Thursday, December 01, 2005

When Talent Gets Left Behind

Slate magazine takes a withering, hilarious look at the putrid "Left Behind" straight-to-video films. The sad thing is, the article pretty much nails it on the head:
The new "Left Behind" movie disturbs me—not because thousands of people are watching a movie that proclaims non-Christians will burn in hell for all eternity—but rather because thousands of people are watching a movie where Toronto stands in for New York, Chicago, and Israel. Also, Washington, D.C. And Egypt. London, too.

The "apocalypse on a shoestring" aesthetic has become the hallmark of the "Left Behind" series.
Though unfortunately many don't know it, the premillenial "rapture" version of end times history represented by the "Left Behind" series is a relatively recent innovation in church history (not making it's appearance until the mid-1800's) and was not the view of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and the giants of the Bible-believing church. It's seen now as one of the baseline beliefs of "fundamentalist Christianity," but historically that's just not the case.

And that's important to point out, because when one sees movies of this caliber, one can unfortunately feel the need to distance oneself from them. Continues Slate's Grady Hendrix:
While each installment's budget is estimated to be around $17.4 million, I think that number might be off by $16 million or so. In Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force, for example, Kirk Cameron has to take Ben Judah, a respected rabbi, to the Wailing Wall so that he can tell Jews everywhere that Jesus Christ is Lord. Israel is represented by a few stone walls obviously made of plywood, some Christmas-tree lights, and 500 volunteer extras wearing leftover costumes from a Nativity pageant. The Wailing Wall is patrolled by soldiers dressed in World War II army uniforms. The producers have also dubbed in the sound of goats during scenes set in downtown Jerusalem, which leads to the unusual notion that modern-day Israel is populated by WWII re-enactors, nervous-looking people in bathrobes, and goats.
The shame of it is, the church used to produce all the great art. Now it produces movies like "Left Behind." Something got lost along the way, as a sense of form and beauty was replaced by a utilitarian didacticism. Which is a twenty dollar way of saying we once had Michelangelo, and now we have Kirk Cameron movies.

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