The following is the first of our three part front row seat to the apocalypse. We here at Gospel Spam were fortunate to be sent a review copy of the film so we could bless you with our thoughts and fancy words about it. The first is by Jon Speed. The rest will be published throughout the week. So keep checking back…
OK kids, it’s time for a quiz.
What do you get when you take a sampling of bad theology, add one actor who seems driven to destroy his own career, add an American Idol who will probably be putting out a want ad for an agent in the near future, a midget and a Muslim?
They don’t all walk into a bar but they do all walk onto a plane and the result is predictable American evangelical schtick. The producers weren’t going for a comedy routine here, but that’s what they got in the end. It’s also, ironically, a rapture disaster flick which tries a new route—deemphasizing Jesus in the return of Jesus and emphasizing piles of clothing.
Of course, there are the obligatory references to the Olivet Discourse taken out of context, but Jesus is more of an afterthought in this movie than the main attraction. After all, the rapture as it is taught by dispensationalists is about Jesus coming for His Bride to meet them in the air. You wouldn’t know it by watching this film. It will probably come across to unbelievers as an apocalyptic film like Armageddon without the good special effects and without a clear look at the thing which is actually the cause of the carnage…err, piles of clothes. At least in Armageddon you understand that the problem is the asteroid. Here, it’s some Bible verses that warned you that the piles of clothes were coming. Warning: your city is about to look like your laundry room on wash day.
There are a lot of funny moments in this movie, but the funniest one theologically is when Nick Cage explains to the stewardess his own dawning awareness that his wife had warned him about all of this. She even knew about the piles of clothes!
Now I was a dispensationalist for about forty years. I preached through Revelation verse by verse once and through Daniel twice. I had and read Hal Lindsey’s books, Walvoord’s commentaries, Dave Hunt’s books, and Lewis Sperry Chafer’s theologies. I will tell you this: nowhere in the Bible is there any reference to piles of clothes when Jesus comes back. There are no references to a global “five finger discount” yard sale.
So how could she warn her husband about the piles of clothes? There’s only one explanation. She saw the original Left Behind series of course! It’s an unwitting product placement. If the writers were conscious of what they were doing they would have had Cage hold up a copy of Lahaye’s book, give the camera a typical Cage “National Treasure” wide-eyed wonder shot, and have him point at the book and say, “It’s all in HERE!” I kind of wish they did because I’ve got the series for sale in my book store and there would finally be a reason for me to buy the truckloads of these things that can be found at your local Salvation Army.
At this point in the review it would be fun to pick on my dispensationalist friends about the theology of this film, but there is so little of it that I cannot. And it wouldn’t be fair. It’s just too easy. So in the spirit of predicting things, I am going to make some predictions. Here they are: the dispensationalists who watch this movie with some hope that it would resemble the original book by Lahaye are going to be sorely disappointed. Those who see this as the same kind of evangelism opportunity as some of the earlier films in the original series starring Kirk Cameron will be downright angry. And those who expect to see the Antichrist make an appearance will probably riot in the theater. Imagine that irony: “Where’s the Antichrist? WE WANT THE ANTICHRIST!”
I’m no fan of evangelistic movies. I prefer art that is made to the glory of God. This isn’t. It is the evangelical version of “Snakes on a Plane” meets “Con Air.” Did the writers really have to make the midget blame the Muslim for the rapture? Little people ought to organize a boycott on this film for how they’re portrayed on airplanes. The Muslim guy is probably the nicest guy on the plane—hey, the Christians are all gone. Jordin Sparks makes a gun wielding appearance that is the dumb subplot to end all dumb subplots. How she got a gun on the plane is perhaps a bigger mystery than the piles of clothing. The only thing that is more mysterious is how she got talked into this nonsense. And has anyone ever seen a plane going down in a fireball that actually landed safely with everyone on board (or their clothing) still intact? I guess Cage did land a plane on the Vegas strip once, but that was supposed to be funny.
Meanwhile, back on terra firma school buses are driving around without drivers and go careening off of bridges about half an hour after the rapture. But it’s ok. The age of accountability has apparently risen to junior high age so there’s no one on it anyway.
This movie should be the end of Nicholas Cage’s career in Hollywood. It won’t be unless Cage actually converts to Christianity and takes to proclaiming it like someone else who once had something to do with Left Behind. Evangelicals will go to this thing in throngs even though they’ve already seen better versions of the books. They will buy the DVD when it comes out even though it’s a bad remake of the original and even that one wasn’t good. Why? Chalk it up to our inferiority complex. A Christian film starring Nicholas Cage and an American Idol? Finally! We’ll be accepted! We’ll take the box office by storm and there will be a revival! The world will take us seriously!
No they won’t. If film makers ever talk George Clooney and Meryl Streep into making a Christian film it will not be taken seriously unless Christian film writers start writing good films. This isn’t that.