It’s the end of days in Left Behind, and only the good and the innocent will be saved. Audiences, however, are unlikely to feel enraptured—even those seeking a so-bad-its-good Nicolas Cage spectacular. Based on the best-selling novel by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, the film is a reboot of Kirk Cameron’s 2000 adaptation and it imagines what happens when the Rapture comes. According to director Vic Armstrong, that means all children and an untold number of true Christians get sucked up into the promised land all at once, leaving behind their cartoonishly empty clothes and millions of baffled and scared heathens.
At best, Left Behind is shoddily made sensationalist propaganda—with atrocious acting—that barely registers as entertainment. At worst, it’s profoundly moronic. Audiences, Christian or not, deserve better, and it’s hard to imagine that the ham-fisted revelations in this schlock could serve any higher purpose.
We meet our heroine Chloe Steele (Cassi Thomson) at New York’s JFK airport. She’s just flown home for her dad’s birthday and has taken it upon herself to save the dreamy broadcast journalist Buck Williams (Chad Michael Murray) from an aggressive religious zealot who’s lecturing Buck on the biblical implications of natural disasters. Chloe shoots down the proselytizer with ease—she thinks about this stuff a lot, we learn, ever since her mother (Lea Thompson) turned to God and their family fell apart. Things are apparently so tense at the Steele homestead that papa Rayford (Nicolas Cage) has decided to ditch the family and spend his birthday piloting a commercial flight to London for a U2 concert—and the promise of an affair with a flirty flight attendant who’s got highlighted hair. Chloe confronts Rayford as they cross paths in the terminal, but he chooses Bono and the blonde anyway.
There’s a lot of boring exposition crammed into the first act, illustrating a throwback world divided between believers and non-believers, in which air travel is still pleasant and malls are bustling beacons of commerce and impromptu break-dancing. Once the Rapture comes, and the good are suddenly vaporized and transported to heaven (or something), the movie turns into a melting pot of disaster clichés, including the obligatory mass panic, bawling women, and ridiculous car crashes. On Chloe’s long post-Rapture walk to nowhere, she’s nearly hit by a sedan, a giant potted plant, a propeller jet, a man being blown out of a street-level shop, and a small school bus careering off of a bridge.
Rayford, meanwhile, is in the air, trying to control the anarchy on the plane, land it, and get back to his daughter. This all sounds more fun than it is. Though he has a few moments of Cageian oddness, for the most part, he’s disappointingly subdued and only slightly more watchable than everyone else. ”Let it burn, see what’s left,” his character says at one point. Cage might as well be talking about his career. F