Left Behind (2014)

*. I wonder what the target audience for this movie was. I haven’t read any of the series of bestselling Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, and the only person I know who has is someone who has never been inside a church in her life. She just liked the story. So it’s not like they’re only preaching to the choir.
*. At the same time, I don’t think these books are meant to proselytize. There’s certainly no attempt in this movie to make a case for Christianity, premillenialist or otherwise. I’m not sure the Bible is even mentioned, much less quoted from. Mrs. Steele has found Jesus (just in time!), but she never gets a chance to discuss religion with her daughter Chloe. She’s too busy in the kitchen, or gardening. But then, what would be the point of having that little talk? You’re either one of the chosen or you’re not.
*. Nor is there any explanation of how the Rapture operates, aside from the fact that babies and children are all swept up. Which may sound fair to a layperson but which I don’t think is correct theologically. As Gary Goldstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, put it: “The film’s religious elements are shoehorned in and woefully tossed off. Worse, it’s hard to fathom where director Vic Armstrong and screenwriters Paul Lalonde and John Patus stand — if anywhere — on spiritual matters.”
*. The only point I think worth making here is that, while millions of Americans do believe in the Rapture, it’s a fringe belief, of fairly recent origin and relying on some pretty free interpretation of scripture. So when Captain Rayford Steele (he’s the hero, in case you couldn’t tell from the name) says that his wife knew in advance how this was all going to go down, right to the last detail, you have to wonder where she got the news. Maybe she read the novel.
*. Immediately when this film came out it was heralded not just as one of the worst movies of the year but possibly one of the worst of all time. I don’t know if I’d go that far. It’s bad, but I have to confess I didn’t mind it. I didn’t like it enough to ever want to sit through it again, but it has an innocent, goofy charm.
*. It’s primarily the innocence of a Hallmark production. There’s no violence or gore. The worst thing that happens to Chloe is that she has her shoulder bag snatched by a guy on a motorbike. There’s no bad language, despite the desperate situation the left behind find themselves in. And there aren’t any really bad people left behind either. Martin Klebba is probably the closest thing. The Muslim gentleman on the plane is a decent guy. Too bad he was worshipping the wrong deity. I thought the sexy stewardess (Nicky Whelan) was going to be a villain, a homewrecking Jezebel in a tight skirt and even tighter blouse, but it turns out she hasn’t done the dirty deed with Rayford yet and she didn’t even know he was married! I guess slipping your wedding ring off really does work some of the time. Or else she just hasn’t figured out the Internet yet.
*. Even the guy robbing the store with a shotgun lets Chloe Steele go on her way. The left behind aren’t evil. In fact, they still want to get in good with the Big Guy by saying prayers as their plane is going down. This was the one scene where I broke out laughing. You missed the bus guys!
*. How can you hate a movie so good-natured about the end of the world? Yes, it’s low budget and surprisingly low key. Nicolas Cage just shows up to get paid (apparently $3 million for ten days work). He sleepwalks through the entire film. And sure, I prefer my apocalypses with zombies. But you just have to go along with all the general goofiness. It may not be a much better movie than Battlefield Earth, which did come to mind, but it’s more congenial. Actually, being left behind seems like a pretty good deal. Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place with less people in it? And New York City looking as bright and shiny as Louisiana?
*. Things might have gotten darker during the time of tribulations, or whatever name it goes by, but there was to be no sequel. Given that this was actually the second kick at the can for the series and it failed utterly I suspect it will truly be the end of the line, at least for a while. And that goes for everyone.

3 thoughts on “Left Behind (2014)

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