Buena Vista/Buena Vista .
R4 . COLOR . 93 mins .
M15+ . PAL
Asteroids wiping out civilisation, alien invasions, mutated virus, crazed geese, sex-starved nymphomaniac women wearing rubber, to name just a few, are all ways in which the end of the world has been portrayed in film over the years. But for my money, nothing beats a good biblical threat of utter annihilation. Flood, famine, disease, the four horsemen of the apocalypse, fire from above and marauding bands of angels seeking to collect the overdue rent from a civilisation of sinners who have wrecked the house and killed the plants. These are the things that fire up your overactive imagination and have you wishing you attended church more than just for funerals, baptisms and to steal money from the offering plate.
And while all these things are great ideas for yet another mega-budget cinematic take on Armageddon, what does The Prophecy use as itís central device? Angels.
I swear. I'm. Gonna get. You, and kill you. You f*ck!
Yes, angels. Nice, fluffy, clad in white angels. But while we might have been taught that angels are a benevolent bunch with glorious gossamer wings and cherubic faces, dishing out the love to all and sundry in Godís name, the truth is a stranger vision indeed. For it turns out that a second war has been brewing in Heaven above between factions of loyal and disloyal angels. The bad angels, which weíll call ĎBangelsí are mighty peeved that God gave humans a soul and pride of place on his heavenly couch with easy access to the remote control. The good angels, or ĎGangelsí, accept Godís decision and are doing everything they can to stop the Bangels from turning Heaven into another Hell. An important thing also to note is that they like to wear overcoats and crouch like birds on the back of chairs. Just so you know in case you ever see one.
This is not from the film. It is a real shot of Walken setting someone on fire using his finger. He can really do it.
Leading the charge of the Bangelís is Gabriel, played with familiar menace and random punctuation by Christopher Walken. Let it be said now, that across all three movies, Walken is the best actor without a doubt. That might not be saying much in light of the casting of Eric Roberts in part two and Vincent Spano in part three, but in this first and best outing he has to contend with a fine Eric Stoltz as the good angel Simon who is attempting to thwart Gabrielís plans, an acceptably glum Elias Koteas as human Thomas Daggett, the failed priest turned detective trying to work out what the heck is going on, and even a very brief but intriguing appearance by Viggo Mortensen as Lucifer.
Walken, in his quest to claim the soul of a particularly nasty recently dead general, generally chews up the set, the props, the script, anything which gets in his way. Itís beautiful to watch, and for his fans itís just another little slice of nirvana until his next role. His trademark delivery is there, his weird hair, his nutty eyes. Walken as a deranged angel fallen from grace? More perfect casting there never was.
And the film as a whole isnít too slack either. The pace is good, aided by the doses of backstory and shadowy exposition which bring some substance to what would otherwise have been a typical slash Ďní chase pic. Itís not too concerned about depicting the nastier things of such a down and dirty war, such as visions of angels impaled on stakes, bodies busted up and burnt and hearts ripped out (itís the only way to kill an angel on Earth Ė fact! Use this knowledge wisely all you anti-God nuts!), they all get a look in by the camera, and for once youíre glad that someone had the guts to not cut away at the last second.
As weíll soon learn though, the better qualities of the film arenít carried over into the sequels. Character development, never exactly the strongest point of this film, is still a damn sight better than the dreck served up in the following installments. Itís what gives this film a bit of substance when they arenít running and fighting. Parts two and three opt for the amazingly brief running times of 80 minutes each, so either they couldnít come up with anything more to say, or they were just incompetently handled. Iíd say it was the latter, rather than the former. The Prophecy is the best of the bunch, and an interesting movie on its own as well.
Some films suit the dark grainy look, others suit bright clean and happy picture. When Harry Met Sally will never be confused with The Prophecy. Undoubtedly deliberate stylistic choices have resulted in a 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) picture filled with imposing shadows and a suitably looming sense of dread. Detail isnít high up on the list of positive attributes, at times quite the opposite, only redeemed by the occasionally well defined close-up which manages to be free from the ever-present grain.
The sound is much less impressive than youíd hope for. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is front-heavy and uses the surrounds more or less for wrapping the score to the back, with little dedicated effects work making its way back there. Thereís a little muddiness to the dialogue, the characters speaking many of their lines in hushed tones not helping. The LFE severely lets the side down by failing to add any impact whatsoever to scenes requiring oomph.
Extras? What extras? None of the three DVDs in this series of releases has anything more than a basic menu and the feature film.