4 Things the Trailer for “God’s Not Dead” Says About Christian Films.

This is the trailer for the Christian film, “God’s Not Dead,” which hit theaters this year and is now available to rent and probably purchase.  It stars Shane Harper as the Christian college student and Kevin Sorbo (Hercules TV Show) as the bitter atheist college professor:

I know a lot of people who are huge fans of this movie, which I have yet to see. The truth is, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about seeing “God’s Not Dead.” I’ll still watch it when it comes out on Netflix, but in the meantime, here’s what the trailer says to me:

1. Christian film-makers are incapable of coming up with original stories.
That’s okay! We can just borrow from overused chain emails.

2. We think adding Christian celebrities to our movie gives more weight to our argument.

"I was a hardcore atheist, but then I saw Willie Robertson's cameo and everything changed!"

“I was a hardcore atheist, but then I saw Willie Robertson’s cameo and it really made me re-think everything!”

Doesn’t cheapen the message at all.

3. We think pitting our patient and courageous hero against the worst kind of atheist stereotype is a good way to win over atheists.

Every secular college professor EVER!

Every secular college professor EVER! (Thanks to Chick Publications)

You know, just like how all those extreme stereotypes of hateful, bigoted Christians win me over every time!

4. JUST KIDDING! We’re really just pandering to the people who already agree with us.
It kind of lessens the victory of belief over unbelief if we’re only trying to convince those who need no convincing.

 

Again, this is just based off of the trailer. I’ll be happy if the trailer winds up being a complete lie, but I think that’s unlikely. The whole purpose of a movie trailer is to say, “HEY! Here’s a taste of how great this movie is! Don’t you want to see it now?” And I think, for a limited demographic, it succeeded.

For the rest of the world? Not feelin’ it.

BUT, if the trailer is representative of the movie, then I think there are some things the movie and trailer could do to reach a wider audience:

1. Make the professor the protagonist.
The audience doesn’t need to feel compassion for the student; he’s just fine. Sure, he might be having his personal beliefs challenged a bit, but he seems pretty solid; we all know the change he goes through will be minimal. His biggest struggle seems to be gathering evidence to support his existing beliefs.

Instead, the audience needs to feel compassion for the professor’s genuine struggle. By making Kevin Sorbo’s character the antagonist, it comes across as saying “Christians are smart and great and atheists are mean and shallow.”

2. Ditch the divisive “Christians VS Atheists” conflict.

...Then again, if I were the bastard child of Zues, I'd be a bit theologically conflicted myself...

…Frankly, if I were the bastard child of Zeus, I’d be a bit theologically conflicted myself…

Any atheist who sees the trailer is automatically put on the defensive. Instead of  pitting Christians against the people we are supposed to love, a more effective primary conflict should be the professor’s own internal struggle of belief VS unbelief.

3. Choose an original story.
One that’s not reminiscent of overused Christian apologetical email chains that are usually followed with a guilt-laden request to “re-share or Jesus will deny you before His Father.”

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If you want to send a message that reaches more than just the people who already agree with you, do it with a good story. People will put up with a message they don’t agree with if the story and execution is good enough. After all, how many Christians put up with the secular or pagan messages of movies like What Dreams May Come, The Godfather, and Star Wars, to name a few? Consider also how many non-Christians went to see The Chronicles of Narnia, The Book of Eli and even The Passion?

You HAD your chance, Left Behind movies!

You HAD your chance, Left Behind movies!

4. Ditch Duck Dynasty
All due respect to the Robertson family and the DC Newstalkboys band, but if the story and acting are good enough, we don’t need any cameos from Christian celebrities. Cameos are wonderful for comedies, but throwing celebrity appearances into any other film genré takes you out of  the film and reminds you that you’re watching a movie. It cheapens the experience.

 

As I said, I’ll still see the movie when it comes out on Netflix, and maybe I’ll be surprised, and maybe it’ll turn out the Christian film industry just needs to work on their movie trailers.

...And maybe updating their 90's hairstyles...

…And maybe updating their 90’s hairstyles…

  • I agree. Christian writers need to get out in the trenches and live in order to be original. I think part of the problem is that documented part of faith is solely historical non-fiction (The Bible) Writers need to read more non-Christian fiction, get in the heads of more great writers.

    Keep the posts coming Chris.

    • I think that “trenches” comment could be applied to just about everything labeled “Christian” these days. Music, films, ministers, self-righteous church members. The trenches are coming though. Sure as the world.

  • This is good. I agree… and it’s not going to change until people stop throwing their money at whatever get’s the word “Christian” slapped on it.

    We should force our entertainment through a “Is It Any Good” filter before it even needs to hit the “Is It Moral” filter.

    • Steve Picray

      I agree. I have actually enjoyed all of the Alex Kendrick movies (Flywheel, Face the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous), but some other “Christian” movies are decidedly lacking in quality.

      I remember growing up we had Sheffey, and then there were the Russ Doughten movies (like “Sammy”, “A Thief in the Night”, etc). I tend to avoid any “Christian” movie made by unbelievers, as I end up wanting to throw things at the screen when the filmmakers not only get the details of the story wrong, they also get the message wrong.

      • I liked “Facing the Giants” the best. Fireproof and Courageous had great production value, but felt a bit too much like they were written to sell “the love dare” and other accessories, which cheapens the message to me. Courageous really felt like it was TRYING REALLY HARD to make me feel sad. I enjoyed them, anyway, though.

        “Thief in the Night” had me freaked out so bad whenever I couldn’t find anyone. “Were they raptured?”

  • BUT…secular books and movies are just as bad. We just watched Divergent this weekend and there was absolutely nothing original about that. I think writers in general have gotten lazy and it’s going unnoticed because readers have gotten lazy.

    • Ha… I actually enjoyed Divergent, despite similarities to The Hunger Games, etc.

    • They can be just as bad… but not almost always.

      • …and when they ARE just as bad, at least you get wonderful so-bad-it’s-good gems like Sharknado, Troll 2, and The Room.

    • I actually just watched Divergent… and enjoyed it, despite the similarities to The Hunger Games. I like me some dystopian teenage sci-fi, apparently.

  • Also, we must remember that God’s Not Dead is a fictional story based on many different cases of students that fought battles like this. The writers of this movies pulled from all of the stories listed in the credits. We like the movie because it’s something that my son can get into. He already likes the Newsboys and Duck Dynasty and I like that it gives him a story of Christianity in real life application.

  • Steve Picray

    You misspelled Zeus. FYI.
    And I actually had a high school science teacher that was very much the stereotypical argumentative angry guy. He hated that I didn’t believe in evolution and used every opportunity to bring it up and ridicule me in front of the class.

    • Your profile pic doesn’t line up with the tone of this comment at all. You look so nice.

      • Steve Picray

        I AM a nice guy. I also struggle with Grammar Nazism. Sorry. 🙂 I also have a blog, and I misspell things sometimes. I always appreciate it when people let me know so I can correct it.

        And the tone of the comment was meant to be informative, not condescending, arrogant, or whatever other negative emotion you seem to have received it with. I was just trying to add to the discussion. I haven’t seen this movie, and I pretty much agree with Chris’ post: I’ve heard the buzz, don’t really care for some aspects of the film, but will reserve judgment until I actually see it.

        • Guest

          The guy in your profile pic would have emailed in the spelling error so as not to embarrass the blogger.

          • Steve Picray

            I have not had the best of luck recently with discreetly emailing things to bloggers.

            I did that last month, and got maligned and trashed publicly on his blog. But yes, I probably should have emailed it to him. Mea culpa.

    • Yeah I always start with “Zues” and wind up thinking “Suess!”

      Sorry to hear about your high school experience that must’ve sucked. I’ve known both extremely hateful atheists and Christians. My point was that using the extreme examples instead of the more common, somewhat understanding/empathetic people is not conducive to spreading messages.

      Sort of like when the media covers a protest with a valid message, but only focuses on the few, most offensive protesters.

    • Very weird… I thought I replied to this post, but apparently didn’t.

      Anyway, yeah… Zeus is a hard word to spell. I always think “Suess,” which throws me off.

      Sorry to hear about your high school experience, that must have sucked.

      I’ve seen extremely angry atheists ridiculing Christians, but I’ve also seen hateful “Christians” ridicule atheists. I think using these extreme fringe characters instead of the more common, balanced, somewhat reasonable and understanding person prevents the message we’re sending from being received. As I said, it automatically puts people on the defense by saying, “you’re ignorant and hateful.”

      If we really want to send a message that goes beyond the people who already agree, we need to treat those on the other side fairly, with characters they can relate to. If we do that, then it tells them, “We’re both reasonable people. Let me share my ideas with you, and we can talk about it.”