It’s entirely beside the point to say that the Left Behind movies are not very good, but on a Friday afternoon before the theoretical Rapture, there is room for movies that are so bad they’re kind of delightful. I must say, if the goal is getting the message out, it’s not very strategic to have only Tribulation Force on Netflix Instant, since it means I had to pick up with the story already started, though I guess it makes sense to try to lock in at least some of your DVD sales up until the last minute at the end of days?
All that said, Left Behind: Tribulation Force is not actually the worst movie I’ve watched this year—that would be Catherine Hardwicke’s Red Riding Hood. It’s got its plot holes, for sure. If the Antichrist is going to pull together a united world government, starting at the United Nations is going to be a bad bet, especially since taking over the assets of American financiers doesn’t buy you control the way it used to. The folks behind the Tribulation Force could probably use some training in how to run a counterinsurgency. And I need to check in with my generous host here and the other rising young journodudes to make sure they’re prepared to run a large global news network should Buck Williams not be available for any reason. The revolution will apparently be lead by a young, fast-rising writer who turns 30 right around the Rapture, works for a big media conglomorate, and then jumps to an independent outlet to bring the truth to the people. You do the math.
But really, what strikes me most about the movie is that everyone, no matter their perspective on religion, deserves better movies than this about faith, depictions that go beyond scratchy fake beards on prophets and badly-written professions of belief. One of the things that’s great about Kings is that it has an actual artistic sense of the majesty of the divine, the terror of what it would be like to live without deity you believed in profoundly. If you want to use art to debunk organized religions or faith in general? Well, there are creative stories to tell about the damages and disappointments of religion, or about the power of human experience unmediated by a higher power. This isn’t it.