The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is catapulting Nicolas Cage back into his chaotic spot at the pinnacle of celebrity discourse, where he has never really left. The actor has one of the most unhinged filmographies of any working actor, running the gamut from insipid to sublime, mainstream flop to fringe masterpiece, blockbuster fuel to box office poison — and very often all of the above, all at once. And in a tribute to his unbearably massive talent, Cage has never given less than 100 percent to the job, no matter the role.
But there is one gig he took that reigns supremely strange above all others. We all remember where we were when we heard it was happening. I, for example, was on the way to the airport when my phone started blowing up with the news. You may have been somewhere else, but we were all united by the astonishing reality that Nicolas Cage would be starring in a reboot of Left Behind, a film adaptation of Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye’s end times series that was first brought to the screen as a Kirk Cameron vehicle.
The movie bombed, of course. We all know that. What did you think was going to happen? But there are so many things we don’t know — questions that will linger on for eternity. Not every question has an answer. But that doesn’t mean we can’t ask them.
You can search the internet far and wide (we have) but you will never get a satisfactory answer to just how the dominoes fell into place here. Someone asked. Cage said yes. That’s about the end of it. Let this be a lesson to anyone with big dreams: Never be afraid to shoot your shot.
2. Did Cage read Left Behind?
Presumably, if you’re going to star in an adaptation of a book, digging into the book is step one of the process. Whatever else you think of Cage, nobody would accuse him of going halfway on anything, so on that basis, we have to assume that, yes, he’s read Left Behind. On the other hand, can you really imagine Nicolas Cage reading Left Behind?
3. Did Cage talk to actors from the first film?
Often times, actors in reboots will consult with whoever had their previous role about their experience, both as a way of honoring the legacy and figuring out how to do it differently. In this case, Cage’s airline pilot Rayford Steele was played by the late Brad Johnson in the 1994 series. Did they discuss the nuances of Steele’s characterization?
4. Does Cage hold to Premillennial Eschatology?
It’s a question worth asking. But again, not every question has an answer.
5. Why did Vic Armstrong direct it?
Vic Armstrong, who helmed Left Behind, has an incredible resume that includes being Harrison Ford’s stunt double on the early Indiana Jones movies (he’s the guy who jumps from a galloping horse onto a tank in The Last Crusade, one of the greatest stunts in American filmmaking). He’s a second unit director who handles a lot of big action sequences, but what drew him to a film in which the greatest stunt is the vanishing of a sizable percentage of the world’s population is a mystery?
6. Chad Michael Murray?
This question speaks for itself.
7. Who was the audience for this?
This question comes up with a lot of movies but it’s a real puzzler here. Left Behind seems to fall squarely into the “too Christian for Nicolas Cage fans, not Christian enough for Left Behind fans” situation.
8. Why did they reboot Left Behind?
Let’s do a little math here. The first Left Behind film series spawned two sequels, the last of which released in 2005. The Nicolas Cage iteration was reborn in 2014 — just nine years later. Now, admittedly, in the age of superhero franchises, nine years seems like a healthy amount of time (there were just three years between Andrew Garfield’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 swan song and Tom Holland’s solo debut in Spider-Man: Homecoming). But this might legitimately be the fastest turnaround a piece of non-superhero IP has ever had in Hollywood. What gives?
9. Can we get Lea Thompson a better agent?
Lea Thompson has an appearance here as Irene Steele, Rayford’s wife who vanishes in the blink of an eye in the film’s first act. This is the sort of stuff Thompson’s been cast in since forever, a frankly tragic misuse of a great actor. She’s still best known for her role as Lorraine in the Back to the Future franchise, movies in which she is able to sell what could definitely be a very creepy concept with a lot of adolescent heart. Since then, she’s appeared in full blown disasters like Howard the Duck and some very fun projects like Caroline in the City, but nothing that has fully utilized her undeniable skill. Somebody has to answer for this.
10. Who should star in the next reboot?
This franchise can not and could never do better than getting Nicolas Cage, the finest actor of his or any generation. But IP never gets fully raptured in Hollywood and Left Behind seems as likely as any franchise to rise from its grave like a zombie and get another time at-bat. Do we get Nicolas Cage to try again?