Last Wednesday, I was staying out of town for a conference the next day and, with little else to do, turned on NBC’s new mini-series Revelation. Revelation is supposed to be a spiritual, suspenseful psychodrama in which a scientist who doesn’t believe in the supernatural or God (reverently pronounced “cod” in the series) is thrown together with a nun who thinks the end of days is nigh. Which one is right? Will they kill each other, or will they come to work together against the forces of eeeeeeeeevil? Ooooooooooo…
I was hoping for a goodie here. Although I haven’t been shown anything that would lead me to believe in the supernatural or an almight “cod,” I really like a good supernatural/wrath-of-”cod” flick every now and then — it’s fun escapism.
But this show, this Revelation thing, just fell flat. It’s plagued by the same problem of the Star Wars Episode I and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone movies: mind-numbing literalism. Whereas the original “Star Wars” was ambiguous about the existence and exact nature of “the Force,” Star Wars Episode I dived right in to minutes of exposition about “mitoclorians” (thinly veiled mitochondria) and gadgets that can read how many of them are in someone’s bloodstream. This silliness we just don’t need to know; I prefer “a force that surrounds us and penetrates us” — you’ve got to think a bit more about what that might mean.
Similarly, the first “Harry Potter” movie just jumps right in there and shows a wizard with a pointy hat doing tricks with lights, a cat turning into a witch and a flying motorcycle — all in the first thirty seconds, for Pete’s sake. Gee, are the Dursleys right when they say “there’s no such thing as Magic!” — or are they obviously stupid gits? The neat treatment of this would not have Professor Dumbledore dressed in a pointy hat with stars and doing zappy, undeniably magic business with a wand. It would have Dumbledore dressed in the shabby clothes of a homeless person, claiming to “make” streetlights flicker — when it could have just been a tricky light bulb. It would have had a cat look searingly into Dumbledore’s eyes before slinking around a corner — the same corner from behind which the witch McGonagal appears in the next moment. Mr. and Mrs. Dursley are trying to make ends meet and keep the kids in their care out of trouble, and those shabby people look like trouble. Maybe, you say to yourself, Dursley’s got a point. But no, the Zippo light-sucker, the stars on the hat, the morphing cat-witch and the flying motorcycle spell it all out, beyond a more interesting doubt.
Revelation does the same thing: in an hour’s time, we see a shadow of Jesus move, we see a brain-dead kid speak Latin and quote the Book of Revelations, we witness Satanists get their fingers cut off and not bleed a drop. Gee, who’s right — the scientist or the nun? Oh, the suspense is killing me!
Or, rather disappointingly, not. Sorry, I won’t be tuning in tonight.