Vanished: Left Behind Next Generation (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

In one instant, millions around the globe disappear, leaving everyone else to wonder what just happened.  Four friends find that all they have in the world is each other as they embark into the wilderness to search for one of their own.  As they journey into the new landscape, they are forced to take refuge at a survivalist compound that seem safe on the outside, but is it really all it appears to be?  In this new world, can anyone be trusted?

 

Production Quality (2 points)

EchoLight has always had a commitment to quality productions, but in Vanished, the quality slips slightly.  Video quality, audio quality, and camera work are all professional except for some dizzying action shots.  The soundtrack is pretty good but is sometimes used to fill time.  Sets and locations are on par.  However, there are some cheap-looking special effects, as well as weird ‘dramatic’ sound effects.  There are also too many bouts of silence and too much slow-mo.  Finally, there is tons of wasted time as this film is designed to set up for the inevitable next one.  In short, EchoLight knows how to make an above-average production, but with Vanished, one has to wonder if it was worth it.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

After an opening sequence that dumps all kinds of information on the audience, things start happening at a rapid pace for the first twenty minutes before you can even catch your breath.  After throwing a bunch of random characters together and trying to force you to get to know them too quickly, the plot soars off on a predictable apocalyptic progression that’s been done before and tries to hurriedly construct an isolating dystopian premise.  Then when everything is set, things slow way down to let you be immersed in a half-hearted teenage love triangle.  As previously mentioned, there’s not enough dialogue as one-dimensional characters wander around and make apocalyptic references and things happen because they need to.  The entire storyline is based on coincidences and trumped up conflict as time progresses vaguely towards a cheesy climax and uninspiring end that is supposed to make you want another movie, but fails epicly.  In short, there is little justification for this movie being made.

Acting Quality (2 points)

While it’s clear that this film was professionally cast and the cast members therein know what they’re doing, there’s still a handful of problems.  Some emotions are too forceful and some line delivery is half-hearted.  It also goes without saying that there is little chance the mainstream actors and actresses used in Vanished will come back for a supposed sequel.

Conclusion

Do we really need to re-hash this same old apocalyptic plot sequence over and over again?  How many more times do we need to repackage and reboot the same worn out Left Behind concepts and characters?  This time, it’s clear the creators were pandering to young adult audiences.  Maybe it’s time to stop constantly trying to redo Left Behind, because this movie would have been better if it had just created its own dystopian premise and abandoned Left Behind altogether.  Had the survivalist concept been expanded and the apocalyptic landscape been made a little more creative and mysterious and less copied, we could be looking at the start of a truly great saga.  But instead we are left wondering what could have been.

 

Final Rating: 4 out of 10 points

 

Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force [2002] (Movie Review)

Plot Summary

With the world still reeling from the Rapture, those left behind who became Christians band together to form what they call a Tribulation Force to stand against the forces of evil.  Their leader, Bruce, encourages each of them to not hide from the new evil world but to find a way to reach other for Christ in it.  Rayford struggles with a decision to pilot the plane of Nicolae Carpathia, the suspected antichrist.  Buck Williams chases down a story regarding a messianic prophecy expert and two mysterious men at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.  In the strange new world they live in, they also discover everyday struggles and the realization that following Jesus is no longer easy.

 

Production Quality (.5 point)

The second installment of the original Left Behind series is a low point.  While video quality and camera work are okay, there are a host of other production errors.  Special effects are cheesy, especially when it comes to action scenes.  Many scenes have very poor lighting.  The sets and locations are pretty good, but they are littered with cheap looking props.  The soundtrack is pedestrian.  Furthermore, the editing is very sub-par and fails to cut down quite a few long and drawn out scenes that drain the viewer’s attention span.  Essentially, not much effort was put into this creation.

Plot and Storyline Quality (0 points)

Once again, for an apocalyptic thriller, there’s not much apocalyptic or thrilling about Tribulation Force.  The film takes a very melancholy tone, choosing to spend time on silly conflicts like lover’s spats and peripheral character issues.  There is little central focus as the plot meanders from job decisions to church services to turning the church into a hospital to chasing leads in the Middle East.  There is also not enough suspense or plot twists as the monotone dialogue centers on theological discussions and information dumps.  There are attempts at twists and psychological\spiritual elements, but they fall flat.  There are too many one-dimensional characters that are juggled and we can’t really get to know any of them.  Like its predecessor, Tribulation Force just gets ready for the inevitable next film without giving the viewer any reason to watch it except for the book series popularity.  The actual end of the plot is quite cheesy and non-suspenseful.  In short, if you missed this film, you didn’t miss much.

Acting Quality (1 point)

At least they returned all the same cast members.  I hate it when movie franchises try to change out actors and actresses and pretend you didn’t notice.  There is slight improvement among this cast and Kirk Cameron delivers arguably one of his best career acting performances.  My how time has flown.  This cast could have actually been great with better coaching.  Alas, what could have been.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, John Patus and company elected to follow the standard Hollywood path of bringing a popular book franchise to the big screen and relied on the series’ popularity to carry it.  There is little reason for this film to even exist except for the fact that it needed to for the series to continue.  If you skipped to the third film, you didn’t miss anything in this one.  This is the central problem to movie sagas: each one needs to be a good movie by itself without the other ones holding it up.  There are few who have gotten this right.

 

Final Rating: 1.5 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