Plot: What’s it about?
Before Arnold Schwarzenegger came along, being named Arnold probably had a negative connotation about it. Arnold changed all that, and has saved the world against aliens and enemies, both foreign and domestic, more times than we can count. In recent years, he has shied away from doing this sort of movie and has done some family films, like “Jingle All the Way”. So, it’s good to see Schwarzenegger back in a full-fledged action movie as our hero. Or should I say “Anti-Hero”? Schwarzenegger plays probably one of his best parts, acting-wise to date. Sure, he was great and will never be forgotten in roles like Terminator 2 or True Lies, but this Arnold is a more down to earth actual person. An ex-police officer, Jericho (Schwarzenegger), has quit the job on the force and with partner, Chicago (Kevin Pollack) run a small Private Investigating service. Jericho holds himself responsible for the brutal death of his wife and daughter and has now let his life go to, pardon the pun, hell. Bordering on suicide almost daily, with a drinking problem, it’s clear to see that this is not the same Schwarzenegger that we’re accustomed to see.
This brings us to what End of Days is all about… I can’t help but to think that this movie was cashing in on all of the “Millenium” hype, and all of the sudden, that’s a word you don’t hear that much anymore. The story starts in 1979 with the birth of the “chosen child” who is born once every thousand years to mate with Satan. If this happens, Satan will take over the world and reign. Can this happen? Of course not. Flash forward 20 years and the rest of the story takes place in the last days of the 20th Century. Satan has taken the human form of Gabriel Byrne, who plays the part with an utmost perfection, walking around with a half smirk on his face; as if he knows that he’s the most powerful thing on the planet. We also meet a priest, Thomas Aquinas, who was sent to watch the “chosen girl” and make sure that she did not fall into Satan’s hands. Why not just kill her, you ask? According to the bible, she must be watched over by faith, and not murdered (that would be Satan’s way). Jericho and Chicago meet the crazed priest as he’s at the top of a building, picking people off with a rifle. Temptation, of course, is the Devil’s way. Throughout the movie, Satan has amassed an army of followers, some unknowingly and some knowingly. The movie winds down, but not slowly, as Schwarzenegger and the chosen child, Christine York (Christ in New York is how she is introduced) try to avoid a confrontation with the Devil. You see, if he doesn’t consummate with her before New Year, then all bets are off and we go back to wondering if our computer will boot up on Jan. 1.
Throughout it all, there are a lot of great chase scenes, enough religious symbolism to make your head turn, and a more docile Schwarzenegger that I really enjoyed watching. As I mentioned earlier, End of Days happened to come out exactly when the story was set, at the waning days of the last century, and for good reason. The movie has a decent cast, with Arnold, Gabriel Byrne and Kevin Pollack being the main stars. Academy Award winner, Rod Steiger has a small part as a priest, it’s nice to see him doing some movies again, no matter how small the part. If you’re so inclined, pick up End of Days, it’s not nearly as scary as it would have been before the New Year.
Video: How does it look?
”End of Days” is a very dark movie, both in tone and the physical look and feel of the film. I can remember viewing the movie when it originally came to DVD and being fairly impressed (in fact, I awarded it with a score of “5”) and six years later the movie still looks just as good as it ever did – in fact it’s better. This HD DVD version of “End of Days” embraces Peter Hyams’ vision and improves upon it. Black levels are very strong and consistent throughout and flesh tones appear natural throughout, except for a few instances but those are a result of the film and not the actual transfer. As with all HD DVD’s the detail is amazing, and I picked out several things in this transfer that I surely would have missed in a standard DVD. It’s yet another testament (no pun intended) to the look of HD DVD which has already changed the face of home theater in my book.
Audio: How does it sound?
I don’t know why, but out of all the movies I’ve seen on DVD this is one of about a dozen that really stands out as being purely impressive. I can even remember when I was watching this on standard DVD with my windows open, my neighbor was walking by on the street below and jokingly said “Hey, turn that down”! Well, six years have passed and I’m just as impressed with this soundtrack now as I was then. The Dolby Digital soundtrack is simply amazing with sonics all over the map and I don’t think the surrounds let up for more than five minutes throughout. Dialogue is clean as well. Some of the ending sequences are literally some of the best sound that I’ve heard come out of my speakers – ever. If that’s not saying a lot I don’t know what is. Simply put, you’ll be blown away.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There aren’t any new supplemental materials on this HD DVD, and everything that ws present on the standard DVD is here too. You get a full-length commentary by director Peter Hyams, which is very interesting a few music videos. You also get a documentary on the book of revelation, a featurette “Spotlight on Location” which has some behind the scenes with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kevin Pollack among others. Also, there is an isolated music score which I like more and more. There are also some DVD-ROM features as well as the standard trailer, production notes and cast bios.