Oct 061995
4.5 reels

Archangel Gabriel (Christopher Walken) has started a second war in heaven, but as angels are so well matched and lack originality, he needs a dark human soul to show him how to win.  The chosen soul is hidden by the angel Simon (Erich Stoltz) in a young girl and it is left to policeman Thomas Daggett (Elias Koteas) and teacher Katherine Henley (Virginia Madsen) to keep the soul from Gabriel.

Let me get what doesn’t work out of the way.  Elias Koteas displays all the charisma of a damp rag, a damp rag that’s been left on the floor to grow mold for a month.  His Thomas Daggett has lost his faith, and I couldn’t care less.  Virginia Madsen is fine, but it’s hard to figure why her character is in the film.  Would it violate some filmmaking law if there was no adult female in the picture?  Then there is the goal: to get the soul of a specific evil general.  Why him?  I get that he was evil, but aren’t there plenty of other humans with military expertise carrying out genocide as I write this?  Wouldn’t they do?  If not, how about four or five of them together?

So, with a poor lead, and a nonsensical plot, how can The Prophecy be good?  Ah, in so many ways.  First, there is writer/director Gregory Widen’s haunting and unforgettable take on angels.  I’ve seen the blissful, white-sheet angels all of my life.  But Widen, through Daggett, asks a chilling question for anyone who believes:

“Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever 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?”

My answer is yes, but only from a distance and only if he doesn’t see me.  These are frightening creatures and The Prophecy shows that.  And they are not human.  Widen’s angels are a bit off, a little strange.  They perch, which is a genius stroke.  Even the good ones have a touch of pedophilia about them.  Obviously they aren’t sexually interested in children as it’s made very clear that they are asexual, but the way Simon gets Mary close and touches her is just a little uncomfortable.  Add in Gabriel with the school children in his lap and it makes me feel that there is something wrong about them, which is the idea.

The concept of the angels is brilliant, but the specific portrayals are even better.  Eric Stoltz’s Simon is an excellent representation of The Prophecy’s angels.  He is so sure of himself, and yet has no reason to be, no understanding.  The film, however, belongs to Christopher Walken.  Gabriel was the role he was born to play.  He is alien, frightening, and funny.  There is nothing he could have done better.  Many of the best moments are exchanges between him and his sidekicks (Amanda Plummer, Adam Goldberg), suicides who Gabriel has kept from death and forced into his service.  As he points out, he needs them because angels never learned to drive.  Finally, there is Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn in Lord of the Rings) as my favorite film Lucifer—powerful, smart, philosophical, and really, really scary.  In a gleeful voice, he tells Daggett, “How I loved listening to your sweet prayers. Then you would hop into bed, afraid that I was hiding under it. And I was!”

On top of all that, Widen creates a war in heaven.  Angels are fighting angels out of jealousy and neither side can win.  Where is God in all this?  No one knows, particularly the angels.  Some have faith, some don’t, and it’s hard to see which is better off.

The Prophecy is an imperfect movie, but it is filled with ideas, lines, and images that will stick with you for years.

It is followed by The Prophecy II and The Prophecy 3: The Ascent.  Two new films in the series are coming out in 2005, both lacking Walken.