January 4th, 2003

A Pocket Full of Murder

(no subject)

Further to my previous post, I have now seen the Left Behind movie. My SIL's been urging us to watch it and loaned us her copy, so last night I resignedly stuck it in the VCR and settled down for a couple hours' ordeal.

Actually, to my surprise, it was not as bad as I'd feared. It is certainly, production values-wise and even in terms of overall acting, the best "Christian" movie I've yet seen. Which is not to say that it's up to Hollywood blockbuster standards, but that's no surprise. There were a couple of painfully bad performances, some hokey dialogue, and a few dodgy computer-generated effects in the beginning, but there were also some quite decent moments, plus one scene in particular (when the Antichrist is revealed) which was near-brilliant. In short, it wasn't something I'd bother to watch again, but it wasn't complete torture, either.

Kirk Cameron is in no way believable as a world-class telejournalist, however. For one thing, he still looks sixteen; and for another, how is anybody supposed to take seriously a guy named "Buck"?

Theologically speaking it was a mixed bag at best. I'm not sure I even think the premise is tenable, given my understanding of what the Rapture involves and the spiritual state of those who will be "left behind" -- but I guess the writers and filmmakers felt they couldn't possibly get a Christian message across if the entire cast stayed non-Christians. (Personally I can imagine at least one way in which this might have made a better movie and sent a clearer message, but oh well.) On the other hand, one has to wonder why they bothered having these characters "convert", because the message of the gospel really isn't clear in the film anyway.

In the course of an hour and a half we see the Bible numerous times and hear a few end-times prophecies quoted from it, and there are a bunch of shots of crosses, plus some vague things said about "believing in God" and "having faith" and so on, but the name of Christ is mentioned precisely once and there's very little talk about sin and nothing about repentance. I thought perhaps the "special message from Kirk Cameron" at the end might make things more clear, but that turned out to be an attempt to get the audience of this "special video preview" to hard-sell the movie to their local theatres and encourage all their friends and relatives to go see it. I'm afraid that cynicism kicked in at this point and caused me to mentally add the words "...so we can make lots of money." Sorry, Kirk, I'm sure that wasn't your intent, but that's certainly how it sounded.

Anyway, here's a review of the film by a Presbyterian minister, which pretty well sums up my own feelings about its "message" (or lack thereof). Not only does it not really succeed as a movie, it doesn't even succeed as a tract.

Not to mention that as soon as any of the characters convert to whatever it was we're supposed to think they converted to (believing in the writers' view of Biblical prophecy is my best guess) they become substantially less believable and sympathetic, a problem which appears to afflict most "Christian" books and movies. I think it's due to the ridiculous but unfortunately pervasive notion that any fictional character representing Christianity must be portrayed as sinlessly perfect from the moment of conversion. My friend Jeri Massi, herself a Christian author, has some excellent comments about the wrong-headedness of this view in her essay "Mere Morality", which I highly recommend (as well as her soon-to-be-published novel Valkyries, which is the best and most honest fictional portrayal of a young and struggling Christian I've ever read).

Anyway, I'd give the Left Behind movie two stars out of five. (The movie website, on the other hand, gets four out of five. They sure didn't skimp on that puppy.)