With the 2005 film, Left Behind: World At War, the Left Behind series enter special guest star territory. Kirk Cameron and Brad Johnson, while still present in the film, were largely pushed to the background and Louis Gossett, Jr. and Charles Martin Smith popped up as Nicolae Carpathia’s two main adversaries.
Gossett plays President Gerald Fitzhugh. Smith plays Vice President John Mallory. (Speaking as someone of Irish descent, it fills me with pride to think that America will someday be led by the presidential ticket of Fitzhugh and Mallory.) Despite the fact that Carpathia (again played by Gordon Currie) spent the previous film talking about how, under his leadership, there would be no more borders, it appears that there still are borders. However, Carpathia has a plan to take care of that. Mallory has discovered the plan but, right after he tells Fitzhugh about it, they’re attacked by Carpathia’s goons. The presidential limo is blown up and with it, John Mallory. (Poor Charles Martin Smith.) Fitzhugh manages to escape, thanks to the help of the Tribulation Force.
It turns out that Carpathia’s latest scheme is to steal the few remaining bibles in the world, lace them with anthrax, and then distribute them back to the believers. Gossett gets to go full action hero as he tries to stop Carpathia and good for him. As for the other members of the Tribulation Force, Buck (Kirk Cameron) marries Chloe Steele (Janaya Stephens) and Chloe’s father, Rayford (Brad Johnson), meets his former lover, Hatti Dunham (Chelsea Noble). Hattie is now Carpathia’s lover and is pregnant with his child. Some members of the Tribulation Force die over the course of the film. Buck has a moment of anger at God, which is the best scene in the film because it at least acknowledges that one can believe and still be angry. The majority of the film, however, is Lou Gossett, Jr. wandering around with a “How did I go from winning an Oscar to appearing in this?” look on his face.
Anyway, credit where credit is due. World at War is the most action-packed of the Left Behind films and, while it’s still definitely an evangelical film, it’s considerably less preachy than either the first Left Behind film or Tribulation Force. World at War is pure melodrama, with a lot of plotting and evil cackling and overdone action scenes. If you don’t want to listen to the dialogue, you can focus on just how small the film’s version of the Oval Office is. That’s what happens when you try to a globe-spanning epic on a low budget. Sometimes, you have to settle for a small replica of the Oval Office instead of trying for the real thing.
That’s not to say that World At War is a particularly good film. Brad Johnson gets even less to do than in the second film and Kirk Cameron is still Kirk Cameron. Since he lost his job at the end of Tribulation Force, we’re no longer asked to believe that Kirk Cameron’s playing a respected journalist. Instead, Buck is now just a self-righteous evangelist and, for obvious reasons, it’s easy to believe Kirk Cameron in that role but Kirk Cameron is one of those actors who is far more likable when he’s miscast than when he’s playing himself. Much as with Tribulation Force, World At War can’t seem to decide just how powerful Carpathia actually is. He’s got supernatural powers and is apparently actually immortal and yet, he is often easily deceived by the simplest of ruses and is incapable of killing anyone until their usefulness to the film’s narrative has expired.
Louis Gossett, Jr. was smart enough to play a character who dies at the end of World At War, therefore freeing him from having to appear in any more Left Behind movies. It turned out to be a moot point, however. This was the last Left Behind film until the recent unsuccessful attempt to reboot the franchise with Nicolas Cage as Rayford Steele.