On September 28th, 2016 the “Vanished” film was released in limited theater appearances across the country.
The movie Vanished is a reboot of the original Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and is primarily targeted at Millennial’s and teens. Vanished is an action adventure/drama movie produced by EchoLight Studios. The stars of the movie include Disney Channel Actress Amber Frank, Teen Wolf’s Mason Dye, Man of Steel’s Dylan Sprayberry and child Actress Keely Wilson from Grey’s Anatomy. The movie was produced by several people including Randy LaHaye, Tim LaHaye’s grandson. Randy LaHaye also makes an appearance in this film as the anti-Christ. Larry A. Mclean is the director of this film.
The plot of this movie follows the idea that every Christian suddenly “vanished” from the world, leaving only the unbelievers. People, however, are not aware that it’s only believers, they are clueless at first about why this happened. A headstrong 15-year-old Gabby (Amber Frank) is thrust into adulthood way too soon when her mom is one of those who “vanished.” Gabby along with her younger sister Claire (Keely Wilson) go in search of their father who lives in the country and they believe is still alive. Gabby and her sister will be accompanied on their journey by two teen boys, Josh (Mason Dye) who is her best friend and lives in the apartment complex in which Gabby lives and Flynn (Dylan Sprayberry.) Flynn is introduced to this trio when he saves Claire from ensuing danger after the vanishing. Gabby along with the group go out to navigate a dangerous new world ruled by those who’ve been left behind in search of Gabby and Claire’s father along with answers to what truly happened to the “vanished.”
To be fair in this review, I should note a few things before I give my thoughts about this movie. First, this movie had only a 21-day shooting scheduled, which in the movie industry is not much time at all. Also, this movie is a “reboot.” Meaning that they are starting new or redoing the focus of the movie series compared to the original Left Behind movies. As I mentioned earlier, the main group or age category for this film is Millennial’s or younger. Also, let me note that just like the original Left Behind movies by Tim LaHaye this movie also holds to Pre-Tribulation Dispensational view of the rapture. Which notably in fairness, I do not believe. I hold to the classical or biblical Amillennial eschatological view. So while I find this movie entertaining, I don’t find it biblically accurate.
Now I did attend the film in person and did watch the live pressroom event afterward. So later when I present my concerns with this movie, they will be vetted by the fact that I was at this showing and did not gather my information from second handed.
Let me start out by pointing out some of the good things about this movie. First, it was entertaining and followed a quick paced line of action and drama. Second, it was clean. If you are looking for a “Christian” film that has action and drama in it and still is family friendly, then you may want to get the DVD of this movie when it comes out. This movie is suitable for family viewing in that there is little to no sexual content except for one kiss and some hand holding. Which depending on your stance on the proper premarital relationship this may be unacceptable. Also, vulgarity is nonexistent throughout this movie. As far as, violence there is some minor violence which is to be expected considering the premise and nature of the show.
While this movie was entertaining and I do not want to detract from that, I found some major concerns within the narrative of the film, the use of it as an evangelistic tool and in the making of the film itself. One of the major concerns I found within this version or reboot has to do with the story line itself. I seem to me that while this is a redo of the Left Behind series something is missing from this version. What is missing is the holding to a prophetic timeline of happenings. Unlike the original movies, Vanished seems to deviate from a biblical timeline of events and erodes into a rabbit trail adventure. It would appear that we spend most of our time in this movie avoiding a crazy prepper farmer person. I believe this detracts from the whole purpose of what the Left Behind series and its pre-tribulation dispensational view of end times events were trying to accomplish. Even as a rebooted series there still needs to be some consistency to the function of the original narrative.
Another area of concern that I have with this movie comes with the presentation or lack of a clear presentation of Christ, our condition before God and the Gospel. As I mentioned above, there was a lot of time spent on drama, action, and adventure. There were several opportunities for a clear Gospel message to be given in the storyline, but instead, we got the watered down lukewarm version of the modern day seeker friendly version of the Gospel and Jesus. One on these opportunities was when Gabby’s father was mortally wounded, and he tells her to “believe.” The way this is presented in the movie you are asking, “believe” in what? Right before this scene we find Gabby’s dad talking about God, Jesus, and faith to Gabby but there is no talk about “sin” or why we need for a “Savior.” There is an even more distorted view of the necessity of repentance. Instead, the focus is on emotionalism and pleading from Gabby’s dad for Gabby to accept Jesus because he wants to see her in heaven. Which clearly a selfish man focused reasonings and not one that we find in the Bible. At the core, this presentation comes across as humanistic and evades the need for a Holy God and Savior.
In the typical modern-day American evangelicalism fashion that is so widely present today, viewers of this film are left with a distorted picture of who Christ is. We are left with Jesus looking like a powerless, blue-eyed, blond-haired, surfer Jesus standing in a woman’s nightgown knocking at the door of your heart pleading to be let in. The Christ of the Bible is never clearly portrayed here in this movie. There are a lot of Gospel nuggets given and a lot of hints of a biblical Christ, but they are never clearly defined.
I found the after movie pressroom event which was held at Liberty University to be troublesome. I knew that it would be as soon as the name Liberty University was mentioned. If you are not familiar with the problems with Liberty University, please search the numerous articles at Pulpit and Pen. I was left pounding a few things after this interview. During this event, the actors and actresses fielded questions from the audience both in-house and on Twitter. Most of the inquiries centered around the movie or the actors and actresses’ careers, which were could be expected. I found the questioning to be shallow and devoid of any substance in relationship to the purpose of the motion picture. One question that was never asked, nor was the subject ever brought up was to do with the actors and actresses’ personal relationship with Christ. No one asked if any of the stars were Christians.
Now the Director, Larry A. Mclean and Producer Randy LaHaye where present and answering questions as well. The question of the actors and actresses’ faith was never directed at either of them which I believe is alarming in itself. Why was this topic not brought up? Are the stars ashamed of their faith? Are they not Christians? If the second is the case, then why are they starring in this movie? I wonder if it comes down to the marketing of Evangelicals and Evangelism? If these actors and actresses are not believers is Larry A. Mclean and Randy LaHaye using them to draw people in with the attraction of famous names to sell their motion picture?
I willingly admit I do not know the answers to some of those questions that I’ve asked above since the topics were avoided and I am not all knowing. I like many other discerning Christians are left to muse over those thoughts. One thing that truly bothered me was when both Randy LaHaye and Larry A. Mclean were trying to push this movie off as a “conversation starter” to get people talking about what happens after death. Please if you are reading this and have watched the movie or are planning on doing so, do not do this.
While this film is entertaining, it is just that entertaining. If you want to get a “conversation starter “with someone about faith, Jesus or what happens after death use your Bible, not this movie. If you want to be entertained and follow a story then watch the film, but don’t use it to support your evangelistic efforts.
[Contributed by Richard Haas]