DVD REVIEW: Prophecy 3: The Ascent
Before I begin this review, let me preface it with the statement that I have an affinity for warring angel stories. It’s definitely not due to the religious foundation for I am a devout philosopher-pagan, but there is a certain attraction to me to such epic battles, such grandly portrayed ageless, beautiful creatures with expansive feathered wings battling for eons over the true right to the universe. If you tell me a story has warring angels or a battle between God and the Devil I’ll, nine times out of ten, give it a moment of my time.
This does not necessarily mean I’ll like it, but I will look twice. I also have a huge fascination with Christopher Walken. Ever since I saw him as Nick in THE DEER HUNTER, I was an instant fan and he has yet to disappoint me. He is a brilliant, intelligent, no-excuses actor, an icon of the American film industry and American culture. Can I say, “More cowbell!”?
These two declarations of obsession being made, I feel torn as to how to accurately express my reaction to the 2000 fantasy film PROPHECY 3: THE ASCENT, directed by Patrick Lussier. It does indeed have warring angels and Mr. Walken in it, as no other than the Arch-Angel Gabriel himself…though a slightly psychotic and earth-bound version, but the movie as a whole left me a little disappointed. The story preface is a descent one: as a conclusion to THE PROPHECY TRIOLGY, Pyriel (Scott Cleverdon), the Angel of Genocide, has risen to power and intends to destroy all of mankind. There is one that stands in his way, a man named Danyael (Dave Buzzotta), a half Angel-half mortal who is just now discovering the truth of what he is after being hunted by Pyriel’s right-hand-Angel, Zophael (Vincent Spano). Under the watchful eye of the deranged, now human, Arch-Angel Gabriel, Danyael must save humanity from Pyriel before Zophael kills him…
It has the makings of an epic film, and perhaps with a slightly larger budget for special effects it would have been just that. This is not to say that the main actors, Walken, Spano, Buzzotta and Cleverdon did a poor job. In fact, despite a rather predictable script with somewhat forced angelic references and attempts at “clever” humor, they pulled off a very watchable film. I did feel as if Walken was skating a little in this film. It was too easy for him; there was no challenge, no depth that he could really dig for to make it one of those performances from which people quote from for decades afterwards like TRUE ROMANCE or PULP FICTION.
This stuff was old hat for him and the film was just a nice little bit of extra cash and some minor amusement. Regardless, he was definitely one of the high points of this film. This can also be said for Spano’s portrayal of Zophael. In all honesty, he did as much as he possibly could with the character and his presentation of an angelic bounty hunter as equally watchable as Walken’s homeless Gabriel. I always like to watch actor’s eyes in films like these to try to read what they’re really feeling during scenes, especially when the dialog is a bit long in the tooth. In the scenes where Walken and Spano are interacting the same mild amusement is there and I can imagine the sets were pretty entertaining once the cameras stopped rolling.
Cleverdon did an excellent job in his very limited performance as Pyriel, the Angel of Genocide. It is unfortunate that he had so little time in this film as he made an excellent psychotic and power—hungry angel, one both beautiful and terrible in his madness and bloodlust. However, he appears only a mere five minutes or so before being killed off. Ah, such a tragedy. As for the leads, Dave Buzzotta and Kayren Butler, who played Maggie, Danyael’s human girlfriend, I simply felt that they were very green in this film. Buzzota’s performance was, while a bit raw and, like the other actors, struggling with a overwritten script, good and definitely watchable. As for Butler’s portrayal of Maggie…she is the one thing that highly irritated me in this film. She was annoying and whiney, with the same pained expression on her face that I’m sure she spent hours perfecting, in almost every shot with her in it.
The film almost could have done without her at all. I really didn’t see where her character added anything to the storyline. Even the so-called love between Maggie and Danyael really played such a minor role in the film that the character could have been eliminated entirely without major gaps in the script. Oh…wait…Zophael needed someone to drive him to the place where Pyriel was resurrecting! Right, I forgot, apparently angels can’t fly?! Yes, I know, it’s a minor detail, but one that took up the last quarter of the movie so I would like to call it to everyone’s attention. Just like my beef with people who write about vampires that walk in daylight, don’t make an angel unable to fly just because they’re here on Earth, unless there’s a damned good reason for it. Sorry, I’m a traditionalist in many respects to fantasy and horror and that’s a big pet peeve of mine.
To bring this review to conclusion, my verdict on THE PROPHECY 3: THE ASCENT is that it is an enjoyable Sunday-afternoon-snoozing-on-the-couch rental. There is enough of Walken’s quirkiness and Spanos’ sexy sneering to make it entertaining and the pace of the movie is definitely quick enough so that it feels like you’ve only spent a half hour in front of the tube. I’m interested to check out the first two THE PROPHECY movies since Walken is apparently in both and it is always highly likely that the first two are ultimately better than the third installment of any film. Why even the Boston Globe called the first THE PROPHECY film a “must-see” movie! I shake my head and wonder why the third apple always falls so far from the cinematic tree? No offense, Christopher, I will always be happy to play more cowbell for you!