I’ve been putting this off for a while, but it’s finally time to begin reviewing the Apocalypse series. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Back in 1998, the Christian end-times were a burgeoning new market, enjoying a resurgence in popularity with the Left Behind book series. The ideology espoused by Left Behind and the materials that inspired it (including the Orson Welles narrated The Late, Great Planet Earth) is known as dispensationalism, or more specifically, pre-millenial dispensationalism. Basically, its the belief that the end of the world as we know it will be preceded by a seven-year Tribulation period, but good little Christians will get supernaturally airlifted to heaven by the Rapture, an event that is never actually stated to occur in the Bible. There is more to the idea of dispensationalism, but suffice it to say that I’ve given you enough of a primer before the specifics of the Tribulation story come up in the movies.
Back to my point about money-making, at least one company, Cloud Ten Pictures, decided to put forth the cash to make an epic film about the beginning of the Tribulation period. Since it was released only on video, I wonder if they realized that the only audience they would get for such pictures were churchgoers and people who watch TBN, but it seems that they really wanted to tell the whole story, since for the next three years after Apocalypse, the company would make three more movies, some featuring well-known Hollywood talent. And, there are plans in the works to make and release a fifth movie this year, a whole nine years after the fourth movie. But, the first one is of particularly poor quality, as we will see quite soon.
First of all, you see the tape quality is fairly low for a movie that had the budget to allegedly be shot in about 8 countries. Hell, if this were made before 98, I get the impression the Cinema Snob would be reviewing it. I like his term for these kind of movies, so we’re going to adopt (read: steal) it, and refer to this as Shot on Shiteo. Also, first major swear word on the site, I believe, so, I guess I can go all out now?
Well, in any case, we start with an old lady gripping her cross. She is talking to her daughter about how everything is falling into place as the news reports on a major battle beginning at Armageddon. We soon learn that the woman and her boyfriend… really, just boyfriend? *Sigh* Okay. The duo are reporters for our standard CNN expy. Bronson Pearl and Helen Hannah. Some foreshadowing here about everything that’s going to happen, but yeah, you knew that coming into the movie.
“We have to tell the truth.” News anchors telling the truth, that’s a good one. Also, when was the last time a news anchor got Time’s Man of the Year cover? I imagine maybe Cronkite? In any case, the opening credits start, with generic photos of shit getting real as the background and… Oh, come on, Jack Van Impe? Is that really necessary? I’m here to be entertained, and possibly learn something through the skillful writing and acting that I’m certain will be portrayed, not a sermon from one of the country’s lamest televangelists.
Well, after that terrible song, we get a title card and some stock footage. Then cut to Helen, who infers that nukes are going to be used in the battle of Armageddon. However, this only kinda makes sense, since the movie neglects to realistically explain WHY this battle is going to happen, particularly because of the very large force estimates that Bronson is making of “half the world’s armies.” The only explanation I can offer is that this movie wasn’t meant for non-Fundamentalist Christians or non-Christians. “There is no other safe place for the Jew.” Funny, could have sworn there was some very strong pro-Jewish sentiment here in the states. What, did we elect President Hitler or something? But the reason I’m actually really annoyed by how the Jewish people are portrayed in this movie is that it represents the same two-faced ideology of Fundamentalist Christianity. However, if I go any further down that road, I’ll get way off the topic of the movie and how it just plain sucks as a story. So, we get more stock footage, while Bronson narrates about how Armageddon is the only way into Israel, while commenting on aircraft getting into the city and bombing it. Kind of a mixed message there. Anyway, Defense Secretary Dan Akroyd (well, it sounds like him) restates the US policy of always backing Israel. Still confused as to why everyone else is getting involved pointlessly, but okay.
Then, we get introduced to our villain for the series. Franco Macalluso, the Antichrist, is the leader of the European Union, natch. He says that he won’t allow the world to destroy itself. Yeah, that’s not megalomaniacal at all. I’m sure he’s a perfectly reasonable man.
And now we hit a snag, as the movie keeps cutting in boring behind the scenes news crap, and they blow a good portion of the pyrotechnics budget during a semi-romantic phone call. Next title card. And blue screens and stock footage. It’s rather impressive how much doesn’t happen in this movie. And now, the NBC weapons are starting to be used, including a rather weak looking nuclear attack on an aircraft carrier. And, of course, that means its time to employ mutually assured destruction. More interviews, stock footage, NOTHING’S HAPPENING. I know that all sorts of nuclear missiles and firebombs are being launched, but we know that this is about as exciting as the entire movie is going to get. Soon enough, it all comes to a grinding halt when a number of people vanish along with the nukes. Oh, and get this: when they disappeared, they apparently folded their clothes in a quarter of a second, as they leave neat piles of folded clothes wen they get raptured. That makes the prospect of people not having any idea what may have happened is a bit ridiculous. In the Left Behind movies, when people vanish, they leave their clothes realistically draped or piled, making it actually seem a bit more realistic, though with these movies around, I assume that if something makes people disappear and leave their clothes behind in mass numbers, Christian apocalypse is gonna be a pretty common assumption.
Also, we see way too many illustrations of people vanishing and many comments about neatly folded piles of clothes. And lots of stock footage. The first half of this movie is made mostly of stock footage. And now, the Antichrist comes out and starts ranting about how he’s God. Yeah, make yourself look more like a villain, why don’t ya. But wait, what’s this? Everyone starts believing him for no good fucking reason? But of course, they do. I’m gonna just put this out there: I don’t care what your prophecy books say, people will look at this guy with instant, scathing skepticism. Talk like a crazy person, get treated like a crazy person. And this is the plot hole that just breaks the entire illusion. This guy is so obviously evil that absolutely nobody should believe him or follow him.
So, it takes a little bit, but Helen finds a bible and some tapes her mom left her, and converts. (nice line read by grandma, BTW) Then, she tries to get Bronson to do so, but he isn’t buying her story because apparently, he’s kind of an idiot. Also, somewhere along the way, the False Prophet, Lind Parker takes over the news network and kills the former owner. Why? Because he knows what’s happening, of course. Yeah, that turns out to be a big mistake, but I’ll get to that later.
An interview of Navy Admiral Jim Kirk? You sure your audience will get that reference?
Bronson eventually finds the answer he need when he digs up his father’s grave and finds a neatly folded pile of clothes. He then acts to tell the world what is really happening, but in the end, it fails because the False Prophet rigs up a delay on the live broadcast. However, one of the guys in the room records the video. He also records a confrontation between the Parker and Helen, which plays into the ending. I’m going to say outright that I’ve skipped a LOT of the movie, because almost nothing happens at all after the first 25 to 30 minutes, until the very end. At the end, Bronson Pearl is to be executed for…some flimsy reason. In any case, as he is about to be hanged when suddenly, the jumbotron is hijacked by that guy from earlier, who, in an act of surprisingly awesome revenge, plays Bronson’s video, along with the recorded secret conversation and some Jack Van Impe tapes. So, in effect, the good guys win for now.
Oh, and spoiler for next time: Bronson dies after the end of this movie. They execute him anyway. Thanks for that, movie.
This is so paint-by-numbers it’s painful to watch. The video quality is terrible, the editing to insert images into the stock footage is ridiculously obvious, the story is so full of WTF that no one with a brain could take it seriously, and to top it all off, it’s boring. “Nothing’s happening. Nothing’s happening. It’s over. A lot of people in the audience look pissed.” For a movie that is supposed to have some big message of the Christian end times, this isn’t going to convince people. It just won’t. And I tried my best to avoid letting personal feelings toward the philosophy espoused in the movie affect my judgment, but I don’t think it actually would have changed anything, except to make this review longer and more alienating. Its just a terrible movie, one of the worst I’ve ever seen, as I mentioned in my 41 Year Old Virgin review. Thankfully, the next movie is actually better than this one. However, I need to take a break from the Christian movies for a while, lest I go insane.
The circle of DTV hell that this entire series belongs in is the same as The Time Changer: the circle of Wrath, for movies with forceful or hateful messages.
Next movie, however, is a very special treat from people on the other side of the ideological spectrum, even if that message isn’t really as strongly present. Though, to get at any message in that work, you’d have to wade through a LOT of dick jokes.