This is my first retro review, a start to a series of posts which will review films that were released years ago, possibly just a few years old or possibly decades. I will most likely be reviewing them because I have just seen them on television for the first time, in which case they will be new to me and possibly very old to you, but I will try and and offer a fresh perspective as well as guidance for those who may watch in future.
And we start with a stinker from 2014, as Nicholas Cage films tend to be these days, one that you could say is an easy target and has no shortage of bad reviews already out there. With a score of 3.1/10 on imdb and just 2% approval rating on rotten tomatoes, it is obvious that Left behind (2014) is bad and I should have watched the other channel but you may say I’m a glutton for punishment, my philosophy is terrible films make you appreciate the best, and also to be a great filmmaker you must learn from the mistakes of others.
But I didn’t just watch this turkey to be inspired by its failures, I was genuinely intrigued by its mythology inspired premise, the harrowing scenario of half the world’s population disappearing, an exploration of what it would be like to be left behind. I thought it would be at the least interesting, and even if the writers were committed to a personal view point on the Christian mythology, they could still offer a frightening and thought-provoking take on what it would be like to be left in this world after the rapture. For if you’re an evangelical Christian, the fear of being left behind must be greater than if you didn’t believe, the understanding of what it meant to be refused into heaven would surely be greater, so there are no better writers than those who believe in the rapture to convey the terrifying consequences of being abandoned by God and left without hope.
So it is actually a stunning achievement that this film manages to relay hardly any horror or suspense. The thought that I should repent for my own sins was never going to enter my mind in this film that is essentially about regret. The majority opinion is that this film is Christian propaganda for belief in the rapture, which for reasons explained above would not necessarily make this film uninteresting, but I’m not so sure the film is as committed to the mythology as much as the writers of film and novel. You see the film has to make us identify with its main characters or else how can we feel their suffering, how can we remain interested after the rapture has taken place, and yet these characters are also sinners and we need to understand why they have been left. The film falls drastically short of providing enough backstory and complex characterisation to allow the audience to either judge the characters, feel sorry for their predicament or care about their future. For me, the film holds back on judging the sinfulness or justifying the rapture. It offers several lousy reasons for being left behind, everything from gambling to following the wrong religion, and at one point questions why a loving God would divide loving families, and yet the whole film seems to have very little opinion on anything.
I think that the film is trying to be thought-provoking rather than preaching but it becomes much more of the latter very early on. In the opening of the film, one of the main characters asks why God would send natural disasters only to save some people and let others die and this is never truly answered although this very understandable reasoning of doubting God’s existence is the only reason given for at least one character not being invited to heaven. The film never has anyone question how unfair God is, hardly anyone seems to regret their life choices and even though there are people of faith and people who are kind also left behind, there’s no more sympathy towards them than other characters. Essentially the film is like a really boring weather warning telling you what will happen but not how to feel about it.
I watched the film all the way to the end, which means even with the slow pace and lack of tension, it wasn’t unbearable so if you have time for bad movies give it a go, but I’ll warn you the ending is particularly flat, setting up a sequel that will probably never see the light of day. Try not to mind the gaping plot holes and silly logic, this is a film that comes from taking the bible literally after all. I questioned why all children are presumed innocent when the bible says that you are born with sin and not all children are baptised. I question why after the rapture everyone left behind immediately starts looting and chaos so quickly escalates when so very few modern Christians take the bible literally and it would be hard to argue that everyone left would even be the worst of mankind. And seeing as this film fails to raise or answer many interesting questions, it falls down to the viewer to really try hard to think about the consequence and pitfalls of this Christian myth.