Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Monday, April 6, 2015

Zach Lawrence and The End Times Quandary

Some writers hate critics.  Especially when they are negative.   But I don't mind.  I enjoy it when a person takes the time to thoughtfully consider something I have written (or co-written.)  I don't even mind if they're negative, provided their criticism is reasonable and grounded.  Often time I find myself agreeing with my critics.  (And I often times warned producers of the same problems long before the shooting began....)

I have followed Zach Lawrence since he reviewed my film "The Encounter."  I find his reviews thoughtful and often humorous.  He's not a hater by any means, but, unlike too many fans of the genre, he isn't afraid to call Christian filmmakers out on sloppy work and general heavyhandedness.   I was curious to watch his review of my film "Revelation Road:  The Beginning of the End."

Here it is:

What I find most amusing about Zach Lawrence's critique of "Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End" is his general disgust with End Times movies.  He feels that they simply retell the same story over and over again.  I have to admit that I am tired of them, too.  I believe my response, when I was asked to write this film, was:  "Do we really need another End Times movie?"  The answer, from actor/producer/director David A.R. White, was, "Yes!"

For those unfamiliar with the term, End Time films are ones that deal with the events prophesied in the Bible's Book of Revelation.  It's an action-packed book whose events are open to a great deal of interpretation.  Since the 1972 release of the short, independent film, "A Thief in the Night," Christian filmmakers have returned to the subject matter almost as frequently as the swallows return to Capistrano.

The way I see it, there are two main reasons why so many End Time movies are made.  First, Christians with a pre-tribulation viewpoint find the subject endlessly fascinating, and the core audience for faith-based films tend to fall into that category.  However, quite a few Christians do not subscribe to the pre-trib viewpoint.  Some of them find these films not only annoying but actually heretical.  That's why, despite all of the copies of the "Left Behind" books that were sold, I was surprised by the relatively high budget of the recent reboot of the "Left Behind" film starring Nicholas Cage.  I didn't expect the Christian community, as a whole, to rally behind it.  And they didn't.

The second reason has more to do with certain filmmakers desire for fun.  You can only do so many movies about a pastor's crisis of faith.  Once you commit yourself to making films for the Christian marketplace, you have to follow the dictates of the audience, which includes no bad language, no sex, no drugs, no real rock'n'roll and no violence.  That prohibition against violence pretty much means, if you are a faith-based filmmaker, you can never make an action film.  There are only two acceptable exceptions:  Films set in Biblical times and End Time movies.  End Time movies are cheaper to produce than Biblical period pieces, so tah-dah:  We have End Times movies galore.  This is particularly true if you work for an actor/producer like David A.R. White, whose most fervent desire is to position himself as an action hero in a genre that doesn't want or need them.  As a result you end up with "The Moment After," "The Moment After 2," "Six:  The Mark Unleashed," "In The Blink of an Eye," "Jerusalem Countdown," "The Mark," "Revelation Road:  The Beginning of the End," "Revelation Road 2:  The Sea of Glass and Fire" and "The Black Rider:  Revelation Road."  It's hard to imagine the Rapture without David A.R. White.  I'm surprised he wasn't actually prophesied in the Bible.

As to Zach's criticism that these films tell the same story endlessly:  He's right.  The movies always tend to center on a unbeliever whose Christian spouse, family and/or friends disappear in a twinkling of the eye during the rapture.  Then he/she must wrestle with his/her doubts until they come to accept the Lord.  That's a reasonably compelling story the first couple of times you see it.  Less so the fifteenth time.  Making a film about post-rapture events, however, can be complicated.  In a movie, you always want the hero to decisively defeat the evil forces present in the film.  However, a hero in an End Times movie can't always do that.  Once the Apocalyptic clock starts running, the events must play out as God has preordained.  Therefore, if the hero kills the anti-Christ, he would actually be thwarting God's will!  Oooops.  Therefore, filmmakers tend to stick with the less theologically complicated Rapture period.

My second script "The Mark," written when I was but a boy screenwriter, dealt with the End Times long before there was a faith-based genre.  I wrote it even before the publication of the "Left Behind" books.  It was my first script taken seriously by Hollywood.  The script was sent around by a Jewish agent who didn't view it as being exclusively Christian.  He thought the story was a Twilight Zone-ish allegory about the Holocaust, and feared it might actually be too Jewish in its sensitivities.  I wish I would have pursued this project more aggressively.  I might have invented the modern End Times genre.  I think Zach would have approved of that project.  It didn't tell the Rapture story.  That tale started three years into the Tribulation period.  (Maybe if I had started off with a Rapture scene, the script would have sold....)

Much to his surprise, Zach found the first Revelation Road film interesting enough to be sucked into watching the second film.  Here's his review of that film:

I wonder if he will review Black Rider?

Be sure to check out my book The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God.  It is available in paperback and on Kindle courtesy of TouchPoint Press.

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