Artisan Home Entertainment presents
The Apocalypse Watch (1997)
"If these bombings are part of a global conspiracy, it wouldn't be the first time that a bunch of maniacs wanted to rule the world. Would it?"- Harry Latham (John Shea)
Stars: Patrick Bergin, Virginia Madsen, John Shea
Other Stars: Benedick Blythe, Malcolm Tierney, Al Matthews
Director: Kevin Connor
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence)
Run Time: 02h:54m:18s
Release Date: 2002-03-26
Genre: suspense thriller
DVD ReviewI've read all of Robert Ludlum's conspiracy-laced spy novels, and have always wondered why more of them haven't been turned into films. The books are action-packed, loaded with double agents, gunfire in public places and massive, evil conspiracies that involve the powerful and influential elite; they seem perfect as fodder for big-screen entertainment. His novels, while not high art, are fun to read and crammed with enough twists to satisfy even the most jaded spy fan. After watching this dull television adaptation of Ludlum's 1995 thriller The Apocalypse Watch, however, I'm no longer convinced that this is a good idea.
In a plot that seems similar to today's headlines (long a Ludlum trademark), a series of terrorist bomb attacks have been occurring across England. A pair of CIA operatives, brothers Harry (John Shea) and Drew (Patrick Bergin) Latham are drawn into finding the source of the attacks, and are teamed up with psuedo-sexy agent Karin De Vries (Virginia Madsen). In true Ludlum fashion, the intricate plot involves the rise of Fourth Reich, government takeovers, political assassinations and double-crosses, with the fate of the world resting in the balance, or as the villainous leader calls it: "the sword of global order."
It's not fair to blab about the plot twists in a Ludlum novel, because there are always a few layers of double- and triple-crosses. His novels are hefty affairs, and generally run about 500 pages or so, and spreading this 1997 television production over two nights, into a three hour project doesn't really leave much room for padding of the script (though it seems that massive chunks have been dropped from the original book). His stories are dense, packed with a wide range of characters, and feature a lot of globe-hopping. The exotic locales are here on this disc, which gives the proper feel to the global conspiracy angle, but the rich plot is condensed into a rushed mess that never builds any genuine tension.
In The Apocalypse Watch, the neo-Nazi villains are using the WG Corporation as a front for all of their evil doings. Their logo could not look any MORE like a swastika, yet it takes one of the secondary characters to point out the resemblance ("Look! Look closely!"). Look closely? You're kidding, right? IT'S A GIANT SWASTIKA!
My favorite moment, however, was the main Teutonic bad guy doing his best Dr. Evil impersonation, describing "Operation Apocalypse." I kept waiting for him to say, Throw me a friggin' bone here, but he never did. His underground lair features one of those big television screens with maps and blinking lights, a bunch of computer terminals and a high-tech lab. Not only that, all of the computers have mousepads that feature the logo of "Operation Apocalypse"!
The gun battles, a staple of a Ludlum novel, look silly in this version, and are thankfully kept to a minimum. The shootouts here have the realism of a group of eight-year-olds running around the front yard playing "spy", and are truly embarrassing to watch.
The spirit of Ludlum's novel was lost here, and the result is a long movie that falls apart with a comically inept conclusion.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 image transfer is true to its origins as a 2-part television mini-series. Colors look deep, with fleshtones retaining a natural hue throughout. The night scenes fall victim to a bit of light grain, and don't offer exceptional shadow depth. Some minor haloing is visible, but doesn't come across as a major distraction.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: This disc is presented in a simple 2.0 surround track that is all front channel, with little in the way of rear channel cues. Occasional imaging, like a television that begins in the right channel and slowly fades across the fronts as a character moves through a room, are nice touches, but doesn't dominate the transfer. Dialogue is mixed well, and is never a clarity issue.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Extras Review: Nothing. Not even a Ludlum bio, for chrissakes.
Extras Grade: F
Final CommentsGo to the library and get any of Ludlum's novels (including The Apocalypse Watch), and you will be highly entertained. Watch this disc, and you will be bored. Trust me.
Nothing to see here. Move it along, please.
Rich Rosell 2002-04-03