Revelations (Season 1) Review
Have you ever seen a trailer for a film or television show and, having some interest in it, not actually remembering what it was called. So it was with Revelations, which I saw trailed before another film but forgot about soon afterwards, other than it starred Natascha McElhone and it featured much hokum about the end of days and the appearance of the shadow of a crucifix on the side of a mountain in an otherwise clear sky. For the next year or two, I endured all manner of nonsense in the search for this show. One evening was spent watching an Udo Kier return-of-Christ drama (the unrelated Revelation) in which an ancient relic known as the Loculus is fought over by several Christian and Satanic groups before realising that not only was McElhone not in it but that it wasn't a mini-series either. Or at least it didn't end as such in spite of Kier obviously being up to no good whilst holding the baby Christ aloft in the Vatican, Him being assembled from DNA found in blood on the nails from the cross on which He originally died.
I even took up reading the novels of Dan Brown, thinking that I might have dreamt the whole thing after a night eating cheese and listening to a Radio 4 debate on Brown held during the 11pm-to-midnight slot that usually aids my going to sleep. But, again, that wasn't to prove a fruitful path, although I did rather enjoy Angels And Demons as well as the ludicrous ending of Deception Point and eventually came to the film of The Da Vinci Code. In the end, I did what I ought to have done at the very beginning and looked up Natascha McElhone on the IMDB but like a refusal to read Instruction Manuals, there's the belief that a path into the wilderness of films concerned with devilry might prove to be a fruitful one. Not that this one was but my patience proved virtuous when DVD Times offered Revelations for review. I was delighted.
I do feel that I'm on something of a religious trip recently, not only for this but also Jesus Of Nazareth, The Passion Of The Christ and Moses The Lawgiver. So much so that I worry about boring you all with considerations on Catholicism in film and television, which leaves this, as far as I know, as my last religiously-themed review for some time. And this is very much about Catholicism, an end of days miniseries in which Natascha McElhone's nun, Sister Josepha Montafiore, is seen documenting such miracles around the globe as to prove that the events of the book of Revelations are not just in our future but are imminent. These include the striking of a young girl by lightning, after which she begins speaking in Latin and quoting passages from the Bible and the aforementioned appearance of the cross on the side of a mountain. This isn't any normal cross but one on which the figure of Christ is seen turning his head to gaze down at the crowds that have gathered in witness. All of this coincides with Pullman's Dr Richard Massee travelling to South America to arrest known Satanist Isaiah Haden (Michael Massee) for the abduction, torture and murder of his daughter, Lucy (Alexa Nikolas), in a black mass, during which Haden tore out her heart. Bringing Haden back to the US for trial, Massee is sought by Montafiore as a means to find some reason behind the events that are occurring, his voice being rational to her religious one, his background in university research being much more open than her investigating for the shadowy Eklind Foundation. But these events cannot be explained and as Massee finds himself caught up in events, Montafiore and Haden reveal to him that they have something in common - a belief that the end of days is coming and that there will be a holy war between good and evil. The atheist Massee is somehow at the centre of this and together with Montafiore, he finds that Haden is, from within his prison cell, facilitating the birth of the Antichrist. But somewhere, Christ has returned as a child, leaving Montafiore and Massee to begin their search for him.
Now...Natascha McElhone as a nun? One feels the show's credibility being stretched at this point that it is very much in danger of snapping. Granted I do not know very many nuns but those I have done certainly didn't look like Natascha McElhone. When she and Pullman are being threatened by, one assumes, Satanists in a blacked-out BMW 7-Series and he drags her into a boutique to get her out of her habit, she has a, "Why Miss Montafiore...you're beautiful!" moment in dropping her dreary black dress for a dazzling scarlet one. It doesn't end there. John Rhys-Davies as Professor Jonah Lampley has, most usefully, a room full of postgraduate students to assist Pullman in his uncovering of the conspiracy, there's a secretive convent guarded by armed security agents and even Christopher Biggins makes an appearance as a cardinal within the Vatican who threatens Natascha McElhone with excommunication. All the while, Isiah Haden, having been allowed a remarkable amount of freedom for a high security prisoner, has his lawyer Nathan Volk (Tobin Bell), plan for his eventual escape with a gathering of Satanists. And, of course, somewhere out there, there is the child Christ and, at entirely different location, the Antichrist, each one being groomed for victory in the coming battle.
So, yes, amidst all the nonsense, Revelations does owe a considerable debt to the work of Dan Brown, not least in the way that Massee stumbles upon a huge conspiracy of Satanists, secret symbols, hidden museums, shadowy organisations, riddles and codes and a man unable to come to terms with the death of his daughter. Indeed, as much as Brown spun the Illuminati, Gianlorenzo Bernini, the death of a Pope and the Vatican Conclave into the breathless Angels And Demons, so Revelations brings in the Catholic Church, Satanism, the Christ reborn, the Antichrist, Bugenhagen and the fictional Ekind Foundation into a plot that leaves us on the cusp of the events of the apocalypse. None of this is at all surprising, not least when one reads the credits and finds the name David Seltzer in there. Seltzer, having written The Omen, recycles many of the ideas he last used in 1976 for Revelations, even to giving us a glimpse of a Daggers of Megiddo in Bugenhagen's crypt. Revelations, enjoyable though it is, doesn't offer the same inventiveness around its various means of ridding itself of its cast and nor does its treachery invade the upper echelons of the diplomatic circles but it does offer us Tobin Bell to boo at, Natascha McElhone and Bill Pullman to cheer on and a cellar full of Satanists guiding the Antichrist into the world via, one was surprised to see, a goat.
Without giving very much away - I know, last time I said that, I had complaints made that I gave away the entire plot of the film under review - Revelations could have been a good deal of fun had it been a couple of hours but is a strain at three-and-a-half. There's too much hopping around the globe, a Kim-from-24 styled plot regarding the kidnapping of Massee's son and his subsequent conversion to Satanism (as well as his being renamed Samael) and a good many Dan Brow-style cliffhangers. Red herrings are dropped at various times, the characters philosophise a great deal without concluding very much and, worst of all, plot points that might have been dealt with in further seasons go nowhere. There is, in particular, a woman claiming to have been raped by The Beast and, under ultrasound, is found to be carrying, literally, a devil of a child, who is then never heard from again. And like all these things, with the exception of The Exorcist, it doesn't play out anywhere near as well as one would have hoped. As Dan Brown's books invariably come down to the characters running about a good deal and finding that the previously invincible villain is offed by a nick from a dagger, so Revelations has rather a dull ending that's awfully disappointing after the highs of miracles, murder and Biblical mayhem in Hour One. Though not quite as wonderful as I had imagined it to be, two evenings went quickly by in the company of Revelations, which, though it didn't offer as much Biblical hokum as one would have liked, ticked a good deal of apocalyptical boxes without going so far as to actually have the whore of Babylon appear on the screen. Which, depending on how literal you want your end-of-the-world dramas, might not be a good thing.
Produced in 2005, this anamorphically-enhanced widescreen presentation of Revelations is a perfectly decent one, albeit one in which the colours are good but a little too dark overall. With just over two hours of content per disc, Revelations doesn't push the format and nor does anything in the show, with even the most frenetic of scenes positively sauntering along compared to how they might have appeared had this been cut for the big screen. But it does share much in common with many recent television shows currently appearing on DVD, not least CSI, in being just as dark with a certain sharpness about the image.
Unlike that show, Revelations come with a DD2.0 audio track, which is, one would think, a step down from the DD5.1 that it was probably originally produced with. Granted, this isn't a bad track at all with Dolby Pro-Logic ensuring that there is some use of the rear channels, no matter that its not at all noticeable at times, and that the dialogue is brought to the centre. Finally, there are no subtitles.
Featurette (3m13s): One imagines that this formed part of an Electronic Press Kit for Revelations in that it's a very ordinary and very short feature in which the main cast and writer/creator David Seltzer talk about the show. As one might expect, there's not a bad word to be said about the thing. Nor, actually, is very much said about it at all when, in fact, a little more from David Seltzer would have been appreciated, not least on the actual Book of Revelations and what made it from that to this show.
Deleted Scenes (14m26s): One of the very best scenes in Revelations comes when Richard Massee expounds on the science behind the Bible, including a deconstruction of the ten plagues of Egypt. One of the longest scenes here is Massee's appearance at a book signing, which sees his meeting Sister Josepha Montefiore, during which the two debate science with the aid of quotations from Carl Sagan and Jean Paul Satre and copies of their respective books, Massee's own and Montefiore's copy of the Bible. Nothing else where comes close to that but there are individual moments to enjoy, not least when Massee and Montefiore's escape from Bugenhagen's crypt is intercut with Haden eating his last supper with his disciples, literally so as he seats himself at a table in a pastiche of Da Vinci's The Last Supper.
It is a lot more entertaining than was the film of The Da Vinci Code but that wouldn't be very difficult. Actually, it's a lot of fun throughout and though it does feel very, very long, there's always a bit of Satanic nonsense to gee Revelations along when it threatens to get too dull. And after all that searching, was it worth it? Well, yes it probably was for though the actual discs are no great shakes, it does offer exactly the sort of thing that Dan Brown has gotten very successful over, with all the mutterings about conspiracies, Satanism and ritual murder that one could want. It's unfortunate that this didn't make it to a second season as it certainly ends suggesting that one was coming but then so too did the unrelated, Udo Kier-starring Revelation. Perhaps a Satanically-themed show is always destined to end badly, knowing that it will never live up to its diabolical premise. Or perhaps there's the influence of the supernatural...where's Yvette Fielding when you need her?