May 3, 2018
The Left Behind remake is as God-awful as the original
Feeling a little concerned about the latest bombings, tsunamis, earthquakes, as well as the starvation of countless people? For most people, this stuff is nothing new, but if you’ve come to believe we’re on the cusp of the Second Coming, then Left Behind (2014) might be right up your alley. This Vic Armstrong film based on the novels by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye is all about what happens when you don’t believe in Jesus when Judgment Day arrives.
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The film begins, like oh so many apocalyptic tales do, at an airport. Chloe (Cassi Thomson), a college student, has just flown in to her see her dad Rayford (Nicolas Cage) for his birthday. However, after a conversation with her mother (Lea Thompson), she finds out that her dad won’t actually be in town for her visit because he’s piloting a flight to London.
A little frustrated, she decides to stay put and wait for her dad to show up to work. While waiting, she overhears a woman harassing a man about the recent earthquakes around the world and how they’re clearly a sign of the end times. After Chloe confronts the woman, she realizes the man is Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray), a famous journalist.
Chloe tells the Christian woman where to stick it, and she and Buck hit it off soon after. So they stop to chat while Chloe waits for her father. Before long, Dad turns up, but is busted flirting with a stewardess. Buck makes himself scarce so the two can talk, and they reveal their mutual distaste for how Chloe’s mother has become a born again Christian.
Chloe tells her dad she understands his desire to not be a part of the family, but Rayford defends his loyalty to his wife. He apologizes for not being able to stay due to a sudden shift change, but moments later, a coworker passes on tickets that prove he’s planned this getaway for weeks. Heartbroken, Chloe passes on the tickets to Buck and heads home.
When she arrives there, her brother is happy to see her, as is her mom. However, it doesn’t take long for the two of them to get off on the wrong foot. After a heated discussion about religion, Chloe and her brother leave for the mall.
She and her brother seem to be a having a good time, in a scene that feels like it comes straight out of a 1950s sitcom, when suddenly, in mid-hug, the boy disappears, leaving behind his empty clothes. She looks around panicked, and sees many other people have vanished in the same way, with their empty clothes now laying in piles. Mere seconds pass before people begin looting and causing all kinds of shenanigans.
Meanwhile, on Ray’s flight, some of the passengers (including all of the children) have also disappeared. People panic and try to break into the cockpit because, obviously, the pilot has all the answers. Shy of one copilot and down to one stewardess, Rayford decides to take the plane to a higher altitude, forcing everyone to take their seats and put on their oxygen masks.
Once calm is restored, Rayford gets on the radio and tries desperately to get ahold of anyone that can explain what’s happening. However, before he can make any sense of the situation, another plane enters their flight path. He manages to narrowly avoid a collision, but when he radios in for help about the crash and no one answers, he realizes there’s no hope.
Back at home, Chloe begins to search desperately for her brother. She breaks into a hospital to see if he’s somehow managed to end up here. In the maternity ward, she bumps into a mother who’s just given birth, and she explains that her baby, as well as all the other children in the hospital are gone.
Chloe heads home to see if she can find her mother, but only finds her crucifix necklace in the shower. It’s then that it dawns on her that this probably is the Second Coming. She rushes to a church and talks to a pastor who oddly admits to not having faith until just now, as he sees that the Rapture has occurred. He tells her it’s time to accept the faith, but she storms off.
In the air, Rayford enlists the help of Buck to figure out what’s wrong with the plane. Buck goes to the back of the plane and takes a photo, which reveals a damaged wing and a large amount of leaking fuel. Finally, Rayford gets through to the airport, but is informed there’s no place to land. As Rayford tries to figure out how he’s going to save the people on the flight with very little fuel left, Buck manages to reach Chloe on his cell phone.
When Chloe gets the call, she’s about to jump off a bridge to her death, believing that everyone in her family is dead. Rayford tells her that he’s alive, but he’s not going to make it because there’s nowhere to land. So Chloe jumps into action, and begins to clear off a highway that’s under construction to give him somewhere to land.
After a lot of struggle and a big fire, Rayford is able to land the plane on the highway and get all the passengers off safely. Rayford and Chloe are reunited, but are uncertain of where the future will lead them.
If you missed out on the ‘90s Christian-lit craze, then you may not know this is the first book in a series that’s all about the Second Coming and what happens to all the sinners who get, well, left behind. Thus, this is why the film leaves off with no conclusion at all. Of course, with a couple of other film variations of the series already made, the director probably should have had a clue that this probably wouldn’t be enough of a success to justify the rest of the series being remade. All the same, it is what it is, and it’s nothing too grand.
When the movie began, I was sincerely hoping that the dialogue would improve as it went along. Instead, it seemed to get progressively cheesier as the characters slipped into their obviously stereotypical roles. Like a lot of Christian films of late, the people who aren’t Christian are often portrayed as angry sinners who basically deserve the hell they’re going to. Sadly, I couldn’t help but root for the devastating seven-year period to be over as it would end the poor dialogue that somehow managed to make it onto the big screen.
This film really did nothing but confirm the fact that Nicolas Cage doesn’t really care anymore. He’ll take just about any part to pay off his huge debts, and do absolutely nothing with the role. It’s a little sad to see, but I guess that’s the way it goes when you’ve spent thousands of dollars on useless crap like a stolen dinosaur skull.
Of course, Cage is not the only one to blame for the disastrous acting here. No one else seemed to fit the bill either. With a cast consisting of mostly B-list talent that seemed to be plucked from TV series aimed at teenie boppers, it’s no wonder this movie was a huge flop.
So, with bad acting and a poor dialogue running rampant, one would at least hope there were some special effects worth mentioning. Sorry, that’s another negative. The special effects were barely up to par with the (much lower budgeted) Kirk Cameron version of the film.
But then of course, we have to get down to the whole religious aspect of the film. Throughout the movie, it feels as if the writers and director were trying to justify the whole concept of the Rapture. The people who disappear are all worthy, not because they’re good people, but because they had faith in a specific religion. A Muslim passenger on the plane, who actually is nice, is left behind. So is an elderly woman who, it’s quite obvious, has no clue who or where she is half the time. They even make it a point to show that animals are left behind. It’s pretty sick to see how self-absorbed the whole thing is.
Last but not least, there are some major inconsistencies going on in the story, primarily surrounding the several near-death experiences Chloe has after the rapture. Sure, the first accident where a car comes barreling into the mall is pretty much believable. However, the moment she tries to get in her car, a small private plane crashes right next to her. Then, a lot later on, she’s walking along and her brother’s backpack is stolen by a bunch of non-Christian hooligans on motorcycles, just before a school bus barrels off an overpass. So, if she had time to walk all that way, why is the school bus just now running off the road? If everyone was taken at the same time, shouldn’t that bus have crashed around the time the driver disappeared? Of course, she has a couple more encounters just like this before she tries to off herself, which only reinforces how absurd the film really is.
So, if you want to watch an apocalyptic movie that takes place mostly on an airplane… I’d recommend you pick something else. If you’re looking for a nice Christian film or something to make you feel good about your faith, I’d still recommend something else. Left Behind is nothing more than 110 minutes of losing faith in the film industry. On the upside, there is one lesson that might come in handy someday. That is, if you walk onto a plane with 12+ babies on it, then you may want to rebook your flight.