Thursday, March 5, 2015

Left Behind (2014)

Score Technicians: Joe Hemmerling and Amanda Hemmerling

Patron Saint of the PCS Nicolas Cage turned some heads last year when he agreed to star in a big slightly more robust budget remake of Left Behind. Based on the popular series of novels and originally brought to the big screen straight-to-video bin by none other than Kirk Cameron, Left Behind tells the story of the Rapture, the mysterious event by which fundamentalists believe God will call His faithful back to Him and usher in the end times. The story focuses on the struggles of those who are--get this--"left behind" by the Rapture and forced to fend for themselves in a world suddenly devoid of fundamentalist Christians. The original films were reviled even by the series' creators Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins; can Nic Cage's star power take this faith-based thriller to a higher plane? Let the nanobots decide.
  • Time until first Bible quote: 00:01:30. = +5pts 
  • The fact that Nicolas Cage had to be Photoshopped into this picture with his "family" does not bode well for his level of commitment to this project. = -4pts 
  • JFK Airport, an international transit hub connecting millions to destinations near and far, apparently only has white people in it today. = -12pts 
  • The uncertainty as to whether the filmmakers were self-aware enough to realize that the Bible-believing woman who accosts Ace Reporter Buck Williams in the airport comes across as totally insane. = -10pts 
  • Digging the soft-porn soundtrack, though. = +11pts 
  • The cringe-inducing banter between Ace Reporter Buck Williams and Chloe Steele. = -8pts (Check those character names; are we sure this isn't supposed to be a porno?) 
  • Skipping out on your daughter's surprise visit so you can spend the weekend balling your she-devil stewardess. = -6pts (Michael J. Fox’s mom from Back to the Future deserves better than this.) 
  • Just being in this movie seems to have aged Nicolas Cage 30 years. = -9pts 
  • The good news is that all the guys in U2 are Catholic, so Nic Cage and She-Devil Stewardess will still be able to make that show once they touch down in London, Rapture or not. = +16pts 
  • Rapture likelihood of the following cast (scale 1 – 10):
    Single mom: 1
    Saucy blonde: 1
    Man of non Christian faith: -10 = -30pts
  • Please say that the little person doesn't get Raptured. = +/- 40pts (depending on answer.) 
  • That triumphant take-off music. = +9pts 
  • Chloe's younger brother, upon opening the gift she brought for him: "The brand new baseball glove that I've been asking for!" = -7pts 
  • After taking a passive-aggressive dig at her mom's newfound faith apropos of nothing, Chloe informs her that she's "not ready for a heavy conversation" about religion. = -4pts 
  • Looks like the little person has a gambling problem, so we're good. = +40pts 
  • Chloe takes her brother to a magical mall full of drones and breakdancers, rather than one full of vacant storefronts and stray dogs, like the malls in most American towns. = +9pts 
  • Thirty-two minutes in and we finally get our Rapture. If this were a Roland Emerich movie, we'd have already witnessed the destruction of five internationally recognizable landmarks by now. = -18pts 
  • Question: Do you think anyone on a college campus during the Rapture even noticed a difference? = +13pts 
  • Whatever was left over in the budget after Cage's salary probably went into this scene. = +25pts

  • Seems like kids get a free pass onto the Rapture bus. Anyone know what the age cut-off is for that? = +3pts 
  • Five minutes into the Rapture and society has already devolved into riots and looting. = +19pts (That escalated quickly.) 
  • Scratch that earlier comment about the car. Here's where the rest of the money went. = +35pts
  • Ace Reporter Buck Williams bravely ventures into coach to record footage of the event. = +6pts 
  • Who thought it was a good idea to make a movie that takes its characters nearly its entire runtime to figure out what the audience knew before they even bought their ticket? = -50pts 
  • Nicolas Cage basically gets to spend the entire film sitting behind the controls of a fake airplane. This is probably the easiest paycheck he's ever drawn. = +4pts 
  • Ace Reporter Buck Williams tries to talk Jordan Sparks out of shooting herself in the chest. Which is a good move, because if she wants to be sure to get the job done she should really put it under her chin or in her mouth. = +3pts 
  • Question: How many Christians do we think there are in the world that meet the EXACT specifications of Tim LeHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins to qualify for Rapture? Factor out the Catholics (The Good Lord don't cotton to kneelers). Factor out the small but significant minority of fringe crazies following Jim Jones-esque cult-of-personality figures. Factor out the great swath of lukewarm believers who say they've accepted Christ as their personal savior but probably don't give him much thought in their day-to-day. How many people are we really talking about? Do we really think the streets would look THIS empty in New York City? = -14pts 
  • Cage is hardcore bogarting Buck Williams' satellite phone. Ever think that maybe HE has some people he wants to talk to during what may be his last remaining moments on earth? = -9pts 
  • Ugh. The plane is running low on fuel, Chloe is trying to clear a runway for her dad to land, and the only thing we want in the world is to be doing anything other than still watching this movie. = -17pts 
  • Running in slow motion past an explosion. = +6pts (Neither the first nor last time this will appear in a scorecard.)
  • Final words spoken in the film: "I'm afraid this is just the beginning." So are we, movie. So are we. = -32pts 
  • It gets worse when you imagine all the terrible things Nicolas Cage is going to purchase with his paycheck. Hey Nic, save some shrunken heads for the rest of us. = -22pts 

Total Score = -48pts
Available on: DVD, the in-flight movie to Hell

It was less offensive than we thought going in, which probably says more about how low set the bar than about any objective quality of the film. Atheists and people of non-Christian faiths are depicted as sympathetic characters, even if their essential goodness isn't enough to grant them arbitrary access to heaven. Questions about theodicy and the existence of evil and suffering in the world are raised, although never really addressed, even half-heartedly. While the very premise of the film will be hard to swallow for anyone who doesn't subscribe to an extremely narrow interpretation of a few Biblical passages (specifically, Luke 17: 34 - 37), its biggest failing is literally every other aspect of the movie. The dialogue is bad. The acting is worse. The pacing is aaaaaagonizing. The whole thing devolves into the kind of movie that Airplane! was parodying well before its midway point. If Cage had worked some of his Vampire's Kiss/Deadfall magic, we might have been able to wring some camp enjoyment out of it, but alas, he sleepwalks through his lines. Not that any of that really matters. It looks like sequels based on the subsequent novels are already underway. Whether the nanobots will be up for sitting through another two hours of Nic Cage staring despondently at a green-screen is anyone's guess, though.

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