Left Behind

It’s been a while. I’ve started back at the Manitoban doing something very different, so that’s taken up a lot of time. I’m also applying to grad schools, a process that from what I’ve seen and heard is infinitely more stressful than actually doing a master’s degree.

I managed to steal away enough time to see the movie Left Behind this weekend. It still seems hard to believe that this is a real thing—if you want to give your Rapture movie mainstream credibility (as they apparently did), Nicolas Cage is a puzzling choice for lead actor. He has ascended to a higher plane of existence and cannot appear onscreen with mortal actors, even such luminaries as Chad Michael Murray and what’s her face, without appearing photoshopped in. The ontological whiplash alone is worth the price of admission.

They appear to have blown the entire budget on Cage, which means that there is little room left for such expenses as effects, writing, or a cast. This makes it a B-movie of a kind rarely seen in theatres nowadays, which means that if you’re looking to be entertained by wooden acting, unconvincing graphics, or bathetic and oddly composed shots, then you’re in for a treat.

Unfortunately, the movie takes a minor subplot from the early part of the novel and blows it up into feature length, which means that a lot of the real fun stuff with the Antichrist and the United Nations didn’t make the cut. It also means that the second half of the movie is pretty much a wash, once the characters have accepted that the Rapture has happened and begun to focus on the practical problem of getting the plane back on the ground safely.

Fred Clark has famously dissected the series page by page and frame by frame to show how its literary failings are necessitated by the narcissistic theology underlying belief in the Rapture and the End Times (a couple personal favourites: here, here, and here). There’s not much of that in evidence here, but that’s probably because there is hardly a hint of End Times theology in the movie. The Rapture happens, sure, but it’s treated more as an inexplicable disaster than a religious event. There are Christians, but it seems unlikely that anyone, even the most die-hard Left Behind fan, would not be annoyed by them. They don’t even attempt to make Nicolas Cage’s character seem unsympathetic for distancing himself from his Bible-thumping wife.

The result is a movie that is much more watchable than the 2000 Kirk Cameron vehicle, but that is stripped almost entirely of the peculiar worldview that is what makes the rest of the series so entertaining. It’s good for an evening of laughs, not so good as an entry into the politico-theological bestiary.

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