Apocalypse II: Revelation: Part 3
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!