God’s Not Dead 3: A Light in Darkness (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

After Pastor Dave is released from prison for not turning over his sermon notes to the local government, he is immediately hit with a new persecution angle.  His father’s church, which he has pastored for years, sits on the property of a public university, so protests build on campus based on an argument that questions the necessity of the church being on public property.  Dave begins to feel pressure from the university leadership, but things hit a breaking point when the church appears to be attacked and when his close friend Jude is killed in the attack.  Dave decides to reach out to his long-lost brother for legal help as chaos reigns around him.  Will he ever be able to live in peace?

 

Production Quality (2.5 points)

With the third installment and possible end to the God’s Not Dead trilogy, they have not backed off on their recently attained practice of high-quality productions.  On most production fronts, A Light in Darkness is a very professional production, including video quality, camera work, and audio quality.  The soundtrack is even better than the previous two installments as it is mostly void of the title track and thankfully leaves us without another Newsboys concert to wrap things up.  Sets, locations, and props are also very well-utilized and well-constructed.  The only two caveats in this production are the presence of some cheesy special effects and the somewhat sloppy editing job, but on the whole, God’s Not Dead 3 is top-notch production work.

Plot and Storyline Quality (1 point)

In a shocking turn of events, after making us muddle through that horrible second film, the third of the trilogy has one of the best plots.  The first film’s plot had good elements due to its many fractured subplots, but A Light in Darkness has the best central and focused idea of them all.  Though it takes forever to get to the point and though there are plenty of persecution-complex pitfalls along the way, the ending of this film is very significant because it takes the franchise in a totally different direction than the other ones were going in.  Unfortunately, there are still plenty of issues with this storyline, including a lack of adequate character development due to poorly-constructed dialogue and a sloppy story construction that tends to jump from one thing to the next and include too many issues.  However, someone got ahold of the plot and decided to insert some truth about why young people don’t like the church, which was a breath of fresh air, however brief it may have been.  As a whole, this story was a good idea in the end, but it was probably too little too late.

Acting Quality (2.5 points)

In spite of the usual awkwardness of David A. R. White as a ‘serious’ lead, other cast members are more natural and believable in their roles, even John Corbett.  Benjamin Onyango was hardly ever afforded a fair opportunity to show his full potential in this trilogy, but his parts are still great.  The reality is that there are actually few acting errors in this film; even the emotional performances are mostly believable.  As a whole, PureFlix has made a lot of strides over the past few years, so if they will just direct their resources in a more responsible direction, who knows what good could be done.

Conclusion

The unfortunate part is that PureFlix managed to isolate everybody throughout the course of the GND franchise.  The first film was a big hit because it filled a void in the market and was basically at the right place at the right time.  It had good qualities, such as better production than usual, but it was still mostly standard and pedestrian.  The second GND film was nothing short of a total trainwreck, and this where the trilogy lost its reasonable audience.  However, A Light in Darkness isolated anyone faithful who were left by taking the narrative in a different and non-persecutory direction.  In short, it pays to know who your audience is, but it also pays to strive for high-quality Christian films that aren’t based entirely on pandering to a specific base.  PureFlix has the resources to truly blow open the Christian industry if they really want to, but will they seize the opportunity before it’s too late?

 

Final Rating: 6 out of 10 points

 

What Would Jesus Do? The Journey Continues (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

As the mysterious drifter comes to another small town, he encounters another pastor who desperately wants to change the world around him but cannot seem to assemble the team he needs.  As he takes his brother in, who is freshly out of prison, the pastor seeks to do good to those around him and to repair the broken church bell he inherited.  He also comes into contact with a group of troubled teens who seem intent on making everyone around them miserable.  But what they will all discover is that there is more to everyone’s story than other realize, and that all Christians should act as Jesus would act.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

If it’s any consolation, the camera work is better in The Journey Continues.  However, the video quality has not improved, and there are many scenes in which lighting is a major problem.  Audio quality is inconsistent and the soundtrack is as silly as usual.  The sets and locations are okay and slightly more realistic than in the first film, but they still carry an amateur quality.  In a similar vein, the editing is not glaringly horrible, but it’s not particularly professional either.  Scenes are sometimes cut off abruptly while other scenes seem to drag on too long.  In short, the production of The Journey Continues does not commit egregious errors, but it also does nothing to promote professionalism.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

In many ways, The Journey Continues is just a redux of the first WWJD film, just with fewer characters.  John Schneider is still a drifter who spouts wisdom to those in need of it.  There’s a different struggling pastor who wants to make a difference in his city.  There’s other troublemaking characters who change their ways in the end.  The Journey Continues is slightly more concise in its delivery, but still not very compelling.  The premise is less absurd and the ideas are less obvious, but that doesn’t make it an interesting plot.  The characters are slightly accessible and not so outrageously stereotypical, but this doesn’t make the movie a winner.  Dialogue is sometimes strained, like the writers are searching for something interesting to have the characters say.  The issues presented are smile-worthy, but not terribly compelling.  One particular subplot is intriguing and keeps this portion from being zero points; it would have been nice to see this subplot expanded upon and given more thought.  Overall, the plot feels more down to earth than the first installment, but it’s still not very watchable.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

In the first film, it was John Schneider and a bunch of poorly coached amateur actors and actresses.  In the second film, it’s John Schneider and some slightly better coached actors and actresses.  However, the same issues as before tend to trip them up: strained line delivery and either muted or overdone emotional delivery.  There is some better acting than not that keeps the score above water, but once again, there is just not much good to say here.

Conclusion

There really isn’t that much to work with here.  The Journey Continues feels like a sequel for the sake of sequels.  It would be one thing if this were the first movie in the series, but since it’s boring and empty compared to laughable, it easily gets lost in the shuffle and really comes out no better for it.  Whatever the WWJD Trilogy is trying to accomplish is beyond us, but it certainly does plenty to further hurt the name of Christian film.  When it boils down to it, there is really no purpose to either of the first two films in this trilogy—unfortunately, neither one is going to reach anyone, Christian or non-Christian, due to low quality.  Wouldn’t it have been better to, instead of make three films, pool financial resources to make one truly great film that could have made a lasting difference?  These are the types of questions Christian film makers need to ask themselves before charging ahead with more low quality films that waste everyone’s time.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points