“God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness” has grossed $4.9 million at the box office as of April 8. (Photo courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment)
“God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness” is the best movie to come out of the “God’s Not Dead” film trilogy, and that is not meant as a compliment.
In the middle of a dispute between Pastor Dave (David A.R. White) and the local university who owns the land his church is built on, the church is destroyed in a suspected arson. After this, Pastor Dave goes through a series of struggles, both faith-wise and personally.
While “God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness” is an awful movie, it does at least correct some of the mistakes that were made in the first two movies. The plot of this movie is at the very least somewhat believable, the movie does not bog itself down in numerous subplots that have no purpose in serving the main plot and there were even attempts to develop that characters beyond one-dimensional figures. One character, Dave’s brother Pearce (John Corbett) is actually likable, which is a new thing for these movies.
While it does make those changes for the better, the movie is still poorly made in most aspects. The writing and the dialogue are ham-fisted and pound the audience over the head with their simplicity. The camera work is awful: the camera is shaky when it should not be and some shots that are supposed to be dramatic look down-right silly. There is not a single good performance in the entire movie, which is obvious due to the fact that the best performances in the movie are the ones where the actors know to raise their voices if they are supposed to be shouting, but the shouts lack sincerity to them.
The biggest technical aspect of the movie that is problematic is the story structure. There is no sense of length to the movie because the structure of it is so wonky. For example, in a movie like this the church being burned down would be the setup for the second act of the movie. Here, it happens within the first five minutes. While watching the movie, it is also hard to tell if the story is currently in the second act or third act because the end of the second act is when the characters should be at their lowest, but they are all constantly at their lowest throughout the second act. When the change finally happens it does become obvious, courtesy to a cliché scene of a girl screaming underwater in a pool, but before that point it is up in the air.
The technical aspects and the fundamental aspects of movies are all extremely flawed when it comes to this movie, but the biggest issue for it comes simply from having the title “God’s Not Dead” attached to it.
Every movie in the “God’s Not Dead” trilogy is hypocritical, but this one is the most hypocritical of all. The moral of the movie is that it is important for everyone to set aside their anger for one another and listen to the thoughts of the opposing side, which is a good moral for a story to have. The problem is that this comes after two movies that did nothing but attack people who thought differently than the filmmakers by portraying them as one-dimensional monsters, and it is not like the “God’s Not Dead” movies are smart enough to be self-aware about this. They just plucked a moral out of thin air and forced it into their film without any thought to how it goes against everything the series has said and established.
Then there are the instances where the movie tries to tackle more controversial topics associated with Christianity, the most obvious of which is why younger generations are leaving the church. Once again, the “God’s Not Dead” trilogy was not smart enough to do anything like this before, opting instead for lazy and unbelievable story lines and controversial topics to deal with, but now it is trying, and it is done as badly as one would expect. The topic of why younger generations are not going to church comes up in one scene without any setup for it.
If it had been its own movie, “God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness” would have been a well-intentioned, but ultimately flawed movie. As it is part of the “God’s Not Dead” trilogy, it is an ultimately flawed and extraordinarily hypocritical movie.
Final Grade: D