As I watched Left Behind: World at War, I asked myself these questions:
• Is the plot coherent? • Are the characters believable? • Is the drama intriguing or gripping? • Will the supposed Christian message of the film resonate with my faith? • As part of a series, does this movie have both integrity of story to stand on its own as well as sufficient investment in the larger plotline to leave me searching for the next release date?
I had truly hoped to answer “Yes” or “Somewhat” to these questions. But my heart kept muttering “No.”
To be sure, the characters are more believable than in the first installment of the series. Kirk Cameron has matured considerably both as a person and as an actor. Lou Gossett Jr. enters as U.S. president Gerald Fitzhugh and is best, as usual, when involved in scenes of action rather than reflection. But the plot requires him to hand deliver an assassin’s bomb—something no real-life president would do.
This film’s storyline comes from the second and third books (Tribulation Force and Nicolae) of the hugely successful Left Behind series written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. But the plot snippets from each book skip along too quickly without supportive narrative continuity. Moreover, links to the series’ pre-millennial theology are so muted that the movie does not help viewers understand why the events portrayed are supposed to happen.
Perhaps these weaknesses nurtured Cloud Ten Pictures’ decision to release this film to congregations (followed quickly by video store rentals) with no theater showings. Producer brothers Peter and Paul LaLonde express nostalgia for the “film nights” held in the churches of their youth and say that this release strategy is a throwback to those times.
Maybe that’s true, but Left Behind: World at War is not suitable for children, not interesting for teens, not believable for adults, not biblically connected enough for pastors and theologians, and not likely to convict any non-Christian friends you might bring to see it.