Oh my God, where did this film go wrong?
British native Peter Rodger’s documentary was advertised as a valiant attempt to define God in such a way that would pervade religious barriers and promote peace. The actual product, however, is a sloppy, cliché film by a novice director.
Rodger and his two-man crew traveled to the United States, the United Kingdom, Africa, India, Australia, the Middle East and Far East Asia in search of the answers to one driving question: “What is God?”
This question ultimately led to other related inquiries: Did man create God or did God create man? Do Christians, Muslims and Jews share the same God? If God exists, why is there so much suffering?
Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and atheists alike attempted to answer these queries in the movie. There was a large bias toward those who professed the belief that all three of the main monotheistic religions are really just using three different names for the same deity. There was also a listing about God being equivalent with abstract concepts, most commonly love.
It is worth noting that they chose to ask, “What is God?” as opposed to “Who is God?” to remain somewhat objective. But Rodger’s editing and framing are hardly impartial. Most of the interviewees Rodger showcased had similar positive, peaceful views. There were a handful of extremists, one or two from every camp.
Rodger often made these extremists appear uneducated or simply idiotic, and his blatant favoritisms were all too apparent.
For instance, Rodger asks a boy suffering from cancer what his greatest wish is. Instead of replying, “To get better,” the boy answers, “To stop all the wars and fighting in the world.” Rodger immediately cuts to a segment of pagan indigenous people suffocating a goat to be sacrificed for rain.
The favoritism he showed toward peaceful parties and the discrimination he showed against belligerent parties was not unwelcome, but it was not in congruence with the neutral stance he claimed to be taking. This was disappointing for the audience members expecting an honest — and proportional — account of other cultures’ views on God.
Oh My God begins with a stunning montage of beautiful scenes, many of which rival those on the show Planet Earth. But this goes on for upwards of five minutes, much too long by filmmaking standards.
This is not a nature special, this is a documentary. Supposedly, there were more than 200 hours of film to work with, which means there shouldn’t be any dead time or filler of any kind in the 93-minute finished product.
Rodger has previously worked in advertising, and it shows. Commercials treat the audience as a base, unintelligent body, and this notion permeates the film. In addition to using himself as an on-camera narrator (an obvious and overused fame-seeking technique), Rodger also overuses visuals. If an interviewee discussed the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the next shot is of a pair of buildings that modeled the World Trade Center.
The most annoying similarity to advertisements, however, is the use of hokey, unrelated background music. He discusses the aborigines’ view of God over an obnoxious techno beat. His addition of an irrelevant soundtrack greatly diminishes the power of the dances and rituals he displays on screen, creating a heightened sense of disconfirmation for the audience.
Even the film’s big-name stars — Hugh Jackman, Seal, David Copperfield and Ringo Starr, among others — could not save the film’s intended message. All messages of peace and universality are lost in a void caused by elementary-level editing and a nonsensical soundtrack.
It is unfortunate that a film that had so much potential will not evolve into a success. Some might see Rodger’s efforts as heroic — perhaps even saintly. And granted, he did circle the globe in search of the answers to one of the ultimate questions. But all this proves is his desperation.
He must have anticipated his lack of filmmaking skill ahead of time, concluding that the only way his film might have even a slight chance of success was if it included a star-studded panel of interviewees addressing a controversial subject against a global backdrop.
But even a combination of these things could not save this film from becoming a biased, uninspiring and poorly complied flop.
Oh My God comes off merely as Rodger’s attempt to break into filmmaking, and that is all this entire documentary becomes — an attempt, albeit a failed one.
To call Oh My God anything else is blasphemy.