- Movie Rating -

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness (2018)

| March 31, 2018

I could write long essays about all of the things that are fundamentally wrong with God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness but the issue that would most likely rise to the top would be its bizarre outlook on violent crime.  The fact that it gets legal procedures completely wrong is not surprising if you’re a veteran of this trilogy.  This is the third entry in a series that has thus far painted atheists, agnostics, Muslims, lawyers, college professors, the upper class and the ACLU as the whore-spawn of Satan.   Add to that bizarre misconceptions about college, courtroom procedures, physiology, cancer, non-Christian beliefs and even car rentals and its lack of knowledge about anything else doesn’t really comes as a surprise.

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness is only slightly better than its predecessors.  It has a lot on its plate and tries with all its might to reverse the misconceptions that made the first two films a laughing stock among those of us who live in the real world.  But it still wades hip-deep in its persecution complex – an alternate reality in which Christians can claim that the United States government, and non-Christians have an established agenda to shut them down (they don’t).  Its all over the film like skunk stench.

The movie opens with evidence of this hidden agenda with the good-hearted Reverend Dave (played again by PureFlix founder David A.R. White) just released from jail after refusing to turn over transcripts of his sermons to the government (shrug).  Hated, ousted and a public pariah, he tries to return to his church only to have it blow up in his face . . . literally.  Not to give anything away, but the explosion leaves an innocent bystander in a state of not-living.

Rewind back a few weeks and we find that the culprit is a young college student named Adam (Mike Manning) who was angry because his girlfriend because – get this – she dumped him because he teased her about her belief in Jesus (Because . . . that’s a thing).  Bitter over this, he vandalizes Reverend Dave’s church and inadvertently causes not only the explosion but manslaughter.  This is the film’s real puzzler.  Not to give away the ending but Adam’s story ends on a note that I’m not sure is probable or even legal.  Violent crimes occur regularly throughout this film and are either forgiven or forgotten.  This isn’t a small thing, it’s an issue all through the film that no one apparently wanted to deal with.

Anyway, in the aftermath of the fire Reverend Dave finds that Hadley University (on whose campus his church stands) is using the negative publicity about the fire and his recent stint in jail as leverage to tear down his house of worship and turn it into a student union by claiming eminent domain.  They make the good Reverend a sweet deal so that he can offer the sound bite “The church isn’t for sale at any price.”

So, in a plot development similar to Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, in which the kids tried to save their favorite rec center from being torn down by greedy real estate developers, Reverend Dave tries to save his church from being torn down by greedy real estate developers.  He smells a rat, legally speaking, and he calls his (previously unmentioned) estranged brother Pierce for help because he just happens to be a lawyer.

Pierce is played by John Corbett in a performance that his way too good for this movie.  He’s an atheist who long ago distanced himself from Dave and their parents when he started to question the faith.  He left a lot of emotional strands hanging even in the face of his parent’s death.  And since this is a PureFlix movie, Pierce is a non-believer who will eventually be led in the right direction by his faith-minded brother.  The end of the movie is sort of vague about this but there seems to be an indication that he wants to be led back in, that he wants to believe, again affirming a misguided issue that this series can’t pry itself away from; that atheists are simply fallen angels.  They are not non-believers but simply bitter sheep who have strayed from the flock – they need to be led back into the light.

To give the movie credit where credit is due, it does at least address the issues that have drawn this series a lot of flak, most notably it’s persecution complex.  That’s addressed by an African-American minister who, during on of Reverend Dave’s Pity Parties, calls him on the carpet: “Brother, who do you think you’re talking to? I am a black man in the deep South. Don’t talk to me about your persecution.”  It’s a positive moment but it is overturned by the movie’s message which seems to be that acceptance and understanding will over work if we all understand and worship God (stay tuned after the credits – the movie literally says this).  Of course, the screenwriters have the right to say whatever they like, but in trying to be fair-minded they end up stepping on their own message.  Tolerance of atheists comes in letting them have their (non)beliefs, but this movie seems to step all over that message.  They issue a challenge to themselves, but it is a challenge they aren’t willing to face.

Aside from its mangled issues this is a horrendously boring movie.  I could go on all day about how much it tries to overturn some of the ignorance of the previous two but getting there is a long and tiresome struggle.  The movie has too many balls in the air and too much explaining to do but it comes off like a person who does something wrong and then tries to explain itself by making the same point over and over and over.  It’s a struggle to sit through, not matter what you believe.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2018) View IMDB Filed in: Drama
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