It's painful to admit this, but recent films by Mormons simply do a better job of storytelling than movies like Left Behind II: Tribulation Force (Cloud Ten Pictures).
Cloud Ten has promoted Tribulation Force as a better film than its predecessor because it presents the gospel clearly and repeatedly. Tribulation Force will satisfy those Christians who believe the main purpose of films is to preach the gospel in a form explicit enough to accommodate an altar call.
That approach to filmmaking, however, tends to create choppy and artificial story lines. There are a few flashes of creativity in Tribulation Force, mostly involving Nicolae Carpathia (Gordon Currie), the Eastern European one-worlder antichrist. His evening meeting with flashy TV reporter Buck Williams (Kirk Cameron) on a skyscraper's rooftop feels almost as clever as the Satan-tempts-Jesus elevator scene in Jesus of Montreal. And a scene involving the two witnesses of Revelation 11 starts on a promising note of mystery.
But we also end up with strange moments of Christians seeking employment with evil Nicolae, the better to spy on him. Hearing Pastor Bruce Barnes (Clarence Gilyard Jr.) explain why this is necessary is like listening to some of the most reckless advocates of situation ethics.
This series is beginning to feel like a futurist version of the Hell House phenomenon: it tries to lead people to Jesus by scaring them silly.
Douglas LeBlanc edits The CT Review.
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