They left out the 8th sign: Tuesday, November 4th, 2008. History has released 7 Signs of the Apocalypse, a flashy but basically failed documentary that tries to link scientific fact with religious Armageddon prophecy, postulating that maybe, the various physical calamites that could decimate the Earth are foretold in the Bible's Book of Revelations. While the premise is certainly interesting (even to this agnostic who nevertheless admires the Faithful), 7 Signs of the Apocalypse presents almost no context in joining up its religious and scientific angles.
Beginning with a too-brief (and frankly, not very clear) rundown of the Book of Revelations' "Seven Seals" prophecy, the documentary then jumps erratically to discussing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, tying in biblical interpretations of what those symbols might suggest, with physical phenomenon that threatens the Earth today. For example, the Fourth Horseman, who rides a pale horse, is linked with plagues and pandemics that have periodically decimated Earth's population throughout the centuries. The Second Horseman, riding a red horse, is likened to massive war and conflict, with a brief analysis of what might happen if we suffered another world war.
And so on. Eventually, 7 Signs of the Apocalypse basically abandons any pretense in linking prophecy to natural and man-made disasters when it starts piling on the various catastrophes that await us, with only cursory mentions of their corresponding religious connotations attempted. CGI recreations of these disasters vie with news footage of people caught in these harrowing situations (a viewer warning is thrown up at the beginning of the doc, cautioning discretion for sensitive viewers), while the time-tested doc format cliché of having expert talking heads interviewed for linking purposes, pepper the film.
Employing needlessly flashy and clichéd camera and editing bells and whistles (seriously, enough with the herky-jerky triple exposures and whip-pans to denote "evilness"), the look of 7 Signs of the Apocalypse only confirms that the producers didn't trust the material enough to present it straight. Within a relatively short time after beginning 7 Signs of the Apocalypse, I pretty much understood I wasn't going to get a serious discussion of the doc's central premise. When a film that purports to link religious prophecy with natural and man-made disasters can't even make the Book of Revelations' "Seven Seals" divination clear (wait: there's seven disasters within seven signs within seven more signs?), how can a viewer follow the resulting proposed connections? Worse, the documentary doesn't really try to connect these prophecies with the science; it merely ping-pongs back and forth between scientists and religious authorities, providing zero context between these views. Critically, the most obvious (and probably most interesting) potential line of inquiry is completely ignored here: what do the experts believe? Not once did the doc explore if the scientists have religious beliefs, nor did it ask the religion experts their thoughts on reconciling prophecy with scientific facts. Shouldn't that issue be at the very center of a doc like 7 Signs of the Apocalypse? Ultimately, 7 Signs of the Apocalypse becomes just another in a long line of superficial "doomsday" science docs that play out various end-of-the-world scenarios (seriously - the whole "global warming" con-job?), while tacking on a superfluous religious angle in an effort to give it some distinctive oomph - which doesn't work.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.