It is rather difficult to pick apart a movie where Arnold Schwarzengger blows up Satan with a grenade launcher. That is monumentally stupid, but End of Days manages to become even dumber.
Kudos to Gabriel Byrne who plays someone titled The Man, an investment banker possessed by Satan. Surely this a great role for someone’s resume, and a great piece for an interview (“I played Satan back in ’99”). He is after Christine York (Robin Tunney), born with the sole purpose to become impregnated with Satan’s baby in 1999.
Much of End of Days is a chase where The Man needs to find Christine before the clocks strikes midnight on New Year’s, 2000. Cue up random, dated fears about Y2K in an attempt to beef up the intensity, and you have the backdrop for this hilariously campy mess.
Satan, all-powerful in this film, is able to bring people back to life and splatter people’s heads with a single punch, but can’t seem to track a single woman. One would think with a plan in place for 20-years since Christine was born, Satan would have some idea of where she lived. Better yet, since he can take a hit from a subway train, maybe he should have just barged into her home himself instead of sending other lackeys to do his job. Arnold is not dealing with the brightest lord of the underworld here.
Getting past all of that, End of Days completely loses what limited credibility it had left during the finale, where the audience learns that Satan can transfer bodies. The movie had stated previously that The Man was some sort of chosen one, born for this purpose much like Christine. However, at the end of film, he possesses Arnold who then proceeds with trying to impregnating her. Why didn’t Satan just leave the body earlier and take over someone close to her?
(Note: Spoilers below)
Then there is a baffling finish, which defies all common sense. Arnold resists Satan’s mind control, fights him off, and with four seconds until 2000 (Eastern time apparently by Satan’s clock), forces himself onto a conveniently placed dagger. Why not just wait it out if you’ve beaten the mind control?
End of Days wants you to forget all of this with its mess of explosions, an impressive shot of the winged Satan before it takes over Schwarzenegger, and lots of religious babble. You can’t, because if you’re paying a lick of attention to the audacity of this script, you should be insulted that anyone would try to pull this over on an audience.
Peter Hyams shot End of Days in limited light, and Universal’s AVC encode retains this look with acceptable blacks. Expected detail is limited. However, textures here are sloppy and lacking definition. Few scenes showcase clean high fidelity details. Shadow delineation is fine.
Grain is typically unnatural and fuzzy. Softness dominates, and edge enhancement can be severe. Watch Christine at 34:30 as she sits on the couch for a blatant example. Colors are typically subdued, and flesh tones are intentionally warm. Scenes of New York during the Times Square New Years celebration do showcase some vibrant hues, including lush primaries from some balloons being handed out.
There is a low bitrate at work as well (even down into the single digits), which probably doesn’t help. End of Days came out on DVD back in 2000, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to find out this was the same master. Occasional spurts of heavy damage would certainly indicate this wasn’t restored in anyway for this release.
Universal’s DTS-HD mix for this one is loud, forceful, and fun. Satan’s appearances are usually greeted with a small earthquake, and the subwoofer provides that deep, rumbling bass to go along with it. Arnold’s hilariously overdone punches push the LFE significantly.
Being New York, plenty of police sirens are noted in the surrounds during street level shots. Ambiance is likewise carried into the subway, where the clicks of the tracks and roar of the tunnels are nicely captured in the rears. The finale is loaded, with a crumbling church filling the sound field with extensive, clean sounding debris falling. It is fantastically immersive. Explosions (and there are plenty of them) likewise toss debris around, and this lively mix captures it without fail.
The only extra is a Peter Hyams commentary, meaning multiple featurettes and music videos are missing from the original DVD.