March 29, 2023

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‘Left Behind: Rise of the Christ’ review

4 min read

If you only saw one thriller this year in which the director-star breaks into a climactic car chase and delivers a five-minute sermon directly to camera — then Mike Huckabee leads the audience in prayer for three more minutes to accept Jesus into their hearts, before the end credits roll. Before — then make it “Left Behind: Rise of the Christ,” the latest in a series of apocalyptic films based on the bestselling Christian book series.

Although “Rise” is the sixth feature to spawn from dozens of rapture-ific novels and spinoff novels published under the “Left Behind” banner from the mid-’90s to the mid-2000s, it’s the first in the film series with Kevin Sorbok as a leading man as well as director. Where past installments have been relatively flexible about their evangelical intent, Sorbo chooses to add a literal Jesus conclusion. You may recall that the last actor to play heroic pilot Rayford Steele was Nicolas Cage, in 2014’s “Left Behind” (a reboot that serves as a direct sequel to the new film). The cage is not finished his Break the fourth wall for an altar call and launch franchise, the actor’s ardent community may now see it as a missed opportunity.

Midway through “Rise of the Christ,” Sorbo’s Steele, a non-believer who has finally begun to see the light, consults with Pastor Bruce Burns (Charles Andrew Payne) about a Bible prophecy that is about to come true, “in its version of pre-trib,” premillennial theology that gained popularity among many Christians in the early 20th century. On a whiteboard, the minister – who was left behind because he was a false believer at the time – addresses a prophetic question that the filmmakers believe is important: whether the seven-year tribulation clock begins with the rapture, or whether a great temple will not be rebuilt at the Temple Dome in Jerusalem. It won’t really start until. The eschatologically inquiring mind wants to know.

This exact timeline of the protracted apocalypse isn’t really a major plot point, but it does make you think more about timelines, not just for the end times, but for filmmaking. For example: Where are we in the “Left Behind” movie chronology? Kirk Cameron starred in the first three films, beginning in 2000 and ending with 2005’s “Left Behind: World at War,” before producer/co-writer Paul Lalonde, the only constant throughout the productions, renewed with the 2014 remake. Began the original, starring Cage. (Among these, there was a 2016 spinoff, “Left Behind: Next Generation,” based on the 40 “Left Behind: The Kids” books.) Not a single cast member returned from the previous film, however.

In this sequel, we’re told that the world is rapidly going to hell after the disappearance of all its true Christians, although there isn’t much filmic evidence of this outside of scenes of trash bags floating down the street on rare Canadian occasions. Venture outside shooting. This chaos is established through a CNN-style newscast hosted by the film’s other leading man, the sleazy, curmudgeonly TV anchor Cameron “Buck” Williams (Greg Perrow), who, after establishing himself as a policy correspondent in the living, begins to focus on nefarious forces. Trying to lure and subdue the UN and the whole world.

In real life, Sorbo is a polarizing enough figure that some non-evangelicals might sneak in for hate-watching purposes. (The actor is so devoted to right-wing trolling that, on release weekend, he made another hilarious joke about a hammer attack on Paul Pelosi.) But for anyone looking for unintended laughs, watch 1972’s “A Thief in the Night” because of his participation, or because of them. -Reminiscent of the laugh-out-loud no-budget Christ-sploitation movies like , “Rise of the Antichrist” rarely disappoints when it comes to pure camp.

It’s Sorbo’s own, with interesting lensing, dialogue that snaps a little at times, and even some decent direction in a few performances… This is especially true in a wonderfully low-key, church-set scene in which the actor plays alongside his real-life wife (Sam Sorbo, very good), both playing characters who lost their spouses in Rapture. There’s a natural sweetness to his screen presence here that feels surprisingly at odds with the flamboyant connotations of Sorbo’s social media persona as God’s angry man.

Much of the film is spent implicitly or explicitly painting or reporting the pandemic-era policies of the government and media as hoaxes, establishing public fear or credulity that provides a beautiful setup for Satan to truly do his work in the end times. (In this universe, not even a Newsmax or an OAN is left behind to question, let alone own the Libs.)

When the main antagonist, in the form of Romanian big-wig Nicolai Carpathia (Bailey Chase), finally shows up for what amounts to about 10 minutes of screen time, we know he’s the Antichrist because a thrilled television reporter tells the audience he’s the most enthusiastic greeter since Obama. (Boo, hiss.) Actually, Carpathia doesn’t seem to have the kind of charisma one would expect from a man who would charm the world; He’s more like a hard-ass Ron DeSantis crossed with a Bond villain.

One of the most obvious problems with how thin “Rise of the Antichrist” is on any kind of movie enthusiasm is how it refuses the audience to spend many minutes with the title man or even secondary baddie Jonathan Stonegall (Neil McDonough, playing the leader of the world’s largest social network). , a production filmed before such a figure became a major hero to conservatives). The belief, perhaps, was that the eternal soul of moviegoers would benefit more if they hung with its devout characters. It’s always easier to frighten an audience with an empty suit than to face the terrifying prospect of coming up with a budget for the Battle of Armageddon.

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