Written by: Peter Schink & Scott Stewart
Directed by: Scott Stewart
Starring: Paul Bettany, Lucas Black, Dennis Quaid, Charles S. Dutton, Tyrese Gibson, Adrianne Palicki
My Advice: Wait for the DVD, if you see it at all.
Short Version: Not bad, but you can simulate the experience by watching, In This Order: the opening 20 minutes of Terminator, all of The Prophecy (1995, not 1979), any several random portions of The Omen, the Commandments scene fromThe Ten Commandments, and all of Terminator 2.
Long Version: The whole “Angelic-Host-Exterminating-Humanity-And-Humanity-Has-To-Save-Itself” Thing would have worked, wonderfully, if they had focused on that. And the whole “What-Makes-Humans-Unique-Even-Unto-Causing-Heretofore-ABSOLUTELY-LOYAL-Archangels-To-Rebel-Is-Their-Ability-To-Persevere-And-Show-The-Best-Of-Themselves” Thing, would have worked, wonderfully, if they had focused on that. Hell, those two things would have worked well, together, if those were the only two plot points.
[ad#longpost]Instead, we also got a set of really ambigious morals, regarding abortion, or loyalty, or free will, or the Second Amendment, or faith, or some damn thing. We got a lot of exposition, right in the middle of a lot of ass-kicking. We got a too-short fight scene between two archangels.
But we did get some good things. We got amazing “Possession” effects. We got Doug Jones continuing his track record of being able to be deeply, intensely, effectively creepy. We got Paul Bettany continuing to be… Well. Paul Fucking Bettany. We got a pretty great handling of the whole Joseph side of the “Jesus-Mary-And…” story. And we got a pretty faithful handling of what angels are, historically, Biblically, and within the contexts of the majority of ancient stories in which they appear. They are soldiers, warriors, loyal hounds, sons, messengers, and murderers.
But unfortunately the story was lacking cohesion of plot points, giving exposition at times when we are most certainly supposed to be learning something, and there is Definitely a moral, here, but we just don’t know what the hell it is. There is also no attempt to explain why the angels are the bad guys, other than their blind loyalty, which may be part of the point. Match these with the fact that every time we are introduced to a character, we are given enough information to know that we should care about them, but not enough to know Why, and we have a kind of jumpy, strangely coherent-but-not film.
Tyrese Gibson‘s character, for instance, has a son, an estranged wife, and has to be at “the court,” on the day of the apocalypse. We learn all of this from his end of a phone call, with no further context. This is an interesting attempt to give the characters an element of mystery–just enough to know they’re people, and let our minds fill in the rest–but comes off as being… stilted. Every character has this “Just A Bit” kind of back story, even the Main characters, and it doesn’t give them enough weight or depth for us to actually Care when the super-fast-paced dying starts.
And, oh yes, there is dying. Dying and action and gunfights and angel wings made of living metal used as an organic shield and weaponry that is, at once, both technologically advanced and ancient-looking. It has some truly Amazing elements. But it has some truly mediocre moments, too.
It goes about like you’d expect, in the end, with a couple of twists, along the way. Honestly, it could have been much better served by being a mini-series, to give the kind of depth and complexity of motivation and plot a story like this needs. Because there was ambiguity, here, and there was a kind of morality, here, but it never quite made its way to Productive Moral Ambiguity.
All-In-All, I’d have rathered the first in a series of Lucifer movies, but I don’t know that that’s ever going to happen, so this’ll do. Ish.