Film franchises are always risky. Just because the original film is great doesn’t mean any sequels will be. Too often it seems the studios are just trying to cash in on a popular film with substandard follow-ups.
Which means I approached the third installment in the “God’s Not Dead film series with a certain amount of trepidation. A Light in the Darkness hits theaters today. If my memory is working, I saw the first film and quite enjoyed it, but haven’t yet found the time for the second one. It’s been a couple of years at least since I saw that first one, but I remember liking it more than this film. Or maybe I am prejudiced against sequels.
I have mixed feelings about “Christian” films. I have seen too many where the message overrode the art of filmmaking, producing instead a rather heavy-handed piece of propaganda that was quite boring to watch. Great movies tell a story first and foremost. Christian filmmakers sometimes forget that and instead present a message. I found A Light in the Darkness to be a little heavy on the message to the detriment of the story. That probably won’t deter the film’s target audience – this one seems to me to be aimed at Christians who reject a lot of what Hollywood has to offer. I’m not sure though how much a non-believer will like the film, if they can identify with any of the characters.
The story has potential, and one of the stars is John Corbett, an actor whose work I have always enjoyed. His character is what made the film seem real; the person easiest to identify with. I did find though that the portrayal of the central character, a pastor, at times crossed the line from stereotype to caricature. I must admit also, I never understood how the death that is central to the plot takes place; the cause and effect seem strange. Maybe something got cut in the editing, or maybe I am just a bit dense at times.
It is nice to see a film where Christians are not portrayed as perfect but as people who can realize their flaws and work to overcome them. On this Good Friday, when we remember the sacrifice of Jesus that had to happen precisely because we are all flawed people, it is good to pause and remember that redemption is possible, through the grace of God. That is the central message of Good Friday, and too the central message of A Light in the Darkness.
I’m sure that the film will receive many harsh reviews. Faith-based films attract those – critics feel their worldview is being threatened. You can take those with a fair amount of skepticism. This isn’t a great film, it won’t win an Oscar, or even be nominated for one, but it does provide a pleasant, sometimes thought-provoking bit of entertainment. I do appreciate that we are seeing more and more films with Christian themes being shown in regular theatres. If you appreciate that too, you will want to check this one out.