In an earlier post, I mentioned two movies that I hadn’t yet seen, but planned to, and that I would give my view on them after I had seen them. I’ve now had the opportunity to fit them into my schedule and would like to offer a few comments on God’s Not Dead and Heaven Is For Real.
Let me begin by saying I deliberately didn’t read any full reviews of either film; I wanted my perception of them to be fresh, without any particular reviewer’s slant. I did hear from friends that both were worth seeing, but that’s as far as I went in preparation.
Another caveat: there is no movie that is perfect, but one must evaluate based on the overall effect after viewing. I also know that artistic tastes differ; sometimes, though, one’s artistic preferences can get in the way of a fair evaluation. My first degree was in radio, tv, and film production, so I at least have some background in judging artistic quality as well as storyline and character development.
All that said, what did I think of these two films?
I saw God’s Not Dead on Saturday and freely admit I was reluctant to see it at all. My biggest fear was that it would be an in-your-face, awkward, and artistically inferior production that wouldn’t advance the cause of Christ, despite its best intentions. I’m glad to say my fears were unrealized. It dealt with the reality faced by thousands of Christian college students as their faith is ridiculed publicly. It answered that ridicule not by dogmatic indoctrination, but by wrestling with the most basic question of life in an academic setting: the meaning of life if God indeed is real.
Further, it did so by means of an interweaving of a number of personal stories, all culminating in the love of God reaching out to those struggling to overcome their circumstances, doubts, and even anger at their conception of God’s character. While some will undoubtedly criticize the ending as too predictable, too simplistic as the angry professor comes face to face with eternity, I can’t share their disdain. Life is short; it can end in the next minute; you never know.
Bottom line: as I left the theater, I was glad I had seen God’s Not Dead and was thankful for those who worked so hard to present the gospel message in a thought-provoking way. On a scale of ten (everyone does that now, right?), I would give it a solid eight.
Then, on Sunday, I saw Heaven Is For Real. It’s based on the book of the same name, which I have not yet read. After seeing the movie, though, I now have a desire to read the account as well. Artistically, this film is superb. The acting cannot be faulted, except by people who see fault in everything. In the few comments I had seen in print ahead of time, I picked up on some criticism of the message, as if it somehow watered down the faith. I was prepared to judge it as a typical Hollywood attempt to be Christian, while falling short.
I was wrong.
As I said to my wife at the end of the movie, I was surprised and delighted at its Christ-centeredness. Jesus is not just a passing mention, and heaven is not merely some kind of white light one walks into. Moreover, the gospel message itself is played out in the drama of a family trying to figure out what is real and what isn’t. Authenticity pervades the entire enterprise.
The ending, for me, was nearly breathtaking. I won’t say why; I would rather you see it for yourself. What I can say is that as I walked out of the movie, I can’t remember the last time I was so inspired by the love of God and the reality of the person of Jesus. I am not exaggerating when I give a rating of ten to this film. I find it hard to believe a better representation of God’s heart can be put on a screen.
You may not agree with my assessments. That’s certainly your prerogative. But for what it’s worth, you now have my evaluations to compare with your own. Botttom line for me: the Lord was exalted in both productions, His heart was on display, and He can use that to draw people to Himself.