You already knew the Left Behind remake starring Nicolas Cage was going to be bad when you heard that Nicolas Cage was starring in a Left Behind remake:
But when publications like Christianity Today give the movie a half-star rating — and even that’s because they “tried to give the film zero stars, but our tech system won’t allow it” — it’s clear that this movie is bad even by Christian movie standards.
CT’s reviewer Jackson Cuidon pointed out that one of the biggest problems with the film was that it was marketed to a Christian audience, but faith didn’t even have an important role in the film:
I was ready to be upset at this new movie because certainly it would have all those same faults. But it doesn’t. It has many, many faults, and almost no positives, but purporting to be Christian while not actually being Christian is not one of them.
The books favored political intrigue, a form that better suited the medium of books; the film, in response, is just a run-of-the-mill disaster flick, where the Rapture is the MacGuffin driving the plot. Consider: one of the characters proposes that the Rapture was caused by aliens, and the movie would be no different if this were true.
In fact, most Christians within the world of the movie — whether the street-preacher lady at the airport or Rayford Steele’s wife — are portrayed as insistent, crazy, delusional, or at the very least just really annoying. Steele’s wife’s conversion to Christianity is shown to have pushed her and her husband apart; we see that she’s decorated her house with crosses, throw-pillows that say “Pray” across the front, and encouraging posters.
That is the deepest conception of Christianity that this movie has: posters, pillows, and crucifixes.
Well, if you’re unhappy with stereotypes in Christian movies, let me introduce you to the atheist college professor in God’s Not Dead…But point taken. This movie is just plain bad. It’s dismissed as an action film because it’s preachy. It’s dismissed as a Christian film because it’s not preachy enough (and, even then, it’s for the best). No one should pay money or give up time to watch this. It’s not like Cuidon is alone, either. Rotten Tomatoes gives the movie a freakishly-low 2% rating because only 1 of the 50 reviews liked it. And that review isn’t exactly screaming credibility.
I guess a lot of Christian readers were unhappy with that tepid support, though, because Christianity Today‘s Alissa Wilkinson issued a follow-up article yesterday defending the review:
I believe it is vital for Christians to recognize that they are a massive market segment who are only going to see themselves marketed toward more in the future. And I believe that it is important for Christians to realize that they can use that power to ask for better entertainment, things that actually do explore the deep, complex questions that have animated our faith for millennia. I think it’s time for Christians to quit acting like victims and instead call a spade a spade when they see it.
Finally, and this happens almost every time we publish a not-glowing review of a Christian film, I’ve seen some people object that we ought to basically calm down and try to support this film, and others, because it’s hard to make a film, and this one is pretty close to a Hollywood blockbuster, and it’s silly for us to criticize some films for being too preachy and then complaining when this one isn’t Christian enough. So here are a few notes on that.
It’s a very good follow-up to a blistering review. There’s nothing wrong with thinking a movie that you were supposed to like was just awful. I know atheists who were disappointed with The Unbelievers and Religulous, even though they were by atheists, for atheists. They weren’t unhappy with the message. They were unhappy because they were hoping for more substance, more of a story, less cheap religion-bashing, etc.
Cuidon did what any reviewer should do: He admitted his own biases up front and was specific about the problems he saw in the film. He didn’t hate it just for the sake of hating it. It’s incredible that readers would be angry that he didn’t just give the film a free pass.