Miniseries seem to be the best of all worlds for visual entertainment. Miniseries are often longer than a feature movie allowing more in-depth character development and intricate plots. Miniseries also have larger $ per minute for better production values and are shorter than a full series so that plotlines are rarely stretched beyond their remit (Voyager anyone?). It is a mystery, then, that very few miniseries actually work. Revelations does not buck this trend.
Set in present times, Revelations is essentially a modern day reworking of The Omen - one of the better movies based on the corpus of Christian doctrine. Dr. Richard Massey (Bill Pullman) is an Astronomer based in Harvard University. His daughter wad brutally sacrificed by Satanists in a ritual that was supposed to bring the birth of the Anti-Christ. Massey, single handed, tracked down the head Satanist, Isaiah Haden (Michael Massee) who now resides in prison on a life sentence. Somehow, Haden is reaching out to his followers and is organising some kind of comeback ritual, this time using Massey's son Hawk (Mark Rendall). In amongst all this there are signs of the end of days sprouting up everywhere, catching the attention of Sister Josepha Montefiore (Natascha McElhone) a sister on the hunt for the newly reborn Christ - Christ and his opposite number destined to be born at the same time in these final days.
Now, this all means that the first attempt to bring the birth of the antichrist was all a bit too early, seeing as all the signs are only now appearing. This is one of the problems with this miniseries; it just doesn't have a tight script, some of it making little sense. Hawk's transformation into a mind controlled automaton is largely done between takes, and we never really buy it. Nor do we buy the charisma of head Satanist Haden. He has got to be one of the most irritating antagonists this side of Dr. Who's “Slitheen”. Haden appears as a head case religious nut whose arguments for a whole scale (and thoroughly predictable) prison riot are laughable. In fact only The Saw's Tobin Bell, who plays Haden's right hand man Nathan Volk, carries off his part for the black corner. It gets little better with the White team, most of whom seem to be in some kind of acting coma most of the time. Pullman and McElhone have only two expressions - pained resignation and wide-eyed pleading. It is left to the unusually high calibre guest stars to pull things around for the whites (like Tobin does, in fact). Patrick Bauchau, John Rhys-Davies and remarkably out very own Christopher Biggins all play perfect roles without extra ham and show how things should be done. Other plus points would have to be the locations which all appear to be the real thing rather than a studio and some rather unusual crane shots that, for cost reasons, normally can't be used in other productions.
While the acting does have its faults, there are more fundamental problems with the script and direction. The first is that the entire story is supposed to take place in six hours. This takes into account flights from Harvard to Italy at least once, and to various train journeys to other parts of the US. Revelations in no way adheres to this especially as one line states “the meeting will take place 48 hours from now, is that about right?” If the basic titling of the episodes aren't even correct, then is bodes ill for the rest of the series.
Speaking of story, Revelations reins in the overt cadence of the Old Testament for the mundane aspects of the plot, like Hawk's abduction and goes full tilt on parts which don't need any more religious colour. In doing so, the satanic parts are so caricatured they are almost comedies (look out for the bit where Hayden starts singing “Green Bottles on the Wall”). While the mundane parts are really dry and overloaded with exposition because the Satanists are too busy sounding obliquely evil.
Except that evil doesn't really cut it as Revelations is never actually scary, something of an omission considering the horror genre this miniseries is supposedly a part of. Instead what we get is a po-faced, overwrought, by the numbers miniseries that uses religious mythos as a means of adding credence but applies this in such a way to achieve the exact opposite.
Our Review Ethos