wingedbeast ([personal profile] wingedbeast) wrote2017-06-08 05:44 pm
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The Case for Remaking The Prophecy

The Prophecy has a nebulous place in film-going memory. If you've heard of it, your primary point of interest is, likely, Christopher Walken. Why wouldn't it be? Christopher Walken has a voice and a cadence that... somehow works with almost any role he takes on. And, there are some lines, here, that work only because Christopher Walken says them.

Gabriel: Do you know how you got that dent, in your top lip? Way back, before you were born, I told you a secret, then I put my finger there and I said "Shhhhh!"

Some lines work, regardless, but Walken really makes them sing.

Gabriel: I'm an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why.

And, some don't even come from Walken, but they work.

Lucifer: I can lay you out and fill your mouth with your mother's feces, or we can talk.

Even with all of that, it's still largely a forgettable movie. And, in terms of movies being discussed today, it's often just forgotten. It's not entirely forgotten, as it was brought back to my memory by the team at "God Awful Movies"*. Still, largely.

The Prophecy, for those who don't remember, focuses on Thomas Daggett as the human protagonist as he finds out about a second war in Heaven. That's right, after the first one (which, by my understanding, is far more based in Milton than in the Bible), there was a second one. This one didn't involve angels going to Hell and wasn't fought over an attempted mutiny in Heaven, but about angels upset that humans were given souls and they weren't.

The war has reached a stalemate for... however long you want, really. We find out that the rebellious-but-not-in-Hell angels are looking for a chance at a big win. Apparently, they aren't that good at learning new tricks on their own. So, while they've laid waste to entire cities (this is, in fact, stated in the movie), they can't figure out some of the ways of warfare. The attempted fix to that is to take the soul of a recently dead mass murderer and ex-military general.

To keep this particular macguffin from the rebellious angels, the good angels, through deep-kiss based powers, first take the soul from the dead body and then hide the soul in the body of a child... yeah, this movie gets really weird for being so forgettable.

The eventual victory comes from the presence of Lucifer, who starts out with the line noted above and has a few other good ones. As victories go, it's rather lack-luster. He notes that Gabriel's rebellion is evil and, therefore, his, and, therefore, Gabriel goes to Hell. Then, Lucifer tries to take Thomas Daggett to Hell, but Thomas Daggett has faith and that stymies Lucifer, who returns to Hell.

That, along with a bit of buddy-comedy from the fact that Gabriel gets servants/side-kicks by delaying the deaths of people who commit suicide, makes for a fairly amusing way to spend a couple hours. But, it could be more.

There are a couple things stopping it from being more. One of which is a budget that really doesn't live up to the ambitions of the movie. The other is comes from the beginning. The war between angels is set up and the basic philosophical difference is established. One angel says this about his (they're established as being hermaphroditic, but present as male and use male pronouns) side. "Sometimes you have to just do what you're told."

In the context of a traditional view of Christianity, that can be understandable. Even some fairly liberal sects of Christianity can tend to hold to a Divine Command/Nature basis of morality. That morality is summed up in that sentence. "Sometimes you have to just do what you're told."

But, there's historical context to that sentiment, a history that includes the words "I was just following orders." People just doing what they're told and, in fact, taking pride in that kind of position are why we now have the phrase "the banality of evil."

Heck, the Bible isn't fully behind that kind of thinking. Abraham and Lot both haggled to preserve a city marked for destruction. Moses bargained over the laws of Israel and, in at least one occasion in the Bible, went up to God to get the law changed and corrected when an oversight came up.

If you ever find yourself in the position of advocating a moral stance of "just do what you're told", you should pause and take stock of yourself and your situation. This is all the more true if "just do what you're told" involves deep-kissing the soul out of the corpse of a mass-murdering general in order to, later, deep-kiss that soul into a child. I don't know what angelic skulls look like, but take a moment to check your cap.

With the primary focus on Gabriel and his bad-guy team, as well as a flimsy case that it was about God liking humans more than angels, this "just do what you're told" side and morality don't get the analysis that they deserve.

Yet, there's a point made within the movie. Daggett says it aloud, for all to hear.

Thomas Daggett: Did you ever notice how in the Bible, when ever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?

If you want the basis of a second conflict in Heaven, here you have it.

One of the newer reactions to biblical genocides is one I dislike, but is applicable here. It asks about the suffering and sacrifice made by those who conducted the genocides, that is the very soldiers who, in the case of Amalek, killed all those infants. I usually dislike that, because it's usually done as a distraction from the morality of the order in the first place. But, it has a place, here.

Some of the operators of armed drones have suffered PTSD from having killed people.

Then, there's Daggett, himself; not the character so much as the concept. Thomas Daggett is an ex-priest who, when taking his orders, was shown too much, by God, and lost faith. He then switched to a job in the police, which put him in position to investigate. That is... a strange career path, at least. And, far stranger than is needed or useful for the story.

He's an investigator, a police officer who knows Latin well enough to translate an Angelic Bible with material on this second conflict.

And, there are other issues that don't hold up under much thought. For instance, the angels are so biologically different from humans that a cursory glance will acknowledge it, and the war has been raging for thousands of years with angels battling each other on earth, yet their existence (or at least the evidence thereof) is not common knowledge.

All of that comes down to a movie that aspires to weighty thought but balks at actually giving much thought.

The factors I want to keep are a religiously literate viewpoint character, a soul that is competent at war and desires to kill for its own sake, the two factions of Heaven, the presence of Lucifer, and, if at all possible, Christopher Walken. In fact, if we can have Christopher Walken play all the angelic parts, so much the better.

In this version, rather than have Thomas Daggett be an ex-priest-now-cop, let's just leave him as a priest. He has a difficult task ahead of him, relating to an American war-criminal. He did horrible things in the war, things that couldn't be swept under the rug. Now, he claims to want absolution and salvation... But, he's not really penitent about his crimes. In private confession, he's technically confessing his sins but, in his tone... he's bragging and enjoying.

He's at the end of his life, soon to die, perhaps with an ailment that makes that death seem all the more inevitable. It's hard to look at someone like that and not want to make them feel better. At the same time, it's hard to take someone obviously lavishing in the attention and the power and the memory and feel okay giving them what they want.

That sets the scene for the oncoming struggle. Angels want the war-criminal. Angels of Heaven want him specifically because he is an unrepentant war-criminal who would make effective, brutal war regardless of side. They can only get his soul under one of two conditions.

In the first condition, he receives absolution. There's a significant question of whether or not that's even possible. He's not truly penitent. A priest can do the rite and say the words but something would be missing. Besides, that would simply move the conflict to grab him as a murderous macguffin to another plane of existence.

In the second condition, they take his soul before he dies of earthly cause. Being able to control, personally, where he goes, the angel who takes his soul has him, as a weapon, for their side.

Then, there's the devil. Lucifer, in the movie we have, is blatantly evil. He wants you to know that he's evil and he has some amazing lines for just that effect... Which is starting to make me wonder if he's really in opposition to God or if he's just play-acting his part of the con to keep people in faithful line.

Lucifer, in this movie, should never explicitly admit to being evil or that Hell involves torment. What he presents is an awareness of the nature of the conflict and a third option. The truth of his third option can be left in the air.

The war is as follows. On one side, you have the ones who sometimes have to just do what they're told. On the other side, you have the angels who now resist. They're not in Hell because they're not looking to overthrow God. They just don't want to be the instruments of death. Ironically, they have to be, at least temporarily, in order to stop.

As time goes on, Lucifer can point out how both sets of angels are scarred. A physical scar can include the scarred over-but-not-fully-healed burns from raining burning sulfur onto an entire city ever so long ago. The scars that really hurt are the psychological ones. Even without suffering the physical wounds, both sides have PTSD and a lack of legitimate place to even admit that.

All the while, you have Lucifer advocating for not letting the war criminal go to them, not attempting absolution and not letting them get their hands on this soul. The question will come of what does Lucifer intend to do with this soul. I mean, he's a bad guy and nobody will argue that he shouldn't be punished at all... but eternal torment will, eventually, outweigh anything he's done and start just being cruel... forever.

Lucifer won't say anything specific. "I wouldn't do anything specific to him. Personally, he reminds me too much of someone I used to know to bare looking at him for very long." His perspective, though, will be one of acknowledging the moral fallibility and failure of a God who would put angels in this position in the first place... as well as a few other choice passages from the Bible.

Considering the circumstances, would it be right to even attempt to grant absolution to such a man? Would it be right not to? How much suffering in Heaven would be caused by such a man? How much suffering would be made far shorter by use of such a man as a sort of human nuclear weapon? How can we manage to get Christopher Walken in on this on a short budget?

All questions to be asked.

A final aside: I was glad to find, in using Google to search and verify quotes, to find that this movie does reside more in memory than I first thought. There's an entire page for this.

* "God Awful Movies" is a podcast by the team that also produces "The Scathing Atheist" and "Skepticrat". "God Awful Movies" reviews and deconstructs, with great vulgarity and your-mileage-may-vary offensive roast-comedy. I enjoy it.
dragoness_e: Living Dead Girl (Living Dead Girl)

[personal profile] dragoness_e 2017-06-11 03:49 am (UTC)(link)
I believe they made like 5 sequels to this movie, too. Haven't seen them, but the first one was just amazing. Have you ever noticed that horror movies don't always feel the need to confine themselves to orthodox views of God or the Devil?

You forgot to mention that Lucifer was played by Viggo Mortenson. As I saw The Prophecy on a VHS rental *after* I saw Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring... it was doubly weird. Viggo is very good at being a creepy Lucifer.

(Our hero, Thomas Dagget, first runs into Lucifer as a beautiful, long-haired, bearded man with a certain light around him--you know, like the usual illustrations of White Jesus. So he blinks and asks if he's God.)

Lucifer: God? God is love. I don't love you.

Viggo's delivery was just perfect; to me it was like "Hello, Sauron just walked on stage". Also, Lucifer was sort of the Third Option in the whole mess--the "Game Over" option. Thomas lacked the power to stop Gabriel, but he did have the moral power NOT to fall to Lucifer. I rather liked the resolution, it was elegant and not obvious from the beginning and Lucifer had his place in things.