Even though “End of Days” is not a typical Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie, fans will not be disappointed. There are plenty of opportunities to see Arnold blow the Devil away, big time. And, if you like movies with a philosophical turn, you will enjoy this film. It is a haunting, creepy, scary, dark, and thought-provoking supernatural thriller, as well as an action flick.The film is set in New York just before New Year’s Eve, 1999. Satan arrives and possesses the body of an investment banker. The Devil’s mission is to impregnate a young girl named Christine in order to bring about the end of the world. If he fails to get the girl, he will have to go back to hell. Before Satan finds the girl, Jericho (Schwarzenegger) meets up with her and becomes her protector.
"Totally awesome theological thriller."
The premise of the film is based on a passage in Revelation which states, “When the thousand years have ended, Satan will be released from his prison. . . ” (Rev 20:7). The film has been called a theological disaster because two key elements of the plot do not relate to Christian theology. These are: first, that Satan will have to impregnate a female between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 midnight on New Years Eve in order to bring about the apocalypse; and, secondly, that if Satan doesn't get the girl during this time, he will go back to hell. Nowhere in Revelation or the Bible are these two ideas mentioned. Plus, in the Bible the 1000 years begins after the second coming of Christ.
However, this criticism is not relevant. As long as the theology in the film is consistent with the fictional world of the film, it does not matter if the movie follows Biblical theology. (The film is not supposed to be a Sunday school lesson.) I believe the two key elements of the plot that are part of the film’s fictional theology are contained in the old scrolls that the priest, Thomas Aquinas, looks at after he sees the comet. We are never shown this theology in the scrolls, but I think the existence of the scrolls implies it.
Even though “End of Days” is a brilliant and thought-provoking film, I felt it should have had a stronger psychological element. The temptation scene was such a good example of psychological warfare that I wished the film had dealt more with the psychology of the characters.
Satan is intense, suave, arrogant, sophisticated, humorous, cool, and detached. He is also a cruel murderer who kills with fire, explosions, and brute force. He blows up a restaurant, puts his hand through a man’s head, burns a man alive, twists a man’s neck around backwards, etc.
Satan is not all-powerful. He can't immediately sense where Christine is and has to search for her; he gets distracted from his search for her to indulge in torturing and/or killing various people; he can't stop his human body from being destroyed; and he is temporarily weakened when surprised. (When Jericho pulls Satan out of a window, the element of surprise prevents the Devil from flying. Instead Satan falls.)
The Devil’s strengths are many. He can fly, create illusions, resurrect people from the dead, walk through fire without being hurt, etc.
Satan is a master of temptation, and this is illustrated in the temptation scene. Jericho is offered his wife and family back as an inducement to join the Devil. The frightening part is how Satan is able to give Jericho a seemingly good reason to turn away from God. Satan is a real character here, not just a stock villain.
In the end of the film, we see the Devil’s true bat-like image. Appearing as such an ugly creature shows the loss of grace. This loss is shown in Satan’s line, “You walked away from the light, just like me.”
Jericho, the hero, is an ex-cop who works for a security firm. His feels responsible for the death of his wife and daughter, and drinks to deal with his guilt. All he has left is his friendship with his partner, Chicago.
Jericho is smart, and in the temptation scene, uses his wits to temporarily defeat Satan. Jericho also has the potential to be pure of heart. I think this is why the devil offers him a place “on the ground floor” of the new world that will exist after the end of days. (Capturing the soul of a person like Jericho would be a victory for Satan.)
Christine, the character who is to be the mother of the antichrist, was baptized with snake blood in a satanic ritual and raised by the Devil’s minions. She has no internal conflict, and is a one-sided and passive character. (She is like a “damsel-in-distress” type.)
Even though she is not aware of her role in Armageddon, Christine is connected with the Devil. This is shown in one of her dream sequences. The scene begins having nothing to do with Christine. We see Dr. Abel, the man who baptized Christine, having dinner with his wife and daughter. (Dr. Abel and his family discuss his daughter’s finals.) It is the ordinary “everyday-life” quality of this part of the scene that makes Satan’s later actions with the family so unsettling. The Devil arrives and has sex with the mother and the daughter. During sex, the women’s bodies fuse into one woman, then the woman becomes Christine. At that point, Christine wakes up from a dream that Satan was about to have sex with her. I believe the sex scene with the two women is really happening, and the scene merging into Christine’s dream shows her subconscious link to Satan. The scene also gives an evil aura to Satan as he is involved in some sort of perverted and incestuous lesbian threesome.
Chicago, Jericho’s partner, is the comic relief. The only problem I found with this character was that he was so interesting he tended to upstage Jericho.
The most important theme in the film is faith. Jericho learns that faith is the only way to defeat Satan. But the priests, who lack faith, can not stop Satan entering the church. I believe the priests have an intellectual faith that they can defeat Satan, but they don't have real faith in their hearts. So, even though they invoke the word of God and put a cross in Satan’s face, they can’t stop the Devil entering the church. (Satan even stabs one priest in the brain with the cross.) Some other examples of faith are: the healing of the peasant woman’s stigmata (Stigmata refers to the marks of Christ's wounds on a person's body); the Priest telling Jericho, “We have to have faith.”; and the Pope’s words, “It is in our darkest hour that we must have faith.”
Another theme is self-sacrifice. Jericho does this, and so does his partner.
The film is full of scenes and images which create an unsettled feeling, and a feeling of menace and danger.
The scene where Satan is about to impregnate Christine was a frightening one, partly because it had a feeling of reality as many satanic cults have rituals where the “priest” has sex with a girl on the satanic altar, in front of the “congregation”.
The image of crucifixion can have strong religious overtones for a viewer in Western culture. I believe the use of this image in the film is used to create an unsettled feeling. Examples of crucifixion are the statue of Jesus in the church, the crucifixion of Thomas Aquinas, and the crucifixion of Jericho. The phenomenon of the stigmata, another crucifixion image, is also shown.
“End of Days” also has the type of religious images and ideas one would expect in a film of this genre: priests, crosses, nuns, churches, the Bible, speaking in tongues, making the sign of the cross, etc.
There are also many images used to establish a satanic atmosphere. A few examples are the satanic signs appearing throughout the film; the devil dropping a cigarette into his flammable black urine to blow up Chicago’s van (with, Satan hopes, Chicago in it); the baby Christine being taken down an elevator, (a symbol of a descent down to hell); the nurse pushing the baby through the autopsy room, giving a macabre flavor to the scene; the baby Christine being baptized with snake’s blood; and the hundreds of candles in the satanic temple.
In spite of the intense quality of the film, there was a lot of humor. A good example of black humor is the devil’s words: “You don't want to see me upset, believe me.”, and in Christine saying, “What am I supposed to do, get a restraining order?” Also present were the usual off-handed comments that Schwarzenegger makes in many of his movies.
The ending of the film is ironic in that a major cosmological event occurs in the church, but, outside, people are partying on, unawares.
The film moved at an exhilarating pace with excellent action sequences.
The soundtrack was excellent, in many cases creating a mood of foreboding. (An example is the weird choir music.) Silence was used to good effect as well. (The silence that occurred in the church just after the action scene was all the more effective because of the noise that had preceded it.
The palette of the film consisted of muted and warm amber and ochre tones, and there was a lot of shadow used. This was combined with a wardrobe shade of black, grey, and brown to give the film an overall foreboding atmosphere.
The region 1 DVD with surround sound was excellent. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack gives the subwoofer a good work out.
The DVD contains a director’s commentary about the technical aspects of the film, but, unfortunately, the director talks very little about the theme or meaning. A fascinating explanation of the special effects and a brief explanation of Revelation are also included.“End of Days” is a thought-provoking film. If you liked it, you will enjoy “Devil’s Advocate”, “Prophecy”, “Warlock”, and “Warlock: The Armageddon”.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=798&reviewer=228
originally posted: 09/07/00 20:57:26