated arguments that win over the class, with its variety of subplots that are barely strung together, and its attempts at symbolism and foreshadowing. (I bet the director thought he was clever for putting the woman who listened to the song “Ones And Zeroes” in room 101010 in the hospital, but someone forgot to tell him that symbolism and foreshadowing are supposed to mean something.)
A lot of the acting is pretty bad, but what is far worse is the writing. The story has too many subplots that only connect due to odd coincidences, and this takes away time that it could be spending showing viewers the protagonist’s background, parents, friends, other classes, etc. The dialogue is ridiculous, and only stays somewhat conversational for a few seconds in each scene before it turns into a speech or sermon from one of the characters who for some reason has to share his/her beliefs. As I wrote in this article, the movie did such a bad job at defending Christianity that it ended up supporting its antagonist’s beliefs. In one scene, when the antagonist walks in from the back of the room slowly clapping for the protagonist to mock him, it made me fall out of my chair laughing. The idea that a professor could yell at and grab his student in the hallway for all to see, and then still keep his job, is possibly crazier than the idea of a professor who tells students to renounce their religious beliefs. The fact that all of this nonsense is in the film, and that it actually was successful, and that it influenced my friends and loved ones, makes it the movie that I hate above all others.