Movie Review

Left Behind II: Tribulation Force

Not Rated

Reviewed by: Douglas M. Downs
STAFF WRITER

Excellent!
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
11 to Adult
Genre:
Christian Drama
Length:
1 hr. 34 min.
Poster art for “Left Behind II: Tribulation Force”

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Starring: Kirk Cameron, Brad Johnson, Chelsea Noble, Clarence Gilyard, Gordon Currie, Janaya Stephens | Directed by: Bill Corcoran | Written by: Paul Lalonde, John Patus | Produced and Distributed by: Cloud Ten Pictures

Prequel: “Left Behind: The Movie” / Sequel: Left Behind: World at War

Remember the 60’s film “A Thief in the Night”? It’s still a vivid memory for me. The images and the message left an indelible impression on my memory. There is no doubt that a clear presentation of the end times in light of today’s events can be a dynamic way to prompt people to examine their heart. The “Left Behind” series accomplishes this in a creative and evangelical way. These compelling stories authored by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins have inspired another generation to find faith in Jesus Christ. Every book in the series has topped the New York Times Best Sellers list. Four of the novels have debuted at #1!

Desecration was the best selling novel for the year 2001. This is an amazing feat for books that are unashamedly Christian. I know that some enjoy debating the theological premises behind their interpretation of the rapture and the tribulation period, but I think that all Christians can agree on the fact that one day Jesus Christ is going to return. The secondary challenge with a popular book is how to bring it to the big screen. LaHaye and Jenkins’ books are very engaging and imagination is a powerful force to recon with. (Just ask the director and producers of the “Lord of the Rings” series.) The reactions from the first “Left Behind” film were mixed. The movie was released on video and then Christians were encouraged to invite their friends to the theatrical release. I personally thought that the first movie was OK, but many of its weakness were because of time constraints. On a positive note, the first video was #1 the first week of release and beat “Toy Story II” and “The Green Mile”.

Kirk Cameron as reporter Buck Williams in “Left Behind II: Tribulation Force”Left Behind II: Tribulation Force is quite good! It is a first-rate translation of the book and it definitely stands on its own. “Tribulation Force” actually even makes the original better, because of more attention given to character development. All of the principal actors of the first “Left Behind” have returned for the second. This is always an important ingredient for any series or sequel. I initially thought that Kirk Cameron was miscast in the original—he just didn’t personify at all how I imagined Buck Williams to be. But Kirk has matured more and really carries the sequel. He definitely has established himself as “Buck” for every film that may follow.

Gordon Currie as the Antichrist, Nicolae Carpath and Chelsea Noble as Hattie, his personal assistantThe same is true for Gordon Currie as Nicolae Carpathia. Gordon is able to bring about the subtle, yet deceptive transformation of a man perusing leadership under the power of evil. I enjoyed the performances by the rest of the cast… I just thought that Cameron and Currie truly delivered the goods.

The film “Left Behind” presents the chaos that will happen as a result of the Rapture event. “Tribulation Force” picks up the story just 7 days after the multitude of unexplained disappearances. Buck (a lead reporter for GNN) begins to establish himself as a voice of assurance to a chaotic world that is looking for answers. Ray Steele (Brad Johnson) is still struggling with the pain that his wife and son are gone. His pain is deep and heartfelt. He does receive some reassurance from his daughter Chloe (Janaya Stephens). Both have become Christians as a result of the world events and now give their energy and support to Pastor Bruce Barnes (Clarence Gilyard).

Clarence Gilyard as Pastor Bruce Barnes in “Left Behind II: Tribulation Force”Pastor Barnes provides an important role on several fronts. He helps to supply answers to the grief-stricken by applying the prophetic truths of the book of Revelation. He also is active in organizing a “tribulation force” to help spread the Gospel and to expose the work of the Anti-Christ. The church—open as a triage center for the wounded—balances Barnes’ ministry.

Those who know the book remember that it doesn’t take long before Nicolae extends an invitation to Buck to help him with publicity. Ray is also hired as one of the pilots for Nicolae’s private jet. The rest of the film unfolds this “what-if” saga with the unveiling of a one-world religion and a one-world monetary system. This film also realistically portrays the scoffing and mockers of God, particularly in one scene where Pastor Barnes gives an invitation to repent, yet several people leave.

Christians who were disappointed with the admittedly weak gospel message in the first “Left Behind” will be happy to know that evangelist Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron (partners in evangelism ministry at WayoftheMaster.com) rewrote part of the script to include a stronger evangelistic message using the Law to convict of sin. Way to go Ray and Kirk! May God use it mightily!

It is my sincere hope that viewers who may have been disappointed with the first film in the series give this sequel another chance. I do know that reading the books before hand is not required, but can greatly enhance the viewing experience. This film is more than an example of Christian entertainment at it’s best—it is another opportunity for thoughtful reflection and prayerful examination of our lives before God. I highly recommend “Left Behind II” and would encourage the actors and staff at Cloud Ten Pictures to keep up the good work!

Those interested in seeing “Left Behind II” should note that the video and DVD will debut first on October 29th, 2002. The big screen debut that takes place on New Years Eve will occur simultaneously both in theaters and churches across the nation.

Year of Release—2002

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I really enjoyed this movie! I’ve loved the books and I’m very happy that my unsaved relatives have been eating them up! I recently sat down with my mom and watched the first Left Behind movie and she really enjoyed it (she thinks Kirk Cameron is a real cutie). Because of it I was able to have the most excellent conversation about salvation and the hope that I have in Christ and for the first time ever—she listened!! When I heard that Kirk and Ray Comfort had a hand in the script and its presentation of the gospel I ordered 2 before they even came out! My mom will be getting one for Christmas. I’ve watched it and I really enjoyed it.

Now having said all that… although this movie is very good and any of my unsaved friends who have seen it have also enjoyed it—it is true that it does not compare production-wise with a mega-million dollar Hollywood production. Ask yourself why that is! How much money have we Christians dumped into Hollywood crap that we should be offended by? Put your money where your heart is!

If we all make an effort to make God honoring movie production more profitable, the industry will continue to grow and we will all reap the benefits!! See the movies, buy the movies, have your church buy the movies… Enough said.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 4½]
—L. Mishchenko, age 35
Positive—I would like to say that I think LB-II was a pleasant surprise! It was going on from the get-go. It was definitely a lot better than LB-I. The part about the two witnesses was totally awesome and moving. There’s always room for improvement in Christian movies because I am one that likes to see Christian movies actually based on the Bible but this movie was as close to perfect as you’re going to get. If one is a Christian, I can’t see anyone giving this movie a neutral or a negative.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Gary, age 30
Positive—I loved this movie. I was not going to see this one because the first Left Behind movie did not witness effectively. Kirk Cameron made this film what it is by the editing he did. I hope if they continue to make more Left Behind movies they will continue to follow in this ones steps. Great film all around.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Josette Separk, age 31
Positive—This was a GREAT Christian movie from the start to the end! I was really impressed. Kirk Cameron’s script additions made this the movie that the first Left Behind should have been. The storyline was easy to follow, believable and interesting. It was so refreshing to hear the name of Jesus mentioned all through the movie and to hear Christians praying in Jesus’ name. The acting was great all the way around as was the locations and screen effects. I highly recommend this movie as a great form of Christian entertainment and also as a witnessing tool to introduce Jesus to worldly family and friends who could gain something from viewing it.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Paul Separk, Jr., age 35
Positive—This is one of the best movies Cloud Ten Pictures has ever made. I enjoyed this one a lot more than Left Behind The Movie because it is dives deep into the minds of the characters, it makes you feel their grief, pain, despair and joy. The scene with the fire breathing Witnesses was excellent. Carpathia was chilling as the Antichrist. I can’t wait for NO.3.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Eric Morang, age 21
Positive—AMAZING MOVIE! I loved every minute of it, I actually didn’t want it to end. I thought it was so much better than the first Left Behind movie! Every Christian and non believer should see it! two thumbs up!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Cindy, age 22
Positive—These are the best movies I’ve seen in a long time and even non-Christians are captured by them. I can only hope and pray this team of excellent actors go on to make another sequel. I watch them over and over!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Sarah Swick, age 26
Positive—This is the best Cloud Ten movie out there! This movie is very distant from the Left Behind books, but is an extremely powerful witnessing tool. Most Christian movies tip-toe around Christ to try to get more viewers… this movie is an in your face telling you the truth about Christ like every “Christian Movie” should have type of movie!

The characters give the depth that the lacked in the first one and the story, though strayed from the actual book, was entertaining and smooth! I highly suggest this move to anyone, saved or lost! I hope this movie will do extremely well as to inspire other Christian movies to be created in this caliber!
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 3½]
—Carey Couvillon, age 28
Positive—Just watched it 10-26-2002. Even better than the first 1. Looking forward to seeing it in the theater’s. Wanna go? :)
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Scott Navarra, age 40
Neutral
Neutral—We looked forward to seeing this film and we were disappointed. We expected more. The film does have moments it delivers a strong evangelical message outside the church to a confused/bewildered new member. This is a powerful moment where it is skillfully explained what sin is—from lying to stealing, things we may think as insignificant. However, flash forward a few scenes where Rayford’s daughter and Buck are having relationship problems. Buck is pounding on the door to come in and Chloe won’t let him in. She hollers up to her father, Rayford. Rayford is upstairs in the hallway evesdropping on her. When she asks her dad to answer the door for her, he lies!! - says I can’t answer the door I’m in the shower and have soap in my eyes. Nothing is perfect in this world, but what about the powerful message a few scenes before about what sin is? So is the message—it is ok to sometimes lie? We’re just thinking if this film is geared to saving people—what kind of message is being delivered here?
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Lori and Keith, age 44
Neutral—This second installment in the Left Behind Movie series was better than the first one but I was disappointed in the fact that it did not contain a lot of the other significant events that happened in the second book.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 3]
—John T, age 37
Negative
Negative—This was perhaps one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The only reason I wouldn’t put it at the bottom of the barrel is because the producers of the film were genuinely trying to speak truth through this project. I just watched both films back to back and expected Left Behind II to be better than its predecessor, but alas, I hoped in vain. The story was a confusing, jumbled mess—and I’ve read the books! The character development was shallow and lifeless.

As in the books, the story was sacrificed to make room for sermons. I won’t ignore the fact that some people will find Christ through this film. As a Christian and an artist, I found this film thoroughly offensive. We need to be looking to the works of the great artists of Christendom’s past if we are to truly impact culture through art.

The writings of Lewis, Tolkien, and Charles Williams were clearly Christian, and yet never felt the need to pander to the lowest common denominator. They weren’t afraid that someone might misunderstand their work, but were confident that God would use the words they wrote to bring men and women into a closer relationship with God. It seems as through most Christian artists today (including the creators of “Left Behind”) feel that audiences need everything spelled out for them.

This isn’t the model we are given by Christ in his parables (the ultimate artist and storyteller). He rarely explained the meanings behind his storys, trusting that God would make the meanings clear. We need to do that as Christians and artists. Just putting a sermon in the middle of a film is not going to bring people to a relationship with Christ.
My Ratings: [Average / 1]
—Josh Hornbeck, age 25
Negative—I have read the all the books and have seen the first movie. I was aware of the small budget of the first film and that it was being directed and produced by an independent Canadian company. I expected the movie to be kind of cheesy, which it was. But I was delightfully surprised to find it wasn’t nearly as preachy or unwatchable as what I had anticipated.

The movie did have its good points and Gorden Curry was perfect for the role of Nicolea Carpathia. Now comes the second movie. With a bigger budget, I was expecting Cloud Ten to be able to hire more competent screen writers and director. I was expecting them to really put together a good tight movie, complete with good pacing and editing. That was not the case.

This film does appear to have slightly better production and slightly better special effects but the pacing is terrible. The dialogue has not been improved, and most of the dramatic tension that was present in the first outing has mostly dried up here. Instead of telling a story, the movie marches along, spitting out information about the world and characters like a machine, only pausing occasionally to preach. Chemistry between the actors is almost nonexistant.

Even Gordon Curry is starting to stumble over his role because of hopelessly incompetent writing and direction. Everything that I feared the first film would be, the second film is. In previous cloud nine pictures, the actors carried the films because they had too. And because they didn’t have anything to stop them. And they did a good enough job most of the time. Here, the actors are not given a chance to because the Lalonde Brothers are too busy doing three things; showing they have a larger budget this time, setting up the scene for part three, and trying desperately and unsuccessful to hide that they are incompetent as film makers.

The budget masked a lot of the flaws in previous Cloud Nine films; they just appeared to be low budget indepedent movies, which they are. Here, in Left behind II, the budget brings all the flaws of the film out into the forefront. All the bugs show up even more even in the light.

The Lalondes are alright when all they have to do is set up a camera and let the actors carry a show, but when real direction is attempted, they fail miserably. They should use the larger budget to invest in better screen writer and better directors.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 2]
—Jeremy, age 29
Negative—While this movie portrays Scripture very well and even has a good understanding of the Gospel message… it still misses the boat as a film production. Evangelism is a wonderful thing, but who is the audience of the film? While someone can be saved through the influence of a film such as this, who is going to care about how detailed the message is except for the Christians? If you want to reach an audience that attends movies, you must know that their motive for doing so is to be entertained. I agree that you can entertain without gratuitous material, but you must also realize that the heart of drama is conflict. Without conflict, you have no story.

The conflict in this film was weak, if not almost non-existant. It took 48 minutes before the action began to pick up and the climax lasted for about 20-30 seconds. I’m not even certain that I could find an “Inciting Incident” that acted as a catalyst for the “tension” of the film. I gave this film series a second chance thinking there would’ve been some improvement, and I was very disappointed to find that I had a hard time staying awake. There were 11 sermons, and only 4-5 scenes of actual dramatic tension. Is this really drama?

Again, truthful message, but not persuasive or entertaining. Story was sacrificed for sermon. If your looking for theology, I’d save the money and either attend church or read Revelation than see this movie. If your looking for story… read the books.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 1]
—Eric Bumpus, age 22
Movie Critics

The themes are obviously spiritual and imply a literal reading of the final biblical book, “The Revelation of John.” There is some “over-acting” and the giving of the Antichrist, Nicolae Carpathia (referring to the biblical “Nicolaitans” and the “Carpathian Mountains”—also called the “Transylvanian Alps”), a “Transylvania”-“Count Dracula” accent is cartoonish. But the overall story is engaging. It is helpful if you’ve read the books and seen the first film, but it is not necessary to have done so to enjoy this second installment…

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: 1)The belief that all of history is a story under His control is a major message of the Bible. If this assertion is true, then what part do individual Christians play within this story? 2) Understanding that the indescribable nature of prophecy is beyond our mental and linguistic ability to describe, how should we approach the symbolism in the Revelation of John? How do we know which descriptions are symbolic and which are literal? 3) The prophecies of the Old Testament have not convinced most Jewish scholars that they are fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, so knowing the apocalyptic prophecies of John may not convince some people today of God’s hand in history. What is difficult for you in understanding or believing these prophecies and what difference does your belief or lack of belief make in your life?
—Denny and Hal, Cinema in Focus

…I am delighted and surprised at the increase in overall quality in this movie compared to the first Left Behind. Overall, the story’s clear good-versus-evil premise plays well in a movie that is trying to communicate the Gospel message, and this movie capitalizes well on this story element. It’s a movie that stimulates discussion about the end times and the Gospel message. Christians will find it entertaining and inoffensive. This is a movie I would invite all my friend and family to see. It is wholesome and entertaining. The film exhibits a keen sense of the importance of detail and subtlety…
—Bob Liparulo, Contributing Editor (or Media Editor), New Man Magazine
…Tribulation Force was compelling, convicting and thought provoking. I really enjoyed the movie, and the acting was top notch! The movie challenged me to evaluate my walk with the Lord and will encourage believers in their walk as well. It is an effective tool to share the Bible’s truth. The quality of the movie is definitely at the same, if not better than, standards of Hollywood…
—Patrick Wilson, Editor, Godly Business Woman
…The Left Behind film series is becoming the modern version of A Thief in the Night, offering both an opportunity for Christians to be entertained and capitalizing off the mainstream’s fascination with end-times events. Left Behind II is extremely evangelistic, making it an effective outreach tool for Christians hoping to seek immediate fruit…
—Adrienne Gaines, Associate Editor, Charisma and Christian Life
…Tribulation Force is an entertaining and gripping drama with a solid Christian message you must not miss. Kirk Cameron, Janaya Stephens and Brad Johnson are all outstanding. The production is excellent and the message is clear. On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 10…
—Randall Murphree, Editor, American Family Association Journal
…The excitement, curiosity and livelihood of the actors made Tribulation Force an awesome movie. The film and the book match up closer than any other movie/book relation I have ever seen. Along with that the religious and spiritual quality was intact and stayed that way through the film…
—Arthur Anderson, Administrator and Film Reviewer, Teens4Jesus
…There’s suspense, intrigue, daring and likeable characters worth rooting for. But more than any of these, there’s a concerted desire to put out a likeable film that entertains while conveying God’s truth, while not coming across as hokey. And at that, Cloud Ten deserves an “A”…
—Bob Waliszewski, Youth Culture Department Manager, Focus on the Family
…In my opinion this film [Left Behind II: Tribulation Force] is better than the first one… The evangelistic power of this film is awesome! Characters repeatedly come to Christ in powerfully acted and compelling scenes… Fans of the book Tribulation Force will be especially pleased with the film’s faithfulness to their favorite scenes… I love it when dedicated teams of Christians make quality Christian films like Left Behind II: Tribulation Force…
—Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…Anyone who has a concern to reach the lost will love this movie. I wept. I shouted for joy. It is the clearest video presentation of the Gospel I have ever seen, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give it to unsaved friends and family…
—Ray Comfort, Author/Evangelist, Living Waters Publications