Monthly Archives: January 2014
Paul talks to Enzo on his skull phone, and they discuss the loyalty oath that will be announced in just a few days:
“I cannot imagine my staying in place with the NPO long after Monday’s announcement.” [said Paul]
Why not? Because Good Christians Don’t Lie, of course.
Except to their wives, I mean. And to everyone, as long as you’re not lying out loud and in so many words. Even though Paul has been living a “double life” for six months now, he hasn’t actually lied and said “Hey, just so everyone is clear, I’m still an atheist.”
So his conscience is clear. But it would not be clear if he signed his name to a loyalty oath, allowing him to keep up his important work as a double agent.
I mean, not that he does any actual work, but if he did, it would be important!
And Enzo agrees:
“…such an eventuality would give the entire global underground church sixty days’ worth of marching orders. Unless we do something drastic, true believers who would never denounce their faith will face death.”
Okay, I admit that I am a lifelong atheist who really doesn’t give a crap about the idea of denouncing faith or lack thereof. If somebody put a gun to my head and ordered me to “convert” to anything, I would do it in less than one second. After all, I know what I really believe and don’t believe, and if it’s so important to some bad guy that I say I believe something else, I’ll say it. Doesn’t mean I think it. As for Paul and the other Christians, shouldn’t Jesus know their hearts? Wouldn’t he forgive them “denouncing” their faith so they can continue to live and try to convert the evil atheistic world?
Enzo tries to explain:
“The only possible way of surviving [the oath] is to show the International Government that there are enough of us that we should be heard.”
Fair enough. But Paul actually has a good point:
“But, Enzo, you all have been living underground for years. It has been like this for decades already.”
Yeah. Why engage in all these little, nothing tactics like sewing tracts into textiles, when you could make a stand and let your voices be heard? Shoulda done this yesterday!
“Yet the government feels this need to put us on the spot.”
Yeah, and why dance to their tune, Enzo? Shoulda stood up yesterday! Wrongs will be righted if you’re united, yanno?
But never fear, because Enzo knows what’s really important here!
“What will you do, Paul? This has to be even worse, much more dangerous for you.”
Why??? We’ve already established that Rome police execute believers on sight. And Enzo is the head of the Rome underground—surely he is just as susceptible to “extra” attention by the government as Paul is. Perhaps even more. But Paul agrees that things are waaaaay worse for him. His response to Enzo:
No question things are worse for Paul than for anybody. Man, Paul seeks out ways to be The Most Oppressed of All like a frakkin’ Social Justice Warrior.
“But I know this: Nothing will make me sign.” [said Paul]
“Praise the Lord. But what about the disposition of your wife and children?”
“I have already put them in God’s hands,” he said. “If the only thing within my power to save them was renouncing my faith, I would not do it. I could not. I would only pray that they be drawn to God through my example.”
Save them from what, Paul? I mean, you want them to be believers, subject to the same persecution as you. So it can’t be that. Save them from the repercussions of you being exposed as a religious nut? Hell, they’ll be pitied and protected, that’s pretty much a given. I know you think that only Christians care about families and children, but trust me, pretty much everybody in your life feels sorry for Jae and thinks you’re, at best, an asshat, and at worst, a traitor. Jae and the kids will be fine.
“I am trying to live in a way that she will at least be sorry to lose me.”
And there we have it. (Again.) Paul isn’t being halfway-decent to his wife because he loves her or respects her or is remorseful about his abuse and cheating. Nope, he’s just doing it to manipulate her, so she’ll be sad when he’s gone.
Frakkin’ narcissistic sociopath.
Back in D.C., Jae and Ranold head to his office after his Reasons Paul Sucks PowerPoint. He checks her status:
“And can you do whatever is necessary to help us, if he’s turned on us?”
“To be perfectly honest, Dad, you haven’t proved that to me yet. But if you could, of course I would do whatever was necessary. What kind of person, citizen, mother would I be if I wouldn’t?”
“That’s my girl.”
My biggest fear: I’m Ranold B. Decenti’s girl—no more, no less.
Really, Jae? That’s your biggest fear? I’ve got a better one for you: that you’re Paul Stepola’s abused, manipulated, Stockholm Syndromed wife—no more, no less.
Jae doesn’t want to believe Paul is a traitor, but…
Even his new attitude—his loving, caring, listening, others-oriented personality—could be just a ruse to cover what he’s really been up to. [Jae thinks]
Catty though she is proving herself to be, I do feel bad for Jae that she’s been so snowed by occasional decency from Paul that she thinks of it as loving and caring.
I’m sorry, I just…that phrase sounds a bit silly in and of itself, but to apply such a goofy phrase to PAUL STEPOLA is so laughable that it deserves not just one corny laughing gif…
…but three more…
Paul Stepola…others-oriented guy.
So, even though she’s conflicted about it, Jae shows Ranold the infamous “come to Jesus” letter from Paul’s father (Ranold’s reaction in the next chapter). And she muses about how much an atheist world sucks…
…she found the New Testament stuff so impactful. She had never been taught to question, to investigate. … You didn’t question that religion was a farce, that God was a creation of man, that anything spiritual or outside the realm of the material was akin to fairy tales but not so harmless. People didn’t change. How could they? The only values worth fighting and dying for were humanism and the preeminence of the state.
Okay, I can see how one could, in theory, write an interesting story about how society’s skeptics and critical thinkers took over the world and soon their worldview became the very thing they had fought against—the status quo, the unquestioned and unquestionable.
But this isn’t that story.
Not least because the past two chapters have shown us that the main villain of this uninvestigating, unquestioning world, one Ranold B. Decenti, has completely changed his own views on Paul. He used to like and respect Paul, but after QUESTIONING AND INVESTIGATING, has come to the conclusion that Paul is not to be trusted, has flipped, and is using his position in the NPO to aid believers.
And he’s right.
And this unquestioning world has cured cancer, all but completely eradicated homelessness, improved mental health services, made all cars environmentally friendly, decreased travel times, and makes it paper out of previously-unrecyclable plastic.
Yep, what a stodgy, uncritical world.
Back in France, Paul is talking with actual French people, who apparently all speak perfect English, which is a good thing for two reasons:
1. Superspy Paul flunked Berlitz (the language program, not his brother-in-law)
2. Paul uses phrases like “several-pronged benefits” when talking to people for whom English is a second language.
Paul wants their help to trap Magnor, because he obviously can’t do any work by himself. (Or at all.) The French Christians are understandably reluctant to help, because it already sucks enough to be them. ChappellShow is the only one in favor of helping, mostly because of his guilt complex—he didn’t read Magnor’s mind well enough to understand that when Magnor said he wanted revenge, he meant he was going to bomb three specific world monuments within days of each other.
But Paul knows how to convince the undecided:
“Magnor needs to be brought to justice. Even if we weren’t looking at this as Christians, he’s still a murderer, a coward. The international community may make strange bedfellows for us, but on this we must agree. Regardless the offense, regardless the differences, the answer is not the obliteration of innocent people.”
ARE YOU FRAKKING KIDDING ME, PAUL???
“The events” being the deaths of thousands.
Paul Stepola: Hypocrite of the year, 38 P.3.
Paul continues his conversation with ChappellShow, who has himself had conversations with Magnor.
For the first time since he’d left the States, Paul was onto something.
Damn. Can you imagine how much Paul might be able to get done if he actually, yanno, did some work? Instead of wandering around and praying with underground believers and…wandering around…
Paul really has done nothing, hasn’t he? He really should have just stayed in Chicago, for all the good he has done both the NPO and the underground Christians.
We learn (unless we knew already, and I’ve forgotten and am too lazy to check) that ChappellShow’s wife and kids were killed by the “gendarmes.” Seems that ChappellShow initially liked Magnor’s vengeance-talk, but eventually accepted that “vengeance belongs to the Lord” (Exhibit A: dessicating L.A. and all the children there who totally deserved God’s wrath) and tried to cut off contact. But, like some weird terrorist stalker, Magnor still calls sometimes.
Paul recites part of Psalm 20 to ChappellShow, which I guess is kinda fitting and all (except for the part about burnt offerings), but really? Paul had to fly halfway around the world to do this?
Back in D.C., Ranold has brought Jae to NPO headquarters, where they meet up with Bia Balaam:
The rawboned Bia Balaam, whom Jae would have described as the woman with no lips…
Wow, Jae. Catty much?
…seemed overdressed for the occasion. This was a Saturday morning, off-work hours, and she was dressed in a copper lamé dress and heels, pushing her well over six feet tall, her silver hair up and festive.
I dunno, I kinda love that Bia is confident enough in herself to celebrate her unusual height. Also, catty much, Jae?
And those eyes. Jae decided that if she had eyes that matched her hair color as eerily as did Ms. Balaam’s, she certainly wouldn’t do a thing to try to enhance them.
CATTY MUCH, JAE???
If we were meant to see this as an insecure Jae being threatened by the sight of a woman as confident and comfortable with herself as Bia, this might work. But I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re supposed to agree with Jae that Bia is not only a horrible person, but doesn’t know how to dress herself properly and is also too tall and has gone gray OMG.
Ranold, because he is awesome, apologizes for taking up Bia’s time, when she could be spending it with her son, who is home visiting from college. Hmm, it’s almost as though several characters have previously-unknown-to-us sons in this book. Go figure.
Just the knowledge that Bia Balaam was a mother slightly softened Jae’s impression of her lack of humanity.
Yep, because if there’s one thing that makes a person undeniably human, it’s the ability to spawn. Such an unusual characteristic!
And especially strange in a book that tells us that certain people (Ranold) are bad parents and shows us that other people (Paul) are bad parents. I’m surprised that Jae, raised by (so we’re told) a bad father and ineffectual mother, would just accept that having a kid makes a person sufficiently human.
Anyway, Ranold begins a presentation on Paul’s overall shittiness, complete with slides!
First came shots of him as an almost gawky military man before they had even met. No body fat.
Huh. Maybe we have a small piece of the puzzle of why Paul is so obsessed with other mens’ BMIs. Sounds like somebody is missing his pre-fat days.
Fast-forward to Andy Pass’s funeral and Paul hitting on Angela.
Had Jae been so cold that day that Paul was on the prowl?
That is so sad. Sure, Jae’s a catty Mean Girl to Bia, but she’s still blaming herself for Paul’s serial cheating. Jae, honey: Paul was never not on the prowl.
The awesome Ranold has been suspicious of Paul for so long that he even had pictures taken of Paul when he was chatting with Trina Thomas about his dad’s letter. Jae, never one to let another woman simply exist, decides that Trina “looked like a floozy.” I would love to read this as being Jae being threatened by the existence of a highly-educated woman in a position of great responsibility who by the way is in the same workplace as her ever-philandering husband, but I kinda think we’re meant to agree that Trina is a floozy.
On to their lunch, which we are told lasted three hours and involved a great deal of wine (mmmm, wine), and ended with a kiss (ewwwww).
Oh, but here’s the kicker: at Ranold’s behest, Trina was playing Paul the entire time. Happily married, she pretended to flirt with him and actually reported back to Ranold every single thing that Paul said.
Trina Thomas, you frakkin’ rock. Seriously, kissing Paul Stepola is officially Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.
Ranold, eminently fair to the end, reports that Paul actually did good work in San Francisco and
Texas Gulfland, which is really fair because mostly it was other people, specifically cutie Larry Coker and level-headed local chief Tick who did most the work.
Then we get to Straight, “a man we have yet to figure out” because it’s not time for the NPO to be on to Straight. That’s the only reason I can think of because seriously? Ranold was having Paul monitored in his own office, but didn’t notice that Paul took an unscheduled field trip to the very headquarters of the Heartland underground, one that lasted for hours?
Look, either Ranold is a top-notch operative leading a team of well-trained investigators, or he’s an idiot leading a team of Keystone Kops, but not both at the same time, surely?
Ranold has no suspicions about Paul’s operation in New York, which actually seems realistic to me: Paul made his first convert there, the head of the very organization Paul was investigating, and the one person with the money and power to cover up Paul’s subversion and his own.
Less believable is Ranold’s thought process about L.A.: his suspicions “crescendoed” there, but ultimately decided that Paul had “merely pretended to flip.” This despite the fact that Paul spent almost all his time in the company of underground Christians, and one of them is tortured into confessing…about Paul.
I have to wonder, yet again, how Paul kept his Christian Water-Midas Touch a secret from his family and co-workers after the dessication.
Ranold fast-forwards to the present, and notes that Paul “continues to make initial contacts with local authorities, make cursory investigations of the affected sites, and begin his own investigations independently.”
“Cursory” seems a very generous term for how much Paul has been working.
And I just find it hilarious that the NPO has been working so much harder than Paul all this time. Then again, Bia reveals their plan to start to “shadow him much more closely.” Damn, if only they had started sooner, they could have found the one-person-every-five-minutes Rome underground. But, again, it wasn’t time for the underground to be found yet.
Jae has been listening to all this, blaming herself for Paul’s serial cheating and feeling sympathy that the NPO has been monitoring him, just because they’re an international security organization that strongly suspects (correctly, lest we forget) that one of their own has gone over to the side of the enemy.
As Ivan pointed out, Stockholm Syndrome is a much better term to apply to Jae than to Paul, and thus it is no surprise when Jae responds to this whole presentation by saying:
“Let’s say I deal with the domestic issues. They’re my business anyway. Putting those aside, is there any scenario in which Paul might prove you have misjudged him?”
Oh, let me point something out here. We’ve been told that atheists are amoral jerks with no respect for marriage. This is a view that Jenkins himself holds. Yet, to a person, every atheist thinks that Paul is a total ass for cheating on Jae. They care about these “domestic issues.” Hell, they care a lot more than Christian Straight, who thinks Paul should treat Jae with respect so that Jae will reciprocate. Because marriage works best when the two parties keep a scorecard. Only way to be fair, really.
Bia answers Jae’s question: Paul can only clear his name if he “personally” beings down Styr Magnor.
OH WON’T THEY ALL BE SURPRISED WHEN PAUL MANAGES TO DO THIS, WHICH HE WILL BECAUSE MAGNOR IS NOT A REALLY REAL CHRISTIAN.
And I feel so bad for Ranold. He’s spent over a year putting this all together, and Jae is still defending her asshat, cheating, traitor husband. Because that’s what a good little woman does.
Welcome back to Silenced, everyone! Hope you all enjoyed the Wintermas reviews and Ivan’s second guest critique!
Ranold hints some more to Jae (without providing details…yet) about Paul’s supposed infidelity and treason. Just so we know what horrible atheists they are, Ranold gives Jae a glass of whiskey to nurse in the face of the news (it’s still early in the morning), and Jae thinks of how angry she is at Paul:
The nerve! To come on like he was a new man, a changed guy, as eager to backhoe and fill and work on the marriage as she. Jae had actually looked forward to the rest of their married life together, allowed herself to imagine how much healthier Brie and Connor were going to be growing up in a happy home. Now Paul was going to have to sue her to see his own kids. If he wasn’t behind bars or put to death. The latter was too good for him, unless she got to give the injection herself.
Ha! Won’t Jae feel like the silly woman she is when she finds out that it has been over a year since Paul actually physically cheated and SIX WHOLE MONTHS since he’s had an emotional affair with another woman.
And as far as the treason goes, all Paul is guilty of is not doing his job, and praying for and then celebrating the deaths of thousands of innocents.
(Also, I think it’s kinda funny that Jae thinks Paul would sue to see the kids. It’s not like he’s shown interest in the kids even when he’s living in the same house as them.)
As Jae is having a womany attack of nerves, downing the booze and screaming into a pillow, Paul is meeting up with the head of the French underground, Chappell Raison.
ChappellShow is given the usual height treatment from Paul (shorter of course, but only by one inch), and Paul gives serious thought to ChappellShow’s metabolism (“galloping“), instead of just giving us a weight number.
ChappellShow is a fast-talking weirdo who directs Paul to a disused chicken coop (really) for their first meeting. Turns out he generically “lost” his wife and two kids, but is super-psyched that “living, breathing ambassador” Paul is there to “encourage” the underground. Thanks, American male! Because the French could never take care of their own resistance, right?
Anyway, it’s way more interesting back in D.C., where Ranold makes it clear to Jae that this isn’t just about nailing Paul because he’s an asshole (though that’s certainly a bonus):
“We want to play this out, Jae. Use Paul. Let him lead us to the heads of the European resistance. We thought we had problems in this country. And we do. But if the Europeans are going to resort to terrorist attacks—in the name of God, of course—that’s where we need to concentrate.”
So, basically, this scene establishes Ranold as way more interested in preventing tragedy than Paul is.
Not that Paul isn’t making headway. I mean, ChappellShow reveals that he knew Styr Magnor years ago.
So Paul is accidentally getting closer to the terrorist!
ChappellShow tells Paul that Magnor was maybe faking a Norse accent, and that he wasn’t real Christian (or course not) because…
“…he never mentioned the name of Christ. That is a dead giveaway, you know. A lot of God talk and a lot of revenge talk, but no evidence of a real relationship with Jesus.”
What a relief! We know now that Magnor was not a real Christian. After all, a real Christian would talk about his relationship with Jesus before killing hundreds of people. Just like Paul and the L.A. Christians did before they got
their thug God to dessicate the city.
Because that’s what good people do.
I can’t wait for Ranold to try and nail Paul. Surprising though it is that Ranold just doesn’t have Paul disappeared, like any respectable Evil Dystopian Government Agent, at least we can take comfort in the fact that he is ethical enough to do this by the book.
And not the Good Book, either.
A Guest Review by Ivan
The first scene we skipped is a quick, uninteresting one where it is implied Stonepola sneaks through a way too narrow air duct without actually showing it happening, but then we get to the good stuff. MacEvilton, who we saw exiting an elevator in the O.N.E. HQ 3 minutes ago is now in a burned out church, surrounded by robed minions and ominous items copied from every evil-cult movie ever, holding a midnight satanic ritual.
MacEvilton chants some unnaturally worded evil spell which is nonetheless in English. How convenient, almost as convenient as the KJV Bible being the only correct version. This ritual is supposed to unlock the true power of the Day of Wonders program. So now they can magically break the rules… that were already magically broken by that one encrypted line… of a technology that already counts as magic by Clark’s third law. Uh-oh, shit just got real!
For your enjoyment, here is MacEvilton’s chant. To save some space, I didn’t list the line “Let the Day of Wonders begin” that MacEvilton’s robed backup singers drone after every one of his lines.
“Speak to the world as you spoke to Eve
when she plucked the apple from the tree.
Let each man see his heart’s desire
and believe our path will take him higher.
The real wonders are pride and greed
and those shall be our apple tree.”
MacEvilton is smirking evilly as he casts a spell that allows his master to deceive the world by playing to the people’s pride and greed, just like he did to Eve. Let that sink in for a moment. MacEvilton has rehearsed an entire frigging chant that details how satan once screwed over humanity by falsely promising Eve she could become a god, and how satan is now going to make that exact same false promise again. And why is MacEvilton doing all this, why did he renounce god and become a satanist? Because he’s convinced doing so will help him become a god. Pattern recognition: You’re doing it wrong!
MacEvilton’s chant ends exactly at midnight, as we cut to Cindy who, for some reason is not at the images-meeting, but still at the computers. She’s reaching for something, but we’re not shown what, and asking for Willie, even though he must have left minutes ago. So either Willie freaked out over the cut finger to the point where he forgot Cindy and immediately ran to Helen without ever telling her where or why he left, or the plot simply called for her to be here alone and the scriptwriter couldn’t be bother to explain why.
The computer gives an audio cue once MacEvilton’s chant stops. For no adequately explained reason, Cindy decides to put on the VR goggles and finds herself in the white room, suddenly able to see. Before she’s recovered from the shock, the camera reveals a mean looking Macalousso behind her. But he puts on a friendly face before he calls to her and congratulates her on being the first to experience the Day of Wonders. I’ll give the actor playing the antichrist this much: He can somewhat play the part of a deceiver who might seem trustworthy, as long as you apply absolutely no critical reasoning to his actual words.
He shows Cindy all the marvelous wonders of the world she can now see, all of them off-screen so the audience sees nothing but the white room. And all this can be hers, in the real world as well as the virtual one,
for just $39,99 if she’ll just renounce Christ and accept him as her only god. Cindy, moved to tears by her ability to see, accepts and Macalousso burns a highly unsubtle 666-mark on her hand.
After Willie dismisses John Hagee and rudely leaves Helen to go back to the computers so he can selfishly resume his efforts to prevent the deaths of all Christians, Cindy reveals her newfound eyesight to him. And because the movie oh-so-subtly mentioned Eve about a dozen times, the slutty harlot smiles at Willie and next time we see him, he’s also taken the mark in exchange for making him able to walk.
Oh, and it turns out taking the mark in this movie turns you into a cartoonishly evil villain. The kind who laughs maniacally, who enjoys others’ misery, whose mere presence frightens animals, who’ll gleefully murder his loved ones, who scoffs at those who try to find the good in him and who kills cute puppies.
What. The. FUCK!
This is some of the most insulting, plot hole riddled, out-of-character, abelist bullshit I have ever had the misfortune of watching. “Our movie has two handicapped characters? I know, let’s portray them as untrustworthy cretins who envy ‘normal’ people like us so much they’ll gladly sell us out to satan.”
My most generous explanation is that Cloud Ten wanted their antichrist’s miracles to be an evil version of Jesus’. Jesus made the crippled walk and the blind see (how that fits with Helen’s “faith, not evidence or cheap tricks”-argument, I don’t know), so the antichrist tells the crippled and the blind that he can heal them… for a price. But note that, despite Jesus’ claims that people were healed “by their faith”, it only happened once they walked up/were carried to Jesus for the express purpose of getting them healed. Their faith seems to have been much like a desperate hope that the famous miracle-man could heal them. Had it been the antichrist who was going around performing miracles, I’m willing to bet they’d have taken his offer. There’s no justification for viciously condemning these particular crippled and blind people.
And viciously condemned they are. Before this scene, we had Helen and MacEvilton’s foreshadowing that accepting Macalousso is a sign of pride, greed and selfishness. That, this movie says, is what Willie and Cindy are like. Never mind that Willie knowingly got himself on the shit-list of Mr. I-like-death-squads-and-hate-loose-ends MacEvilton to help Stonepola and protect the world. And never mind that Cindy stayed in the highly dangerous company of Uncool Christian for months instead of staying at the now-empty house of her parents.
And afterward, they get turned into cruel monsters. Just to make it clear that they don’t deserve the sympathy of the audience or god. Even though this behavior change is inconsistently handled. After taking the mark, Cindy convinces Willie to take the mark with a smile and a demonstration of her eyesight. But they never try to convince the others. The movie might have been salvageable if they’d portrayed the marked as brainwashed into thinking Macalousso is awesome, and not understanding why their friends don’t want to take the mark and get their heart’s desire too. Instead, they sensed that Helen’s Passionate Sincerity level was over 9000, so they immediately move to plan B, which is also plan C through Z for all non-RTCs when dealing with RTCs: EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!
By the way, good luck finding anything in the book of Revelation about the mark granting diabolical miracles or altering your personality. But hey, if Cloud Ten feels this makes for a better narrative, who cares if they add a few features to those prophecies?
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll.
And since I’m not feeling generous anymore: Look, something else they shamelessly copied from The Matrix.
So, Willie and Cindy… Y’know what, I’m not calling them Willie and Cindy. These abominations have nothing to do with the characters we saw earlier. I declare that the meta-character intervention team got them out once MacEvilton began chanting. They are now comfortably in the backseat of the getaway car driven by meta-Isis, while meta-Hattie explains the principle of not telling jokes about handicaps until you’re certain everyone in your vicinity is cool with that. And meta-Chloe used her Stanford-skills to build two robotic duplicates, called Will-E and Cind-E, so that Cloud Ten wouldn’t notice their absence.
Will-E and Cind-E go back into the room with Helen and Uncool Christian. Willie’s dog Elvis is now barking at him, because he can smell the evil (or because dogs bark at all robotic duplicates, not just terminators). And Will-E is still in his wheelchair, because he has a cunning plan!
“You know, sis, I’ve been thinking. If Thorold doesn’t get that virus uploaded, we might need to warn the others. And right now, you’re the only one who knows where all the hideouts are.”
That’s the very first thing Will-E says to Helen after taking the mark. Machiavelli would be proud.
Helen doesn’t give him the information, but neither does she wonder why Will-E is suddenly so insistent to learn this.
“Helen, I’m serious. I really think you should tell me where the other hideouts are.”
“I can’t do that Will, you know I can’t.”
“No, you can. And it’s okay Helen. I’m on side now [sic?]. I found god.”
“What? That’s wonderful Willie, when? I mean, when did this happen?”
“Just now. I finally saw the truth.”
How ironic, an RTC falling for a deliberately misleading statement which is technically true according to the misleader’s logic. But only one RTC is fooled. This is the scene that justifies Uncool Christian’s presence in the movie. He asks if it was “worth your SOUL!”, then grabs Cind-E’s arm to expose the mark on her hand. Sadly, that was all the brilliance he could muster in one day, because he just stands there for more than 15 seconds while Helen whimpers, right until Will-E stands up and draws a gun. Only then does he start trying to draw his gun, but he’s too late and Will-E forces him to drop it. Way to go, moron.
Helen does look and sound like she’s sad about this, but her actual words sound more accusingly than grieving.
“No. No, Willie, how could you? How could you? You… you knew all this. I mean, how could you know all this was going to happen and fall for it anyway?”
Ahem, Helen, he didn’t know. Because if he had known, that means he would’ve had proof, and that means he couldn’t never have proper faith, now could he?
Still, Helen’s response is better than Uncool Christian’s. When he revealed that his maybe-sister, the blind girl he’d dragged with him to this hideout, had the mark that damned her soul, his first words were a triumphant “Now we know what the Day of Wonders is about.” And when Helen is pleading to Will-E and Cind-E, he tells her to “save your breath” because “their souls are already gone”. Ehm, what? That can happen? I guess that would account for the personality shift, but how does he know that? That wasn’t on the Hagee-tape or in the Bible. Must be his dick-powers telling him Will-E and Cind-E deserve no sympathy.
Not that Will-E and Cind-E don’t explicitly agree with Uncool Christian’s analysis, mind you. They openly mock and belittle Helen for trying to reason with them. They barely avoid looking straight into the camera and directly address any audience members who might still like them.
Will-E demands again the locations of the other hideouts, but Helen bravely says she’d rather die. Well, it’s meant to be brave, but I’d just call it pragmatic. Helen believes that whether she spends the next seven years in the horrors of the tribulations or in heaven, she’ll end up in the earthly paradise anyway. Given those options, I’d say “I’d rather die” to a gun wielding mugger who just wants the $6,31 in my wallet. And then I’d insult his mother.
But when Will-E shoots Uncool Christian jumps in front of Helen and takes the bullet for her. You selfish bastard! That was Helen’s ticket out of this shithole and… Oh sorry, it’s cognitive dissonance time, this is supposed to be noble.
Helen runs away and Will-E follows her, but he trips… over the distinctive blue MAKE A BELIEVER OUT OF ME-glass that Stonepola/god knocked over. Heh. I’ll admit, that’s actually kinda clever. With god’s omniscience, he can perform two divine interventions for the price of one. Oh, and chalk up another white protagonist saved by god.
Helen runs outside, straight into Cool Christian (this is the only reason why Cool Christian and Uncool Christian couldn’t have been rewritten into a single character). Who conveniently came back from… somewhere. You’d think he was busy helping Stonepola break into the O.N.E HQ, but we saw Stonepola was there alone.
Helen urges Cool Christian to flee with her, and like a moron he does. Will-E isn’t expecting resistance, and if he follows Helen from the brightly lit interior of the building to the dark exterior, he’ll be clearly outlined in the doorway, with eyes that’ll take much longer to adapt to the dark than it takes for Cool Christian’s to pull a trigger. This would be the easiest ambush ever.
And if you kill Will-E now, not only are you preventing him from interfering with Stonepola’s mission, but you make sure he can’t undo the damage afterward. Remember, when he made the virus, he said that without his help, the O.N.E. wouldn’t be rewriting the Day of Wonders program any time soon. In other words, with his help, they can quite easily recover. The fact that getting rid of Will-E will make it easier for me to remember Willie for the cool, fun character that he was is just a bonus.
But the do-gooders escape the evil villain’s clutches, so it’s scenery-chewing time. And because the evil-sensing dog is still barking at Will-E and won’t obey his angry command to lie down, Will-E shoots the dog and then mockingly says “Good doggy”. Yes, they really went there. The villain just shot the cute little doggy. The concept of a bad guy who kicks puppies is the go-to comparison for cliche villains with no motivation as written by talentless hacks… and Cloud Ten felt that they could do better by making the bad guy shoot the dog instead.
I bet you poor bastards thought that list of villain traits I mentioned right before my “What. The. FUCK!”-rant was a humorous exaggeration. Oh, my sweet summer child, what do you know about black-and-white morality? Within just 3 minutes, I repeat, three minutes, Will-E and Cind-E have checked off every single item on that list. There is nothing so laughably evil that Cloud Ten won’t portray their villains doing it.
At this point, I’d almost forgotten that Stonepola is still breaking into the O.N.E. building. Funny how the scenes back at the ranch turned out to be more eventful (and infuriating) than the super-secret-spy mission.
Stonepola drops out of the air vent into a room with a lot of computer monitors. But right before he inserts the floppy disk, Will-E calls him up on the radio and tells him that the virus won’t work unless the VR program is running. He tells Stonepola he needs to put on the goggles and spend just a bit of time in the virtual reality before he can upload the virus. That’s a clever idea from Will-E, which he couldn’t have tried if Helen hadn’t bravely turned her tail and fled. Or if Cool Christian had used his radio to warn Stonepola. We know he has one, because Helen used it to call him back to their hideout.
Cind-E congratulates Will-E for his performance with a kiss. It’s kind of funny how without their souls, they not only remain alive buy still have their emotions, memories and capabilities for love. Or how emotionally invested they are in making sure the Day of Wonders succeeds. If they were now evil soulless husks, you’d think they’d adopt a Screw-You-I-Got-Mine attitude towards this whole plan. It’s almost like the writers didn’t give a damn about how this works and just made them do random evil shit.
Stonepola puts on a pair of goggles in the computer room and finds himself in the white room, welcomed by Macalousso and with his wife and daughter smiling at him from a distance. Oh great, now I get to watch more of their acting.
Luckily I get a brief reprieve from that scene as we cut to Cool Christian, still in his O.N.E. agent uniform, walking right up to the front desk in the O.N.E. HQ building with a handcuffed Helen in tow. The guard recognizes Helen, and Cool Christian tells him he’s taking her up to MacEvilton’s office.
Pop quiz: Suppose you are guarding the headquarters of a law enforcement agency. In the middle of the night, a single officer whom you don’t personally know comes in unannounced with Public Enemy number one and says he’s taking her directly to the boss’s office. Would you A: Send word of this arrival directly to said boss. B: Call up ten extra officers to prevent this highly dangerous prisoner from escaping a second time. C: Inquire how this single agent managed to capture his target, and why there has been no radio traffic about this arrest. Or D: All of the above. If you picked none of these and instead penciled in “Compliment the agent, wave him through, and do nothing else”, then congratulations, there is a future for you in the O.N.E. And nowhere else.
That was a nicely stupid breather, but there’s no more escaping it: Now I have to sit through the virtual wife and daughter doing their best to tempt Stonepola into accepting Macalousso’s offer. And it’s every bit as teeth grindingly unconvincing as I expected.
Which is a shame, because this could have been a powerful scene. Seeing his family again has been Stonepola’s driving motivation this entire movie. Stonepola should have suddenly found himself with his wife and daughter in his arms just like old times, but with the realization that he must reject them to save his soul. If the fake wife and daughter had played their parts well, with just the right mixture of grief and accusation to Stonepola’s “betrayal”, we could’ve really felt for the guy. But sadly, we’re stuck with two bad actors keeping 20 feet away who lay it on way to thick.
“Look who it is, Maggie.”
“Daddy, daddy, we miss you, daddy.”
“Don’t abandon us again, Thorold. You have to open your mind this time and listen to him. It’s the only way”
Macaluosso, buddy, maybe this temptation would work better if you let his wife bend in for a kiss like that.
Frankly, it’s not even clear exactly what Macalousso is offering here. He says Stonepola’s family members are “just like you remember them” because they are “inside you”, while patting around Stonepola’s heart. But he doesn’t suggest they are, or could become, real. He might as well promise that, if Stonepola takes the mark he’ll hate his RTC wife and he won’t care if he doesn’t get them back anyway.
Stonepola is all teary-eyed, and he and Macalousso share some smiles and chuckles.
“Oh, I was wrong about you. I actually thought you were an alien.”
“Hahaha, yes, I know. But now you believe, don’t you?”
“[Nods] Now, I believe.”
Apparently the antichrist knows what Stonepola thinks, and has enough access to his memories to perfectly recreate his family, but still can’t tell when Stonepola is just messing with him via ambiguous terms.
Because, yes, the time has come. The moment that has been inevitable since the opening credits has arrived. The movie may be trying to ratchet up the tension by suggesting that Stonepola is about to pledge his allegiance to satan, with a cutaway to Helen hoping Stonepola isn’t doomed yet. But we all know what’s going to happen, don’t we? After 84 minutes, we finally get Stonepola’s conversion scene. It comes about 83 minutes too late for the audience to retain faith in Stonepola’s judgment and mental faculties, but surely the dramatic payoff will make that delay worth it. Because now, at the climactic moment in the story, after everything Stonepola has seen and learned, the moment is right for an epic conversion scene.
Too bad all we get is this:
“Now all you have to do is give me your pledge of allegiance, and everything you ever dreamed of will be yours.”
“You’re not about love at all. I would rather believe in a creator who would rather die for his creation than have his creation die for him.”
“I am not your son, Satan. And they are not my family. I know where my family is, where they’ll be safe from you for eternity.”
“So be it. You’ve made your choice. And now, you will pay the price. Not even your god can save you.”
“He already has.”
Huh? Stonepola converted just now? How? Why? He’s been living through what was obviously the rapture for months and got the whole explanation from Helen, and he never bought it. And yet here he is, now parroting Helen’s arguments as the obvious truth. What was it that he saw or heard or felt that suddenly made him realize the RTCs in the audience were right all along? I’m trying to make sense of it from the few things he says.
“Oh, I was wrong about you. I actually thought you were an alien. […] But now I believe.”
Stonepola put on a clearly technological doohickey, and found himself in a virtual reality with duplicates of the family members he believed were abducted. I think “alien holodeck” is actually a more plausible explanation than “mark of the beast”.
“You’re not about love at all.”
Why not? He clearly understands love well enough, else he wouldn’t be offering to bring back Stonepola’s loved ones. And why doesn’t he apply this accusation to his new god? Both god and Macalousso claim to have been responsible for taking his family away, and both offer him a chance to be reunited if he worships them.
“I would rather believe in a creator who would rather die for his creation…”
This is one of the few things he didn’t parrot from Helen, but the word choice sounds way too RTC-ish for a new believer. And no one in this movie has mentioned Jesus’ sacrifice or its importance, and nothing in this scene references it. If this is what Stonepola looked for in a religion, why didn’t he convert long before the rapture? And RTC preachers usually rail against feel-good churches, so what’s this with Stonepola believing something because he’d “rather believe” in it?
“…than have his creation die for him.”
Oh, this is rich. Is Stonepola implying that god doesn’t want his creations to die for him? Even if we accept that being raptured is somehow different from dying, the entire seven years of tribulation are all about people dying for god. Whether they get plastered directly by his miracles, or get executed by the antichrist for believing in god, it’s all part of god’s great plan. That’s how Mr Davis went. And when Buckson said that if he’d get killed, he’d cheerfully accept that his death must be part of god’s great plan, god quickly took him up on his offer.
Oh, and there was the small matter of god letting one particular creation, Stonepola’s mother, die in agony without so much as a single goddamn hint to her son that he was listening to his prayers, which was the entire goddamn reason Stonepola lost his faith IN THE FIRST GODDAMN PLACE!
In summary, Satan’s temptation of Stonepola has failed as miserably as the scene depicting it did. The good news is that this means it’s time for the antichrist to throw off his kindly mask and show us the terrifyingly evil monster lurking underneath. With a gesture, Stonepola’s family vanishes again, and two virtual O.N.E. police agents appear and walk up behind him. And when Stonepola defies him with his “He already has”-line, Macalousso…he, uhm, he…
pffffff-ahaha-BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! You’re serious? What is this I don’t even…. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA-ha-haaa- *Gasp*, oh man, ran out of air there. You guys got to see this shit.
Oh, sweet Darwin, I don’t know what’s funnier: The goofy expression, the hissing like a Twilight sparklepire, the pointless arm-motions of a 5 year old who’s winging it after losing the wand in his magician-kit, or just the fact that we’re supposed to take any of this seriously.
Heheh, okay, where was I? Ah, right. Once Macalousso throws what I can only describe as a hissy fit, Stonepola tries to reach up and take his VR helmet off, but the virtual goons grab his arms and force them behind his back, which locks his arms behind in in the real world as well, because… magic. But when they drag him to that guillotine Willie saw earlier and strap him in the cross-shaped device, his real self stays upright, with his arms beside him. Cloud Ten couldn’t even afford a bit of fish wire to make his real body float seemingly just above the ground? This just looks lame.
In fact, the whole sequence is both far dumber and duller than it should be, gloriously silly antichrist notwithstanding. This should be the big showoff of the devils terrible powers. Stonepola is stuck in a virtual reality that’s under the devil’s complete control and where no rules apply. And what does Macalousso do? Have two guys in police uniforms punch him twice and drag him to an execution stand. That’s exactly the same as what happened to Buckson in the first movie! Couldn’t he have been a bit more creative? Maybe show of his complete control by inflicting some body horror.
What good is the word of god if you’re unable to speak?
Or if you’re special effects team can’t handle that, how about just a few understated gestures that look like they’re causing Stonepola pain.
Instead, Macalousso uses this virtual world to do exactly the same thing that he’s been doing to RTCs in the real world for months. Boring! After six millenia of tormenting souls in hell, you’d think satan would have come up with something more creative.
And as icing on the cake, those virtual goons weren’t at Stonepola’s side until Macalousso said that Stonepola would pay the price. But Stonepola still waited until he’d delivered that “He already has”-comeback and Macalousso’s hissy fit before trying to remove the goggles. By then the goons were close enough to stop him. Had he skipped the banter and removed the goggles before Macalousso even realized Stonepola was just messing with him, he could’ve simply escaped.
So Stonepola got his dumb ass caught. At least Macalousso is kind enough to return the favor by needlessly talking to his enemy instead of acting. Once Stonepola is strapped in, he goes on to calmly explain his entire plan for absolutely no reason. The virtual Macalousso explicitly states that he knows Stonepola got here too early. So he knows that, at any time, Stonepola’s friends or just an O.N.E. janitor could find Stonepola and remove his glasses. But just like that dumbass-demon in Escape from Hell, Macalousso takes the time to tell Stonepola everything he needs to know instead of killing him before he escapes.
Take a page from Goldfinger’s book, Macalousso! Just say, “No, Mr. Stonepola, I expect you to die”
and be done with it. And modify the guillotine so the blade comes up from between his legs while you’re at it.
But as stupid it is for Macalousso to explain his entire plan to Stonepola, I’m very glad that we get to hear it. Left Behind didn’t get around to that until much later. And while I’m at it, let me also say that Macalousso’s plan is marginally less asinine than satan’s plan in Left Behind. Post-indwelling Nicolae reasoned that since the Bible is the completely accurate and Tim LaHaye’s prophecies can be unambiguously derived from the Bible, he knew his opponents entire plan. And what did Nicolae do knowing that Jesus was prophesied to gloriously appear in the Valley of Mediggo to curbstomb the antichrist’s 200 million men army? Bring an army of 200 million men to the Valley of Mediggo. Brilliant! Macalousso is at least aware that he needs to do something about the fact that he’s prophesied to lose. And his plan is based on avoiding a straight-up fight with an omnipotent opponent, which is definitely a plus.
None of which is to say that Macalousso’s plan isn’t doomed from the start, mind you.
This is the Day of Wonders? You make the world worship you or die?”
“I don’t have to make them worship me. They want to worship me. […] Because I give them everything that they want. And just like Eve in the garden of Eden, they snap it up in a second. And those that don’t, well, they die. So either way, I win. Pretty soon, everything on this whole earth will be mine. […] And there’s no reason for god to come back, is there?”
MacEvilton revealed some big chucks of this plan before. As he put it:
“Don’t you see you’ve lost? You’ve lost! God’s lost. Once you and every other Christian is dead or converted he’ll have no reason to return. He’ll have no one to come back for, that’s what the Day of Wonders is all about. Prophecy will fail, and we will win!”
So there we have it. The plan is to use the Day of Wonders to kill off all the RTCs or tempt them to renounce god, and then the prophesied second coming of Jesus will be canceled. (Strangely enough, while regular humans like Captain Killgore consider killing RTCs its own reward, the devil actually has a motive for doing so.) Since neither Selma nor Stonepola point out any flaws in this plan at any point, I think we’re supposed to consider it feasible. But I don’t need two millennia of planning to spot some flaws.
Let’s start with the first part, getting rid of all the RTCs with the Day of Wonders. Even if, like Stonepola, no one removes the goggles while they have the chance, that still leaves the problem of getting them to put the goggles on in the first place. No one who mistrusts Macalousso will listen if he tells everyone to wear an unknown gadget on his head at a specific time. Even without the supernatural element, that thing could contain an explosive or a microwave emitter to fry your brain. As far as killing RTCs goes, this plan is a huge waste of time and resources.
Not that the Day of Wonders doesn’t have its uses. The people who already worship Macalousso will fall for it, and then they won’t be able to change their minds anymore. That cuts off the supply of fresh RTC converts and prevents last-minute surprises like The Goony One’s betrayal. But Cloud Ten knows that its audience only really cares about the suffering of RTCs, so that’s what the characters focus on too.
So the first part of the plan has its problems. But it’s the second part where things really start falling apart. Of course, subverting prophecies is tricky business, as many writers of classical Greek plays could tell satan. (They really could. Jesus wasn’t born yet when they lived, so they all died unsaved and satan had all of them at his disposal during the planning stage.) If you throw your infant grandson of a cliff because a prophecy says he’ll one day kill you, you can bet your ass the gods will save him and he’ll end up killing you accidentally anyway. But Macalousso’s attempt to subvert the prophecy is so pathetic that there’s no need for any divine intervention to screw him over. Ehm, no divine intervention besides the one that’s prophesied I mean.
For one thing, just go read the part of Revelation where Jesus returns. It explains what Jesus will do for his enemies once he comes back, but can you see anything about doing anything for his friends there? Me neither. As a matter of fact, it specifies that “With justice he judges and wages war.” By unjustly trying kill the RTCs, satan actually gives Jesus even more reason to come back. And the next part of Revelation only talks the resurrection of the Christians that the antichrist kills. It doesn’t mention any surviving Christians. And since Jesus’ return doesn’t rely on a cult of RTCs chanting “Christ fhtagn”, the prophecy remains fairly intact even if satan succeeds.
And for another thing, unlike the very brief and poorly detailed prophecies of the Oracle of Delphi, the biblical prophecies span dozens of pages. And the prophecy experts who think there will be believers during the tribulation agree that the antichrist will persecute them. So even if a successful genocide would contradict the prophecies, there is the problem that killing all Christians means he has to try to kill all Christians. But he’s prophesied to do exactly that. That’s like the Greek king pre-emptively throwing his grandson from a cliff after the Oracle prophesied that he’ll be killed by a grandson who survived being thrown off a cliff by his grandfather.
If Macalousso wanted to subvert the prophecy, there were much better and easier ways to do it. For example, he could’ve commanded his followers to do absolutely nothing wicked. No persecutions, no hedonistic excesses, no desecrations, at least not during the tribulation period. And instead of an army, have Jesus welcomed by dozens of children with flowers. He’ll have no one to pass judgment on, and it’ll be a PR nightmare for Jesus if he does wipe out your welcome party. Or, if small deviations are enough to throw the divine plan into disarray, he can just change something trivial that he’s prophesied to do. Like making an eight year peace pact with Israel.
In a way, it’s almost a pity that satan’s plan is so terrible. Because it would greatly liven up these stories if it was plausible that the antichrist could win if he kills all the Christians. These post-rapture stories have the problem that God’s final victory is assured no matter what the RTC protagonists do. To create some sort of tension, the writers make the protagonists face lots of life-or-death situations. But as I’ve said earlier, that threat is meaningless when you realize the RTCs are quite literally better off dead. Selma herself spoke with envy of Stonepola’s wife, whose faith “got her to heaven”, and expressed sadness that they missed their chance at that rapture. And yet she screams and cries when her family is murdered. That’s a perfectly reasonable response from a secular viewpoint, but according to Selma’s beliefs, a violent death is just a messy but quick path to heaven.
However, if we assume that the devil’s plan as explained in Revelation has any chance of working, it solves both these narrative problems. Now the protagonists’ actions do have the potential to affect the outcome of the central conflict: If they and all the other RTCs die, the devil wins. To prevent that, they must do whatever it takes to makes sure some of them survive. You could make a pretty cool story about characters who realize that. Sort of like World War Z for the biblical apocalypse instead of the zombie one.
Alas, you review the story you have, not the story you might want or wish to have at a later time. So back in Revelation, Macalousso ponders some more on how brilliant his plan is, Stonepola offers up a prayer, Macalousso mocks him and pulls the switch. The blade falls, but right at that moment Cool Christian shoots a random computer monitor, which somehow shuts down Stonepola’s goggles.
Cool Christian is so cool, he can figure out which computer monitor he needs to shoot quicker than Helen could’ve removed those glasses.
Either that, or they’re both idiots.
Hurray, Stonepola’s friend got their just in time to save him… somehow. We saw Cool Christian removing Helen’s handcuffs shortly after they began their break-in. And yet, the O.N.E’s public enemy number one could just walk into this highly secure room. Why did Stonepola go all Mission: Impossible with his janitor disguise and sneaking in via an air vent if it was just that easy?
After the three of them bring each other up to speed, Cool Christian urges them to get a move on before Will-E and Cind-E interfere again. Stonepola decides not to upload the virus at the terminal Willie told him (off-screen I assume) to upload it, because that’s the first one Will-E check. You’d think that if Willie (not Will-E) told him to use a specific computer, it would be because only that one will work.
But who cares about such little details, because it’s time for our Special Agent to show off his mastery of subterfuge. After plugging the disk in a different computer it immediately opens a big splash screen with a “Willie’s Wonder Buster” and a percentage bar that fills painfully slowly. I doubt that even in 1999 you could have a program that fitted on a single floppy yet had such a long load time, but whatever. When Cool Christian hears the elevator and they realize time is running out, Stonepola turns the monitor so it faces the wall. Then Stonepola tells Helen to find him another blank disk, and they all huddle around the original terminal just before MacEvilton bursts in with two goons and Will-E and Cind-E, who seem to have walked all the way here to warn MacEvilton.
You can probably see Stonepola’s plan now, but you haven’t heard the brilliant bit yet. Here’s what happens: MacEvilton and his goons take them prisoner. (With no resistance, even though Cool Christian was standing guard with his gun just before. Even if MacEvilton is bullet proof, Will-E isn’t. Seriously, kill him already!) Will-E grabs the blank disk and crushes it while taunting the Christians about how they obviously couldn’t figure out how to upload it, Cind-E gives Stonepola a “Nice to see you”, and then MacEvilton has them all dragged away.
Did you catch it? I guess it’s kinda cool that the good guys tricked the bad guys so their plan to save billions of people can still succeed. But even more importantly, the good guys did so without lying to the bad guys. Sure, they spend several minutes setting up their deception with the specific intent to mislead. But that’s okay, as long as they don’t say anything that isn’t at least technically true. And not saying anything definitely counts! Aren’t these good guys just the coolest?
No, no they’re not. This has become my pet-peeve in RTC fiction. This deceiving-without-technically-saying-lies business…
That doesn’t roll of the tongue very well. It happens often enough that it deserves its own name. I propose “loophole-lying”.
As I was saying, I’ve grown to despise this loophole-lying in RTC fiction. See, a filthy moral relativist like me would have no qualms about lying to protect the souls and/or lives of the entire world. RTCs do however. Because, they believe, god would rather have them fail to protect billions than tell a lie. That’s bad enough by itself. But then they employ loophole-lying. And that raises the question of exactly why they think that god has forbidden them to lie. Does god not want his children to taint their hearts by deceiving their fellow man? Does god want to prevent more falsehoods being spread in the already sinful world? Is god worried that his disciples will be considered untrustworthy and won’t be believed when they try to convert people? No, no and no. Loophole-lying causes the exact same problems as regular lying in all of these cases.
As much as I’ve tried, I can only think of one reason why any god might prohibit lying but allow (or outright encourage) loophole-lying: It’s just a test. A way to separate the wheat from the chaff. God doesn’t care about people spreading falsehoods any more than he cares about their lives, he only cares if people blindly obey his arbitrary rules no matter the consequences. That is what the RTC authors imply about god when their characters show off their moral superiority by loophole-lying. And remember that RTCs lobby for laws that restrict the rights of QUILTBAGS, women, and basically everyone except them, because they believe such laws are the will of god. Whether there is a reason for that will is apparently unimportant.
In any case, MacEvilton and his goons drag Stonepola, Helen and Cool Christian down to the basement. And MacEvilton is actually more inventive than his boss, because he throws them into a huge incinerator. What, they haven’t gotten the lion pit installed in their office building yet?
While MacEvilton follows the prisoners into the incinerator for some last minute gloating, Will-E and the goons complain how all the electronic locks of the doors they passed on the way were slow to respond. When the goons suggest there must be some big program being run, Will-E screams “The Virus!” See, I told Cool Christian he should’ve killed Will-E when he had the chance (twice), didn’t I? For some reason the goons don’t care at all, even though their objective was to prevent the uploading of that virus, so only Will-E and Cind-E run back upstairs.
MacEvilton, despite being 10 feet away, didn’t even notice the shouting, so he’s still in evil gloating mode, as he announces “three more members for your fireside prayer meeting”.
Selma’s presence here was to be expected. Her daughter’s only marginally less so. The only reason that the reveal that she wasn’t killed off-screen after all surprises me even remotely, is that it makes no sense for MacEvilton not to have brought her out earlier. He thought of threatening Stonepola’s family and he didn’t even really have those in his cells, so why didn’t he do so with Selma? Was he not allowed to think of it because Cloud Ten realized that Selma would look bad whether she’d choose to comply with MacEvilton or let her daughter get tortured? Because the church ladies in the audience couldn’t handle any moral quandary that doesn’t have one perfectly righteous solution?
So the presence of neither Davis surprises me. But the presence of the white kid on the right does. More than that, it pisses me off. That’s the kid that was brought in by his father for praying and owning a Bible. That was his only scene until now, and was unconnected to the main plot. It looked like just a bit of world building, showing the impact of the fear of haters in the world at large. I liked that because so few RTC authors bother with anything more subtle than showing RTCs get hunted or killed. But if the Willie and Cindy subplot hadn’t tipped you off that any subtlety this movie may show is there by accident, the kid’s reappearance seals the deal. It is all about killing RTCs after all.
Even if you ignore how his presence negates everything I liked about his first scene, it’s still brazenly and shamelessly manipulative. There is no reason for him to be here. None of the characters here know him. He was brought to Captain Killgore, but he vanished from the movie after he’d dragged Selma’s daughter away. MacEvilton shouldn’t even know the kid exists, so he certainly has no reason to single him out for a gruesome execution. If MacEvilton didn’t want to waste the fuel for the incinerator without a full load or something, he could’ve picked any member of Selma’s band of resistors and it would have made more sense. But then, they were just extras without any lines. They didn’t get a sad scene establishing their plights. Their suffering wouldn’t seem as tragic. Tugging at the audience’s heartstrings is way easier with a character they have gotten to know at least a little. Who cares if it makes no sense?
It’s not like it would’ve been hard to fix this problem either. Selma was being interrogated and beaten in full view of a whole row of cells. A fifteen second scene would’ve been enough to establish that Captain Killgore had thrown the kid into one of them, and to show him him shout something encouraging to Selma when MacEvilton tried to break her. Then it would’ve made sense that MacEvilton is aware of the kid’s existence, and that he hates him.
Dammit Cloud Ten, it wasn’t enough to screw over my favorite character, you had to ruin my favorite scene too? I’m depressed now. I’m going to sob in my pillow for a while before I finish this thing.
Right, I’ve dried my eyes, I’ve blown my nose, and all that remains in me is a dull, dispassionate loathing. The perfect time to put the final nails into this movie’s coffin.
MacEvilton gives them all one last chance to renounce god before “we turn up the heat”. Naturally, they refuse. Selma replies with basically the same speech Buckson gave, about how god could easily save them if he wanted to, but even if he doesn’t they’ll still die before they worship Macalousso. This is less than 10 minutes after Stonepola proclaimed he wanted to believe in a creator that doesn’t want his creations to die for him. Yeah, how’s that working out for you?
I don’t understand why Cloud Ten chose to include this scene. The execution method is so reminiscent of the fire-and-brimstone image of hell that it seems almost deliberate. But why would they want to call attention to their villains show more mercy than their god? The RTC’s god isn’t known for clearly showing that you’ll burn in hell while there’s still time to convert. I’m not saying that I’d like a ruler who forces people to worship him at gunpoint. But I’ll still take that over someone who suddenly has you arrested and shot because you didn’t realize he existed or didn’t worship him properly.
At least we do get a nice moment where Stonepola tells Selma he’s sorry for getting her and her entire family locked in here.
“It’s okay. You’re forgiven. We all are. And if the end result is your soul, then what we’ve been through is a small price to pay.”
Finally, someone gets those priorities straight. It would’ve been better if they also pointed out that their deaths are technically cause for joy, but at least we got this much. We now have RTCs trying their best to live (or not live, as the case may be) up to Jesus’ standards as Selma leads them into a singalong of Amazing Grace while accepting their deaths as sacrifices for the salvation of others.
Unlike Buckson, who found himself in a very similar situation after giving the “god can protect me but it’s cool if he doesn’t”-speech, god goes for option A and actually steps in. MacEvilton has his minion engage the burner, and flames can be seen from the tiny window in the door, but the singing continues. Since Cloud Ten’s special effects team isn’t competent enough to show the protagonists standing in the flames, we have to settle for a close up of MacEvilton peering through the glass.
“While I’m standing here, I’ll state out loud what I see and what it means for no reason!”
He tells the audience how the resistors aren’t burning, and quickly comes to the obvious conclusion.
“It’s Him! He’s protecting them! Turn it up more! NOW! Because the almighty god might be able to protect his followers from a 2000 degree heat, but I bet he can’t handle 2500 degrees!”
Okay, I made that last sentence up, but I dare you to come up with a less stupid justification for MacEvilton’s leap of logic here.
Meanwhile, Will-E and Cind-E are tearing through the computer room looking for the disk, while screaming in blind panic. They rip the disks out of pretty much every computer before finding the right one, with the progress bar at 95%. They triumphantly remove the disk and crush it, only to scream even louder when they notice the progress bar keeps filling. Will-E throws the monitor clear across the room and empties two pistols into the computer casing, but to no effect. Even the monitor, despite being unconvincingly cracked and no longer connected to the computer, is still displaying the progress bar.
The monitor miraculously still working is one thing,
but I’m pretty sure a crack in the glass wouldn’t continue into the plastic casing.
This was probably done so that the audience can see the program is still running. But to someone more computer literate than the average church lady, it seems like god is blowing a divine raspberry in Will-E’s face. Like he’s divinely protecting the monitor just to say “Nyeh-Nyeh, my divine plan made you doom yourself. Thanks for all your hard work on this virus and see you in 6 years, 9 months for the final judgment, sucker!”
And while the upload completes, MacEvilton goes into his full scenery-chewing mode and orders his flunkies to turn the incinerator further up. One of them warns MacEvilton that he’s overloading the incinerator and that “you’ll burn down the whole building”. That is just absurd. All the other flunky has done so far is move a lever further down, and it’s not even halfway. Are we supposed to believe that this incinerator is so poorly designed that not only it’ll burn down the building on more than 50% power, but that this can happen if someone leans on the lever by accident? MacEvilton doesn’t believe it either, and shoots the guy. When the higher temperatures fail to do the trick, he screams that he’ll finish them himself, opens the door (because he forgot he can walk through walls)…. and he and his minion instantly burn to a crisp, swiftly followed by the rest of the building.
I know that I nicknamed MacEvilton precisely because he was such a one dimensional villain, but this death scene is undignified even for him. It’s bad enough that Cloud Ten used the Disney method of permanently dealing with irredeemably evil villains without the protagonists having to get their hands dirty. But even Disney villains didn’t go out this stupidly. The default Disney Death comes when the villain is so angry that they’ll follow the heroes onto a dangerous ledge so they can finish them off, only for them to fall first. MacEvilton’s death scene is as if a villain had succeeded in throwing the heroes from the cliff, only for their bird friends or fairy godmother or whatever to save them. Whereupon the villain jumps off the cliff with the intent of stabbing the heroes once he gets down, but without any plan of surviving the fatal fall himself.
That was the climax of the movie: A total Deus Ex Machina. In a way, you could say it’s fair because the god in question was clearly established as a party in this conflict. But that doesn’t make it any more satisfying to watch. This isn’t like the earlier subtle interventions where god saved one of the protagonists with an object in their pocket, or a glass on the floor. This is the protagonists having completely failed, and god doing the work himself. The last part of the virus was uploaded, even though the disk that contained the virus no longer existed. No doubt an almighty god could miraculously create and upload that last 5% of the data, but you have to wonder why he didn’t do that with the other 95% in the first place.
It’s not that I don’t understand the Catch 22 that the writers were faced with. If god never intervenes, he looks powerless and uncaring. If he intervenes a little bit, he looks arbitrary. And if he flexes his divine muscles without restrictions, any conflict you can come up with would be resolved in 5 seconds flat. When you have an omnipotent being on one side of the field, it’s hard to make the opponents seem like a credible threat. I can understand that this makes for some tricky story telling. But I refuse to cut them any slack on this point, because this is not just a problem for their fiction. It also affects reality, or at least what they believe reality is like. It’s the Theodicy problem: Why is there suffering if there is a benevolent and omnipotent god? If the writers can’t come up for a good explanation for that in their own fictional setting, that tells me they can’t think of a good reason for it in the real world either.
I think Selma’s comment, about how everything that had happened was worth the price of Stonepola’s soul, hints at the supposed explanation. God let the humans mess around with a plan that he knew was doomed to fail, because he foresaw that Stonepola would convert while working on it. Because Stonepola is so special, unlike those billions of other unbelievers, that his soul was worth several days worth of miracles to save.
But even if we accept that as god’s plan, the execution still looks very sloppy. Even if you ignore the worldly suffering of Selma’s band of resistors, that still leaves seven souls that were lost over the course of this plan: Deadmeat’s, Willie’s and Cindy’s, MacEvilton’s and the three O.N.E. agents’. Yeah, those last 4 were evil, but that Amazing Grace the protagonists were singing about is supposed to be able to redeem even them. That’s a pretty hefty price for one soul’s salvation, especially since this particular soul only needs salvation because of god’s impossibly high standards of righteousness. If god wanted to save Stonepola that badly, he could’ve just given him a little sign that his mother was at peace in heaven and Stonepola wouldn’t have lost his faith at all.
And of course, any shred of tension from the possibility that the antichrist could theoretically win has just gone right out the window. Even if killing all the RTCs would keep Jesus away, and even if the prophecies wouldn’t prevent him from accomplishing this, god just demonstrated that he can never succeed. God can simply divinely protect the last living RTC from any and all harm. Granted, the idea that god’s eventual victory is certain is, for once, in keeping with the spirit of the book of Revelation. But it doesn’t make for a particularly exciting story to watch.
But whatever, it’s happy ending time. We cut to our protagonists and a big group of people, presumably Selma’s band of resistors (who not only escaped unharmed, but also unnoticed) watching the news report of the O.N.E. HQ burning down. Their cheering and applauding the sight of firemen desperately trying to control the flames is understandable given the circumstances, but uncomfortably Al-Qaida-ish nonetheless. Oh, and in case the ending wasn’t happy enough yet:
It’s Uncool Christian! Who miraculously survived getting shot without Will-E noticing it, and postponed bleeding to death long enough for Helen to come get him from their compromised hideout. And all he ended up with is his arm in a sling, even though he was shot in the back. And… is that Willie’s dog on his knee? He survived too? Is this the ending of V for Vendetta or something? Is Mr. Davis still around? Oh, wait, he was black, never mind. Only white guys get special treatment. Even the dog is mostly white. Selma, her daughter and Cool Christian were just lucky they were standing next to some white folks in the incinerator.
Ugh, whatever, I don’t care anymore. The news shows a speech of Macalousso blaming the haters for stealing the Day of Wonders from the world and promising that they won’t succeed from happening later anyway, a slow zoom-in on Stonepola looking at his family picture with a happy smile instead of tears, fade to black, credits role, the end.
Final verdict: This is kind of a mixed bag. If you ignore that this is supposed to be a sequel to Apocalypse, the first part of the movie isn’t half bad. If you came across the first half of this movie (minus the Selma-scenes) while flipping channels, you might think you’re watching an X-Files spin-off, with Special Agent Stonepola trying to uncover the mystery his government is covering up. But once Stonepola meets up with Helen, the quality drops sharply. From that moment, telling an exciting story seems to have taken a backseat in favor of scoring religious points. The plot grinds to a halt for the apologetics scene, and doesn’t really start running again as much as it is suddenly jerked from plot point to plot point as the movie’s religious agenda demands.
Still, if I compare this sequel of a Left Behind rip-off to the original’s sequel, Tribulation Force (the book version), I’ve got to admit Revelation is way better. Whatever else you may say, the band of resistors actually does something. They’ve infiltrated the antichrist’s organization and try to sabotaging his plans, instead of just frowning disapprovingly at his acts of genocide while cashing their well-earned paychecks from said antichrist. Even the offensiveness of Willie’s and Cindy’s treatment isn’t enough to make Revelation lose out. Not when Tribulation Force includes the Verna subplot.
But if I compare this movie to Apocalypse… At first glance, it would seem another easy win. Revelation looks like a TV episode from the ‘90s, Apocalypse looks like a joke. But while Revelation might have fewer laughably bad scenes, it doesn’t have anything that positively stands out either. My two favorite parts were a throwaway scene (the father turning in his son) and a side character (Willie). That would be pretty meager even if the third act hadn’t taken a steaming dump on both those parts. And the potentially interesting plot of rebels sabotaging the evil empire turns out to be irrelevant, because they fail and god just thwarts the villain on his own. As Selma explicitly pointed out, the only real point of the story was Stonepola’s journey of faith. A journey which consisted of him not budging an inch for 84 minutes, then getting teleported to his destination by the scriptwriter.
In Apocalypse, the climax of the story also revolved around a last-minute conversion. But that one was actually satisfying and, dare I say, revolutionary. The Goony One looked like your archetypical evil henchman, there to do generic evil things until he’s unceremoniously mowed down by the hero on the way to his boss. Movie audiences aren’t used to thinking of those characters as human beings with minds of their own. But just as Jesus taught that the loathed outcasts are deserving of redemption too, Apocalypse gave us the conversion of that evil henchman. And without any facepalm-inducing reasons for either the discovery of his faith, or his initial lack thereof. I doubt that was all intentional, but it was nonetheless a nice message.
Meanwhile, the characters in Revelation end the movie singing Amazing Grace to disguise the fact that all we got was Frugal Grace. The central conflict of the movie was whether or not a picture-perfect boy scout who lost his faith following a childhood trauma could find forgiveness in the eyes of the lord. The characters who were any less righteous than him but still fundamentally decent people were either killed (Deadmeat), or turned into evil monsters (Willie, Cindy). God’s grace wasn’t amazing enough to them, even though they were no worse than Buckson. As for the evil henchmen, they only served their traditional role as retribution-fodder.
So while a professor might not give first year film students who hand in Apocalypse as their project a passing grade, watching it left me with a happier feeling than Revelation. And with the obviously greater pool of talent and budget this sequel had available, that’s an inexcusable failure. May god have mercy on this movie. Because I don’t!
A Guest Critique by Ivan
Sadly, right after meeting a funny lighthearted character, we cut to the least lighthearted scenes of the movie. MacEvilton and Captain Killgore open the cell of Selma and her family. Killgore grabs the daughter, and when Selma’s husband protests MacEvilton immediately shoots him.
Is this a bad time to point out that Cloud Ten’s website proudly proclaims
that”sex and violence aren’t the only way to sell a movie”?
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Davis. We haven’t caught you in a bad time, have we? Take her!”
[Killgore chains Selma to the wall, then drags the daughter off-screen, lots of screaming all around]
“She’s just a child!”
“Oh… not for long.”
Yeeesh! There are many ways to interpret that remark, each more horrible than the last. I would give the film a reluctant compliment for making its one-note villain actually scary, even if this is accomplished by hitting that one note with a sledgehammer. Except I have to take that compliment right back, because MacEvilton’s actions are completely at odds with his goal. The next time we cut back to MacEvilton and Selma, he’s goading that her daughter got killed off-screen, and that he now wants information about Stonepola from her. But, to MacEvilton’s surprise and frustration, Selma isn’t feeling very cooperative. Go figure.
Seriously MacEvilton, this is Total Scumbaggery 101: You have a family in your cell, and you need information from the mother. You ask for the info, she refuses, you point to her daughter and husband, she says you wouldn’t dare, you show her you would… We all know how these scenes go. And you even had two loved ones to work with, so you can go all psycho on one of them, and still have another one to threaten.
But no, you killed both of them, and then asked if the mother wanted to talk. That would be stupid enough in a regular story, but it’s even dumber here. MacEvilton knows Selma now believes her family is in heaven, and her only chance of joining them is to keep resisting MacEvilton. In another scene, MacEvilton screams at her to renounce Jesus or he’ll kill her, and then is amazed his threat of reuniting her with her family sooner doesn’t work. MacEvilton, you suck at this!
You may be wondering why I said earlier that Selma had no role in the plot besides helping Stonepola, when she features in multiple scenes with MacEvilton. That’s because none of those scenes affect the plot either. MacEvilton asks her questions, she refuses to answer the half she actually knows the answer to. And even if she could and did answer all of them, it wouldn’t matter because MacEvilton is already acting on the assumption that Stonepola has the disk and will oppose Macalousso. There’s nothing else he could do even if he got the information.
The only relevant parts are exposition from MacEvilton (another sign he sucks at interrogating, we learn far more from him than from his subject), but the most important bit is repeated later by his boss, so we’ll deal with it then. There’s a moment where satan seems to be ASSUMING DIRECT CONTROL of MacEvilton, but nothing comes of it and I can barely tell what the super-evil voice is saying anyway. The only mildly interesting bit is that we get a sort-of motivation for MacEvilton.
“It would seem we have chosen different sides, haven’t we? We’re soldiers in a war that only one side can win. I thought about joining your side once, I came this close. But you know what? When god claimed to be the only god, that was a pack of lies: We can all achieve godhood! He just doesn’t want anyone to know it.”
Ah, a classic unbeliever. His goal is to become a god, so he can properly worship himself.
By the way, later on Helen uses the familiar analogy of humans as god’s children. So why is wanting to be a god such a big no-no? Aren’t most parents happy and proud when their kids say they want grow up just like daddy/mommy? God may love and take care of us, but only if we realize that we are and always will be inferior and obediently stick to what god wants us to do. We’re not god’s children, we’re his pets.
In short, nothing that happens has any influence on the plot. But that isn’t to say the scenes with Selma don’t serve any purpose to the film: She and her family get to be the designated victims to show how wicked the villains are. Her family gets murdered, and she gets the crap beaten out of her. She must suffer the brutal persecution of the evil heathens with naught but her faith. Because god isn’t about to miraculously block bullets for any of these African Americans like he did for Stonepola.
And as final note, about that plead of Selma that “she’s just a child”: I would agree that it’s wrong to hurt someone, especially someone so young (the actress was born in 1986, so she’s about 13 here) for their religious choices. But god as portrayed in the movie disagrees with me, seeing how he left Selma’s daughter behind with the rest of the wretched sinners. Kids just like her who were in one of the crashed planes during the rapture, or were in that school bus from before, are in hell being hurt far worse for their religious choices. Courtesy of Selma’s kind and benevolent deity.
With that out of the way, I can now skip these unpleasant Selma-scenes and focus on Stonepola’s search for information. Willie technobabbles a bit to show that the detonator is so advanced it must have been an O.N.E. operation.
“So… the haters weren’t responsible for any of these things? The school buses, the orphanages, the old age homes.”
I don’t mind that this is the first we heard of these other bombings (even if the target list is a bit over the top on the innocence-scale), as this is a natural point to bring them up. But after Apocalypse showed that everyone was already eager to hunt down the haters, I wonder why frame jobs are still necessary. Plus, how do Willie and Stonepola suddenly deduce that all the other bombings were faked too? Selma told Stonepola specifically that she was set up in this case because the O.N.E. wanted the CD back. Sure, as a viewer of an RTC movie I know the O.N.E. must have been behind all of those attacks, but it’s a bit of a leap for the characters.
Stonepola and Willie argue a bit about the implications. Willie thinks this is just the work of a few bad apples in the O.N.E. while Stonepola thinks Macalousso himself is involved. But he sticks to the “aliens” theory to explain the whole walking-through-walls bit. Stonepola hands Willie the disk, and when he puts it in his computer it shows that kind of full-screen logo and password prompt that exists only in movies. Willie recognizes the program, as it’s a secret project he himself worked on. So Willie builds advanced VR systems and revolutionary DNA scanners, but he’s living in a shack instead of a mansion. You’d think a butler or nurse of some kind would come in handy for a wheelchair bound single man.
Unfortunately, Willie finds that his password doesn’t work anymore. He explains to Stonepola that he wrote the Virtual Reality package of the program, but he didn’t work on the content itself, so he doesn’t know exactly what it does. But he offers to demonstrate the technology at least. One interrogation scene with Selma later Willie comes back with an extra set of VR goggles and a Hawaiian shirt. Willie urges Stonepola to put on the helmet
because no one can be told what the Matrix is so he “can show what he cannot explain”, and just like that they’re standing on a virtual beach.
What follows is some pretty decent character building and a sense of wonder at this marvelous technology, with some nice soothing background music.
“If I had one of these, I’d never leave the house.”
“Hehe, yeah, well… if I didn’t have one of these I’d never leave my chair. [Starts walking along the beach] You know, the only thing I can’t have in here is my step sister and my grandmother.”
“If that were possible, I’d live in here.”
“Lost loved ones?”
Decent stuff. But sadly I do have to nitpick at a few things. For example, Willie only wishes for his stepsister and grandmother to be in here with him. And he didn’t even get along with his grandma because she was a “nut”. I actually understand why he mentions only those two people, it’s a bit of foreshadowing (can you guess what it’s about?), but it’s just weird to mention only two people you’d like to see, especially if you didn’t even like one of them. Shouldn’t he want his parents too at least? Or his friend Deadmeat?
Also, Willie says that Macalousso made the technology possible, which would mean either no one found it odd the then-EU president was a part-time IT worker, or this entire virtual world was made in the three months since his claim of godhood.
But most importantly, the rules of this technology are bizarre. You’d think the VR goggles just project an image of a computer-generated setting. But somehow the clothes they wear in the real world are perfectly replicated. Their arm motions are also mimicked perfectly, and their hands can actually touch and pick up virtual items. And yet Willie and Stonepola can walk in VR while just sitting in their RL-chairs. And I can’t just accept this as a sci-fi gadget and ignore the inner workings, because the limits of what it can and can’t do will become a major plot point.
After this virtual trip, there’s a delivery boy with a package for Willie at the door. There’s a whole exchange of signing forms, “Global IDs” and what not, and the mailman unironically using “Oh, shucks”, before Willie gets his Day of Wonders package: A similar VR headset. The mailman says that they hired “a bunch of extra guys, yep.” so that by tomorrow noon, every person on earth will have a pair of glasses. Sure, a bunch of extra guys is all you’ll need for a job like that. Just like three months was enough time to get every man, woman and child on earth registered (despite existing records being useless, given the unknown number of people that were raptured). And making some 6 billion high-tech glasses for them. All easy-peasy.
Once Mr Shucks is gone, Stonepola convinces Willie that whether or not Macalousso is involved, MacEvilton was after the CD too. And since he obviously isn’t up to any good, they had better check it out. Willie agrees, and steals a password off screen. This alerts MacEvilton, but Willie calls him and says Stonepola made him do it but that he gave Stonepola the wrong password and slipped a tracker on him. Willie doesn’t tell MacEvilton any information about this tracker, like its ID or frequency. But like that detonator signal earlier, the mere knowledge that there is a signal somewhere is all the information the characters need to find it. MacEvilton orders his goon to kill both Willie and Stonepola because he wants “no loose ends”. Luckily, Willie anticipated this betrayal, literally repeating the “no loose ends” line to Stonepola when he announces he’ll be going with Stonepola.
“Like it or not, buddy. You just got yourself a partner. Actually, two. Come on Elvis, come here! Attaboy.”
So that was all moderately interesting spy-thriller stuff. Now to ruin all that serious build-up: Willie puts the tracker on his dog, has him run a lap with MacEvilton’s henchmen in pursuit, then the dog comes right back to Willie and Stonepola and the tracker is thrown away. When Willie mentioned the tracker to MacEvilton, I assumed Willie had slipped it to Mr Shucks in that whole exchange earlier. But Elvis brings the tracker right to where Willie and Stonepola are hiding anyway. If the henchmen were any faster they’d have caught either the dog or the humans. He’d have been better off not calling MacEvilton at all, and just running away.
And then there’s this “joke” from the henchmen, who still think they’re chasing Stonepola:
“He must be trying to set up some sort of electronic relay via the telephone system, he keeps stopping at every telephone poll.”
Great. Dog-peeing humor. That’s about as low as common denominators get. I said I wanted the characters to have some sense of humor, as that makes them more human and sympathetic. But since none of the characters are aware of the joke, this doesn’t help the characters look like they enjoy a laugh. It’s more of a farcical comedy, complete with goofy music. Which is really inappropriate, since the scenes with Willie and Stonepola are constantly interrupted by scenes of Selma’s interrogation, where women are getting beaten and children are being tortured to death. Do I have to draw you a map, Cloud Ten? Cutting between scenes of goofy slapstick and brutal injuries inflicted on children just doesn’t work!
Anyway, now that Willie and Stonepola are on the run, they need to find another place to study the disk. Willie suggests taking it to the haters. Which brings us to Helen’s hideout, where Uncool Christian is watching Jack van Impe quoting verses on how Jesus warned his followers they’ll be persecuted by the world. You know, those verses that bigoted assholes love, because when you call them bigoted assholes for acting like bigoted assholes, they can claim you’re persecuting them just like Jesus predicted. And since no one but RTCs have ever been persecuted, your persecution is proof that they’re doing Christianity right.
Yesterday’s extermination of the Davis group hasn’t motivated Helen’s group to be more on guard, because they only notice Willie and Stonepola when they enter the room. Uncool Christian overcompensates for his earlier lax guard by preparing to shoot them (hey, didn’t Mr Davis say that Christians are all innocent and don’t carry weapons?), because he apparently fears a man in a wheelchair might be a SWAT point-man. Luckily, Helen is there to stop him.
“[Uncool Christian], no, stop! It’s okay! Willie!”
“How’re you doing, sis?”
“The news said you were killed by some crazed lunatic”
“Helen… come on, you gotta know better than anyone else not to believe everything you hear on television. Helen Hannah, the woman who denounced the Messiah on national television, the world’s most wanted fugitive and my very dear stepsister: Meet Thorold Stone, the crazed lunatic that killed me.”
James Bond he is not.
Do you get why Willie only mentioned a stepsister and a grandmother now? Because the only relative we saw of Helen in the first movie was her grandma. This is one bit from Apocalypse they remembered. And if the first movie only showed us Helen’s grandma, that must mean her and Willie’s parents never existed, obviously.
But that’s not the only stupid thing about this twist. It also implies Helen never realized that her brother was working on the very project that she was desperately trying to gather information on, even though she did tell him where her super-secret hideout was. And conversely, MacEvilton didn’t realize one of the programmers hired to work on the O.N.E.’s top secret program was the sibling of his nemesis, despite a whole system of “Global ID’s” at his disposal. This is like the NSA hiring Osama Bin Laden’s half-brother as lead designer of their PRISM software. (Just a head’s up, I think that last line might put this site on a watch list.) There’s also the odds of a disk meant for Helen finding its way to Helen’s stepbrother, but, y’know, goddidit.
It’s a stupid plot contrivance, but the show must go on, and Willie goes to work to unravel the mystery of the disk and the headset. Though he does find time to exchange banter with Cindy while he works. An offer of leftover salad turns into a debate about vegetarianism.
“Oh, I’m not vegetarian because I love animals. I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t work my way to the top of the food chain to sit around chewing on a cucumber.”
“Well, that explains a lot. Vegetables are brain food.”
“Ooohh, she’s not only gorgeous, she’s rude and sarcastic too.”
Well, it’s nice to see them hitting it off. Sure, it’s a bit stereotypical to pair the two people with physical handicaps together, but this flirtatious banter is kinda fun. A bit edgy for a first meeting perhaps, but it fits their personalities and it isn’t too uncomforta-
“And best of all, she can’t see my shortcomings.”
Willie, you are lucky that she doesn’t mind that “joke,” because I would not have blamed her for kicking your ass over that one. I’m not going to declare what people with disabilities that I do not have should or should not object to, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask to wait with remarks like that until you know the person well enough to be sure she is as comfortable with such jokes as you are. Plus, this is a movie and neither the actors nor (I presume) the scriptwriters have these disabilities in real life. Even if Willie’s character is careless like this, it doesn’t excuse the movie crew from minding what they make fun of.
In case you’re wondering, yes, he’s still my favorite character. Even if he’s getting luckier his competition sucks. Having a questionable sense of humor is at least a realistic human trait, so I still don’t mind watching his scenes of flirting and working. Of course, my judgment may be a bit biased, given that the movie alternates between those scenes and the most important scenes of the movie: Helen evangelizing to Stonepola. Oh joy.
I’ll get to those scenes next part. That way there’s room for all the ranting I’ll be doing, and you have enough time to prepare for it. I recommend stocking up on anything 80-proof or better.
Okay, evangelizing scenes, here we go!
As setup to her sales pitch, Helen demands to know why Stonepola is sticking to his “aliens” theory. Not an entirely unjustified question at this point, Macalousso is even less subtle than Nicolae.
“How is it that your aliens are fulfilling Bible prophecy in exact detail?”
“Well, maybe they’re just doing it to throw everyone of track.”
I don’t think invading aliens pretending to be part of some earth mythology would pick one where they’ll look like the bad guys. Unless those aliens got all their information on humanity from a copy of Left Behind I suppose. Then they may assume most of the world will believe their peace-bullshit, and the rest will stand by idly because they think the aliens’ evil acts are part of god’s plan.
Next, we move on to the event in Stonepola’s life that made him so hostile to the concept of god. Because of course all unbelievers who aren’t mustache-twirling villains have one. No one ever just thinks atheism provides the most logical explanation for the world as we perceive it. Though the movie at least changes the usual RTC cliché by making that event be about his mother, instead of his father. Sadly, the story is also highly uncomfortable.
“[Your wife and daughter] found peace, Thorold.”
“Peace? Yeah, I hope. My mother taught me to believe in god. She did, we used to pray together when I was seven years old, I used to kneel down by her bed and pray with her. We prayed together, while cancer ate away at her insides. And when the pain got so much that she couldn’t pray, well, I prayed for both of us. I prayed night and day. Right up until she was 65 pounds and her last breath just slipped out of her body. I looked in her face for peace. Know what I saw? I saw anguish. I got my answer. There is no god.”
I realize I’m following the movie into a minefield of unfortunate implications here, but this can’t be left uncritized. So let’s get through my objections quickly. First, obviously, it isn’t particularly sensitive use a situation that some members of your audience will find all too familiar this carelessly. Second, I fear they made the story this tear-jerky because they didn’t trust their audience to sympathize with an unbeliever who rejected god for anything less. Third, both Stonepola’s wife and his childhood friend ought to know this about Stonepola’s past, so they were assholes for berating him over his unwillingness to believe. Fourth, while I cannot think of a non-cringe-inducing way to explicitly reconcile this story with a kind and loving god, this movie’s solution of just not mentioning it once Stonepola does convert, as if it wasn’t that important after all, isn’t much better. And last but abso-fucking-lutely not least, Helen’s response:
“You’re wrong. And you’re making a big mistake. [To Willie] You’re both making a big mistake.”
That’s her entire response. Great evangelizing there Helen. Stonepola pours out his heart and you just ignore it, except for telling him that his conclusions are wrong without even bothering with a counterargument. And to twist the knife even further, she then immediately stops talking to him to look for greener evangelistic pastures where her subjects don’t bring up pesky tragedies. And when Willie sarcastically blows her off she just rolls her eyes. Oh yeah, you’ve got it so rough Helen. One guy makes sarcastic remarks. The other brings up his bothersome childhood trauma that totally ruins your Passionate Sincerity. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
One scene later, we move on to the apologetics part of the conversion, where the movie makes a big show of the fact that Stonepola is completely unfamiliar with even the world “rapture”. Yet almost every other bit of knowledge about Christianity is assumed as given. The entire debate is about whether god exists or not. That this potential god is exactly what RTCs believe him to be is taken for granted.
“Why don’t you ask [god] to do something Helen? To give me some proof. Maybe turn the page of this book, or knock that glass of water over.”
“Well, if he did that, you wouldn’t need much in the way of faith, would you?”
The argument here repeats the sermon from Mr. Davis, and is placed in contrast with the antichrist’s approach to religion. I think it’s safe to call this the main religious theme of the movie. So buckle up boys and girls, ‘cause I’m about to analyze the shit out of it.
First off, this is a bizarre argument for Helen to use at this point. We’re three months into the rapture. Stonepola’s family miraculously vanished, along with millions/billions (depending on whether all the children vanished) of others. Helen herself is pointing out that current events are fulfilling Bible prophecy in great detail. Stonepola told her his childhood trauma in response to her question on why “the truth was so hard to accept”. Thus far, Helen has insisted that god has provided plenty of proof, and within the story she has a point. Why is it suddenly vital that god doesn’t give Stonepola further proof?
Plus, remember the first movie? There Buckson openly admitted that the evidence that Macalousso was the antichrist and the RTCs had been right all along was “compelling”. And he only rebelled against that obvious truth because he didn’t want to lose his Ivory Tower Membership Pass. Then Helen gave him that Point of View tape that also talked about god not giving proof because faith is so important. But that wasn’t what made him convert. The tape’s mention of dead relatives just made him go to his father’s grave. And when he asked for a sign, god miraculously turned the moon into a spotlight, highlighting a Bible passage that Buckson could empirically test. Only when he did and found proof did he convert. Yet when Stonepola asks for a sign, he’s treated as foolish and unreasonable.
But let’s face it, this argument isn’t intended for Stonepola, it’s intended for the audience to repeat to unbelievers they meet here and now. Unbelievers like me. So I’m going to treat it as such.
Now, this argument is hardly exclusive to RTCs. The Slacktivist likes it too. If I understand the reasoning correctly, the two main reasons for god not giving proof are that god wants humans to genuinely love him, not merely fear him or admire his power, and that he respects human’s free will and doesn’t want to interfere with our lives.
I don’t find these arguments very compelling. God is omniscient, so he can recognize the sycophants and send them a warning. If he doesn’t pull obvious favorites with the people who express their love for him, he should still get plenty of genuine friends and have less problems with insincere ass-kissers than any human has.
As for the second part: I like free will. But if you accept (as I do) that it’s a good thing to restrict people’s free will to murder or steal with our own imperfect laws, despite fallible and corruptible enforcers, then I don’t see a problem with the principle of a perfect judge who acts to prevent humanity’s worst excesses. I’ll certainly take that over worshiping an omnipotent being who could’ve stopped our various genocidal dictators with no collateral damage, but decided that either the dictator’s free will is too important, or is worried that he’ll get a few less genuine friend-requests.
But I admit there are valid counter-arguments to my position too. It’s a scary idea to be ruled by a being that we lesser mortals can’t hope to comprehend. And if god intervenes in actions that would harm others, should we not also expect him to intervene in actions that will harm ourselves in ways we can’t foresee? Then where does it end? Should god get a veto on our romantic partners, since he knows which hookups will end in heartbreaks?
So while I stand by my opinion that an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being ought to be able to do better than this Prime Directive solution, I can understand why someone would hold the Slacktivist’s position as well.
But that’s my opinion on Slacktivist’s position. And while this movie’s argument may sound the same, there’s an important difference in the context: Unlike the Slacktivist, RTCs believe in hell. That changes everything. In that parable of the king and the maiden the Slacktivist quoted, the king approaches the maiden as a beggar to see if she really loves him, but he plans to throw her into the dungeon if the answer is “no“. In the Prime Directive comparison, Star Fleet doesn’t contact pre-warp cultures, but nukes their planets from orbit if they develop in a way Star Fleet doesn’t approve of. And humanity is still ruled by a being that we can’t comprehend, but now the being in question has only left the vague hints that there are any rules and punishments in the first place, never mind what they actually are.
Look, Cloud Ten, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that any human, even the likes of Hitler, deserves indescribable agony for eternity. Convincing me that every human ever deserves this, except that the punishment will be tabled for those that beg forgiveness in the proper manner, is going to be pretty much impossible. But if you claim that god deliberately plays coy and refuses to make it clear to people that this punishment is real, and how to avoid it, I’m going to seriously question your judgment if you say this god loves us. Since those who are sent to hell can never repent or correct their mistakes, the only possible use for such a terrible punishment is to serve as a warning to others. What good is that if you can get sent there when you don’t know it exists? Or even for the “crime” of not believing it exists?
And don’t bring up how god told us all about it in the Bible. There’s dozens of alleged holy books with similar claims floating around. The literal claims of the Bible are often at odds with the observed world around us. And the book itself is ambiguous enough that groups of people have cheerfully exterminated each other, while both sides claimed that the other one was composed of heretics. If the threat of hell is really that important to keep us fallen humans in line, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for god to give us a bit of clarification.
Helen argues that it’s about more than just having faith and god not doing anything on his end.
“It’s not all about faith, Thorold. I mean, God says all you need is faith the size of a grain of mustard seed. He’ll do the rest.”
Credit for this observation goes to Diamanda Hagan:
“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”
Matthew 17:20, New International Version.
“So god won’t move this glass, but if you’ll follow me outside, then I’ll use my faith to knock over a nearby mountain? Would that be enough to convince you, Thorold?”
Yeah, that doesn’t happen.
Stonepola, to his credit, isn’t swayed immediately and still demands proof, so Helen falls back to the next line of defense.
“No proof is enough when the heart is not ready.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, whatever god may do, you won’t believe it was him anyway. You’ll always manage to find another explanation.”
That’s rude of Helen, but given what Stonepola has been ignoring up to this point, her point is almost valid. But it clashes with her earlier claim that humanity at large is following Macalousso because “All they see is the miracles”. It’s one or the other, Helen. Do brazen claims of supernatural power work for attracting believers or don’t they?
After being told that he can stuff his childhood tragedy, that it’s his fault that he doesn’t have faith the size of a mustard seed and that he’s lying when he says he’ll convert if he sees proof, Stonepola loses his temper.
“I wanna see some real proof. Knock over this glass of water, god. Knock over this little glass of water and I’ll be a believer. Come on. Come on, god. Make a believer out of me! You couldn’t save my mother from cancer, and you sure as hell couldn’t save my family from vanishing, so why don’t you knock over this little glass of water and make a believer out of me! How about it god? MAKE A BELIEVER OUT OF ME!”
Finally, an honest unbeliever who admits what all unbelievers secretly yearn for:
“MAKE A BELIEVER OUT OF ME! SEND SOMEONE TO GIVE ME A TRACT THAT TELLS ME HOW!”
After his rant he storms out of the building. In doing so, he accidentally knocks over the glass. I think we all saw that one coming.
One scene later Stonepola calmed down enough to let Helen join him outside without pushing her into the lake he’s sitting by. Stonepola says he’s just desperate to see his family, if only for a minute to tell them he loves them. That cliche doesn’t really fit here. When a quasi-adulterer like Rayford Steele frets that he didn’t show enough appreciation and love for his family, it makes sense. But based on the home video from the start of the movie, I’d say Stonepola made it clear enough. Of course, Helen doesn’t tell him something reassuring like that, she just sees this as another opening.
It seems to me you’ve pretty much figured out what’s going on in this world then.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about god. Think about it. Just like Maggie is your creation, we’re god’s creation. Thorold, think about Macalousso. He claims to be our creator. But at the heart of it, his message is not about love at all, it’s about power. And selfishness. It’s about having whatever you want, regardless of the consequences to anyone else.”
Really? ‘Cause that title card at the intro said that the entire world has united in peace, harmony and love, as Macalousso commanded them to, except for your band of resistors. To an outsider like Stonepola nominally is, that ought to count for something.
“I mean, could you imagine sitting down and telling Maggie that in the name of success, she should kill anyone who stands in the way of her dreams. Isn’t that exactly what Macalousso is telling the world?”
Helen likens Macalousso’s speeches to “the lies the serpent told Eve”, in an analogy that doesn’t really work. But then Stonepola asks the exact thing I wanted him to ask when Helen spoke about satan tempting Eve.
“And what was your god doing while all this was happening? Just sitting there, powerless?”
“Oh, no. [Pause] He wasn’t just sitting there. [Pause] Far from it. [Pause] Now it’s all in your hands. [Pause] He doesn’t want to win you with cheap tricks. [Short Pause] He just wants you to reach into your heart and answer one question: [Pause] Do you believe in him?”
“Far from it. [Pause] It’s so obvious what he was doing [Pause] that I don’t even have to say it.”
Ugh, I want to give this movie props for having its unbelievers ask questions that I, a real atheist, would want to ask. If only they could give a semi-decent answer. Just as with that stupid Point of View tape in the last movie, I have spent far too long trying to see how their alleged answer is supposed to be an answer at all. Helen’s knowing smile suggests that the movie thinks the question is answered. But with all the pauses, I’m not even sure what part is the alleged answer. My best guess is that god wasn’t “just sitting there, powerless”, but sitting there while laughing his ass off. Because Satan’s plan was accomplishing what god wanted anyway: A fallen human race, now dependent on god, their suffering and damnation an incentive for them to worship him.
I doubt this is what the movie was going for. If someone can give a better interpretation of this “answer”, please leave a comment, because it’s bugging me. And while you guys are at it: Explain why god isn’t a narcissistic megalomaniac for sending people to hell solely because they answered the question about his existence wrong.
And although Stonepola hasn’t converted yet, that’s the end of the apologetics scenes. That last line, that all that matters is whether you believe in god, is an appropriate summary for it. Because that’s all Helen talked about: A big heap of “God exists” with a small side order of “Macalousso is the antichrist”. There’s no mention of whatever you do or don’t do for the least of your brothers and sisters. The fall is briefly touched on, but the resulting sinfulness of humanity and the whole forgiveness-business isn’t. Jesus never even gets mentioned. That mustard seed line is a quote from Jesus, but Helen attributes it to just “god”. We’re witnessing Anti-Antichristianty in action once again: The only tenet of Christianity is that you should oppose the antichrist.
The funny thing about that last line is that it sounds relatively inclusive for an RTC movie. Until you remember that the first movie showed that the incredibly stereotypical Catholics, Jews and Muslims were all left behind. That context changes the message “Exact doctrine doesn’t matter to god, only faith.” into “If you disagree with me on exact doctrine, you clearly don’t really believe in god.”
Well, that’s enough about that. Next part we’ll back up a bit and follow the actual plot again.
Once Willie has cut of Helen’s attempts at proselytizing, he can actually work on the task Helen really wants him to complete. He’s plugged in the VR helmet and used the password to unlock the program. However, he says one line of code is still encrypted. I only started my job in IT development recently, but the two more experienced coworkers I asked about this were as skeptical of this claim as I was. It seems really weird to be able to be able to decrypt every line of code except one, and yet still be able to run the program.
But Willie, as advertised, does things with the computer that blow my mind. He runs the entire program minus one line and puts on the goggles, only to find himself in a bright white empty void. The sudden brightness prompts a “Wow” from Willie.
“No, no, no, not ‘Wow.’ It’s pronounced more like, ‘Whoa.'”
In case you’re wondering (I was), this movie was released about a month after The Matrix came out. Even for a low budget TV movie, that probably didn’t leave Cloud Ten enough time to rip it off before their release. I guess the white constructor room was shown in the trailers of The Matrix, but let’s be generous and assume Cloud Ten Pictures didn’t steal this scene from The Matrix.
After looking around and making some sarcastic wisecracks about who’s gonna lose his job over this, Willie takes the glasses off and reports that there’s nothing to report. Helen insists that there must be something, and that he should decrypt that last line.
Willie protests that one line couldn’t possibly make a big difference, as even the small shell in his own beach simulation consists of 40000 lines of code. That may be so, but Willie (or rather, Cloud Ten Pictures) doesn’t consider that the one line could be “InititalizeProgram();” or “LoadAllObjects();” or “Level Sin_O_Matic = new Level(“Amsterdamned”);” or “User.Execute() /*Haha, get it? Cause it sounds like starting a program, but it’s really about killing the user. Oh man, that’s almost as clever as Mundus vult decipi*/”. In fact, I’d say that if only one line of code is doubly-encrypted, it seems likely that would be the one line that starts the entire rest of the program. That, or because it contains Lucifer’s password and credit card information.
Anyway, Willie gets browbeat into trying to decrypt the last line, which may explain his somewhat impolite refusal of Helen’s assistance.
“What can I do to help, Willie?”
“Y’know what, sis? I think maybe you should just leave this one to the professionals, OK?”
“Professionals build the Titanic. Amateurs built the ark.”
I swear, they put that in there in the hope that any unbelievers watching would facepalm so hard they’d give themselves a concussion. Guess that’ll teach me to request that the characters crack the occasional joke to make them look more like real people. Well, Helen looks like a real person now. A smug, anti-intellectual person.
Despite that bit of “wisdom”, the professional goes back to work alone while Helen proselytizes to Stonepola. There are some more flirting scenes between Willie and Cindy with some raunchy pickup lines and questionable disability-jokes. But hey, we’ve established that they both like that kind of humor, so they can knock themselves out. And once that is done, they do get a bit more tender exchanges, like Cindy taking her glasses off so Willie can see her eyes and say how beautiful they are. Plus, a bit of Cindy’s history, although that part is introduced with Willie’s usual tact.
“So, what makes a nice girl like you become a Bible thumper? Look at the way you people live. Hiding out in this rat hole, living every day in fear. You must really believe this stuff, huh?”
“To tell you the truth, Willie, I don’t really know what to believe. My parents used to drag me to church every Sunday. I’d pray for eyesight. Mom and dad vanished, and [Uncool Christian] came to get me. What was I gonna do? I guess you could say I just came along for the ride.”
Oh well, that’s nice of your maybe-brother, taking you with him to live a life where you’ll be shot on sight by the government.
“Come on, ‘along for the ride’? I watched you last night. I saw you praying and singing with them.”
“Please. Going to church makes you about as Christian as going to a pet store makes you a cat.”
That’s an interesting remark. It sounds like a sneer towards some wimpy mainline protestant churches where people just go every Sunday without experiencing the proper personal relationship with Jesus. But those parents that dragged Cindy to that church were raptured, so they were clearly RTCs. And I’m pretty sure the movie makers approve of the parent’s decision to drag their child to church every week, but they also admit that this doesn’t work. I’m confused. These movies are usually not so ambiguous in their moral judgment.
Cool Christian comes back from his infiltration-mission, still in his O.N.E. uniform, and sees Stonepola, who’s wearing his G-man outfit. Hilarity ensues, but Helen manages to stop them before they shoot each other. Cool Christian brought back a recording of one of Selma’s interrogation scenes, where MacEvilton screams that god has lost and that the Day of Wonders is all about killing or converting all the Christians so that prophecy will fail (more on that later). Since there’s nothing on here that he and his allies didn’t already know or could guess, I don’t know why he bothered to bring it back.
However, this tape contains some very useful information for his allies’ unexpected heathen guests. Stonepola wasn’t convinced yet, but here he learns that not just the haters, but also the villains themselves believe that Macalousso opposes god, that the RTCs are god’s followers and that their current situation was prophesied. It’s not quite the same as proof that god exists, but it’s close. And it would’ve been even closer if Cool Christian hadn’t suddenly turned off his recording, because MacEvilton got possessed by the devil right after the part Cool Christian did let them hear.
Plus, while Stonepola never made a good oppressor to begin with, he is responsible for handing over Selma to MacEvilton. It wasn’t due to evil intent, it wasn’t even a “just following orders”-situation (he defied orders by not killing the RTCs outright), and arresting a group whom you have every reason to suspect were terrorists isn’t an unreasonable act. But his actions still resulted in an innocent woman suffering. Not only does this tape give him something close to proof, it also gives his character a chance to pull of some kind of real redemption-arc, by vowing now to save her.
Stonepola ignores it. Completely.
He doesn’t show guilt and he doesn’t consider that this most direct evidence of Helen’s story that he’s been given so far. He only wonders what these threats could mean for his own family. And that’s not meant as a sign that he’s a sinner, because none of the RTCs bring it up either. No one sees how MacEvilton directly admitting his side is fighting god could matter in any way.
I also don’t know why Stonepola bothers asking what Macalousso will do to “the people he vaporized”. He spent a minute summarizing Helen’s belief that the vanishings were the rapture, so Uncool Christian’s answer that Macalousso wasn’t responsible shouldn’t be a surprise to him.
Suddenly a walky-talky on the other end of the table springs to life. It’s MacEvilton who announces he “knows” that Stonepola is listening. No explanation how he knows that Stonepola isn’t still asleep (he was when Cool Christian came in), how he knows he’s listening to this particular radio, where that radio even comes from or why he doesn’t also know where Stonepola is.
MacEvilton announces that, gasp, he has Stonepola’s wife and daughter! And he puts them both on the phone to prove it. But before I can find the “It’s a trap!” clip, the movie just shows that MacEvilton is pulling the “What’s wrong with Wolfie”-trick from Terminator 2. It’s impressive how he perfectly mimics his wife’s unconvincing line reading. The way he/she says “Please don’t hurt my daughter” is appropriate when you find out your hotel-room was double booked, not when you and your daughter are being tortured by the Gestapo.
MacEvilton says he wants to see Stonepola and the disk in his office by 2 AM, or “they’ll be the first to find out what the Day of Wonders is all about.” That wouldn’t stop Stonepola from making a dozen copies of the disk first, but whatever. Stonepola gets up, but Helen says it’s a trick (duh!) and that MacEvilton did it before (when?). Stonepola assures her that he isn’t going to take the disk to MacEvilton, but he does want to go over there to sabotage the Day of Wonders.
Now, the O.N.E. knows what Stonepola looks like and MacEvilton expects him to come to that very building, while Cool Christian has an intact cover and has already successfully infiltrated the O.N.E. HQ. So it would make far more sense for Cool Christian to take this mission. And you might be thinking that it’s very naive of Helen and friends to trust Stonepola, given that he suddenly demands to go infiltrate the very place MacEvilton told him to go. But you’d be wrong: Stonepola will indeed do what he promises, he doesn’t bring the disk and he doesn’t even try to look for his wife and daughter, who are supposedly in the same building.
This entire sequence is a mess. It requires a suddenly appearing long-range walky-talky, new but strangely limited powers from MacEvilton, and a bizarre leap of logic from Stonepola: They claim to have his wife and daughter, so he’ll go there and sabotage some equipment. Even if that prevents his family from being killed by the Day of Wonders, MacEvilton would just kill them some other way. This is just a flimsy justification for the movie’s lead to be the star of the climactic infiltration scene.
And the sad part is: There wasn’t even a scene change between MacEvilton’s call and the recording from Selma, which provided a much better justification: Stonepola could’ve demanded to break in there to rescue Selma on his way out, because he felt responsible for putting her there in the first place. But Invisible Pink Unicorn forbid that those scenes with Selma have any bearing to the plot.
Well, one way or the other, Stonepola is getting ready for the break-in. Willie declares that he’s written a virus that can take out the entire O.N.E. network, and that without his help, they won’t be able to quickly restore the VR-package that runs the Day of Wonders program. I don’t know what’s funnier, that we’re supposed to believe he wrote such a capable virus off-screen during the course of one evening, or that this super-virus fits on a floppy disk. But what’s funnier than either is Stonepola’s janitor disguise.
Hopefully those fake glasses are the Clark Kent model,
or this is going to be the shortest undercover operation ever.
Willie hacks the O.N.E. personnel files to put Stonepola’s picture and palm print in a real janitor’s file. We’re not told how Willie got Stonepola’s palm print, or why he can’t upload the virus like he did with the false personnel file, but at this point I’m just chanting the MST3K mantra so I can get this over with.
As Stonepola leaves, Helen wishes him “Godspeed”, to which he replies “I don’t believe in god”. Ooooh, what a nasty bitter unbeliever he is, I bet he insists on saying “Happy Holidays” too. But after Stonepola left, the kindly forgiving believer Helen says “It’s okay. He believes in you.” I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. He believes Stonepola exists? I should hope so, Stonepola’s existence can be proven. He believes that Stonepola can do this? How does Helen know? He believes that Stonepola is a fundamentally good person? I don’t think that saves him from eternal torment in RTC-land.
Ah well, let’s put our MP3 players to the Mission Impossible theme and start the infiltration. Stonepola gets past the desk guard and the palm print scanner, There’s a tense moment at the elevator, when MacEvilton comes right out of the very elevator Stonepola wanted to get on. But MacEvilton is on the phone while he exits and Stonepola “cleverly” holds his map in front of his face when MacEvilton turns around. MacEvilton looks a bit confused, but although he is expecting Stonepola to come for his family tonight, he thinks nothing of it.
He can walk through walls, but can’t see through paper. Or transparent ruses.
So for the next few scenes Stonepola puts all his Special Agent training to good use by sabotaging the alarm. And uh-oh, there’s a guard coming, will Stonepola be able to hide in time? Tune in next week! Seriously, if you’ve ever watched any spy or heist movie, you’ve seen this all before.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Willie manages to crack the final line of code. So he puts on the glasses again and finds… that he’s still in a white room. But this time, there’s one thing in it:
Oh no, it’s an unconvincing prop!
Willie inspects the blade of the guillotine, but predictably cuts his finger. And, only slightly less predictably, once he takes off his glasses he finds that ‘your mind makes it real’, and his finger is actually bleeding. Willie screams that this is impossible. But because this virtual world could already do dozens of things that were impossible by real world standards (note that his clothes are still perfectly replicated, even when it’s not his own VR beach program), the reveal that it can now do one thing it couldn’t do before loses some of its punch.
Willie tells Helen about his discovery, and says it doesn’t make any sense that the program can do this because “It’s just images”. Ehm, no, even Willie’s beach program was clearly more than just images. With just images you can’t recreate clothes, sounds, (presumably) touch and mind-controlled movement. However, when Willie mentions images, Helen puts on the “That’s it!”-expression that TV detectives get 5 minutes before the end of the episode.
Helen leaps into action and… searches for a videotape where a real-life RTC big shot explains how amazingly the events of this script were prophesied by the Bible. FFS, does Helen have a pathological condition that makes her unable to explain these things herself or something? Oh well, I guess it’s for the best. After the professional computer specialist got all the information out of the disk, you’d better get a professional Bible prophecy expert to explain what it means. We wouldn’t want an amateur to mess up this important job, now would we?
I can tell you’re all very excited to find out what the answers is, so I’ll skip ahead until the scene where Helen finds the tape and shows us. Even if that means we have to watch the pontifications of Jack van Im- hang on. That’s not Jack van Impe. This is a videotape of John Hagee. Where did Helen get that? All the tapes from her grandmother were of Jack van Impe. And is the secret to Revelation’s bigger budget having two big name RTC sugar-daddies whose prophecies you’ll fictionally vindicate?
After some boilerplate stuff about the darkest days of the tribulations and how to beware the man of peace, John gets to the relevant bit: That the Antichrist will “give life to the image of the beast” so that the image can speak, and then he will kill everyone who won’t worship the image, and give everyone the mark of the beast. Here are the Bible passages this “prophecy” is based on:
The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
Note that there are three parties in this bit, two separate beasts and the image of the first beast. John Hagee says the antichrist will give life to the image of the beast, which makes him the second beast. Yet he also says that the antichrist will do the killing, which in this passages is done by the image of the first beast. But the first beast is, according to the rest of Revelation 13, the one who rules the whole world, so he is also the antichrist. Ugh, someone got an aspirin for me? And Helen derived that this was the prophecy that was being fulfilled just from Willie mentioning the word “images”? Oh yeah, obviously.
What’s interesting about this reveal is how it affects the protagonist’s plans: It doesn’t. On the one hand, it’s a huge relief that, unlike the Tribulation Farce, the band of resistors don’t decide it would be wrong to interfere with any prophesied acts of mass-murder. On the other hand, it would have been interesting to hear their reasoning for opposing things they believe are inevitable. Plus, MacEvilton was screaming that “prophecy will fail, and we will win”. I’d be a bit worried about messing with any prophesied events if I know my enemy counts on the prophecy failing.
Now that your curiosity has been sated, we’ll go back to the scenes we skipped next post to see what happened in between Helen figuring out what they were up against, and Helen explaining it to the others via a videotaped preacher. I’m sure nothing significant and avoidable happened during that unnecessary delay.
And on that note, stay tuned for the conclusion!
Happy New Year, all! Sorry for the hiatus—Wintermas and New Year’s plans got in the way of posting. But it’s okay, because as a special treat, we have another guest review by Ivan! And it’s the sequel to his previous review, Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm.
A Guest Review by Ivan
When your first commercially released movie is something like Apocalypse: Caught in the Eye of the Storm, the best you can normally hope for is a cult status like The Room. But the market for Christian fiction is far from normal. That’s why Apocalypse became the start of Cloud Ten Picture’s successful movie enterprise. And instead of trying to make a joke of their debut movie or sweep it under the rug, they doubled down and started cranking out sequels. The first of these, and our review fodder for today, was Revelation.
Ah, Revelation, a title almost as unoriginal as Apocalypse. And as you can see, the new movie’s poster is just as terrible as last time too. Has anything been improved? Well, yes actually. Either they got wealthier investors, or the extremely low budget of their first movie allowed them to turn a profit from the small but dedicated church audiences. Whatever the reason, the budget, cinematography and acting have all been upgraded.
Of course, this more professional production does mean I don’t get to enjoy the adorable MST3K quality of the first movie. So now my entertainment must come either from the movie being genuinely good, or from snarking it to smithereens. And I’m not holding my breath for the former. Case in point, this recap-screen:
Once the recap is done we open up with… a Christian song. Oh my Odin, not again! But wait, it actually isn’t that bad. For starters, this rendition of the rapture-classic “I wish we’d all been ready” at least sounds nice. And the sad lyrics actually fit with both the rather melancholical tune and the footage from a camera slowly and ominously tracking through the rooms of a dark house, starting in an empty bedroom filled with stuffed animals. Unlike the jumbled messes of the first movie with depressed lyrics, happy music and (supposedly) exciting action footage, here the lyrics, music and imagery all paint a single, cohesive picture. Plus, it mostly plays over the credits, and the rest of the movie features a regular instrumental score. So I’m willing to give this a pass.
Halfway through the song, the camera gets to the dark living room where a man is seated in front of his TV, while looking at the family picture besides him. Or rather, at the back of the picture frame, but if he had turned the picture around to face him, the audience wouldn’t have been able to see it.
His character is Special Agent Thorold Stone and are you kidding me!? Who comes up with these names? Special Agent Stone sounds like the main character of some B-movie testosterone factory. But then the first name is something as old-fashioned as Thorold. I suspect it’s an anagram but I’ll be buggered if I know for what. These online anagram solvers don’t come up with many coherent ones. ‘Do not holster’ was my favorite guess.
Now I want to see the RTC wish-fulfillment protagonists with Freudian porn star names in a crossover.
“Captain Rayford Steele, the ace pilot with his fully loaded 747 on autopilot. Special Agent Thorold Stone, the counter-terrorism expert who never holsters his mighty weapon. And Colonel Lance Mustang, the ex-marine rooster farmer who’s won the “Biggest Cock” contest 3 years in a row. Together they are the Overcompensators. Join them as they battle the dreaded Dr. Midlife Crisis, tonight, on FOX.”
I’m going to have to give this guy a nickname if I don’t want to keep giggling throughout this review. The first movie’s protagonist was a ripoff of Buck Williams, so it was appropriate nicknaming him Buckson. What’s Thorold Stone (*snicker*) like? An operative for a global organization dedicated to wiping out Christians, who is set on the path to salvation after talking to an African American Christian and barely surviving a supernatural event? Perfect! Stonepola it is.
You may have noticed that I considered Buckson a vast improvement over the original Buck. While Buck was busy chilling in the penthouse he bought with the salary he got from the antichrist, Buckson made a dangerous and selfless attempt to warn the unsaved before it was too late. Is Stonepola a similar improvement of the abomination named Paul Stepola? Short answer: Mheh.
Longer answer: Both Soon and Revelation try to present the familiar character arc of “Oppressor redeems himself by joining the Oppressed”. Both botch the redemption part, but for opposite reasons. Paul Stepola’s problem is that he’s still a murderous asshole after his alleged redemption. Stonepola’s problem is that he is already a nice guy before it. He has no stake in or sympathy for the regime he’s supposed to be fighting for. The RTCs he’s supposedly persecuting realize he’s their ally within 30 seconds of meeting him, and his evil superiors are even quicker on the uptake. He might as well be wearing a T-shirt that says “Conversion bait”.
Of course, a protagonist who’s too kind is still less painful to watch than the likes of Paul. But Stonepola’s character has the added problem of a plot hole-riddled backstory. This sequel to Apocalypse treats the first movie’s events as a guideline at best. Several events of Apocalypse get acknowledged in a single line of clumsy exposition in Revelation, followed by plot points that ignore or contradict those events. And quite a few of those continuity hiccups are tied into Stonepola’s actions, motivations or backstory. So whatever the merits of Fahey as an actor, I can’t give his character the “thumbs sorta up” I gave Buckson.
Anyway, Stonepola manages to take his teary eyes from the wooden back of the picture frame and back to the TV where he’s watching home video footage of his wife and daughter being all cutesy and shit.
“Mr. Director, there’s a lawyer from Hallmark with a copyright lawsuit here to see you.”
Before you can say “Gee, I wonder what happened to them” in a sarcastic tone, Stonepola falls asleep and dreams about it. First about how he and his wife had an argument about his horrible sin of not seeing a need to go to church.
“Why can’t we do this together, as a family?”
“We don’t need church to make us a family, all right? I’m gonna tell you one more time honey, I’m not going, I don’t wanna hear any more of this Bible-stuff. If you wanna go, go!”
“Why can’t you just open your heart a little? Please, Thorold. We’re talking about eternity here.”
Note the way his wife tries to guilt-trip her husband by making it sound like she just wants to do things together ‘as a family’, then revealing that her real motivation is hoping it’ll make him convert.
His wife is of course raptured, so she doesn’t technically appear in this story. But she shows up in so many recordings, dreams, impersonations and illusions that her acting still manages to grate my nerves. While the overall acting has improved since the last movie, this woman bucks the trend and can’t do a convincing line reading to save her life. I’m not even kidding when I say the little girl playing their daughter upstages her.
Well okay, if you want to be nitpicky, I suppose Stonepola had one minor care at the time.
Just that his little nuclear family was about to become more literally so. Remember how the rapture happened during the opening stage of WW3 in the first movie, and the news was telling all Americans to just kiss their asses goodbye? Don’t worry if you’d forgotten, Cloud Ten apparently did as well. Stonepola’s family shouldn’t be playing outside, they should be under the kitchen table hoping that that ‘duck and cover’ crap works better than they think it will.
Nonsensical backstory and song over, we go to the following morning when Stonepola is called to the scene of a blown up school bus. The cops assume it’s the work of the haters, a.k.a. the Christians, a.k.a. the RTCs, a.k.a. the band of resistors. But every sentient life form in the audience can deduce, just from the sad music and dramatic shots of sheet-covered bodies and burning schoolbags, that it’ll turn out to be a false flag operation by the antichrist. I’m not going to bother pretending otherwise.
“Come on, Thorold. You’ve seen the same thing as the rest of us. Every nuclear weapon on Earth, gone.”
“Millions of people vanishing into thin air. … You know, ever since we were little kids, you never believed in anything. Every puppet show, you’re looking for strings. At Christmas, you’re looking for Santa’s footprints on the roof. Finally, you’ve got all the proof you need and it’s still not good enough.”
“Millions of people vanishing into thin air. If Macalousso is not god, then who is he?”“Maybe he’s just some con-man who saw what was going on and took advantage before anyone could come to their senses.”
Stonepola’s finds the right boarded up window to peak through, where he sees a church service being held in the rundown warehouse, with the preacher’s wife and daughter leading dozen or so attendees in a singalong of, ironically, ‘He has made me glad’. (I guess you could say the movie does have multiple Christian songs in it, but I don’t count it if the characters are singing it.)
Once the womenfolk are done, the preacher takes over. Despite being a post-rapture convert, he’s managed to imitate the original RTCs perfectly. And I don’t just mean his Bible-prophecy talk. But also how he insists that Christians like him are being horribly persecuted, while failing to act upon that belief. If an enemy death squad can park their truck next to your hideout, sneak to within 30 feet of you and hold an entire frigging debate without anyone in your band of resistors noticing, that’s a sign you’re not taking this whole “hiding from persecution”-thing seriously.
Stonepola and Deadmeat first discuss how this bunch of capacitors first blew up a school bus and are now singing cheery songs.
“It’s not the first time something is blown up in the name of the almighty.”
Oh, silly Stonepola, those terrorists weren’t True Scotsmen.
Then the discussion turns to what they want to do with this group of inductors. The SWAT captain is all for following orders and gunning them down, Stonepola wants to take them to HQ for questioning. The same HQ, mind you, where the order to kill them came from. Yeah, that’ll go well.
Deadmeat tiebreaks in favor of his partner, so they jump out of their flimsy cover and arrest them. Captain Killgore can’t resist telling them that it’s only thanks to Stonepola that he wasn’t allowed to shoot them all. Deadmeat frisks two members of the bundle of voltage supplies for 10 seconds total before declaring that none of them have any weapons. Because, as the preacher explains, RTCs are all harmless innocent lambs like that.
While Captain Killgore is busy dragging the collection of current meters to the SWAT van, the preacher’s wife, called Selma Davis, ends up talking with Stonepola and Deadmeat. Selma claims they’re being set up by Franco Macalousso. What a twist! Deadmeat will have none of the talk that “the Bible makes it perfectly clear” that Franco is the devil, so he leaves her alone, without handcuffs, with his partner who has holstered his weapon (guess that wasn’t the anagram). I’m pretty sure that isn’t standard procedure for suspected terrorists.
Since Deadmeat let it slip that this gathering of diodes are just like Stonepola’s wife, Selma exploits that emotional scar tissue for all it’s worth.
“Let me ask you something. Do you think your wife would be killing children if she was still here? If you would just open your heart… Why didn’t you let them shoot us?
“Because you don’t look dangerous to me.”
“I mean, normally I’m all ‘No trial, no mercy, no problem’. If you had looked like a group of Arabs, ooh-boy, they’d be scraping your remains off the wall right now.”
Selma reveals that the real reason Stonepola was send to kill them was that she worked for the O.N.E. and stole a CD-ROM from them, which she hands to Stonepola with the suggestion that he should look at what’s on it.
“Do it for your wife.”
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, the road to heaven with emotional blackmail.
I don’t know if it’s deliberate, but Selma looks like a very shrewd implementation of a Magical Negro. She is, after all, the African American character who is wise and capable, yet serves no function in the plot other than to give the white protagonist the tools and advice he needs for his quest. But the in-universe complaints about how a Magical Negro’s character makes no sense are covered. It’s actually explained why she recruits the Mighty Whitey instead of using her superior skills to do everything on her own. She’s being arrested, which means she can no longer complete her goal herself. So she pushes every emotional button of the one guy among their captors who seems sympathetic to them and hopes he’ll do the job for her. It’s a long shot, sure, but it’s the best chance she’s got to complete her mission. That this helps the white protagonist to become the hero is just a side-effect.
When Selma is finally dragged outside, she taps a tiny red button besides the door opening, sending a warning sign to another group of underground RTCs (whom I promise I will not refer to as electrical circuitry). Well, they have some alarm system prepared I guess. But sending a signal to a distant, undiscovered group from a compromised location seems mighty dangerous in a world where detonator signals can be traced via satellite long after the bombs went off.
In any case, this group includes one of the few solid links this movie has to Apocalypse.
It’s Helen Hannah! Alive, well, and not in prison/cattle truck…. somehow. We last saw her locked up and surrounded by the antichrist’s minions. Right after footage of her and Buckson publicly denouncing the antichrist went all over the world. Which would have made her a symbol of the anti-antichrist movement, and made those minions very angry with her. Cindy even mentions in this very scene that “the crowds cheered when they strung your boyfriend up on national television”. But Helen got off with a warning?
Well, it introduces another plot hole, but I’m sure the presence of Helen Hannah in this movie will be worth it, right?
“Oh no, they got the Davis group. … We have to assume they got [the CD] too. Poor Selma Davis. She was supposed to meet me here with it this afternoon.”
Ugh… Those are Helen’s first lines this movie. They’re… bad. Really bad. The lines are clunky enough by themselves (who uses a first and last name in a situation like this?), but Helen also delivers them with all the gut-wrenching sadness of someone who found a tear in their third-favorite shirt. She wasn’t good in Apocalypse either, but there she had the benefit of not being surrounded by the better actors featured in this movie.
Speaking of whom, let’s introduce the other resistance members in the picture above. To the right is Cindy, the woman who kicked Helen of the movie poster despite having a smaller part. She deserves the spot though. She’s a better actress and her character is more interesting. Between her blindness and her more rebellious, crankier attitude than the others, she’s at least memorable.
Which is more than I can say for the two men. The man in front seems to be their go-to guy for dangerous missions until Stepola shows up and becomes their point-man without any discussion. He gets no further characterization, but it’s still more than the guy in the back gets. After watching this movie once, I could literally remember nothing about him except that he’s overweight and I thought that he was Cindy’s brother. But the latter is never actually stated. If I had to name one character trait, it would be that he’s a dick. He’s there for the fans of the Left Behind books, which didn’t have a movie adaptation in 1999 and who were longing for heroes in a post-rapture story who treat empathy as a four-letter word. I’ll just call these two Cool Christian and Uncool Christian respectively.
Anyway, Uncool Christian shows even less sympathy for the Davis group than Helen (because he’s a dick), he’s just upset that now they won’t get the information about the “Day of Wonders” the O.N.E. is planning. Cindy doesn’t feel optimistic, what with the whole world wanting them dead, but Helen tries to sooth her.
“We can’t blame them, Cindy, they don’t know what we know. They also don’t know that Macalousso is having anyone who disagrees with him killed. All they see is the miracles.”
I’m giving the movie points for that first sentence. For all the holier-than-thou posturing, it’s rare to see RTC heroes exhibit actual Christ-like behavior. But I’m taking some off again for that second sentence, since it comes right after Cindy reminded us of Buckson’s public execution and that the rest of the world wants the RTCs dead too. And let’s not even go into the stock footage of protests and attacks against RTCs that the first movie jammed down our throats. I’d say the people know all about that, seeing how they’re helping him do it. And Stonepola’s survival up to this point suggests that Macalousso doesn’t kill “anyone who disagrees with him”, just RTCs.
Cool Christian says that he has managed to set up a fake ID to infiltrate the O.N.E. HQ, but he doesn’t know what to look for without the disk. Ehm, look for another disk? Just a suggestion.
“Anything. Anything that can help us figure out what these guys have planned for the Day of Wonders. ‘Cause whatever they’re planning, it’s big. And it can’t be good.”
What’s this? A Rapture story where the main characters aren’t sitting around talking about which prophesied events are next on the list, wait until they happen, then express their amazement that the Bible foretold it all so accurately? Instead, they are in a tense race against time to figure out the villain’s plan, because they want to stop it? What a strange concept!
And it’s especially a nice change of pace from Apocalypse where we got saturated with Jack van Impe’s smug face telling us what was about to hap-
“Here, take a look at this. It’s a tape I found in my grandmother’s house.”
And no Helen, you didn’t get this from your grandma’s house, even if you were suicidal enough to go back there when the villains were looking for you. The Goony One took those tapes, remember? It was the critical point of the climax of the first movie, also known as the only part of Apocalypse I liked!
Cindy seems to care as much for Jack’s yammering about Bible verses from completely different books all being about the same event as I do, so she puts on her headphones and turns up her music. *Gasp*, she’s ignoring the words of the perfect holy savior and rightful lord of all that is! And those Bible verses too! I sense a comeuppance in your future, girly.
We cut back to the band of resistors being pushed into the SWAT truck as Stonepola and Deadmeat argue about their guilt. Deadmeat lists some fairly mayor pieces of evidence, Stonepola doesn’t have much except for “They are just like my wife, ergo innocent” and some straw-grasping. His one valid point is that they didn’t find the detonator yet, but they were meeting in a big, messy warehouse so Deadmeat is sure the bomb squad will find once they investigate the site. And yet, not a single agent is staying behind to actually guard the site until those investigators show up. They don’t even leave any yellow Police-Do-Not-Cross tape.
That’s too bad for Stonepola and Deadmeat, because just after they swapped their bulletproof vests back for their G-Man outfits, there’s a loud clang from the opposite building. They go to check it out, but don’t bother to call back the SWAT van that left a minute ago. Deadmeat whips out the magic DNA scanner again, but curses at it and shoves it into Stonepola’s hands. I’m not sure if that means it showed something or not, but either way, he and Stonepola burst into the building and see two guys in the exact same outfits as they are wearing. Since they aren’t singing Christian songs and don’t look like Stonepola’s wife, Stonepola and Deadmeat open fire without warning. Luckily the other two return fire, else Stonepola and Deadmeat might’ve looked like trigger-happy maniacs.
We have ourselves a little shoot-out, followed by a chase as the bad guys split up and run. This action scene is pretty decent. It’s on par with a regular TV movie, which is a step up for most RTC movies. The initial shootout is a bit dull, shown with a shot of the good guys shooting, then a shot of the bad guys shooting, rinse, repeat, but the chase is better. I give it a minus for Stonepola missing with aimed shots but finally nailing his opponent with blind fire around a corner, but a plus for the characters reloading almost as often as they should need to. Oh, and after a decade of shaky cam and hyper-editing, it’s a pleasant surprise to watch a fight scene between identically dressed people in a dimly lit warehouse where you can actually tell what’s going on.
After Stonepola’s opponent goes down, he decides not to run straight after his partner to back him up, but slowly approaches his downed enemy and searches him, finding an O.N.E. badge and a detonator. The latter shouldn’t surprise anyone in the audience, the former shouldn’t even surprise Stonepola. He was wearing the same suit as you were, dumbass. How did you know they weren’t on a legit investigation of the group you just arrested?
The other bad guy managed to get a big enough lead on Deadmeat, so he has time to call his boss on his walky-talky.
“Sir, I don’t know how they found us, but we have two O.N.E. agents in pursuit.”
Just a hunch, but maybe they found you because you were making loud noises right next to where they parked their car, with only a single unlocked door between you and them. Idiot.
I wonder if the magic DNA scanner was more important in the initial script. In the movie, it’s only used to confirm the presence of people whom Deadmeat already suspects are there, and who aren’t hiding particularly well. If these bad guys had actually been in a good hiding spot and Deadmeat only found them because of a scanner they didn’t know he had, this comment would make more sense. And the bad guys would have looked less stupid.
His boss only tells him to “take care of it”, so a fat lot of good that call did. I’d have interpreted that order as surrendering, telling Deadmeat he’s on a covert op and agreeing to go down to HQ to prove it, then have his superiors make Deadmeat and Stonepola disappear. Instead, he hides just besides the door opening to ambush Deadmeat, lines up his shot… when he’s knocked out from behind by Stonepola. Oh, good, Stonepola guessed exactly right how much time he could spend investigating his dead opponent and still save his partner at the last second. Whew, Deadmeat is safe! For another minute or so.
Stonepola shows Deadmeat the O.N.E. badge and detonator, and gives him a “Told you so”. They handcuff the bad guy to a pipe, then proceed to look for whomever the bad guy was talking to. They know he must be close enough for a walky-talky (even though later in the movie, these walky-talkies seem to have a range of several miles), but they have no idea where. This sounds like a perfect job for a scanner that can spot humans through walls, but they just walk on blindly. Luckily, their target is making no effort to hide, and it is… MacEvilton! Dun-dun-dunnn.
Ominous lighting? A Gestapo raincoat? Really, Cloud Ten? You saw MacEvilton in Apocalypse and decided he needed help to look evil?
Stonepola and Deadmeat order MacEvilton to drop his weapon. When he raises it anyway, they empty their guns at him, but to no effect other than making him do his evil grin. Somehow Stonepola and Deadmeat deduce that it isn’t because that trench coat hides a bulletproof vest, which would’ve been my first guess.
“Who are you?”
“What are you?”
“I am a servant of the Messiah. I’m here to help him rid the world of anyone and everyone who stands in his way. And now, gentlemen, that includes you!” *BANG* *BANG*
With all the inconsistencies between this movie and Apocalypse, it’s nice to see that at least MacEvilton hasn’t changed a bit: Posture first, shoot second, ask questions never.
Though it’s a bit weird to find him heading the O.N.E. enforcement branch now (Deadmeat even knew him by name). Last movie, he was in charge at the W.N.N., and he botched that job big time. Not only was a video announcement exposing Macalousso as the antichrist broadcast around the world on his watch, but footage of MacEvilton admitting Macalousso’s evilness was included. You’d expect the antichrist to give Blofeld-style performance reviews, where the employee sits on a trapdoor to the piranha tank in case he doesn’t get a ‘Meets expectations’-rating or higher. Or at least that he’d have to make MacEvilton a scapegoat and denouncing him as an overzealous employee or something. But it looks like Macalousso was understanding and kindly suggested that with his ruthlessness and sadism, MacEvilton might be better suited for hunting down Macalousso’s enemies than for doing his PR. Spoiler warning: He isn’t.
After he’s shot Stonepola and Deadmeat (both of them go down at the first shot, sloppy directing there), MacEvilton turns around and walks away, phasing right through the wall. Wow, the antichrist is handing out superpowers to his minions now. Pity MacEvilton powers don’t include a life-sensing ability, because Stonepola isn’t dead. The bullet hit the DNA scanner in Stonepola’s pocket. Well, at least the silly thing was useful for something.
This is the first in a series of increasingly unsubtle cases where characters are saved by divine intervention. Which I suppose is fair enough. The human characters in this story are fighting and dying on god’s behalf, in a war against an enemy who isn’t actually a threat to god. It’s no more than reasonable that god lends his followers a bit of a hand. But it does kill the tension when you realize that the almighty god can make sure the heroes win any time he wants.
And when god doesn’t help all the time, you run the risk of making god look spitefully arbitrary. Fortunately, this movie does have a consistent pattern for interventions. Unfortunately, that pattern is that god always saves white people. African Americans already account for half the fatalities among non-extra’s in this movie (and that’s counting the nameless white guy with no lines that Stonepola shot), despite making up less than half of the cast. But all the white fatalities are vicious villains. The only non-villains that die are black. I strongly doubt this was intentional, but the movie would’ve been better for it if the filmmakers had caught and changed this.
Right here, for example, Deadmeat gave Stonepola the DNA scanner, and his life is saved. I think this movie would have been greatly improved if Deadmeat had kept the scanner and he had survived. Stonepola’s character is too nice for his assigned role in the story, and he needs to be unrealistically ignorant for him to play his part. He keeps sticking to an “alien invasion” theory for the rapture and the supernatural powers he sees, when he should know better.
Why couldn’t he have told Deadmeat with his dying breath that he had already realized his wife was right so that he dies saved, and pleaded Deadmeat to find out the truth? Deadmeat might not have believed it, and as a supporter of Macalousso he would not have wanted to. But now that he’s being hunted by his former allies, he’d have no choice but to seek out the haters for help. And there he could realize that they are nice guys, that he was wrong and that he hurt innocents because of it. That’s a good setup for a dramatic redemption, with way less plot holes. Plus, a Christian movie with a black main character is fairly original, so you’d have that going for you.
Alas, it’s Stonepola who gets up and mourns over Deadmeat. For those keeping score, 13 minutes, 6 seconds, counting from his first line of dialogue.
He goes back to the guy they handcuffed, only to find that the guy is now gone with the locked handcuff still in place. Wait, MacEvilton went the other way, so that means the goon got out himself? He could phase through solid matter too? Then why was he running from Deadmeat and Stonepola? He could’ve phased through their bullets too. Or if that’s a higher level power, he could’ve at least ambushed them by going through walls.
The movie then cuts to a building with a very fake looking O.N.E. logo on it. Looks like their special effects team is still having trouble with superimposing stuff on stock footage. At least they don’t do it as often as in Apocalypse.
We see the Davis family being thrown in jail. Just as Captain Killgore is done locking them up and spouting threats, he’s called away to the following scene:
“I’ve got one more for you officers.”
“Dad, please! Please don’t do this! […] Please, you don’t understand.”
“I’m afraid I do understand, son. And I’m doing this for your own good. These men can help you. Last night, I found a Bible in his room. This morning… I found him kneeling by his bed.”
“Dad, I was praying for you.”
“You’ve done the right thing, sir.”
“I wish it felt a little bit more like the right thing.”
“You’re not the first father to turn in his son. Probably half the haters in captivity have been turned in by family for re-education.”
“Son, I’m sorry. But you’ve got to believe, I’m only doing this because I love you.”
This scene takes less than a minute. And yet it is the most effective scene at conveying the horror of persecution I’ve seen in any Christian work of fiction. It’s probably my favorite scene of the movie. There may be more competently made scenes, but most of those (like that shoot-out scene from before) could’ve just as easily been thrown into a secular movie. Of the scenes that are intended to send a strong RTC message, this is the best one. And I normally have no patience for scenes that cater to the RTC’s martyr fetish, so creating such a scene that makes me feel something besides nausea is quite a feat.
This feat is accomplished because the scene in question is legitimately creepy. Being turned in by family, not because they go berserk at the mere mention of Christ, but because they honestly believe that you are harming yourself by being what you want to be, and that it’s better for you if you get re-educated? That’s scary, unnerving stuff, and both actors are doing their best to show their mutual grief. (Though I can’t help but notice how few of their lines you’d have to change to turn it into a scene about an RTC dad bringing his son to an ex-gay clinic.)
And as an added bonus, this scene gives us a rare glimpse of what the effect of the worldwide crackdown against RTCs has on non-RTCs. In most of these stories, the (ironic) witch hunt for RTCs has either seemingly no effect of society, or actually makes that society better as seen in Soon and Apocalypse. Up until god goes Old-Testament on their asses for daring to make a peaceful and prosperous society without him at least.
It may be armchair-psychology on my part, but I feel it’s a symptom of a tribe mentality and lack of empathy on the RTC’s part. It just doesn’t occur to them that a merciless persecution of RTCs could possibly affect those who don’t share their beliefs. No sign of fear of those RTCs, no false accusations, no activists who protest the treatment of RTCs on humanitarian grounds, nothing. So I’m pleased to see some slightly more subtle world building details like this. And yeah, it’s pretty sad that a scene where a father turns his son over to the police for being a Christian stands out as a subtle scene.
A shame that Captain Killgore starts taunting the kid the second his father is gone. Just in case you wondered if he might have been so bloodthirsty earlier because he was upset about the dead children in the school bus: Nope, he just hates Christians. Oh, those terrible unbelievers, all so incapable of love.
Then we go to the previously handcuffed minion and his new partner bringing MacEvilton the news that Stonepola is alive and gone, and that the CD was nowhere to be found. MacEvilton chews them out, even though he really has only himself to blame here. Still, it’s always fun to see MacEvilton do his thing.
“You listen to me, and you listen very carefully. The Day of Wonders is less than 72 hours away. If that CD makes it into the underground, and those idiots manage to find out what’s on it… they’ll do anything to expose the Messiah’s plan.”
“I understand, sir.”
“No, I don’t think you do. If you did, you wouldn’t be standing here sniveling, you’d be looking for the disk. And Thorold Stone.”
What I love is that MacEvilton has a Wanted-poster of Helen framed on his desk. It actually makes a weird kind of sense. MacEvilton is such a cliched and obvious villain, he couldn’t possibly have a loved one. Nor could he have a pet, since he can’t see puppy without kicking it. To have a picture of his enemy for his regular two minutes of hate is far more in character. Too bad it reminds me of the fact that the movie never explains how Helen got away from him after the end of Apocalypse.
Since the details of the plans of the good and bad guys thus far came in a bit fragmentary, let me recap them. Selma acquired critical data on the antichrist’s plan about a week before it went into effect, then waited several days to bring it to Helen. The bad guys found her, used loyal agents to implicate her church in a bombing and put their least loyal agent in command of a murderous SWAT team, instead of having the loyal agents kill or arrest them for the crime of being haters. The ultimate battle of good and evil, ladies and gentlemen. Criminally negligent priorities vs convoluted incompetence.
Speaking of incompetence, Stonepola is cleverly hiding in a well-lit car interior besides the road, right under a big poster of the antichrist, which gives us our first look at him in this movie… and it shows us he looks nothing like he did last time. They got a different actor, but from what I could find in the way of pictures, the actors don’t look that dissimilar. They just chose to give the antichrist the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-look this time around.
Since I’m already wearing my reviewing pants, I think I’ll go right ahead and review this poster too. The good news is, it at least looks like it might be an actual poster, not something pasted in the background with Microsoft Paint. And it looks fitting for propaganda for a despotic megalomaniac. I’m a bit concerned about the mixed message of the Day of Wonders being “for all of us”, while also asking people to report haters. I think you should have separate posters for your messages of unity and warnings against the enemies.
And there’s the logo, seen on the sleeves of the SWAT uniforms and Stonepola’s squad car, but here is the first good look we get. I like the use of purple, the color of roman emperors. The Eye of Providence is a bit much, but Macalousso is already claiming to be god so I’ll give it a pass. But the motto “Mundus Vult Decipi” is where I draw the line. That’s the first half of a rather well-known Latin phrase, meaning “The world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived”. There should be plenty of Latin-speakers among the left behind Catholics and intellectuals. Not one of them was concerned that the guy who claimed to be god established a global empire whose very motto is about deceiving the world? I call bullshit!
Stonepola’s car radio is on the Plot Points Channel, so we first get a Macalousso speech saying pretty much what that poster is saying, but in more words, followed by a news announcer that the O.N.E. is hunting for Stonepola and that they unimaginatively framed him for his partner’s murder. Then we get some snippets about New Europe being as united as the days of the Roman Empire, and the Temple of Humanity under construction in Jerusalem (How is the antichrist supposed to desecrate a temple that isn’t consecrated to any god in the first place?) and Stonepola quickly dozes off before the audience can realize what the story just glossed over right there.
Up to this point, my gut feeling was that this movie at least doesn’t feature a mind-bogglingly unrealistic portrayal of the world at large. But after these snippets and the incredibly obvious motto got me really thinking about it, I realized that this is because the movie hardly gives any portrayal of the world. The film almost entirely takes place in three different hideouts and the O.N.E. Headquarters. Beyond those locations, there’s three scenes in Stonepola’s car, the opening in Stonepola’s house, the ending in a fourth hideout and a quick glance near the blown-up school bus.
I guess that’s one way of dealing with a prophecy outline that requires nearly the entire world population to act utterly unnatural: Keep that population away from the camera’s and hope no one thinks about it. Stonepola’s main drive is to find out what happened to his family, but what are all the other people who lost their children in the rapture doing? Never explained. I still don’t even know if all the children under a certain age have vanished or not. I wonder if this lack of world building is because of budget constraints, because Cloud Ten assumes their viewers will fill in the blanks, or because they realized there was no way to build a realistic world where their prophecies could be fulfilled.
Anyway, Stonepola dreams about his encounter with Selma, with phrases of Deadmeat pointing out that it’s the same thing his wife believed, whereupon it’s his wife standing in Selma’s place, as the screen goes blurry and the camera moves disorientingly. Then he remembers shooting in vain at MacEvilton with that same editing, and right as MacEvilton raises his gun he wakes up panting. It’s a pretty good scene as dream sequences go. Four or five more scenes of that quality level will make up for “Mundus Vult Decipi”.
After Stonepola wakes up he turns over the DNA scanner, and sees a name tag of Willie Spino, the friend of Deadmeat who “does things with computers that’ll blow your mind”. Stonepola decides to take the disk to him. He enters through a rundown door with a sign that says “Beware of the dog, he’s small but he knows Kung Fu”, goes up in a ramshackle elevator and carefully advances through a hallway barren except for computer cases and monitors stacked high and wide. Oh, and a wheelchair. I call this cheating the “show, don’t tell” rule. Yes, technically I suppose they are ‘showing’ us that he’s a shut-in, sarcastic, crippled tech geek, but it’s almost as obvious as telling us.
Stonepola hears muttering and gunshots as he advances with drawn gun, and as he rounds a corner, he finds Willie with a big VR helmet covering his eyes and a revolver in his hand. When Stonepola jumps at the sight of the gun, Willie hears him, takes of the helmet and he and Stonepola have themselves a Mexican Standoff.
“Who are you?”
“Thorold Stone. A friend of [Deadmeat]’s.”
“Stone? A friend of [Deadmeat]’s, huh? That’s funny, ‘cause I heard you killed him.”
“I’m sure that’s not the only lie you heard today.”
FYI, this exchange, the radio blaming Stonepola and the few seconds of mourning over Deadmeat’s corpse that I told you about? Those are the only mentions of Stonepola’s partner and childhood friend in the entire movie after his death. Like good RTCs, the writers quickly forget the unsaved hell-bound friend.
“Yeah? And what makes you think I’m gonna believe you?”
“Because I need your help. And my gun is real.”
[Lower gun, shrugs] “’s a good point.”
Ladies and gentlemen, meet my favorite character in this movie. Between Stonepola’s “I’m so nice, but also angsty about my family”-shtick and the permanently poutiness of Helen, it’s nice to see a character with some levity and humor, even if it is inappropriate at times.
And on the note of meeting a likeable character, stay tuned for Part 2!