Left Behind [2000] (Movie Review)

Kirk Cameron, the early years
Kirk Cameron, the early years

Plot Summary

In an instant, millions vanish all around the world, causing the planet to descend into chaos as planes go down, cars drive into buildings, and unrest erupts everywhere.  Pilot Rayford Steele finds nearly half of his plane’s manifest (haha) missing.  Reporter Buck Williams is on the flight at the time and believes it has something to do with the vast globalist conspiracy he has uncovered.  As order dissipates around the globe and as many theories are posited as to what happened to those who disappeared, those still remaining look for a world leader who can bring global peace to the chaos.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

As a late 90s\early 2000s production, the original Left Behind film has many of the marks of this era of filmmaking.  Opening credits sequences were common back then, but they weren’t ever justified.  The video quality and camera work are fairly well produced.  However, action scenes are not filmed or produced very well and include poorly crafted CGI and other special effects.  Kirk Cameron provides some slight yet unwanted narration throughout the film.  Elsewhere, location subtitles from JAG are awkwardly inserted and the soundtrack is cheap.  Finally, the editing is pretty good, but as will be discussed next, there is too much content to cover and not enough continuity.  In short, this ‘classic’ Christian film has some good quality, but not enough.

Plot and Storyline Quality (.5 point)

Based on the blockbuster apocalyptic fiction series by popular authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the original Left Behind film is not without its plot errors.  The premise is trumped up, lacking a touch of realism, but this may get a pass since it was based on the international politics of 15+ years ago.  The movie is focused on big world-changing issues, but they come off as simplistic and not groundbreaking enough.  The creators perhaps took on more than they could handle as many subplots are juggled throughout.  While it’s commendable for this early film to take on a new genre in Christian film (apocalyptic), the plot lacks the intrigue necessary to make it great.  For example, there are too many slow and melodramatic scenes—the storyline is anti-climactic and contains to many convenient occurrences.  The dialogue is full of information dumps that overemphasize apocalyptic elements.  This builds empty characters that are swept along by the plot and are thrown together for no particular reason.  On a positive note, the climax scene at the end is slightly interesting and well-crafted.  But overall, this first installment spends too much time getting ready for the next film and not enough time building the characters and a realistic apocalyptic landscape.

Acting Quality (0 points)

Apocalyptic action movies require dynamic acting, but this cast lacks this quality.  Line delivery is stiff and not engaging.  Emotions are overdone and too dramatic.  Kirk Cameron is a better actor than he is of late, but that’s not saying much.  In short, there’s not enough positive here.

Conclusion

This was definitely a groundbreaking Christian film that brought a popular Christian novel series to the big screen.  It was a hit, since the Christian market was starved for quality.  However, this does not mean it was a great film.  It had a lot of good ideas behind it, but not enough quality to back them up.  They had an amazing budget for the time, but it seems like it was mostly squandered.  Needless to say, the old is just marginally better than the new.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points

 

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The Mark 2: Redemption (Movie Review)

Eric Roberts as himself

Plot Summary

After jumping out of that plane to save their lives, Chad and Dao find themselves on the run for their lives in Thailand as they try to remove the secret chip from Chad’s arm while being pursued by agents of an all-powerful rising world leader.  The Rapture has occurred, leaving the world mired in chaos.  As they try to grapple with the God of the Bible, Chad and Dao find themselves involved in multiple international conspiracies, including a human trafficking scheme that involves Dao’s sister and Chad’s former employers.  As they fight for survival, who will prevail in this brave new world?

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

In keeping with the usual poor PureFlix production mode, clear video quality is all that can be found here that is remotely positive.  Anything else related to camera work is dizzying and annoying.  Much of the footage is recycled, both flashback footage and non-flashback footage, which demonstrates extreme laziness.  Other scenes of the film are extremely long and drawn out, trying to delay the inevitable to build up some kind of fake suspense.  Action sequences are over the top and poorly executed.  The use of special effects and sound effects is very amateurish and obnoxious.  For such a big plot, the sets and locations are quite limited and the surroundings are almost entirely confined to Thailand, PureFlix’s favorite international location.  There is little to no editing—I’m convinced that the production team just went with what they had from filming.  Basically, The Mark 2 is same song, different verse for PureFlix.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Picking up where The Mark left us hanging, The Mark 2 is the most slow to development suspense plot ever.  Inevitable confrontations between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters are painfully dragged out over a ninety-minute runtime full of coincidences, convenient plot devices, information dump dialogue, stupid action scenes, and scenes of characters sitting around or pacing around and talking.  There is basically no purpose to this plot as John Patus once again shoves his apocalyptic opinions down our throats in the most awkward fashion possible.  Multiple scenes appear to be directly copied from the original Left Behind series, which is no surprise with Patus involved.  Only this time, the antichrist character is borderline unbearable and sports the fakest European accent possible.  In the middle of the film, a cheesy Christian message is shoehorned in, along with a random human trafficking subplot that tries to improve the runtime.  The mark of the beast concept, though slightly interesting, is only toyed with in the film and never seems complete.  In the end, as the characters tell us through narration what we’re supposed to learn, it is unclear whether or not the story is to continue—obviously not, since there’s no Mark 3, but what were they really expecting?  Did they actually have any ideas beyond the Rapture?  Basically, we learned nothing from this plot, thus making it completely useless.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This typical C-grade PureFlix cast is complete with fake accents, lame attempts at diversity, racial stereotypes, and Eric Roberts.  Multiple cast members appear to have no place in the film, opting to pace around and talk about important things.  Other cast members appear to take themselves too seriously and try to be as serious as you can be in a PureFlix action plot.  At least not all of the acting is bad, but across the board, line delivery and emotions are very poor.  But what else is new?

Conclusion

Why are so many PureFlix action plots at least partially set in Thailand?  Also, if we are to endure so many apocalyptic Christian films on the market, can’t we at least see one that doesn’t involve the alleged ‘Rapture’ in some fashion?  Haven’t we seen that enough from the original Left Behind series, that horrible new Left Behind, the first Mark film, The Remaining, Jerusalem Countdown, In the Blink of an Eye, the Revelation Road series (with the exception of The Black Rider), Six: The Mark Unleashed, etc.?  With the money spent on this film and every other wasted apocalyptic film, you would think that it could have been saved for a truly groundbreaking Christian action\adventure or suspense movie that would have made a difference in the culture.  But instead, we are left with a littered collection of could-haves and cut-rate productions.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

The Mark [2012] (Movie Review)

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Plot Summary

Chad Turner, a former criminal, has been chosen to be a human prototype for a biometric computer chip some call the Mark of the Beast.  After the chip is inserted into his skin, Chad becomes a different person, more powerful than before.  But he soon finds himself on the run from a powerful world leader, Joseph Pike, who seeks to take the chip and use it for his own means: world domination.  Chad takes a businessman, Cooper, hostage and convinces him to assist him in keeping the chip away from Pike.  But they suddenly find themselves trapped on a place in the middle of a global catastrophic some refer to as the Rapture.  With multiple assailants after them, Turner and Cooper must navigate the uncertain waters and avoid death at all costs.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

Beyond a clear video quality, there is little to be excited about in The Mark when it comes to production.  The movie is filled with poorly constructed action scenes, wild explosions, and maddening gun-wielding chases.  Not much effort was put into sets and locations, as a majority of the film takes place on a plane, which brings to mind many other apocalyptic movies.  The editing is passable, but there is little true content to deal with.  The musical score is a stock action soundtrack.  Basically, this type of movie is been there, done that.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

In this possible sequel to In the Blink of an Eye, several potentially interesting characters are thrown together on a transatlantic flight to discuss the world’s political scene and to escape from the antichrist’s henchman.  John Patus has used this plot before and used it again after this movie.  With the chip in his skin, Turner is basically an invincible character, not that plot devices like this have stopped action protagonists from being invincible before.  With mind-numbing action sequences, there is little to no actual plot in The Mark.  Character development and meaningful dialogue are traded for firing guns and yes—crawling around inside of a plane’s engine area while it’s in flight.  While Turner and Cooper could have been interesting flawed ‘heroes’ with agendas of their own, they were not.  The antichrist character is unbearably cheesy.  The bottom line is that the apocalyptic stuck-on-a-place plot has been done before and needs to be put to rest once and for all.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

This particular PureFlix cast is not extremely cheesy, but they are just not that great.  In the wake of cheap action, emotions are discarded and line delivery is reduced to monologuing and pontificating.  Where there was potential in the actors and actresses, it is not harnessed.

Conclusion

Centering a plot around a character that has been forcibly given an artist’s conception of the Mark of the Beast is not entirely a bad idea.  Such an idea has the possibility to breach new genres and reach different audiences than usual.  However, movies like The Mark only cause the apocalyptic genre to become further viewed as cheesy and not worth anyone’s time.  As it stands, Christian apocalyptic movies mostly are not worth your time.  No matter where you land on eschatology, movies like The Mark are pointless and empty.

 

Final Rating: 1 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind [2014] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

All Rayford Steele really cares about is his job as a pilot.  He’s disillusioned with his family due to his wife’s Christian faith and due to his daughter’s growing absence.  That’s why he’s buried himself in his work, overlooking the fact that both his wife and his daughter desperately want to see him again, as does his son.  After briefly reuniting with his daughter, Ray’s job once again takes in a different direction.  Chloe Steele returns home only to conflict with her mother over Christianity.  But before any of them can reconcile, a global tragedy rocks their worlds.  Before long, they realize that their lives will never be the same and they must grapple with the bigger questions they have been ignoring all along.

 

Production Quality (1 point)

The production of this Left Behind redo is the only remotely positive element.  However, the only good aspect of the production is the semi-decent camera work, including average angles and video quality.  However, the movie is also replete with cheap action sequences and poor special effects.  The soundtrack is a stock suspense score.  The editing is confusing, cutting in and out of scenes for no particular reason.  There are also a number of stupid jump scares that give the movie a very odd feel.  Unfortunately, the weirdness doesn’t end there.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Where to start?  The dialogue is among the worst, ranging from Christian clichés to action-adventure clichés to isolating technical lingo.  Thus, the characters are either bland or unbearable.  Also, there are a number of unnecessary characters that only seem to fill time in the already too-long story.  Besides all of this, there is unsolicited profanity and suggestive content throughout.  Overall, the plot line is aimless as it jumps from one trumped up action scene to the next and fills the rest in with wasted time, just trying to set up for a sequel.  There is no driving point as the movie drags on, making the viewer want to get to the end as quickly as possible.

Addendum: With John Patus involved in both movies, this new version of Left Behind is basically the same plot as The Mark.

Acting Quality (.5 point)

A word of advice: never cast Nicolas Cage for an action movie.  Some of the other actors are not awful, but overall, the delivery of lines is vanilla and unconvincing.  Jordin Sparks is a decent actor and deserves a second chance.  Moreover, there wasn’t much to work with, but the acting just gives the movie an overall B-grade feel.

Conclusion

The creators of this new Left Behind won a court battle with Tim LaHaye over using his concepts in a different way.  Box Office Revolution has to wonder why they couldn’t just create their own characters, but we can affirmatively say that winning the copyright way did not pay off.  This movie was really not worth making in any sense.  The creators now blame everything on ‘Hollywood taking away the Christian message.’  BOR holds that this is not the whole truth.  All that has been proven in this movie is that independent Christian films, except for the few exceptions, continue to contribute to their negative reputation by rolling out more and more unnecessary movies.  A word of advice: if you don’t have the budget for and\or a lot of constructive critical feedback on your movie, then don’t make it.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 out of 10 points