I Watched Left Behind (2014) So You Don’t Have To

ProlPart of me really wants to read the Left Behind book series. Just load up the description of any one of the 16(!!) books and you’ll understand why. They are absolutely, off-the-wall bonkers crazy. From what I can tell, the later books devolve into low-rent Christian Metal Gear, and they sound kind of amazing. Just for example, the anti-christ is a genetically-engineered UN Secretary General descended from Roman emperors named Nicolae Carpathia. And his right-hand man is a Catholic (these books are firmly evangelical) who can call down fire from the sky with power given to him by Lucifer.

The only problem is that the Left Behind books are terribly written and there are better ways to consume batshit crazy stories, so I never got around to reading them. However, I was always curious. And when I found out that the first book was being adapted into a film starring Nicolas Cage? Well, you could say I was a little excited about that. I knew there was already a series of movies, but this was before I was writing long blog posts about bad movies, so I never sought them out. But for Nic Cage I was willing to make an exception.

Left Behind came and went in theaters with such little fanfare that I barely noticed it. Then it slipped onto DVD and finally emerged on Netflix, where it reminded me of its existence. And just in time, since I was wrapping up my Atlas Shrugged recaps.

Unfortunately, Left Behind strips the book of almost all its high level insanity. There’s no anti-christ, no global war, nothing. The movie doesn’t even cover all of the book, just the first day after the rapture and a single airline flight. When I was done, I realized I really should have watched the first adaptation, which does touch on the crazy.

But I was too late. I already made all the gifs and everything. So without any further statements of regret, here’s 2014’s Left Behind.

chap1The film opens with Chloe Steele returning to New York to visit her father, Rayford, for his birthday. Yes, his name is Rayford Steele. And yes, he is the character portrayed by Nicolas Cage. Unfortunately, Rayford Steele is an Important Airline Pilot and he has been called to work to fly a plane to London on his birthday. Everyone is really sad about this.

I can't believe I married Nicolas Cage.

I can’t believe I married Nicolas Cage.

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I Watched Atlas Shrugged Part 2 So You Don’t Have To

Previouslylasttime

Atlas Shrugged Part I: Full Post

proIt shouldn’t surprise anyone that Atlas Shrugged Part I was box office poison. It was a dry adaptation of the first third of an unfilmable book, starring Taylor Schilling pre-Orange Is The New Black. The studio presumed that it would find success because it courted a conservative market that is largely ignored by Hollywood. This was a huge miscalculation, because nakedly conservative films have (typically) been driven to profitability by church groups and Rand isn’t exactly a fan of religion. Also, while plenty of Republican politicians cite Atlas Shrugged as an influence, I’d wager that most either (1) haven’t read it or (2) didn’t understand it because otherwise they’d have to realize modern American political conservatism has way more in common with the regulatory capture and obstructionism of the villains than the ambitious drive of the protagonists. Socialism wasn’t the only windmill Rand tilted at with Atlas Shrugged, after all.

The misguided quest to film a book that didn’t need to be filmed should have ended with the failure of Part I. The free market spoke. But the producers didn’t listen. They still had a vision to complete, even if it would have to be reduced in scope and, hilariously, funded by selling debt. The entire cast was replaced. Jason Beghe took over for Grant Bowler as Hank Reardon. And Taylor Schilling was swapped out for Samantha Mathis, who is probably best known by readers of this blog as Daisy from the Super Mario Brothers Movie.

Sorry, Sam, but it looks like talking to a puppet dinosaur won't be the career low point you assumed.

Sorry, Sam, but it looks like talking to a puppet dinosaur won’t be the career low point you assumed.

When we last saw our heroes, Hank Rearden was fuming over yet another set of governmental regulations that would make it illegal to produce his “Rearden Metal”, which may or may not just be a type of steel. And Dagny Taggart was screaming at a burning oil field after tycoon Ellis Wyatt decided to torch all his product rather than let the government tax the state of Colorado. Wyatt then disappeared with a mysterious fedora-wearing dude, John Galt, whose very name has become a rhetorical question that no one has an answer for, because this world is very much like our own but does not have Google.

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I Watched Atlas Shrugged Part I So You Don’t Have To

proA disclaimer: I don’t hate Ayn Rand. Or, at least, I don’t hate her in the performative way that someone who falls on the left of social/political lines is supposed to hate her. Rand’s prose is mediocre, her characters hollow, her futurism half-baked, and the way that Objectivism has been twisted and weaponized in modern politics is horrific. However, at the core of everything Rand wrote was a brutal honesty that I just can’t bring myself to hate. Rand offers a window into the selfish, greedy part of humanity that is usually hidden, rejected, or couched in relentless apology. And very rarely she makes a good point, like a squirrel with a bad haircut finding single acorn after gathering a dozen rusty nails. Her unflinching acceptance of the human id causes her to stumble into some useful insights into the futility and self-absorption of guilt.

That said, engaging with most of Ayn Rand’s ideas is like smacking around an empty pinata. Sure, it’s fun to swing a bat, but ultimately by hitting the pinata you’re admitting that you think there’s something of worth inside it. So this post isn’t going to be about Objectivism, it’s going to be about a bad movie.

A really bad movie.

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