5 Reasons Nicolas Cage's New Film Will Be Crazier Than Usual
Good news if you like crazy Nicolas Cage: You're probably about to see him at his absolute craziest in the reboot of the Left Behind series (whose previous biggest star was also-crazy Kirk Cameron). And this time it's not even (completely) his fault. The source material he's working with is, in technical terms, a disaster of biblical proportions. (Get it?)
The Writers Are the Equivalent of Pat Robertson on Steroids
Before we even get into the madness of the Left Behind series, let's start with the engine that got it going, Reverend Tim LaHaye. This guy isn't just some hack fantasy writer coming out of nowhere; he's a CRAZY hack fantasy writer coming out of CRAZYTOWN. In the 1970s, the reverend and his wife wrote a whole book about how sex works, complete with worksheets to track your Kegel exercises.
Unfortunately, reading this book is the third leading cause of vaginismus.
LaHaye is also a self-described expert on the Illuminati, a group that he's convinced is conspiring to use every tool in their well-organized arsenal to destroy Christianity. That's not the plot of his books; that's how he thinks the real world operates. And those beliefs have fueled books that have sold 63 MILLION COPIES.
So what's all the hubbub about? If you're not familiar with LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind series, here's a quick recap: Throughout the Bible, different writers made vague allusions to insane fever dreams and visions they were having. While some historians interpreted those passages to reflect the political climate of their eras, certain groups of modern Christians interpret them as actual prophesies that are going to come true in the future. It's like revisiting a 1960s Bob Dylan song and hedging your future bets on those lyrics coming true. Then making a movie about them starring Nic Cage.
"God has left us on our own, with no direction home. Like complete unknowns; like rolling stones."
The Writers Don't Understand How Humans Deal With Tragedy
The Left Behind series starts with the Rapture, an event where God steals all the good Christians and snatches them up to heaven while everyone else is left to deal with the Apocalypse. It might be worth pointing out here that the Rapture isn't mentioned in the Bible and didn't exist as a theological concept until the 16th century. But whatever, dudes.
Somewhere along the way, a preacher realized that God wouldn't want to leave innocent children behind to suffer through the shit the end times is going to deal out, so they rationalized that all kids of all religions are going to join the Rapture in the Sky party. Sounds reasonable, right? We're talking about the fall of civilization as we know it on top of insane supernatural nightmares like the moon turning to blood. Babies are innocent, so they get a free pass, just like at Six Flags. LaHaye wants to make sure he gets the innocents out of the way, but does so by having pregnant women's stomachs deflate like beach balls at the point of the Rapture. Because that's totally how postpartum recovery works.
"Hey, be sure to add the deflating balloon and whoopee cushion sound effects in post."
Disappearing fetuses are one thing; the sudden disappearance of every Christian corpse is another, and that totally happens in Left Behind as well. And here's where things go from "Huh?" to "WTF?" In any other universe, fictional or otherwise, the inexplicable disappearance of Christians, babies, and dead bodies would be a cause for riots in the streets, complete pandemonium. In this world, everyone kind of shrugs. Like, "Eh, whaddya gonna do?"
Two books later, one character is driving along in Chicago when he notices a MUSHROOM CLOUD in his rearview mirror, so he does what we'd all do: He immediately hightails it to a Land Rover dealership to buy himself a sturdier car. Even as the world is falling apart around them, these characters approach catastrophes with the nonchalance of a teenager who thinks he's already seen everything. Even World War Z handled the end of the world more elegantly than this.
"Your hair and scarf combo are why I let this happen." -God
The Characters and Plot Lines Are Like Something Out of a Superhero Story
When you have characters named things like Rayford Steele and Buck Williams, you're making one of two kinds of film: a porno or a superhero flick. Apparently Left Behind was aiming for the latter. You see, after the Rapture, that's when the action starts. Rayford (Nicolas Cage) and Buck (Chad Michael Murray) get all the Christians they can muster and form the Tribulation Force (which even gets its own superhero headquarters), essentially a terrorist group that's meant to fight against the Antichrist and his Global Community army. Yes, the biggest threat to the world is a bunch of different countries getting along for the first time in history.
Let's talk about that Antichrist, too. Nicolae Carpathia, the former Romanian president, takes over the U.N. and organizes a worldwide army that combines all the religions into one universal faith and then does dastardly evil stuff solely because the devil himself lives inside of him. So basically Big Brother meets Diablo. Otherwise, he's apparently a relatively normal guy.
But he is foreign and badly proportioned, in fairness.
It's Violent as All Hell
Look, man -- all that peace and pacifism stuff that Jesus talked about? That shit goes out the window at the end of days. It's Mad Max time, man, and that means indiscriminate killing of, uh, pretty much everyone, believer or non. The books have about as many main character deaths as Game of Thrones, and they certainly don't mind killing the Antichrist's lackeys.
"Dammit, Marty! I warned you what could happen if you let old Biff give young Biff a future Bible."
The Antichrist himself nukes dozens of cities, the main characters are pretty much unconcerned about innocent bystanders (besides, if they're really innocent, they're going to heaven, right?), and Jesus ... well, Jesus apparently don't give a fuck. He's able to rend the Antichrist's armies asunder with his voice, indiscriminately killing millions of people.
And that's not even touching the video game adaptation, Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a real-time strategy game that was blasted by everyone, including Christian groups, for promoting religious warfare, bigotry, and racism.
All of your units are white. This is not a joke.
There Are 16 of These Books, and They Only Get Sillier
Yeah, Left Behind is just the first book. There are 12 sequels and three prequels, and that's not even including the Left Behind: The Kids books. And, as a bonus, they get even weirder and more obtuse as the series goes on. Take Apollyon, for example, where the climactic battle is against an army of tiny insect/horse/humanoid locusts who continuously shout "Apollyon!" Any army that can be destroyed with a can of Raid isn't much of a threat.
"Upon opening the 35th seal did they appear, to bring ruin to humanity's picnics and ice cream socials."
But perhaps the strangest part is the end of the series, where the big guy himself, ol' J.C., finally makes an appearance. So how do you characterize Jesus? If you're Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, you make him a one-dimensional Bible verse quote machine (who blows things up with his voice, as we already pointed out). In Glorious Appearing and Kingdom Come, Jesus speaks in quotes he's already said in the Bible, making him some sort of weird amnesiac. He's like a Terminator that has only a few preprogrammed sayings built in.
Now this is who you should have saved Cage for.
For more from Ashe, check out Weird Shit Blog and his first book, The Book of Word Records, available everywhere from Adams Media!