Last Sunday my husband and I went to see the new Christian movie God Is Not Dead. The movie had been highly publicized at my church and the subject matter held particular interest for me, so I was looking forward to it. At the same time, based on past experiences with Christian movies, I approached the experience with a dash of wariness. My mixed feelings were justified, and the movie turned out to be very much as I might have predicted.
The movie was geared for a Christian audience and the message was directed toward Christians. The main character, Josh, is given the daunting task of defending his faith in front of his philosophy class and his particularly hostile professor. He takes on the challenge in spite of some discouragement from other Christians. As the result of his stand, he influences other characters, both believers and unbelievers, some of whom come to faith. Several characters in the story needed to make very hard stands for their faith which were inspiring. The message of the movie seemed to be, "Don't be afraid to take a stand for your beliefs; you never know what influence you might have." With this message for this limited audience, the movie was successful.
The movie had also been touted as an evangelistic tool, and in this way it mostly fell flat. Josh barely scratched the surface of Christian apologetics in his philosophy class, and expecting more from a movie of this sort was probably unreasonable. Unlike some Christians, I was not offended by his references to the Big Bang theory and macro-evolution. I thought his arguments were fine as far as they went, but they certainly weren't strong enough to inspire the whole class to rise to their feet at the end of the movie declaring "God is not dead!" I found this scene a bit ridiculous, and suspect that most unbelievers would have the same reaction.
The biggest weakness of the movie was in the portrayal of several of the characters, especially the unbelievers. I was beginning to feel some sympathy for the professor until the scene portraying his inexplicable and unmotivated rudeness toward his girlfriend. This behavior was also unnecessary for the plot: the girl already knew she should break up with him and didn't need that experience to tell her so. The movie thus took a character that had the potential for sympathy and complexity and turned him into a caricature of an arrogant professor.
Even worse was Amy's boyfriend, whose name escapes me. He was so heartless, cold, and selfish, and made so little effort to hide it, that he hardly seemed believable. I don't understand why this character needed to be portrayed in such a way. Almost as bad in a smaller way was Josh's supposedly Christian girlfriend. She was so selfish and unsympathetic I couldn't understand why he had dated her for six years. It seemed contrived and incredible that she would abruptly ditch a long-term relationship over a disagreement about a college class.
Overall I enjoyed the movie. I thought the story line was interesting, the better characters engaging, and the acting much better than I've seen in some Christian films. The Christian message was important, especially for young people on secular campuses. However, I was rather glad I hadn't invited any unbelievers to attend with me. The movie would have been far more effective as an evangelistic tool if the unbelievers had been portrayed as real people instead of heartless arrogant caricatures.