God is most certainly not dead…but His patience with these movies, I’m not too sure about.
This is the second CGB collaboration review of God’s Not Dead 2!
Grace Wesley is a kind and optimistic high school teacher who finds herself in hot water after answering a student’s question about Jesus. With a nonbelieving defense attorney as her ally, Grace’s case ends up being one that could remove God from the public square once and for all.
Right after my Batman v. Superman collaboration review with Patheos blogger Monique Ocampo, my good friend Mickey Kelly asked me if I wanted to do another collab with him. We picked this movie as the subject for our collab.
Now I actually liked the first God’s Not Dead. Is it flawed? Absolutely. However, given that it was a compelling rivalry story about a Christian student and his atheist professor, I found myself thoroughly enjoying it. Mickey’s points are in blue while mine are in pink.
So let’s see how the sequel holds up!
In the first movie, Professor Radisson was the character who interested me the most. In this movie, I found Brooke Thawley to be the person I wished the story was about. Though her evolution from grieving sister to committed believer is a tad rushed, I did find her to be the most sympathetic character.
I did like the idea of an agnostic attorney defending the Christian protagonist. I saw the potential for an interfaith friendship to bloom between the two characters, or at the very least have them come to respect each other despite not sharing the same belief system.
I am glad that Amy Ryan, the atheist blogger from the first movie is back as a new believer. I like her arch as a Christian convert who is questioning her faith after she learns that she is in remission. This subplot on its own could have made for an interesting story.
One of the biggest strengths that the makers of the God’s Not Dead series is that their subplots could make for their own stand-alone films. I would like to see a film about Martin, the Chinese convert to Christianity or liberal-blogger-turned-believer Amy. I remember the first film featured Ayisha, a Muslim girl who is a closeted Christian; why can’t we get a movie about her?!
Grace Wesley was a resilient character who held on to her faith and hope, which is nicely conveyed by Melissa Joan Hart’s genuine performance.
Tom Enler and Grace Wesley developed well in the movie. While Enler tells Grace that he is a non-believer, Enler sees this case to the end to help Grace win an impossible court case. He goes from an inexperienced lawyer to someone that figured out Kane’s methods and outsmarting a heavy weapon for the ACLU. I appreciated that at least one nonbelieving character was portrayed in a positive light for the most part.
The writers made an interesting transition from the classroom to the courtroom which is happening in today’s world. Grace Wesley, with the help of her students, aging grandfather and Enler, perseveres despite some crushing setbacks during the trial.
Some questions about the end result of Martin and his father are in limbo. Will they seek each other’s forgiveness or will they never cross paths again? The film fails to develop the relationship between Martin and his father. Also, Martin’s dialogue makes him feel less like a character and more like an agenda pawn.
Like in the first film, I felt that the writers did too much to tell a story involving so many characters. It seems that the writers neglected to develop Kane’s assistant, who had little to do in the movie but watch Kane get defeated by Enler.
The movie will appeal to some, but not all those looking to watch a good Christian movies due to an off-putting tone with some painful moments in the film such as Grace’s struggle to see the trial through.
Many members of my family work for the justice system, so I am what I call a “courthouse baby.” Hence, this courthouse baby found that Grace’s trial was riddled with unrealistic moments that would never fly in a real-life trial. How Tom Enler handles his final arguments before the jury deliberates had me shaking my head.
Any time you write a story that tackles a social issue, you do need to write with some emotional restraint. Otherwise, if you harbor resentment towards those who do not share your views, it will show in the story. In this movie’s case, it is clear that the filmmakers hold some animosity towards atheists. The end result is that vilification of atheists is a major issue in this movie. Whereas the first movie made the atheistic Professor Radisson a three-dimensional person who undergoes an intriguing evolution, this second film has made every single atheist character as unlikable and abrasive as possible. Brooke’s non-believing parents are heartless towards her grief over her brother. The ACLU lawyer Pete Kane is the overacting foaming-at-the-mouth atheist. The people who oppose Grace are unreasonable protestors who ridicule the Christian supporters.
I don’t know if the filmmakers have had bad experiences with atheist men and women, but I would like to take the time to say that I have plenty of atheist friends and they have always been kind to me and understanding of my beliefs.
Here is the thing with the God’s Not Dead series: There are good messages to be found in both of the films: Stand with God and not the world, be committed to your convictions and if God brings you to it, He will get you through it. So while the messages on their own are not wrong, the presentation of these messages is where the wrong begins. You’re not going to convert people by portraying every single Christian character as a saintly hero and every atheist as a rabid jerk. Christian persecution is real, but here in America, no one is being stoned in the public square for reading a Bible.
God is not dead and He calls us to present His word in a reasonable and compassionate fashion.
Saint Gabriel Possenti, pray for us.