“Oh dear. This movie. It looked like a trainwreck from the beginning. Yet I couldn’t look away. Reason being that I actually am familiar with the Left Behind series. I tore thru them all back in high school. All dozen or so books. And I saw the Kirk Cameron movies. It’s kind of a special series for me, so even if this new more mainstream adaptation looked pretty awful, I still had to check it out. You prolly shouldn’t.
Left Behind is basically a fictionalization of the book of Revelations (as in, the last book in the Bible). It interprets all of the prophesies and metaphor into a realistic story. Really cool idea, and worth checking out the books. What this version of the movie did is basically take the first quarter to a third of the first book and turn it into a natural disaster flick. And not a very good one at that.
Our main characters were there, father and pilot Rayford (Nicholas Cage), mother and firm believer Irene (Lea Thompson), free spirited daughter Chloe, and innocent young son Raymie. We also had Cameron “”Buck”” Williams, investigative reporter (Chad Michael Murray), who took every opportunity to remind us that he was in fact an investigative reporter. Irene’s faith pushes her family away, sending Rayford out on an overnight overseas flight. While he’s out, the rapture happens. Millions of people, including Irene, Raymie, and all children, instantly disappear. In the books (and the original film) this is just the starting point. Here, that’s pretty much all there was to it.
First major change is that instead of it happening during the middle of the night, it’s in the middle of the day. Raymie disappears mid-hug with Chloe at the mall instead of mysteriously in his sleep. Even though he disappears while she’s holding him, in a feat of Kim Bauer level stupidity, she still decides to wander the choas ridden streets searching hospitals for him. Rayford, instead of simply turning his plane around after some panic and sorting out the mess on the ground, has a whole ordeal with passengers pulling out guns, and crashing into an unmanned plane, and not having enough fuel, and just about every other cliche for a plane thriller. Only thing missing from his story was Liam Neeson.
I’m not one to typically nitpick movie vs book changes, but seriously, they just threw out more than half of the book. Rev Bruce Barnes, a major player in the series, was reduced to one scene. At least he showed up though. Not even a mention (at least not that I caught) of Nicolai Carpathia, the man who would eventually rise to power as the antichrist. Kind of important to a story about the end days.
Still, there’s a special place in my heart for these characters, particularly Buck. Murray was kind of adorable, and I did fall in love with his character (however thinly he may have been written) all over again. The other win, especially over the Kirk Cameron movie, is that it wasn’t quite as preachy. The first third laid it on a lil thick, but it backed off once it shifted into “”oh my God we’re all gonna die”” mode. As someone of faith who does believe in all of this (although I’m not sure how literally I take some things), I do think that pulling back was the right way to go. Especially since this was meant as a more mainstream film to appeal to a secular audience, at least they got one part almost right, even if I wouldn’t actually recommend anyone else see this ever.
Left Behind – \m/ \m/”