That whole millennium thing sure was a bust, huh? And not just for the
folks who wasted money on canned goods and bottled water or for the
Satanists who wanted the downfall of society. Financially, a lot of people
took a bath, especially everyone who created these mega-expensive New Year's
Eve parties that attracted few revelers.
Hollywood also suffered from the lack of millennial fever, mainly because
they foisted a bunch of apocalyptic efforts upon us but none caught fire at
the box office. Probably the most highly-anticipated of the bunch was End
Of Days, which also had the distinction of being the last
millennium-oriented Hollywood film to appear prior to the actual date. Add
to that its $83 million budget and the fact it was Arnold Schwarzenegger's
first movie since 1997's Batman and Robin and you can understand why so many
viewed it as a potential blockbuster.
Alas, that was not to be. I don't know if EOD was a victim of millennial
apathy or if movie-goers just thought it looked stupid, but it didn't
perform at the box office. It grossed a not-horrible but pretty weak $66
million in the US and faded away pretty quickly.
And pretty deservedly so. EOD isn't a terrible movie but it's a pretty blah
one, and that's not a good sign for an action/horror/thriller. The film's
greatest flaw stems from the fact that for pretty much all of the movie,
we're way ahead of the characters. It's not unusual for films -
particularly horror pictures - to let the audience in on aspects of the
action before the on-screen participants learn, but in this case, it reaches
an absurd extreme. By maybe ten minutes into the thing, we know exactly
what's happening - and what will happen - for at least the first half
of the film. That means an hour or more of plot that goes nowhere because
it's already essentially been covered.
The second half of EOD isn't quite as predictable, but by that point,
the film had already lost me, and the events of the final hour weren't
compelling enough to regain my interest. Sure, the movie contains a few
well-executed action pieces - actually, one chase scene early in the picture
provides some of its best thrills - but these can't redeem the film's slow
EOD offers Arnold Schwarzenegger's first movie since 1997's
disastrous Batman and Robin, and it's clear he hasn't spent the time
off taking acting lessons. To be fair, Arnie is and always will be more of
a solid presence than an actual thespian, and even though he's slimmed down
after his heart surgery, he's still bulkier and more chiseled than 99
percent of us could ever hope to be. He actually looks more recognizably
human, which helps him in this role, one that requires him to be more
sensitive and less robotic than usual. Unfortunately, he still can't quite
pull off the emotional aspects of the movie, though I applaud him for
Also underwhelming is performance by Robin Tunney as Christine, the woman at
the center of the plot. Arnie can't act, but at least he offers that strong
presence; Tunney, on the other hand, might have some acting skills but
provides an absolutely negligible presence on-screen. She's so wan and flat
that she might as well not have been there. Couldn't they find someone with
a little more zest and personality?
At least two of the supporting actors help. We get the wonderful Gabriel
Byrne as "The Man" (really the Devil). He has some trouble with his
American accent but otherwise gives the film a really kick in the pants with
his slyly subversive portrayal of the ultimate baddie. He contains any
thoughts of over-emoting and provides EOD with some of its high
I'm not much of a fan of Kevin Pollak but he does at least give his
formulaic role as Arnie's sidekick Chicago a bit more punch than the usual
comic pal. By the way, it should be observed that EOD displays a
something of a Usual Suspects-wannabe syndrome. Not only are two of
that film's stars in EOD (Byrne and Pollak) but it also steals one of
Usual Suspect's most memorable lines, "The greatest trick the devil
ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
This was some pretty shameless stealing, but at least it made End Of
Days more interesting to me since I could think about the
vastly-superior Usual Suspects for a while and be entertained by
those memories. EOD is a slickly-made, mildly watchable thriller
that doesn't do much terribly wrong but simply never catches fire. It
offers a few thrills but they're too few to make the movie anything good.
End of Days appears in its original theatrical aspect ratio of
approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has
been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As one might expect of such a recent -
and expensive - movie, End of Days provides a pretty solid picture.
Sharpness is one of this DVD's strongest points, as the image looks
consistently extremely crisp and detailed; even in wide shots I never
noticed the slightest softness. Moiré effects and jagged edges also
appeared absent, though I did see some mild artifacts from the anamorphic
downconversion on my 4X3 TV. The print used for the transfer seemed largely
very clean, with no signs of grain, speckles or scratches. Strangely, I did
observe what appeared to be two burn-holes about a half an hour in to the
movie, which offered a weird anomaly in an otherwise clean print.
As is typically of such apocalyptic films, the palette of EOD is
pretty restricted, but it manages to seem accurate and clear. We do find
some rich reds at times, which liven up the picture. Black levels are
always deep and dark, and while shadow detail occasionally seemed too
heavy - especially early in the film - it usually appeared appropriately
opaque but not overly so. All in all, End Of Days looks very good.
Even better is the movie's bombastic Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. This mix
provides a very nicely encompassing experience. The soundfield created
sounds excellent, with all five channels actively blasting mayhem at you.
It also serves quieter moments well, as we hear subtle effects pop up all
around us. From start to finish, this mix cranks up the action and really
helps make an otherwise somewhat blah movie more exciting.
Audio quality also seems very good. Dialogue occasionally gets a little
buried in all of the noise, but it appears clear and natural, without any
overtly "dubbed"-sounding instances. The score seems a bit overwrought but
it sounds good, with appropriately bright highs and some solid bass.
Effects also appear clean and realistic, and they pack a strong punch.
End Of Days sounds great.
End Of Days is part of Universal's generally terrific "Collector's
Edition" series, so we can count on a decent number of solid supplemental
features. First up is a running audio commentary from director Peter Hyams.
This track tends to seem pretty dry much of the time - especially since
Hyams clearly needed a while to warm up - and it includes a lot more blank
spots than I'd like, but I still found it worth a listen. Hyams offers
virtually no information that criticizes his cast and crew, but he knocks
himself in a self-deprecating way and he gives us a lot of interesting
information about the filmmaking process; there's a fair amount of stuff I'd
never heard addressed in other tracks, such as details about the
restrictions put on the use of babies. It's not a great commentary, but
Next up is a promotional featurette called Spotlight On Location. This is
a series of programs that Universal have created for their recent films, and
they don't sufficiently replace the older documentaries the studio produced
for releases like Field of Dreams and The Thing; I wish
Universal would put that level of effort into the programs that accompany
their newer titles.
Despite that, "Spotlight On Location" is actually pretty decent; like other
"SOL" productions, it may be largely promotional but it's more compelling
than most other studios' featurettes. The piece for EOD is longer
than most of those as well, at 25 minutes. Too much of the documentary
seemed excessively self-aggrandizing; this is one of those pieces that shows
everyone praise everyone else. However, I did really like some shots of an
effects explosion and other on-set material, which helped make up for the
Much more effects footage appears in Special Effects: The Devil's
Playground. This area offers nine different sections that address various
effects issues and it runs for about 40 minutes total. The material can be
a bit dry, since it's so heavily involved in the creation and execution of
technical aspects of the film, but it's still quite interesting, especially
due to the fact that we learn about a lot of different forms of effects.
Each section is worth a look, and the structure makes it easy to check out
different areas without having to sit through the rest.
Book Of Revelation provides a very nice text history of that part of the
Bible. I liked this aspect of the DVD because it provided information I
didn't know well, and it helped give the film a stronger historical
Soundtrack Presentation provides an ad for the soundtrack album plus
videos from Rob Zombie ("Superbeast") and Everlast ("So Long"). In total,
this segment runs for about nine and a half minutes. Both of the videos
offer nothing more than the usual lip-synch/film clip combinations, thought
Zombie's is at least a little more exciting and kinetic; the Everlast piece
seemed exceedingly drab and dull.
A few old stand-bys can be found here as well. The theatrical trailer for
EOD appears, as does a preview for current release U-571,
which can be found in the "Universal Showcase". Text information appears in
the "Cast and Filmmakers" section, which provides mediocre biographies of
five actors and Hyams, and in the pretty good Production Notes; the latter
are duplicated in the DVD's booklet.
Finally, some DVD-ROM features round out the package. According to the DVD
itself, the DVD-ROM features "include additional materials about the movie,
sound clips from the film, behind the scenes interviews and other
information." Still no DVD-ROM drive for me equals still no comments about
them, but at least you know they're there!
End Of Days had some potential to create an exciting, pre-apocalyptic
cash-in on millennial fever, but it manages to only provide intermittent
thrills tempered by a pretty dull and predictable plot. The DVD itself is a
winner, as it offers very solid picture, sound and extras. The high quality
of the presentation and the mildly interesting nature of the film makes it
worth a rental, I suppose, but I doubt it'll provide any form of long-term