LBCF, No. 186: ‘Lone Gunmen’

LBCF, No. 186: ‘Lone Gunmen’ May 25, 2018

Originally posted December 29, 2008.

You can read this entire series, for free, via the convenient Left Behind Index. This post is also part of the ebook collection The Anti-Christ Handbook: Volume 1, available on Amazon for just $2.99. Abolish ICE. Volume 2 of The Anti-Christ Handbook, completing all the posts on the first Left Behind book, is also now available.

Left Behind: The Movie [2000] has conveniently been divided into 11 parts for posting on YouTube. This neatly provides us with stopping points as well as the ability to watch together as we work our way through the movie. Today we look at part 2 of 11. [Note: That 11-part bootleg is no longer on YouTube, but the entire 2000 movie is here. You can still watch along if you’re masochistic enough to want to do so.]

I’ve already discussed acting more than I intended to, but we should note here that Janaya Stephens has two Big Dramatic Scenes in this slice of the movie. The first is with CamCam, the second is with Brad Johnson. The difference is instructive. Scripts matter, but who you’re working with matters just as much.

Chloe and CamCam head back to the airport — a trip that seems particularly uneventful and un-post-Event-ful, particularly in light of CamCam’s dire warning (“It’s madness out there”).

Director Vic Sarin goes back to the well one more time to show us that the loyally mournful abandoned dog on the sidewalk across the street is still there. It’s hard to complain that such touches of bathos are overdone here when scenes like that were so utterly absent from the book. Sarin displays more pity for that dog than LaHaye and Jenkins had for any human in their story.

The shot of the dog is a reminder, though, not just that this poor animal still sits neglected, but that its human companion’s clothes sit neglected too. Those clothes are evidence. That dog is guarding what ought to be regarded as an active crime scene. Those clothes, quite recently, were wrapped around a human body and that human has disappeared — possibly abducted, possibly murdered. Law enforcement, or at the very least the person’s insurance company, has an interest in determining what exactly happened to them. The fact that this incident is not an isolated case makes this crime scene more, not less, important.

So those clothes shouldn’t still be lying there. By this point they ought to have been tagged and bagged and shipped off to some (still fully staffed) lab for analysis.

Ken Ritz is holding court in an airplane hangar, auctioning off his services to the highest bidder. Working actor Neil Crone (the poor man’s Richard Karn) plays him with bouyant bonhomie, but he’s not quite able to backslap his way past the awful dialogue he’s been given.

Here, as in the book, Ritz bears the burden of being the only curious person on the planet in the aftermath of the Event. It falls to him to run through the theories and possible explanations for what has occurred. And here, as in the book, his summary of all of this is dreadfully inadequate.

Both the novel and the movie treat the space alien theory as silly and easily dismissed. This is strange, since it’s not actually far off from what they say actually happened. According to L&J themselves, the Event was, in fact, a mass-abduction by an extra-terrestrial power. Their brand of religion is so extravagantly otherworldly that they’re not really in a position to mock UFO obsessives.

Ritz’s litany of theories is shorter here than in the book, but in both cases it suffers from sounding too, well, theoretical. “My theory’s no wackier than some of the stuff floating around out there,” he says. But this concern with “wackiness” is out of place in a post-Event world. Wacky is the new reality. The world is upside-down, mystifying, inexplicable and unthinkable. Nothing at this point could strike anyone as too wacky. Any viable theory, actually, would seem to need a wackiness commensurate with the wackiness of actual events. If I were in charge, post-Event, I’d be summoning Chris Carter and the editors of the Fortean Times and the Weekly World News to serve on my blue-ribbon investigation.

We kicked around quite a few alternative theories when we discussed this passage in the novel — wormhole, timeshift, Langoliers, hostile aliens, friendly aliens, Star Trek V-demigod aliens, spontaneous human combustion, spontaneous human reduction (“Honey, I shrunk all the kids”), Hiro Nakamura, Dormammu, LHC mishap, MSG/HFCS mishap, etc. — and we don’t need to rehash all of that, but there’s one other theory that, while inadequate, would likely be popular in the world portrayed in this movie: Blame the Jews.

In the real world, this theory is a shamefully popular perennial favorite. And it has the advantage of being popular despite never actually making any sense. Here in the movie, we’ve already heard references to the “global food supply” and to a secret Jewish formula, and that would seem like more than enough to convince those prone to believing such things that Rosenzweig’s magic fertilizer was somehow responsible for the disappearances. The idea wouldn’t withstand a moment’s scrutiny — many who ate the Israeli wheat didn’t disappear, and many who disappeared didn’t eat it — but the popularity of anti-Semitic scapegoating conspiracy theories has never been constrained by the requirements of logic, fact or reason.

I’d explore this idea further but, frankly, trying to follow the recursive loops of anti-Semitic ideologies bound up in Tim LaHaye’s brand of premillennial dispensationalism makes my head hurt. (In the Last Days, the enemies of God will be destroyed for trying to destroy Israel, after which God will destroy Israel. Mix in the combination of LaHaye’s John Birch Society fantasies and his blanket support for any policy described as “pro-Israel” and you’ve got enough raw material here for someone’s doctoral dissertation — in theology or in psychology or both.)

Amidst his theorizing, Ritz offers a garbled recitation of Matthew 24:40-41 — “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” Like LaHaye & Jenkins, he fails to notice that this is a good description of the human condition throughout the entire history of this mortal race.

As in the novel, Ritz is the first person in the movie to mention that every young child on earth has disappeared, but only some adults, and he is the first to speculate about what that might mean. He is the first to question whether or not the disappeared are “gone for good” and to wonder aloud whether more disappearances might follow. In both the movie and the book, in other words, Ken Ritz is the one person who asks what everyone ought to be asking, constantly and obsessively, until they find some answers. He is the only person in either version of this story who doesn’t seem to have read the back-cover synopsis.

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