Friday, October 26, 2012

The Prophecy

31 Days of Horror
Whoa!  A new Skid Row single?!?  What an ...awesomely odd way to get people to watch your movie...or buy your movie soundtrack...or whatever B-movies judge as a sign of success.  Because let's face it, The Prophecy is a B-movie.  If you look at the cast, or the fact that it has four sequels, you might think this was a fully fleshed-out piece of cinema.  It's not, but that doesn't mean this movie is bad, even though it has every right to be awful.


The plot to The Prophecy is a little tangled, thanks in part to some unfortunate storytelling choices.  Do you like prologues?  Good, because you're getting a double dose with The Prophecy!  The first is the voice-over from the angel Simon (Eric Stoltz), who explains that angels are fighting an epic battle for Heaven, and have been for some time.
Mistake #1: casting a soulless ginger as an angel

Okay, fine.  That explains the hot angel-on-angel action we see later in the film.  The movie then cuts to Thomas (Elias Koteas) preparing to take his final vows to join the Catholic priesthood, only for him to be struck by visions of angels fighting.  Flash forward a few years and Thomas has become a cop without faith; you would think having visions of angels would strengthen your convictions, but no, you go cop.  It's a natural progression.  Well, maybe we need this background information because Thomas is the main character in the film and he will be the one making The Prophecy.
"I saw it prophesied that Casey Jones would want his nipple tweaked by Aragorn"

Or maybe not.  The titular prophecy actually refers to a line in the 23rd chapter of The Book of Revelations, which doesn't exist in your average Gideon copy.  It tells of a second war in Heaven, where one side refuses to acknowledge God's elevation of man over His other creations.  How is that different than the first war in Heaven?  I'm not a Biblical scholar, so...timing?  Anyway, it has been prophesied that the soul of an evil man will be used as a powerful weapon in the war.  So Simon comes to Earth to hide the soul, while Gabriel (Christopher Walken) comes to Earth to weaponize it.  That sounds simple enough, right?  So...what does it have to do with Officer Thomas?  About as much as it has to do with a little girl and her schoolteacher, Katherine (Virginia Madsen).  Luckily, the script gives each character ample screen time, so that pesky straightforward Gabriel vs. Simon plot has plenty of time to simmer.
All I can think of now is Christopher Walken telling me repeatedly to "simmer down"

The reason why The Prophecy is an overachieving B-movie is because the script is awful, the special effects are poor, and the plot is a jumbled mess.  "So are the Transformers movies."  True, but somebody took the time to polish those turds; there is no layer of gloss to hide the shitty nature of The Prophecy.  What it does have in spades, though, is an improbably talented cast.  Elias Koteas might not be the sexiest option for a leading man role, but he's a solid character actor who can play policemen (or deranged criminals) in his sleep; as luck would have it, the movie fakes out viewers with Koteas as a leading role --- he's actually supporting, which is where he functions best.  Virginia Madsen's character makes even less sense as an interested party; I don't care how good of a teacher you are, there is a line in the sand where you do not court supernatural beatdowns over someone you are not related to/want to marry.  Madsen played her ridiculous character fairly straight (which emphasized how unlikely her choices were), but she managed to squeeze some terror and emotion from a pretty dull part.  Eric Stoltz might have played an angel, but that doesn't mean he gave up on being creepy.  His character kisses a dead man and an elementary schoolgirl on the mouth --- don't be dirty, it's only because he was sucking the soul out of one and putting in in the other --- and he still manages to act holier than thou, which is impressive.  Viggo Mortensen pops up for a few minutes as Lucifer and he was actually pretty excellent.  Do you realize how good you have to be to distract viewers from Walken hamming it up?  It's a tiny part, but Mortensen nailed it.  It is odd, though, that there are so many screencaps of Viggo in this movie if you do a Google image search, but almost none of the rest of this non-Walken cast.  Part of that has to do with the poor quality of the DVD print, I'm sure, but I was able to find multiple websites that break down Viggo's scenes by the second.  Why is that?
"The heir of Isildur has a fanbase"
Adam Goldberg clearly enjoyed his role of unwilling evil henchman, and he should have --- this is one of his more amusing early roles.  Amanda Plummer played a similar part, but was whinier, which was far less amusing.  None of that truly matters, though, because this is Christopher Walken's movie, and he owns it completely.  In the hands of almost any other actor, Gabriel would have been quite sinister, and Walken did have moments where he got worked up.
What Walken brought to the table was his trademark awkward charm and bizarre choices.  To give you an idea of how wide-ranging this character is, he describes a human soul as being "bigger than a breadbasket," but he also says this:
I'm an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why. 
Any role that lets Christopher Walken monologue I am A-OK with.  It's also worth noting that Walken is on the top of his game here, as far as making inappropriate faces goes.  On the one hand, he's a great, scary villain.  On the other hand, he's absolutely hilarious to watch.  Really, if I can't get Walken in a movie with great dialogue, I at least want to be able to enjoy his oddness.
What would have made this scene better: Walken explaining to the audience why angels perch.

The Prophecy was written and directed by Gregory Widen, who you might remember as the writer of Highlander.  Knowing his history, you can safely assume that there is a solid core idea here, but the execution is lacking.  The Prophecy is Widen's only film directing credit to date, so a lot of the things you might take for granted with experienced directors --- editing, pacing, etc. --- are missing here.  From a technical standpoint, Widen only barely directed this movie; the only thing that keeps it watchable is the cast that is far too good for this film.  Surprisingly, Widen's writing was worse than his direction.  Even if you ignore the fact that he makes the hero angel --- as in, angel from Heaven --- seem kind of like a pedophile, there are still plenty of issues with this script.
"In Widen's defense, I only take roles where I can be creepy"
Let's say that you are the two normal human beings in this movie, okay?  Each of you has been independently following some truly unbelievable supernatural stuff over the last few days, and now you've found someone who has some of the missing pieces to your puzzle.  As you Scooby-Doo-Jinkies your way toward the truth of this plot, do you:
A) Comment on how weird this has all been
B) Freak the fuck out because, you know, angels are smiting folks
C) Calmly recap for each other and show plain-faced acceptance
A) could happen, but anyone who doesn't pick B) is lying to themselves.  Of course, The Prophecy picks C) because these characters obviously don't have anything resembling human emotions.  That isn't even one of the worse moments in the film; that was just extraordinarily unlikely.  There is a lot of inconsistency from scene to scene.  One angel dies one way, another dies another way.  Angels that can do fantastic things allow mere humans to engage them in fisticuffs, instead of lighting them on fire or turning them into salt (which would have been awesome).
"Fire is reserved for corpses making Christ poses"
Gabriel needs someone to drive him around, because he doesn't know how to operate cars, but at times it seems like he teleports.  So much of this script feels lazy, like it didn't get proof-read.  I love the core idea of angels doing battle on Earth, but does there have to be this level of stupidity?

How does it all stack up?  Does the relatively high quality of the cast, along with an opportunity for Christopher Walken to do whatever the hell he wanted in his scenes, make up for the amateurish script and direction?  I think so.  We're not talking about a movie with cool special effects or an intelligent idea that can distract an audience --- this is a movie that needs every character to be appealing if it is going to work.  The Prophecy succeeds more than it fails, thanks to its cast of angels (fallen or otherwise) and a few solid actors who were willing to play the straight parts.  It is certainly no masterpiece, but The Prophecy is far better than it has any right to be.

2 comments:

  1. I never knew that B-movies had rights. "The right to be awful" certainly is a fun one. Good call on KC Jones. I did not realized that Elias Koteas was the same dude who played Jones, then a mere five years later turned in a solid performance, playing a very believable, hardened army captain in WWII (Thin Red Line). Tres bizarre.

    I think you have been on too fortunate of a streak and it is now time to unleash Halloween III upon the masses

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    1. I'm building up to my review of H3. It's been viewed, and it is...something. I wanted to publish it 8 days before Halloween, but it just didn't work out.

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