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Revelations

Universal // Unrated // June 28, 2005
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Scott Weinberg | posted July 4, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The Series

Plagues. End of the world. Magic babies who survive boat crashes. Satanism. Prison riots, kidnappings, ruthless murders, unexplained natural phenomena, and deep, dark secrets about the elaborate and hidden battles between God and Satan, peace and war, good and evil.

Sounds like a pretty exciting way to spend five hours, doesn't it?

Not if you've seen Revelations it doesn't.

Smeared together by filmmaker David Seltzer, Revelations contains just enough "good parts" to fill three or four promotional clips, which is precisely how this six-part mini-series managed to snag some fairly high ratings in April of 2005. Mr. Seltzer is, of course, no stranger to fictionalized occultism; he recently wrote the screenplay for the rather woeful Dragonfly, but he also penned the classic horror film known as The Omen. (A movie I revisited just last week -- and the thing holds up wonderfully well.) Also interesting to note that Mr. Seltzer also wrote and directed the fantastic coming-of-age movie Lucas -- which I mention only because I'm about to rip Revelations a new orifice, and I want it to be known that I'm a fan of David Seltzer's work ... for the most part, anyway.

Revelations is an unbelievable bore. Oh sure, there's a lot of lip service paid to concepts as fascinating as satanism, The Rapture, mass murder, killer lightning, creepy harbingers of doom, crazy serial killers, and religious mayhem of the spookiest order -- but not only is there no payoff; even the set-ups are ridiculously boring!

Bill Pullman portrays professional skeptic Richard Massey. Natascha McElhone is the doe-eyed nun who tries to convince him that Satan's return is, well, rather imminent. Massey is suffering because his young daughter has been murdered by a Satan-loving bastard called Isaiah. Sister Josepha sees the signs indicating that Isaiah might be the father of all evil ... but first we have to spend a random four hours trotting the globe, reading ancient tomes, speaking with wizened coots, and jiggering with ancient puzzle boxes.

Various subplots flit on by with nary a trace of dramatic drive, narrative arc, or editorial cohesion. Basically, you could sit and STARE and Revelations with your eyelids glued open while reciting the subtitles out loud ... and still you'll be helplessly lost and confused by hour number two. And this isn't because Revelations is packed with lofty concepts and difficult writing -- it's because the series is aimless, unengaging, and cruelly meandering.

Bill Pullman, an actor I've admired since his hilarious debut performance in Ruthless People, is given very little do to aside from visit old cities, ask skeptical questions, recite a bunch of flaccid material, and stare around the room in casual disbelief. He does a fine job with the material he's given, but the material is simply too little jelly spread across a mile of white bread. Ms. McElhone also acquits herself quite well, even if she's given some absolute howlers to spit out. Plus she's simply too damn beautiful to be taken as Super Nun #1. I'm not saying there aren't pretty nuns out there, but McElhone's cheekbones and eyes get all your attention while her dialogue just sort of dribbles onto the carpet.

Like most mini-series, Revelations is less about "telling a good story" than it is about "exploiting something topical." (My apologies to those who love all the EARTHQUAKE! mini-series that inevitably pop up four months after a natural tragedy kills thousands.) Revelations wants to piggy-back on the "Left Behind" crowd and wheedle its way into the pocketbooks of the religious right, but since we're talking about a made-for-network TV production, you can expect a whole lot of foreplay and very little of the actual "good stuff."

I mean ... how do you make a five-hour TV movie about the final battle between God and Satan without gripping, scaring or thrilling your audience? That's a fairly difficult feat, yet Revelations does precisely that ... and it does it slooooowly. This is nothing more than a six-episode replacement series that was helped by a very succesful (albeit somewhat deceitful) advertising campaign. If you watched the first few episodes and then promptly tuned out for good ... this DVD release certainly isn't going to make you feel bad for doing so. A story like Revelations needs a sense of dread and a handful of clever twists; instead we are given a bloated and confused psycho-drama that offers very little satisfaction for your 5+ hours of attention.

The DVD

Video: The episodes are presented in a widescreen (1.78:1) aspect ratio, and the picture quality is very crisp and clean, for the most part, anyway. You'll find a little of that made-for-TV grain over some of the darker scenes, but fans should find the visual presentation quite serviceable.

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, with optional subtitles in English and Spanish. Not much to complain about on the technical side of this release. The sound quality is quite excellent, actually.

Extras: Nearly 15 minutes of deleted scenes, and a rather worthless 3-minute on-set featurette in which Mr. Seltzer and his cast members manage to entirely misrepresent the project they're working on. (McElhone, with a straight face, says it's kind of like "Indiana Jones" in some respects.)

Final Thoughts

If Revelations sounds like something you'd enjoy, try this experiment: Go rent the 1988 thriller The Seventh Sign, starring Demi Moore. This is a movie that has precisely the same themes, concepts, omens, and portentious campiness that permeates the whole of Revelations. And that movie's only about 100 minutes long. If, after The Seventh Sign, you find yourself craving a five-hour version of the same story, feel free to give Revelations a rental. But be sure to brew some coffee first.

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