Happy New Year, all!Sorry for the hiatus--Wintermas and New Year's plans got in the way of posting.But it's okay, because as a special treat, we have another guest review by Ivan!And it's the sequel to his previous review, .
A GUEST REVIEW BY IVAN
When your first commercially released movie is something like Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm, the best you can normally hope for is a cult status like The Room. But the market for Christian fiction is far from normal. That's why Apocalypse became the start of Cloud Ten Picture's successful movie enterprise. And instead of trying to make a joke of their debut movie or sweep it under the rug, they doubled down and started cranking out sequels. The first of these, and our review fodder for today, was Revelation.
Ah, Revelation, a title almost as unoriginal as Apocalypse. And as you can see, the new movie's poster is just as terrible as last time too. Has anything been improved? Well, yes actually. Either they got wealthier investors, or the extremely low budget of their first movie allowed them to turn a profit from the small but dedicated church audiences. Whatever the reason, the budget, cinematography and acting have all been upgraded.
Of course, this more professional production does mean I don't get to enjoy the adorable MST3K quality of the first movie. So now my entertainment must come either from the movie being genuinely good, or from snarking it to smithereens. And I'm not holding my breath for the former. Case in point, this recap-screen:
I could snark the incredibly cliched ominous font, the very low estimate of 'millions' of disappearances, or the fact that this movie will entirely gloss over the benefits of that peace, harmony and love. But my favorite part is the phrase 'band of resistors'. Is this band of resistors connected in series or parallel? And how many Ohm are they? Yeah, I know what they mean by it, but I can't find a single dictionary that lists any description for resistors other than a component in an electrical circuit. So the filmmakers are both mangling scientific terms and displaying that, for all their talk, they don't understand even the basic concepts of persecuted rebels opposing a tyrannical regime. All in the first four seconds of the movie!
Once the recap is done we open up witha Christian song. Oh my Odin, not again! But wait, it actually isn't that bad. For starters, this rendition of the rapture-classic "I wish we'd all been ready" at least sounds nice. And the sad lyrics actually fit with both the rather melancholical tune and the footage from a camera slowly and ominously tracking through the rooms of a dark house, starting in an empty bedroom filled with stuffed animals. Unlike the jumbled messes of the first movie with depressed lyrics, happy music and (supposedly) exciting action footage, here the lyrics, music and imagery all paint a single, cohesive picture. Plus, it mostly plays over the credits, and the rest of the movie features a regular instrumental score. So I'm willing to give this a pass.
Halfway through the song, the camera gets to the dark living room where a man is seated in front of his TV, while looking at the family picture besides him. Or rather, at the back of the picture frame, but if he had turned the picture around to face him, the audience wouldn't have been able to see it. This is our new protagonist, played by Jeff Fahey, a highly productive B-movie actor who recently starred in Planet Terror and Machete. He had already two decades of acting experience at the time of this movie, including an R-rated thriller called Extramarital the year before. That Cloud Ten Pictures tapped him for this role shows that they prioritized affordable acting experience over properly puritan qualifications, for which I am grateful. He's an adequate leading man, better than Buckson.
His character is Special Agent Thorold Stone and are you kidding me!? Who comes up with these names? Special Agent Stone sounds like the main character of some B-movie testosterone factory. But then the first name is something as old-fashioned as Thorold. I suspect it's an anagram but I'll be buggered if I know for what. These online anagram solvers don't come up with many coherent ones. 'Do not holster' was my favorite guess.
Now I want to see the RTC wish-fulfillment protagonists with Freudian porn star names in a crossover.
"Captain Rayford Steele, the ace pilot with his fully loaded 747 on autopilot. Special Agent Thorold Stone, the counter-terrorism expert who never holsters his mighty weapon. And Colonel Lance Mustang, the ex-marine rooster farmer who's won the "Biggest Cock" contest 3 years in a row. Together they are the Overcompensators. Join them as they battle the dreaded Dr. Midlife Crisis, tonight, on FOX."
I'm going to have to give this guy a nickname if I don't want to keep giggling throughout this review. The first movie's protagonist was a ripoff of Buck Williams, so it was appropriate nicknaming him Buckson. What's Thorold Stone (*snicker*) like? An operative for a global organization dedicated to wiping out Christians, who is set on the path to salvation after talking to an African American Christian and barely surviving a supernatural event? Perfect! Stonepola it is.
You may have noticed that I considered Buckson a vast improvement over the original Buck. While Buck was busy chilling in the penthouse he bought with the salary he got from the antichrist, Buckson made a dangerous and selfless attempt to warn the unsaved before it was too late. Is Stonepola a similar improvement of the abomination named Paul Stepola? Short answer: Mheh.
Longer answer: Both Soon and Revelation try to present the familiar character arc of "Oppressor redeems himself by joining the Oppressed". Both botch the redemption part, but for opposite reasons. Paul Stepola's problem is that he's still a murderous asshole after his alleged redemption. Stonepola's problem is that he is already a nice guy before it. He has no stake in or sympathy for the regime he's supposed to be fighting for. The RTCs he's supposedly persecuting realize he's their ally within 30 seconds of meeting him, and his evil superiors are even quicker on the uptake. He might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says "Conversion bait".
Of course, a protagonist who's too kind is still less painful to watch than the likes of Paul. But Stonepola's character has the added problem of a plot hole-riddled backstory.This sequel to Apocalypse treats the first movie's events as a guideline at best. Several events of Apocalypse get acknowledged in a single line of clumsy exposition in Revelation, followed by plot points that ignore or contradict those events.And quite a few of those continuity hiccups are tied into Stonepola's actions, motivations or backstory. So whatever the merits of Fahey as an actor, I can't give his character the "thumbs sorta up" I gave Buckson.
Anyway, Stonepola manages to take his teary eyes from the wooden back of the picture frame and back to the TV where he's watching home video footage of his wife and daughter being all cutesy and shit.
"Mr. Director, there's a lawyer from Hallmark with a copyright lawsuit here to see you."
Before you can say "Gee, I wonder what happened to them" in a sarcastic tone, Stonepola falls asleep and dreams about it. First about how he and his wife had an argument about his horrible sin of not seeing a need to go to church.
"Why can't we do this together, as a family?"
"We don't need church to make us a family, all right? I'm gonna tell you one more time honey, I'm not going, I don't wanna hear any more of this Bible-stuff. If you wanna go, go!"
"Why can't you just open your heart a little? Please, Thorold. We're talking about eternity here."
Note the way his wife tries to guilt-trip her husband by making it sound like she just wants to do things together 'as a family', then revealing that her real motivation is hoping it'll make him convert.
His wife is of course raptured, so she doesn't technically appear in this story. But she shows up in so many recordings, dreams, impersonations and illusions that her acting still manages to grate my nerves. While the overall acting has improved since the last movie, this woman bucks the trend and can't do a convincing line reading to save her life. I'm not even kidding when I say the little girl playing their daughter upstages her. Then the dream moves on to the rapture. Stonepola is pushing his daughter on her swing while his wife is filming it, when there's a white flash (very cheaply done, movie) and suddenly mother and daughter are gone. There aren't neatly folded piles of clothes, but the camera the mother was holding is lying on the ground, so I guess this is really how their rapturing happened. Taken away by their heavenly father, so they no longer had to suffer the evil presence of their human fatherwho was busy being a loving, caring, attentive family man. Uhm, thank god? My best guess is that this scene is meant as a sort of moral support to RTCs who are annoyed that their unsaved neighbors aren't as mean and miserable as they should be, what with that Jesus-shaped hole in their life. It shows that those pleasant-looking people still aren't right by god like you are, dear viewer. One day they'll rue how they politely rejected your evangelizing even though now they may look like they haven't got a care in the world, just like Stonepola in this scene.
Well okay, if you want to be nitpicky, I suppose Stonepola had one minor care at the time.
Just that his little nuclear family was about to become more literally so. Remember how the rapture happened during the opening stage of WW3 in the first movie, and the news was telling all Americans to just kiss their asses goodbye? Don't worry if you'd forgotten, Cloud Ten apparently did as well. Stonepola's family shouldn't be playing outside, they should be under the kitchen table hoping that that 'duck and cover' crap works better than they think it will. Nonsensical backstory and song over, we go to the following morning when Stonepola is called to the scene of a blown up school bus. The cops assume it's the work of the haters, a.k.a. the Christians, a.k.a. the RTCs, a.k.a. the band of resistors. But every sentient life form in the audience can deduce, just from the sad music and dramatic shots of sheet-covered bodies and burning schoolbags, that it'll turn out to be a false flag operation by the antichrist. I'm not going to bother pretending otherwise. Actually, I called them cops but they, like all the other emergency workers on the scene, have a logo reading O.N.E. on their uniforms. That's because they are now all working for the antichrist's global government, the One Nation Earth. I'm taking points of for needing to use 'One' to make the acronym O.N.E. But given that Left Behind called their one-world government Global Community, Revelation still comes out ahead. Then again, this movie does expect us to believe this whole global organization was set up during a three month time skip instead of Left Behind's eighteen. The corner-cutting required to set everything up in just three months might explain why the logo is so obviously and poorly glued to this guy's outfit. The movie never actually makes it clear what role Stonepola plays in this whole O.N.E. organization. He's just referred to as "an O.N.E. Agent", despite his G-man outfit being just about the only uniform that doesn't have the O.N.E. logo on it. More importantly, the movie also never makes it clear whether he joined the O.N.E. willingly, or if he used to be some sort of federal agent whose agency got absorbed into the one world government and that he never got around to quitting. Both options make no sense given his backstory, but the former is decidedly more stupid, so I'd have liked to know. A bomb squad expert tells Stonepola that they managed to "isolate the frequency" of the detonator when another suit runs in and tells them that "satellite tracking just located the source of the detonator signal", so Stonepola gets moving again before he's even told exactly where that signal came from. That entire scene took 15 seconds, probably so we don't get time to think on how the hell all that technobabble was supposed to work. A satellite "just located" the signal of a detonator, long after the bomb had gone off? That signal was strong enough to be picked up from space? Did they even need that isolated frequency? But the movie does take its time on the scene of Stonepola and his partner driving to the warehouse. This scene does an okay job of establishing character, but utterly fails at world building. "Come on, Thorold. You've seen the same thing as the rest of us. Every nuclear weapon on Earth, gone." Oh, now they remember the nukes. "Millions of people vanishing into thin air.You know, ever since we were little kids, you never believed in anything. Every puppet show, you're looking for strings. At Christmas, you're looking for Santa's footprints on the roof. Finally, you've got all the proof you need and it's still not good enough." Between this and the "why don't you open your heart a little" from Stonepola's wife, he's been firmly established as a doubting Thomas. But you know what I just left out in that snip? "Millions of people vanishing into thin air. If Macalousso is not god, then who is he?" "Maybe he's just some con-man who saw what was going on and took advantage before anyone could come to their senses." The doubting Thomas is right. He may underestimate Macalousso, but he's spot on about what he actually did. That's interesting, because RTCs like his wife love to complain about skeptics for being so unreasonable and denying the obvious truth. But even if the movie doesn't acknowledge it, we see that the close-minded man who doesn't believe in god is right to be skeptical. Unlike his partner, who's a firm supporter of the antichrist. And the partner of a thriller protagonist who is about to come into a conflict with his evil superiors. And the protagonist's childhood-friend. And he's blackRubyTea, do you have Bruce Barnes' death timer lying around somewhere? Does it display minutes too? Or seconds, for that matter? I should give the movie some props for at least having some non-white cast members. I counted six African-Americans characters in this movie, which is a decent score. Too bad only half of them make it to the end credits. Stonepola concludes the discussion by saying he's not looking for god, just for his family. This is the point where the inconsistencies of this story's setting become too big to ignore. For starters, Stonepola doesn't believe Macalousso's story, but doesn't have a clue what did happen to his family. Apparently his wife never did speak to him again "about this Bible-stuff". And he didn't see Buckson's worldwide broadcast. And he never, ever, heard about the rapture at any point in his life. We're in "Jesus, who's that?"-territory here. For another thing, Stonepola's dissatisfaction with Macalousso's official story that the raptured family members were killed by him for being hateful is presented as unusual. "Everyone has lost someone" said the news reporter in Apocalypse, accompanied by stock footage of grief-stricken families. But when Macalousso came and said "Don't worry about your missing loved ones, I killed them, now worship me", everyone but Stonepola went either "Oh, okay" or "Antichrist!" And lastly, there's the problem that Stonepola isn't dead yet. He and Deadmeat are casually debating their religious disagreement, like friends might normally do. But the situation isn't normal. They aren't debating the divinity of a guy last seen two millennia ago, nor of the leader of a small cult. They're debating the divinity of their global dictator. The man who, with a single speech, triggered mass-roundups and public executions of his enemies. Not only that, but as O.N.E. agents they serve as his enforcers. They're on their way to wiping out some more of his enemies right now. Yet Stonepola sees no danger in constantly expressing his doubts about that leader, and his continuing love for the enemies that leader made disappear. If you tried that in a real dictatorship, you'd be in a shallow grave within the week. Cloud Ten is so hung up on the idea of Christians being persecuted, it doesn't occur to them that anyone besides Christians might also face persecution.
++++++++++++++++++++++ Stonepola and Deadmeat arrive at the warehouse just before their SWAT backup does. Deadmeat whips out a device from his friend Willie Spino that can "read human DNA through solid concrete". Wow, my willing suspension of disbelief didn't so much break as disintegrate. This magical hand-held device can not only, through unknown means, detect DNA from a large distance, but can also distinguish it from the DNA of non-human lifeforms that are more than 90% identical?And from DNA from skin slivers that humans leave everywhere? It seems that way, because the magic device works. Stonepola and the SWAT team move in to an unmapped area presumed to be filled with an unknown number of armed terrorists. I don't know what method of approach SWAT officers are taught to use in such situations. But I'm sure that it isn't "walk in a tightly packed line like a bunch of parading Nazi's while ignoring cover, good lines of fire, room to maneuver and protection from being wiped out by a single grenade".
Stonepola's finds the right boarded up window to peak through, where he sees a church service being held in the rundown warehouse, with the preacher's wife and daughter leading dozen or so attendees in a singalong of, ironically, 'He has made me glad'. (I guess you could say the movie does have multiple Christian songs in it, but I don't count it if the characters are singing it.)
Once the womenfolk are done, the preacher takes over. Despite being a post-rapture convert, he's managed to imitate the original RTCs perfectly. And I don't just mean his Bible-prophecy talk. But also how he insists that Christians like him are being horribly persecuted, while failing to act upon that belief. If an enemy death squad can park their truck next to your hideout, sneak to within 30 feet of you and hold an entire frigging debate without anyone in your band of resistors noticing, that's a sign you're not taking this whole "hiding from persecution"-thing seriously.
Stonepola and Deadmeat first discuss how this bunch of capacitors first blew up a school bus and are now singing cheery songs.
"It's not the first time something is blown up in the name of the almighty."
Oh, silly Stonepola, those terrorists weren't True Scotsmen.
Then the discussion turns to what they want to do with this group of inductors. The SWAT captain is all for following orders and gunning them down, Stonepola wants to take them to HQ for questioning. The same HQ, mind you, where the order to kill them came from. Yeah, that'll go well.
Deadmeat tiebreaks in favor of his partner, so they jump out of their flimsy cover and arrest them. Captain Killgore can't resist telling them that it's only thanks to Stonepola that he wasn't allowed to shoot them all. Deadmeat frisks two members of the bundle of voltage supplies for 10 seconds total before declaring that none of them have any weapons. Because, as the preacher explains, RTCs are all harmless innocent lambs like that.
While Captain Killgore is busy dragging the collection of current meters to the SWAT van, the preacher's wife, called Selma Davis, ends up talking with Stonepola and Deadmeat. Selma claims they're being set up by Franco Macalousso. What a twist! Deadmeat will have none of the talk that "the Bible makes it perfectly clear" that Franco is the devil, so he leaves her alone, without handcuffs, with his partner who has holstered his weapon (guess that wasn't the anagram). I'm pretty sure that isn't standard procedure for suspected terrorists.
Since Deadmeat let it slip that this gathering of diodes are just like Stonepola's wife, Selma exploits that emotional scar tissue for all it's worth.
"Let me ask you something. Do you think your wife would be killing children if she was still here? If you would just open your heartWhy didn't you let them shoot us?
"Because you don't look dangerous to me."
"I mean, normally I'm all 'No trial, no mercy, no problem'. If you had looked like a group of Arabs, ooh-boy, they'd be scraping your remains off the wall right now."
Selma reveals that the real reason Stonepola was send to kill them was that she worked for the O.N.E. and stole a CD-ROM from them, which she hands to Stonepola with the suggestion that he should look at what's on it.
"Do it for your wife."
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to heaven with emotional blackmail.
I don't know if it's deliberate, but Selma looks like a very shrewd implementation of a . She is, after all, the African American character who is wise and capable, yet serves no function in the plot other than to give the white protagonist the tools and advice he needs for his quest. But the in-universe complaints about how a Magical Negro's character makes no sense are covered. It's actually explained why she recruits the Mighty Whitey instead of using her superior skills to do everything on her own.She's being arrested, which means she can no longer complete her goal herself. So she pushes every emotional button of the one guy among their captors who seems sympathetic to them and hopes he'll do the job for her. It's a long shot, sure, but it's the best chance she's got to complete her mission. That this helps the white protagonist to become the hero is just a side-effect.
When Selma is finally dragged outside, she taps a tiny red button besides the door opening, sending a warning sign to another group of underground RTCs (whom I promise I will not refer to as electrical circuitry). Well, they have some alarm system prepared I guess. But sending a signal to a distant, undiscovered group from a compromised location seems mighty dangerous in a world where detonator signals can be traced via satellite long after the bombs went off.
In any case, this group includes one of the few solid links this movie has to Apocalypse.
It's Helen Hannah! Alive, well, and not in prison/cattle truck . somehow. We last saw her locked up and surrounded by the antichrist's minions. Right after footage of her and Buckson publicly denouncing the antichrist went all over the world. Which would have made her a symbol of the anti-antichrist movement, and made those minions very angry with her. Cindy even mentions in this very scene that "the crowds cheered when they strung your boyfriend up on national television". But Helen got off with a warning?
Well, it introduces another plot hole, but I'm sure the presence of Helen Hannah in this movie will be worth it, right?
"Oh no, they got the Davis group.We have to assume they got [the CD] too. Poor Selma Davis. She was supposed to meet me here with it this afternoon."
UghThose are Helen's first lines this movie. They'rebad. Really bad. The lines are clunky enough by themselves (who uses a first and last name in a situation like this?), but Helen also delivers them with all the gut-wrenching sadness of someone who found a tear in their third-favorite shirt. She wasn't good in Apocalypse either, but there she had the benefit of not being surrounded by the better actors featured in this movie.
Speaking of whom, let's introduce the other resistance members in the picture above. To the right is Cindy, the woman who kicked Helen of the movie poster despite having a smaller part. She deserves the spot though. She's a better actress and her character is more interesting. Between her blindness and her more rebellious, crankier attitude than the others, she's at least memorable.
Which is more than I can say for the two men. The man in front seems to be their go-to guy for dangerous missions until Stepola shows up and becomes their point-man without any discussion. He gets no further characterization, but it's still more than the guy in the back gets. After watching this movie once, I could literally remember nothing about him except that he's overweight and I thought that he was Cindy's brother. But the latter is never actually stated. If I had to name one character trait, it would be that he's a dick. He's there for the fans of the Left Behind books, which didn't have a movie adaptation in 1999 and who were longing for heroes in a post-rapture story who treat empathy as a four-letter word. I'll just call these two Cool Christian and Uncool Christian respectively.
Anyway, Uncool Christian shows even less sympathy for the Davis group than Helen (because he's a dick), he's just upset that now they won't get the information about the "Day of Wonders" the O.N.E. is planning. Cindy doesn't feel optimistic, what with the whole world wanting them dead, but Helen tries to sooth her.
"We can't blame them, Cindy, they don't know what we know. They also don't know that Macalousso is having anyone who disagrees with him killed. All they see is the miracles."
I'm giving the movie points for that first sentence. For all the holier-than-thou posturing, it's rare to see RTC heroes exhibit . But I'm taking some off again for that second sentence, since it comes right after Cindy reminded us of Buckson's public execution and that the rest of the world wants the RTCs dead too. And let's not even go into the stock footage of protests and attacks against RTCs that the first movie jammed down our throats. I'd say the people know all about that, seeing how they're helping him do it. And Stonepola's survival up to this point suggests that Macalousso doesn't kill "anyone who disagrees with him", just RTCs.
Cool Christian says that he has managed to set up a fake ID to infiltrate the O.N.E. HQ, but he doesn't know what to look for without the disk. Ehm, look for another disk? Just a suggestion.
"Anything. Anything that can help us figure out what these guys have planned for the Day of Wonders. 'Cause whatever they're planning, it's big. And it can't be good."
What's this? A Rapture story where the main characters aren't sitting around talking about which prophesied events are next on the list, wait until they happen, then express their amazement that the Bible foretold it all so accurately? Instead, they are in a tense race against time to figure out the villain's plan, because they want to stop it? What a strange concept!
And it's especially a nice change of pace from Apocalypse where we got saturated with Jack van Impe's smug face telling us what was about to hap-
"Here, take a look at this. It's a tape I found in my grandmother's house."
And no Helen, you didn't get this from your grandma's house, even if you were suicidal enough to go back there when the villains were looking for you. The Goony One took those tapes, remember? It was the critical point of the climax of the first movie, also known as the only part of Apocalypse I liked!
Cindy seems to care as much for Jack's yammering about Bible verses from completely different books all being about the same event as I do, so she puts on her headphones and turns up her music. *Gasp*, she's ignoring the words of the perfect holy savior and rightful lord of all that is! And those Bible verses too! I sense a comeuppance in your future, girly.
We cut back to the band of resistors being pushed into the SWAT truck as Stonepola and Deadmeat argue about their guilt. Deadmeat lists some fairly mayor pieces of evidence, Stonepola doesn't have much except for "They are just like my wife, ergo innocent" and some straw-grasping. His one valid point is that they didn't find the detonator yet, but they were meeting in a big, messy warehouse so Deadmeat is sure the bomb squad will find once they investigate the site. And yet, not a single agent is staying behind to actually guard the site until those investigators show up. They don't even leave any yellow Police-Do-Not-Cross tape.
That's too bad for Stonepola and Deadmeat, because just after they swapped their bulletproof vests back for their G-Man outfits, there's a loud clang from the opposite building. They go to check it out, but don't bother to call back the SWAT van that left a minute ago. Deadmeat whips out the magic DNA scanner again, but curses at it and shoves it into Stonepola's hands. I'm not sure if that means it showed something or not, but either way, he and Stonepola burst into the building and see two guys in the exact same outfits as they are wearing. Since they aren't singing Christian songs and don't look like Stonepola's wife, Stonepola and Deadmeat open fire without warning. Luckily the other two return fire, else Stonepola and Deadmeat might've looked like trigger-happy maniacs.
We have ourselves a little shoot-out, followed by a chase as the bad guys split up and run. This action scene is pretty decent. It's on par with a regular TV movie, which is a step up for most RTC movies. The initial shootout is a bit dull, shown with a shot of the good guys shooting, then a shot of the bad guys shooting, rinse, repeat, but the chase is better. I give it a minus for Stonepola missing with aimed shots but finally nailing his opponent with blind fire around a corner, but a plus for the characters reloading almost as often as they should need to. Oh, and after a decade of shaky cam and hyper-editing, it's a pleasant surprise to watch a fight scene between identically dressed people in a dimly lit warehouse where you can actually tell what's going on.
After Stonepola's opponent goes down, he decides not to run straight after his partner to back him up, but slowly approaches his downed enemy and searches him, finding an O.N.E. badge and a detonator. The latter shouldn't surprise anyone in the audience, the former shouldn't even surprise Stonepola. He was wearing the same suit as you were, dumbass. How did you know they weren't on a legit investigation of the group you just arrested?
The other bad guy managed to get a big enough lead on Deadmeat, so he has time to call his boss on his walky-talky.
"Sir, I don't know how they found us, but we have two O.N.E. agents in pursuit."
Just a hunch, but maybe they found you because you were making loud noises right next to where they parked their car, with only a single unlocked door between you and them. Idiot.
I wonder if the magic DNA scanner was more important in the initial script. In the movie, it's only used to confirm the presence of people whom Deadmeat already suspects are there, and who aren't hiding particularly well. If these bad guys had actually been in a good hiding spot and Deadmeat only found them because of a scanner they didn't know he had, this comment would make more sense. And the bad guys would have looked less stupid.
His boss only tells him to "TAKE CARE OF IT", so a fat lot of good that call did. I'd have interpreted that order as surrendering, telling Deadmeat he's on a covert op and agreeing to go down to HQ to prove it, then have his superiors make Deadmeat and Stonepola disappear. Instead, he hides just besides the door opening to ambush Deadmeat, lines up his shotwhen he's knocked out from behind by Stonepola. Oh, good, Stonepola guessed exactly right how much time he could spend investigating his dead opponent and still save his partner at the last second. Whew, Deadmeat is safe! For another minute or so.
Stonepola shows Deadmeat the O.N.E. badge and detonator, and gives him a "Told you so". They handcuff the bad guy to a pipe, then proceed to look for whomever the bad guy was talking to. They know he must be close enough for a walky-talky (even though later in the movie, these walky-talkies seem to have a range of several miles), but they have no idea where. This sounds like a perfect job for a scanner that can spot humans through walls, but they just walk on blindly. Luckily, their target is making no effort to hide, and it isMacEvilton! Dun-dun-dunnn.
Ominous lighting?A Gestapo raincoat?Really, Cloud Ten?You saw MacEvilton in Apocalypse and decided he needed help to look evil?
Stonepola and Deadmeat order MacEvilton to drop his weapon. When he raises it anyway, they empty their guns at him, but to no effect other than making him do his evil grin. Somehow Stonepola and Deadmeat deduce that it isn't because that trench coat hides a bulletproof vest, which would've been my first guess.
"Who are you?"
"What are you?"
"I am a servant of the Messiah. I'm here to help him rid the world of anyone and everyone who stands in his way. And now, gentlemen, that includes you!" *BANG* *BANG*
With all the inconsistencies between this movie and Apocalypse, it's nice to see that at least MacEvilton hasn't changed a bit: .
Though it's a bit weird to find him heading the O.N.E. enforcement branch now (Deadmeat even knew him by name). Last movie, he was in charge at the W.N.N., and he botched that job big time. Not only was a video announcement exposing Macalousso as the antichrist broadcast around the world on his watch, but footage of MacEvilton admitting Macalousso's evilness was included. You'd expect the antichrist to give Blofeld-style performance reviews, where the employee sits on a trapdoor to the piranha tank in case he doesn't get a 'Meets expectations'-rating or higher. Or at least that he'd have to make MacEvilton a scapegoat and denouncing him as an overzealous employee or something. But it looks like Macalousso was understanding and kindly suggested that with his ruthlessness and sadism, MacEvilton might be better suited for hunting down Macalousso's enemies than for doing his PR. Spoiler warning: He isn't.After he's shot Stonepola and Deadmeat (both of them go down at the first shot, sloppy directing there), MacEvilton turns around and walks away, phasing right through the wall. Wow, the antichrist is handing out superpowers to his minions now. Pity MacEvilton powers don't include a life-sensing ability, because Stonepola isn't dead. The bullet hit the DNA scanner in Stonepola's pocket. Well, at least the silly thing was useful for something.
This is the first in a series of increasingly unsubtle cases where characters are saved by divine intervention. Which I suppose is fair enough. The human characters in this story are fighting and dying on god's behalf, in a war against an enemy who isn't actually a threat to god. It's no more than reasonable that god lends his followers a bit of a hand. But it does kill the tension when you realize that the almighty god can make sure the heroes win any time he wants.
And when god doesn't help all the time, you run the risk of making god look spitefully arbitrary. Fortunately, this movie does have a consistent pattern for interventions. Unfortunately, that pattern is that god always saves white people. African Americans already account for half the fatalities among non-extra's in this movie (and that's counting the nameless white guy with no lines that Stonepola shot), despite making up less than half of the cast. But all the white fatalities are vicious villains. The only non-villains that die are black. I strongly doubt this was intentional, but the movie would've been better for it if the filmmakers had caught and changed this.
Right here, for example, Deadmeat gave Stonepola the DNA scanner, and his life is saved. I think this movie would have been greatly improved if Deadmeat had kept the scanner and he had survived. Stonepola's character is too nice for his assigned role in the story, and he needs to be unrealistically ignorant for him to play his part. He keeps sticking to an "alien invasion" theory for the rapture and the supernatural powers he sees, when he should know better.
Why couldn't he have told Deadmeat with his dying breath that he had already realized his wife was right so that he dies saved, and pleaded Deadmeat to find out the truth? Deadmeat might not have believed it, and as a supporter of Macalousso he would not have wanted to. But now that he's being hunted by his former allies, he'd have no choice but to seek out the haters for help. And there he could realize that they are nice guys, that he was wrong and that he hurt innocents because of it. That's a good setup for a dramatic redemption, with way less plot holes. Plus, a Christian movie with a black main character is fairly original, so you'd have that going for you.
Alas, it's Stonepola who gets up and mourns over Deadmeat. For those keeping score, 13 minutes, 6 seconds, counting from his first line of dialogue.
He goes back to the guy they handcuffed, only to find that the guy is now gone with the locked handcuff still in place. Wait, MacEvilton went the other way, so that means the goon got out himself? He could phase through solid matter too? Then why was he running from Deadmeat and Stonepola? He could've phased through their bullets too. Or if that's a higher level power, he could've at least ambushed them by going through walls.
The movie then cuts to a building with a very fake looking O.N.E. logo on it. Looks like their special effects team is still having trouble with superimposing stuff on stock footage. At least they don't do it as often as in Apocalypse.
We see the Davis family being thrown in jail. Just as Captain Killgore is done locking them up and spouting threats, he's called away to the following scene:
"I've got one more for you officers."
"Dad, please! Please don't do this! [ ] Please, you don't understand."
"I'm afraid I do understand, son. And I'm doing this for your own good. These men can help you. Last night, I found a Bible in his room. This morningI found him kneeling by his bed."
"Dad, I was praying for you."
"You've done the right thing, sir."
"I wish it felt a little bit more like the right thing."
"You're not the first father to turn in his son. Probably half the haters in captivity have been turned in by family for re-education."
"Son, I'm sorry. But you've got to believe, I'm only doing this because I love you."
This scene takes less than a minute. And yet it is the most effective scene at conveying the horror of persecution I've seen in any Christian work of fiction. It's probably my favorite scene of the movie. There may be more competently made scenes, but most of those (like that shoot-out scene from before) could've just as easily been thrown into a secular movie. Of the scenes that are intended to send a strong RTC message, this is the best one. And I normally have no patience for scenes that cater to the RTC's martyr fetish, so creating such a scene that makes me feel something besides nausea is quite a feat.
This feat is accomplished because the scene in question is legitimately creepy. Being turned in by family, not because they go berserk at the mere mention of Christ, but because they honestly believe that you are harming yourself by being what you want to be, and that it's better for you if you get re-educated? That's scary, unnerving stuff, and both actors are doing their best to show their mutual grief. (Though I can't help but notice how few of their lines you'd have to change to turn it into a scene about an RTC dad bringing his son to an ex-gay clinic.)
And as an added bonus, this scene gives us a rare glimpse of what the effect of the worldwide crackdown against RTCs has on non-RTCs. In most of these stories, the (ironic) witch hunt for RTCs has either seemingly no effect of society, or actually makes that society better as seen in Soon and Apocalypse.Up until god goes Old-Testament on their asses for daring to make a peaceful and prosperous society without him at least.
It may be armchair-psychology on my part, but I feel it's a symptom of a tribe mentality and lack of empathy on the RTC's part. It just doesn't occur to them that a merciless persecution of RTCs could possibly affect those who don't share their beliefs. No sign of fear of those RTCs, no false accusations, no activists who protest the treatment of RTCs on humanitarian grounds, nothing. So I'm pleased to see some slightly more subtle world building details like this. And yeah, it's pretty sad that a scene where a father turns his son over to the police for being a Christian stands out as a subtle scene.
A shame that Captain Killgore starts taunting the kid the second his father is gone. Just in case you wondered if he might have been so bloodthirsty earlier because he was upset about the dead children in the school bus: Nope, he just hates Christians. Oh, those terrible unbelievers, all so incapable of love.
Then we go to the previously handcuffed minion and his new partner bringing MacEvilton the news that Stonepola is alive and gone, and that the CD was nowhere to be found. MacEvilton chews them out, even though he really has only himself to blame here. Still, it's always fun to see MacEvilton do his thing.
"You listen to me, and you listen very carefully. The Day of Wonders is less than 72 hours away. If that CD makes it into the underground, and those idiots manage to find out what's on itthey'll do anything to expose the Messiah's plan."
"I understand, sir."
"No, I don't think you do. If you did, you wouldn't be standing here sniveling, you'd be looking for the disk. And Thorold Stone."
What I love is that MacEvilton has a Wanted-poster of Helen framed on his desk. It actually makes a weird kind of sense. MacEvilton is such a cliched and obvious villain, he couldn't possibly have a loved one. Nor could he have a pet, since he can't see puppy without kicking it. To have a picture of his enemy for his regular two minutes of hate is far more in character. Too bad it reminds me of the fact that the movie never explains how Helen got away from him after the end of Apocalypse.
Since the details of the plans of the good and bad guys thus far came in a bit fragmentary, let me recap them. Selma acquired critical data on the antichrist's plan about a week before it went into effect, then waited several days to bring it to Helen. The bad guys found her, used loyal agents to implicate her church in a bombing and put their least loyal agent in command of a murderous SWAT team, instead of having the loyal agents kill or arrest them for the crime of being haters. The ultimate battle of good and evil, ladies and gentlemen. Criminally negligent priorities vs convoluted incompetence.
Speaking of incompetence, Stonepola is cleverly hiding in a well-lit car interior besides the road, right under a big poster of the antichrist, which gives us our first look at him in this movieand it shows us he looks nothing like he did last time. They got a different actor, but from what I could find in the way of pictures, the actors don't look that dissimilar. They just chose to give the antichrist the this time around
Since I'm already wearing my reviewing pants, I think I'll go right ahead and review this poster too. The good news is, it at least looks like it might be an actual poster, not something pasted in the background with Microsoft Paint. And it looks fitting for propaganda for a despotic megalomaniac. I'm a bit concerned about the mixed message of the Day of Wonders being "for all of us", while also asking people to report haters. I think you should have separate posters for your messages of unity and warnings against the enemies.
And there's the logo, seen on the sleeves of the SWAT uniforms and Stonepola's squad car, but here is the first good look we get. I like the use of purple, the color of roman emperors. The Eye of Providence is a bit much, but Macalousso is already claiming to be god so I'll give it a pass. But the motto "Mundus Vult Decipi" is where I draw the line. That's the first half of a rather well-known Latin phrase, meaning There should be plenty of Latin-speakers among the left behind Catholics and intellectuals. Not one of them was concerned that the guy who claimed to be god established a global empire whose very motto is about deceiving the world? I call bullshit!
Stonepola's car radio is on the Plot Points Channel, so we first get a Macalousso speech saying pretty much what that poster is saying, but in more words, followed by a news announcer that the O.N.E. is hunting for Stonepola and that they unimaginatively framed him for his partner's murder. Then we get some snippets about New Europe being as united as the days of the Roman Empire, and the Temple of Humanity under construction in Jerusalem (How is the antichrist supposed to desecrate a temple that isn't consecrated to any god in the first place?) and Stonepola quickly dozes off before the audience can realize what the story just glossed over right there.
Up to this point, my gut feeling was that this movie at least doesn't feature a mind-bogglingly unrealistic portrayal of the world at large. But after these snippets and the incredibly obvious motto got me really thinking about it, I realized that this is because the movie hardly gives any portrayal of the world. The film almost entirely takes place in three different hideouts and the O.N.E. Headquarters. Beyond those locations, there's three scenes in Stonepola's car, the opening in Stonepola's house, the ending in a fourth hideout and a quick glance near the blown-up school bus.
I guess that's one way of dealing with a prophecy outline that requires nearly the entire world population to act utterly unnatural: Keep that population away from the camera's and hope no one thinks about it. Stonepola's main drive is to find out what happened to his family, but what are all the other people who lost their children in the rapture doing? Never explained. I still don't even know if all the children under a certain age have vanished or not. I wonder if this lack of world building is because of budget constraints, because Cloud Ten assumes their viewers will fill in the blanks, or because they realized there was no way to build a realistic world where their prophecies could be fulfilled.
Anyway, Stonepola dreams about his encounter with Selma, with phrases of Deadmeat pointing out that it's the same thing his wife believed, whereupon it's his wife standing in Selma's place, as the screen goes blurry and the camera moves disorientingly. Then he remembers shooting in vain at MacEvilton with that same editing, and right as MacEvilton raises his gun he wakes up panting. It's a pretty good scene as dream sequences go. Four or five more scenes of that quality level will make up for "Mundus Vult Decipi".
After Stonepola wakes up he turns over the DNA scanner, and sees a name tag of Willie Spino, the friend of Deadmeat who "does things with computers that'll blow your mind". Stonepola decides to take the disk to him. He enters through a rundown door with a sign that says "Beware of the dog, he's small but he knows Kung Fu", goes up in a ramshackle elevator and carefully advances through a hallway barren except for computer cases and monitors stacked high and wide. Oh, and a wheelchair. I call this cheating the "show, don't tell" rule. Yes, technically I suppose they are 'showing' us that he's a shut-in, sarcastic, crippled tech geek, but it's almost as obvious as telling us.
Stonepola hears muttering and gunshots as he advances with drawn gun, and as he rounds a corner, he finds Willie with a big VR helmet covering his eyes and a revolver in his hand. When Stonepola jumps at the sight of the gun, Willie hears him, takes of the helmet and he and Stonepola have themselves a Mexican Standoff.
"Who are you?"
"Thorold Stone. A friend of [Deadmeat]'s."
"Stone? A friend of [Deadmeat]'s, huh? That's funny, 'cause I heard you killed him."
"I'm sure that's not the only lie you heard today."
FYI, this exchange, the radio blaming Stonepola and the few seconds of mourning over Deadmeat's corpse that I told you about? Those are the only mentions of Stonepola's partner and childhood friend in the entire movie after his death. Like good RTCs, the writers quickly forget the unsaved hell-bound friend.
"Yeah? And what makes you think I'm gonna believe you?"
"Because I need your help. And my gun is real."
[Lower gun, shrugs] "'s a good point."
Ladies and gentlemen, meet my favorite character in this movie. Between Stonepola's "I'm so nice, but also angsty about my family"-shtick and the permanently poutiness of Helen, it's nice to see a character with some levity and humor, even if it is inappropriate at times.Ruby's note:
And on the note of meeting a likeable character, stay tuned for Part 2!