I took my older kids to see the new installment of The Left Behind franchise, Vanished: Left Behind – Next Generation so I thought I would share a quick review. It played in our theaters locally for one night and one showing before it will be eventually rolled out on DVD.
If you are not familiar, the Next Generation does not involve Jean Luc Picard or Data, but is essentially Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind but for teens. It tells the same story of the Rapture as the original books, Nicolai Caparthia is back woohoo!, but from the perspective of characters that are supposed to be around 15. The lack of Kirk Cameron made me tremendously sad so this review may be inherently untrustworthy – he couldn’t play someone’s dad or a policeman or something. That is just wrong! 🙂
The story revolves around Gabby, a smart and independent girl who had to grow up too early to help with her alcoholic mother and her precocious younger sister. They join up with the two male leads, Flynn the homeless teenager and Josh, Gabby’s longtime best friend to figure out what to do when billions of people disappear in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.
All actors are definitely taken directly off of the set of popular Disney TV show though they do a decent job with their parts. Adults may find this aspect somewhat much, or maybe that was just me, but teens will enjoy it. The movie jumps right in with the Rapture happening shortly after the opening in the big city where all characters live and mayhem ensuing rapidly. The plot then follows the intrepid teens and little sister as they leave the city and head to a local farm to look for meaning behind the event that they experienced while trying to survive the chaos occurring.
A love triangle between the main characters was prominently featured and the effort to appeal to the kids who love Young Adult fiction was quite obvious. Flynn is the bad boy with a heart of gold while Josh is the steady friend with a heart of gold. Who will Gabby choose ?- they both have gold hearts – swoon!
The Rapture is never really dealt with in great detail and if you are a person who does not understand the theology behind it, this is not the movie to clear anything up. People are all gone, God did it and that is good is about the extent of it.
Questions of God are brought up and dealt with by some of the characters in a Touched by an Angel type of way, God loves you and God cares about you, and it is clear that this is a “faith based” movie. I just made you think in a Roma Downey voice, didn’t I? It is not an overtly Jesus movie though, as God is mentioned but there is not the evangelism or focus on Jesus that you get with the books themselves or with more “Christian” Christian movies.
Overall, the family response to the movie was mixed. The kids really liked it and enjoyed the love triangle and adventure involved. They both noted the lack of Jesus mention in the movie, but found it to be a fun and gripping story and good movie. They were talking a mile a minute about it when we left and are eagerly looking forward to a sequel.
I found the movie a bit confused but not painfully so. It was definitely a teen film and the Young Adult fiction influence was not exactly for me, but I understand what they were going for.
I do wish they had understood their audience a bit more when making the film. If you are making a film about the Rapture, your primary audience is going to be Christians, that seems pretty obvious. Non-believers may watch, but the likelihood is that the movie lives or dies with the committed believer so don’t be afraid to tell the story directly to us and let God handle any evangelism from it. When you try to straddle the line and please both the world and the church, the movie tends to lose something.
There is nothing wrong with a movie intended as an introduction to Jesus and therefore being simple in its presentation of faith, it just comes across a bit light. The fact that the actors seemed to have no interest in God in the post-movie Q&A session that they showed following the movie could be coloring my viewpoint though. I would recommend that you skip the Q&A session if it is included.
Overall, the movie was a big hit with the teen crowd in our house so that is a plus and there is nothing particularly explicit and objectionable that I can recall -there is violence and general mayhem and a character has her leg cut open but appropriate for telling the story. The characters do kiss at one point. With the adult crowd, me, I found it just ok. I am glad they are trying to tell the story and that my kids liked it, it just could have been so much better.
So teens give the movie two thumbs up.
I’ll say it was entertaining but not my favorite.