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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?
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.