So the reviews are coming in and they are clear: Left Behind the movie remake of Left Behind the original movie which was made from Left Behind the book is bad. Very bad.
Certainly many people will still go and see it. Certainly some people will like it. People see and like bad movies all the time. I don’t want to pick on Nicholas Cage, but he has certainly been in some bad movies. And the biggest money maker of movies globally is Transformers: Age of Extinction. Bad movie. Great payday.
I do recognize we all have different opinions and standards of goodness in a movie. I think Raising Arizona is a great movie; my dad thinks its one of the greatest examples of a stupid movie. But here is a sampling of the emerging consensus (as of 10/3/14):
- Rotten Tomatoes (an aggregator of many reviews):
3% out of 100%
- Metacritic (another aggregator):
14 out of 100
- and the most important review, Christianity Today (which you should go read now):
0.5 stars out of 4, only because giving 0 stars was not allowed
The Christianity Today reviewer, Jackson Cuidon, makes the controversial argument that Left Behind is not really a Christian movie; rather, it is a movie marketed toward Christians. That is an important distinction.
Hollywood producers now know that American Christians feel that way about their faith—that Christians so desperately want to participate in the mainstream, that they’re tired of having sanctioned music that’s like other music and movies like other movies and politicians like other politicians but always still being on the outside, that Christians just want to feel identified without having to carve out little alcoves or niche markets that exist alongside the Big Boys.
And, now that they know it—that is, now that they know they can make back 5x their initial financial investment—they want to exploit that, by pumping out garbage (not moral garbage, just quality garbage), slapping the “Christian” label on it, and watching the dollars pour in.
I’ve not seen the movie, I’ve never seen the original series of movies, and I probably never will. So I won’t attempt to review the film myself. But if it is as bad as other “Christian” movies (meaning movies marketed at Christians), I fear we are leaving behind something BIG.
Because Jesus was a master storyteller. We are still telling his stories today; in fact, they are among the most widely known stories in the world. And Jesus attracted crowds. But he also confronted those crowds with the same stories that attracted them. His parables are simple on the surface, yet utterly deep upon reflection – a pool in which a gnat can swim but an elephant can drown, as its been said.
What are we leaving behind? Not just respectability. Not just relevance. We have left behind the Jesus-inspired, transformative power of story when our movies are widely seen as flat, one-dimensional propaganda.
And of course, the real star of this movie–the Rapture–was never a Christian belief for 18 centuries and is not affirmed by the majority of Christians today. Because it’s not in the Bible. But it sure makes a great disaster flick.
Or maybe not…
We can talk about the Rapture and where it came from in a future post.