Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Left Behind (2015) - Movie Review

Time to return to that always endearing topic of Christian propaganda films. Yay. It’s not like the last time I did that was extremely painful or anything(!) The original Left Behind, released in 2000, is the poster child for the Rapture movie; in that, it is the most popular example and it is also a good indicator for just how bad the rest of them can get. Morally questionable actions made by both sides, rampant use of stock footage, an inability to show the complete story in a single film; everything that makes the Rapture sub-genre what it is is in there. Then there’s the inclusion of Kirk Cameron, one of the most insane human beings alive today that is somehow getting mass media attention. Who else in the world would say that you should of lit-up crosses whenever they see trees in a Christmas movie? Yeah, I eagerly await when Saving Christmas gets an Australian release, because that kind of na├»ve madness is perfect for this blog. Until then, I have the remake of Left Behind to deal with. Yes, seriously; even the realms of Christian cinema have gotten the re-hash bug.

The plot: Reyford Steele (Nicolas Cage) is a commercial airplane pilot flying from New York to London. While in mid-air, a sudden flash of light occurs and some of the passengers just disappear into thin air. As the remaining passengers try to figure what has just occurred, Reyford’s daughter Chloe (Cassi Thomson) is still on the ground, and millions of people have also vanished. Amidst the rioting and mass panic, she discovers that the answer to what has happened may lie with God.

Nicolas Cage was told that he would get to play a character named Captain Steele and, in later films, battle with the Antichrist if he agreed to be in this one. This is literally the only reason I can think of why Cage signed on for this film, because he is way too good for this movie. This is surprising because not only is he good in this movie, he isn’t the usual Cage-style ‘punching out people in a bear suit’ good. He is legitimately trying here, which is much more than I can say for pretty much anyone else, except for maybe Jordin Sparks as Shasta who gets one moment that has at least some energy to it. Other than that, we have actors that people will probably recognise from material that is far, far better than this. Chad Michael Murray is admittedly more charming than Kirk Cameron who had his role in the original, but then again he doesn’t have to try that hard to do it and it shows. Probably the biggest disappointment here is Lea Thompson as Cage’s wife; after seeing her in Back In Time and remembering just how much I missed her as an actress, going to this right after is depressing.

The original Left Behind shows the beginning stages of the Antichrist to take over the world in the aftermath of the Rapture, while the few ‘true Christians’ rally up against him. This takes that film’s first act and made it into the entire film. I, much like Nic Cage in that hypothetical scenario, am seriously let down that we didn’t get to see Cage fight the Antichrist. Instead, this film focuses on the initial mystery: Millions of people have disappeared off the face of the Earth, and no-one knows why. We’ll ignore the fact that anyone who actively goes to see this film will already know the big twist of the reason for the missing people. The filmmakers do literally nothing with that concept, and the little that we do get when it comes to people accusing others for what happened, it’s both brushed under the rug in record time and not even treated as that big a deal in the moment.

Other than that, all that happens is that we watch these supposed-to-be-characters reacting to the fact that everyone is gone, while Steele tries to safely land the plane. For about 90 minutes of the film’s 110 minute running time. Maybe Martin Klebba will do something antisocial, but even then it amounts to nothing in the overall plot. This is probably the most padded-out film I’ve seen in a while, as there are just so many scenes that go absolutely nowhere, even when one of the passengers is moments away from committing suicide in her distress. Maybe they should have stuck to the original story, because they clearly don’t know how to give sufficient beef to this dead carcass of a narrative. The only thing with any kind of pulse to it is the music, but for all the wrong reasons. It feels like Jack Lenz had several ideas for compositions and just threw them together without any attempt to mesh them together. Because of this, we have weirdly juxtaposed Western guitar crammed into the same box as typical orchestral strings, along with wacky caper music at random in one scene.

This film didn’t even need to involve the Rapture, considering it barely factors into the core plot. If anything, it’s background information for why the people have disappeared. With the original film, because it delved a bit deeper into the times of Tribulation and the like, the Rapture had a narrative reason to happen. Here, it could literally be anything and it still wouldn’t matter. It doesn’t help that the depiction of the Rapture is, frankly, inconsistent. The film is going with the angle that all the Christians were raptured and everyone else… will go through trials that will only exist in this film’s sequel which, given how they are going the long road to crowd-fund it, probably won’t end up surfacing. As such, this film contains a lot of cut-and-dry morality that shows that being good and/or bad isn’t nearly as complex as it is in real life; it’s just a matter of belief.

The fact that the film keeps making a point of saying that every child was taken, knowing the ultimate reason, is proof enough of this film’s bullcrap; I’ve been around enough little kids to know that some of them, if not most of them, are as innocent as newborn baby rats. Then again, this mindset is cyclically proven to be true by having stereotypically intolerant/crazy people remain on the plane, along with one lone Muslim just to make sure we know that only people of the "right" religion went up to Heaven. And let’s not even get into the idea that the God of this film’s universe took people in the middle of driving/flying, no doubt killing others in the process and robbing them of a chance to redeem themselves in his eyes. You’d think that, given how he knew well enough to cast decent actors instead of Kirk ‘Crocaduck’ Cameron, Vic Armstrong would have learnt not to copy the film’s other mistakes as well.

All in all, it’s reallysad when I actively wished that this film was morally offensive like God’s Not Dead; at least then, it would have been engaging. Instead, through a weakly thought-out script, disinterested acting and enough tension to fit into a gnat’s asshole with room to spare, all this manages to do is bore for its nearly 2-hour running time. When you have Nicolas Cage as a character named Captain Steele, being boring is almost an offence on all thing sacred.

1 comment:

  1. Christian here going through the archives. I really, really hate Christian films. They're pandering and stereotype-laden. Their plots are ridiculous and black-and-white. The only one I do like is Prince of Egypt.