Apocalypse II: Revelation: Part 2
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!