Friday, August 15, 2014

Movie Review: God's Not Dead

Thus far on my blog, I have been pretty kind to the films, video games and tabletop RPGs I have reviewed.  This is mainly because I'd rather tell you about the things I like over ranting about something I don't.  I feel it's more important to make sure you learn about the things that I think are  awesome, so you can go out and experience the same things.  However, occasionally something passes by me that I feel deep in my heart of hearts must be criticized, even if I probably will not like it.  And given the popularity of the film God's Not Dead, I felt I owed it to myself to watch the polarized movie.

I will be doing this blog entry a bit differently.  Rather than writing it after I watch a film, I will be typing it free form as I watch the film, edit it for the viewers and then post it.  For the sake of being far, I will try to remain as neutral as possible in the ultimate theological discussion of Christianity/Atheism or whatever.  I have not mentioned my religious beliefs on this blog, nor do I plan to.  Though I will start by saying that my opinion on 90% of Christian media is rather negative.  This isn't because I hate religion, mind you.  It's mainly because 90% of Christian media sucks.  Religion has inspired many art, plays, literature and other great things, but the nauseatingly repetitive genre of Christian Rock isn't one of them.  However, I promise I will give this movie a chance.

So here we go.  Here's your SPOILER ALERT!!!


00:00-00:28: The film opens up introducing Josh Wheaton, a college freshman starting his first semester, which he appears to be attending with his girlfriend.  It also introduces an exchange student from China, a Muslim girl whose father makes her wear a hijab which she takes off when he's not looking, a reporter dating/married to a big businessman (played by Dean Cain), and another woman who's mother has Alzheimer.  You'll notice that I don't name the other characters, it's because honestly at this point I don't know their names.  The movie introduces all these characters so fast that you barely have any time to learn anything about them.  The Chinese kid and the Muslim girl thus far have only had two scenes each.  I don't mind movies that have multiple stories that somehow interconnect, but so far I feel like it would have better served the film to just focus on Josh Wheaton's story (which is what I'll be doing right now).

Josh is taking a philosophy class being taught by a professor played by Kevin Sorbo (of Hercules fame).  At this point in the film, Sorbo's character only has two defining traits: he's an atheist and an asshole.  He begins the first class by making all his students sign a paper which says that God is Dead in an attempt not to waste time on theological discussions,.  A bit unrealistic for a man who specializes in teaching the study of great thinkers to write off numerous Theist philosophers, but whatever.  Josh, being a Christian, refuses to sign the paper.  Which leads to Prof. Hercules saying that he must prove that God's Not Dead (see what they did there?) in their next three classes, giving him twenty minutes at the end of each class to speak to the class about it.  If he cannot, he fails the class.  Josh accepts the challenge, despite the fact that his girlfriend doesn't want him to (saying that failing the class could keep him from getting into law school).

That's where I am when I decided to start writing.  Moving on.

00:28:  Ms. Ryan, the reporter (who appears to be atheist due to her interview with one of the Duck Dynasty guys) is receiving news from her doctor that she has cancer, but keeps stopping him when her phone rings.  I'm starting to see a pattern here with how the movie portrays atheists, and there's a big problem there.  Thus far I have met two atheists, and they both seem to be rude assholes.  I know plenty of atheists who are rude assholes, but I also know many Christians who are rude assholes.  My assumption was that this movie was trying to establish a dialogue between Atheists and Theists, but demonizing one group is not the correct way to do it.

Oh, apparently Ms. Ryan is too busy for cancer.  Chasing down Duck Dynasty stars and snidely insulting them seems to take up a lot of her time, apparently.  Seriously, who wrote this....

00:32:  Josh's girlfriend of six years is upset that he is 'wasting time' proving his faith, saying that it could cause him to lose focus on other classes and ruin their future together.  I already hate Girlfriend.  She seems clingy, controlling and manipulative.  They're most likely going to break up at some point in this film, but here's hoping they don't get back together.  For Josh's sake.  He seems like a good guy (meaning he hasn't given me a reason not to like him).

Cut to Prof. Hercules teaching his class, ending his lecture by declaring God a celestial dictator and calling Theists 'flat earthers' in his smarmy sarcastic tone. Josh begins Day 1 of this crazy assignment by stating that the Bible was right about the Big Bang Theory, while before scientists believed in a constant universe.  Not exactly hard evidence in the existence of God, but I like Josh so I'll let it slide.  Professor Hercules does not though, and is smirking and shaking his head through the whole lecture.  He then proceeds to name drop Stephen Hawking, talking down to this poor kid that he plans to fail, then threatens him after class to destroy any hope he may have of a law degree.  This isn't common behavior of an atheist.  This isn't common behavior of a professor. This is what Dick Dastardly would be if the other Wacky Racers were deities.

00:43:  Girlfriend is angry about Josh defending his faith and breaks up with Josh.  Josh proceeds to tell her off for being selfish.  Good for you, Josh.  She's no good for you anyway.

And Muslim Girl comes home and her little brother catches her listening to (GASP) the Bible on her iPod!!!!  This movie is starting to seem extremely mean spirited now.

Ms. Ryan tells her boyfriend (Business Superman, played by Dean Cain) that she has cancer.  He proceeds to be an asshole about it, saying that love doesn't really exist and getting mad at her and breaking up with her.  Right now I'm imagining a supervillain team up between Business Superman and Prof. Hercules.  So many thrown buses.....

00:53:  Ohhhhhhh, so the girl with the mom with dementia is Business Superman's sister.  *GASP* and she's dating Prof. Hercules!!!  M. Night Shayamalan has nothing on this twist!!   Again, all the atheist characters in this movie are missing are mustaches to twirl.  It's getting quite ridiculous.  Now he's got a bunch of professors over for a dinner party, all sipping wine and laughing at the stupid student who DARES believe in God!!!!

1:03:  Day 2 of Josh's scientific fight to prove God exists!  At this point I'd like to point out that any professor who's as big an asshole as Kevin Sorbo is portraying at this point would never have made tenure.  Josh refutes the Hawkings quote that Hercules gave on Day 1, quoting John Lennox.  He also claims that Darwinism was started and controlled by God.  He seems to be avoiding Creationist logic, which is good since Hercules would tear him apart like.....well, Hercules.

And in another after-class smug-off, Kevin Sorbo reveals that he knows the Bible as well, and supposedly gave up on his faith when his mother died of cancer when he was 12.  So.....he's not an atheist, but a Christian who's mad at God.

1:12:  Muslim Girl (named Aisha, I could swear this is the first time we've heard her name)'s secret Bible readings are found out by her father, who proceeds to beat her and kick her out of the house.  Again, this is a VERY mean spirited movie, and I would probably be offended if I was Muslim.  I'm kinda offended as a non-Muslim.

This is a pretty slow point in the film, so I'm going to point out how ridiculous it is to try and prove God exists.  Not because he doesn't, but because the very definition of faith is to believe something to be true despite having no evidence.  To quote God in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Proof denies faith.  And without faith I am nothing."  Christians don't need to prove god exists or doesn't exist, that's the whole point of faith.

Anyway, Kevin Sorbo's girlfriend broke up with him.

1:20:  Hercules claims to be changing things up for Day 3, which begins with Josh talking about how evil exists because God allows free will.  Oh jeez, now he's saying that without God, morality is unnecessary. I don't know if all Christians believe that, but it's a very scary thought if they truly do...

Hercules, after a 'heated' discussion, admits he hates God, which ends Josh's three class report.  Now the class must decide for themselves if he fails or not.

And the winner is.......JOSH!  BY A LANDSLIDE!!!!

*Wild Cheers*

1:30:  Buisness Superman is revealing that he's angry at God too for giving his mother dementia.  This movie has no atheists, just people angry at God!!!  Just a bunch of people who are assholes because something terrible happened in their lives!  You are not representing this group of people well, movie!!

Now Amy Ryans is sarcastically interviewing a Christian band (Because atheists can only speak in sarcasm, apparently).  She admits to the band she's dying of cancer, and reveals that she is actually hoping that God is real.

So we have THREE atheists in this movie who don't actually end up being atheists, just spiteful and angry.  I cannot express how terrible and ignorant a message like that is.  There are people out there who are aren't perpetually angry and sarcastic and don't believe in God.  I'm good friends with a few of them, and they do NOT think like this.  This is propaganda, and harmful propaganda at that.

1:40:  Holy Shit!  Kevin Sorbo just got hit by a car and is dying!!  A priest (who had his own sideplot involving a trip to Disneyworld through the whole movie, but I ignored talking about it cause it's the weakest part.  And that's saying a lot.) gives him a deathbed conversion.

So should the movie be called "God's not Dead.....but Hercules is"?

1:43: the Duck Dynasty guy is telling the people at this Christian Rock concert (where everyone is right now.....except Kevin Sorbo) to text everyone that "God's Not Dead".  Cause that's not going to annoy everyone on your contact list.  It looks like Josh might start a relationship with Aisha (Muslim Girl), although where she is now living I couldn't tell you.  Her storyline doesn't really have an ending besides "I listened to terrible Christian Rock, now it's better."

Everyone in the movie is getting the "God's Not Dead" text, including Kevin Sorbo (who let me remind you is DEAD!) and Dean Cain.

End of Film: .....That's it?  Does Aisha resolve things with her dad?  Does Dean Cain have a conversion too??  DOES THE PRIEST MAKE IT TO DISNEYWORLD OR WHAT?!?!?  This movie started five different plots and only ended one!!  God, I'm done with this....

Final Thoughts:  This movie is terrible on way too many levels.  Kevin Sorbo is kind of ok, but everyone else's acting is extremely wooden.  The dialogue couldn't be more cheesy if you sprinkled with parmesean, and most of the characters are either complete unlikable assholes or victims.  The only character I really liked was Josh, and that's because he was neither.  Only one of the many stories they start really has any sort of satisfying conclusion, and it involves the antagonist dying horribly in a random car accident and the protagonists unknowingly celebrating!

More importantly though, this movie is mean spirited propaganda.  I can't understand how this movie is enjoyable to so many people.  It's offensive to atheists, it's offensive to Muslims.....Heck, it's offensive to Christians!  It doesn't understand the people it's trying to demonize, and it perpetuates the myth that one of the largest organized religions in the world is being persecuted.  Hopefully in a decade or two (hopefully less) this will be put aside as offensive entertainment we're trying to forget right beside the racists caricatures that plagued early 20th century cartoons.

Don't see this.  It doesn't deserve your attention, and I'm sorry I gave it mine.

Final Final Thought:  Is it ironic that a man known for playing the greatest hero of a Pagan religion is starring in a film about Christianity?  Or is that just funny?

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