Released at the height of the millennium panic, End of Days foretold the end of the world when Satan would walk the earth and spawn the child of hell that would bring about the destruction of mankind. This isn’t exactly your standard Arnold Schwarzenegger affair and nor does it play out like one. While we’re used to a decidedly less dramatic Schwarzenegger in our action films, he takes full reins of a trouble security cop, fighting his own demons. It’s an interesting role, but one that didn’t ultimately pay off for Schwarzenegger; the film was a bit of a flop and was panned by critics.
Jericho (Schwarzenegger) is thrown into the middle of a war with Satan when he begins to unravel a mystery that’s surrounding New York City. With the new millennium shortly arriving, Satan must father the child in the woman secretly patronized by Satanists in 1979, but only if he bears the child before eleven P.M. and midnight on New Year’s Eve. Racing against the clock, Jericho must do all he can to protect the young woman from bringing about the destruction of Earth, all the while fighting his own set of demons after losing his wife and daughter to a brutal and senseless crime.
I’m not sure what I hate worse about End of Days: the fact that it looked so good or the fact that it turned out so bad. Ok, so it may not have looked entirely promising, but it’s a Schwarzenegger flick about the end of the world and he’s the only man who can stop it—usual action her formula, only this time Schwarzenegger’s character is given a little more depth than “muscular hard ass”, so it had some promise tucked away in it. I think that’s what irks me most about the film—that it could have been something great. Instead it’s stuck in limbo right at mediocre, offering up a few things that make a great film, all the while being candy coated in a wrapping of suck.
Despite hearing bad things about the film, I went into it with an open mind. I actually quite enjoyed the first half hour of the film, which I had to pause after hitting the half-hour mark to do something else. Eagerly, I returned to the film to finish it off and not only did I become incredibly bored with the film, the plot just became more and more ridiculous. I suppose I shouldn’t try to understand Satan or whatever version of the Bible they’re using to attempt to make sense of this film, but whoever creates such stupid loopholes as “Satan has to have sex within a one hour period in Easter Standard Time on New Year’s Eve in order to end mankind!” should just stop it. They’re not doing anyone any favors by dooming mankind. I can even look past the convenience of the plot in favor of just trying to enjoy a movie, but its everything else that gets cobbled together to form this cluster of a movie that just makes it wholly impossible to enjoy.
While I did enjoy the character of Jericho at first (as a side note, it was when he was officially referred to as “Jericho” is when the film started to go down the tubes for me), once we got into his depression more and more, Schwarzenegger slowly began to lose grip of the character. I haven’t seen Schwarzenegger attempt to perform a dramatic role before and while he did it admirably well for the first half of the movie, like everything else about the film, it really started to just suck once Satan started getting involved in the plot details more and more. Jericho’s partner, Bobby (Kevin Pollak), was even a highlight of the film and when he was “turned” by Satan, it was hard to believe. Jericho and Bobby’s final showdown in which Bobby decides not to kill Jericho is completely crap, as if he was able to make that kind of decision before I doubt he would have left Jericho to die at the hands of a bunch of Satanists. Or maybe I’m giving his character too much credit, who knows.
Admittedly the film has a bit of a cheesy/guilty pleasure thing going for it if you absolutely love Schwarzenegger films or films with horribly and noticeably bad plot devices such as the whole conception of Satan’s baby, but one thing that is really quite distracting in the film was the CGI. I realize it was made in 1999, but for the amount of CGI work done in this film, the budget really needed to be higher. It just wasn’t enough to make parts of the film work and when the big fiery satanic beast popped out of the church floor, it looked like an incredibly shiny, plastic toy that you’d find on children’s television rather than a big Schwarzenegger flick. Still I could’ve looked past the CGI if the rest of it just wasn’t such a horrible mixture of mediocre plot devices and characters.
Overall you can safely Skip this one. If you have a curiosity for all thing Schwarzenegger then it’s interesting to check out just for his role as a depressed former NYC cop, but aside from that, I wouldn’t put much effort into tracking down a copy of this one.
Part of Universal’s second wave of Blu-ray’s and a member of the “Action Pack” release that hits the same day as this does individually, End of Days is a rather curious choice to shove on the home video format ahead of other…erm, better films, but I guess the aggressive audio mix is what made this a member of the Action Pack. The disc itself comes in a standard Blu-ray case with reflective foil insert. Inside the case is an insert advertising other Universal Blu-ray’s and the format itself and, of course, the disc which mimics the cover art. Menus are of the same style as the last wave of Universal Blu-ray releases, with the XBOX LIVE-like menu “blades” on the left hand side of the screen.
The video for this release is a pleasant AVC encoded transfer that delivers the films incredibly stark picture with deep and inky blacks. There’s some detail washed away by DNR, but for the most part it’s a decent transfer in the visual department, but certainly nothing that really shows off the capabilities of the format. The audio, on the other hand, is a rambunctious DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that just begs to be played loud. With all of the various sound effects whirling around the speakers and the powerful subwoofer output, End of Days certainly wants you to feel like you’re watching a fantastic action film, even if the visuals that accompany the violent sound mix aren’t quite up to par. Spanish and French DTS 5.1 tracks are also available, as are English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
Extras on the disc include the fantastic Blu-ray exclusive “Collect Your Own Movie Clips!” extra. I kid you not, that is actually advertised on the back of this case. I can’t imagine what you’d want to bookmark, unless its Satan’s first appearance when he comes out of the men’s bathroom and grabs a woman’s breasts and makes out with her in the restaurant, which is one of the funniest things I’ve seen put on film. The almighty Satan is that eager to perform that he just…bam. Incredible.
Having said that a commentary with director Peter Hyams is present and whether you find it interesting or worth your time is going to rely on just how much you enjoyed the film itself. It’s a very technical and in-depth commentary that discusses the making of the film, so if you want to know all about how this wonderful film was made, then this track is for you. Oddly enough the HD-DVD version of the film featured extras that were from the DVD release, but I guess Universal didn’t want to take the time to port them over to the Blu-ray release as well. Not a huge deal, as I doubt there’s anyone out there who will truly want to trade up their DVD edition for this film.
Overall this release, like the film, can be Skipped. Even Universal knew not to put too much effort into this one by leaving off of the extras but the commentary, so don’t even give this on ea second thought.
End of Days arrives on Blu-ray on August 26th.