Image Entertainment // 2006 // 247 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // October 31st, 2010
Torn between good and evil.
In 2006, Fallen was promoted as a two-hour ABC Family original movie. However, many were a bit puzzled when they actually saw the film, as it felt more like an extended pilot for an ongoing television series (complete with one of those, "This is only the beginning," endings). One year later, a four-hour miniseries aired on ABC Family, continuing and concluding the story (even while disposing of some cast members from the first film and adding lots of new ones). Later, all six hours of Fallen (well, 4 hours and 13 minutes minus commercials) were released on DVD as, "The Complete Movie Event." Okay, I guess so. Now the whole thing is popping up again in hi-def. Its creation is certainly a little puzzling, but every bit of Fallen is here in HD for your viewing pleasure. The only question that matters now is whether it's worth your time. Permit me to answer that question with another question: just how much do you like s) Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries), and b) supernatural stories involving angels, demons, God and The Devil?
Wesley plays Aaron Corbett, a high school student who spent most of his childhood being moved from foster home to foster home. Recently, he was finally officially adopted by two loving parents, and things seem to be going pretty well. However, on his 18th birthday, Aaron starts experiencing strange things. First he gets a terrible headache. Then he finds that he's developing surprising levels of physical strength. When he discovers that he's able to understand foreign languages (even the languages of animals), Aaron begins to believe he's going crazy.
Actually, Aaron is in the process of discovering that he is a Nephilim (a human/angel hybrid descended from fallen angels). This seems exciting at first, as the Nephilim are equipped with all sorts of awesome powers and abilities (including what I'll simply call "Dr. Doolittle-ism"). Unfortunately, some of the "pure" angels (or "avenging angels") feel that all Nephilim are an abomination and should be wiped off the face of the earth. The emergence of Aaron's powers alerts the avenging angels to his presence, forcing our hero to battle for his life. He's aided in this battle by Ezekiel (Tom Skerritt, Alien), a very old fallen angel posing as a homeless man.
All of this material is covered in the first act of Fallen, which is easily the slickest and most entertaining of the three. Despite some genuinely terrible supporting performances (I laughed out loud just about every time Elizabeth Lackey's Verchiel spoke), it's a typical-but-fun origin story which finds our Magical Orphan discovering his abilities and taking on the bad guys. Tom Skerritt's presence brings a lot to the proceedings, as the actor turns in a performance not too far removed from Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow. Skerritt overacts to delightful effect, chewing on the scenery at every opportunity and turning a potentially tedious character into an immensely entertaining one. Wesley's primary task is to look 50% forlorn, 50% determined and 100% handsome; a task he pulls off effectively enough.
Things get problematic when we get into part two, which jumps ahead an entire year and finds Aaron as a leather-clad loner. This mid-section is saddled with entirely too much hokey mythology and a needlessly overstuffed cast of characters. Skerritt is no longer around to entertain us with his wildness, but Hal Ozson's Azazel is a rakishly charming substitute. Azazel was recently released after being chained up after 5,000 years, and his re-emergence into the world provides an opportunity for some terrific comedy bits ("Wait, wait...you're telling me The Creator had a KID?" he sputters upon being told about Jesus). Sadly, these entertaining moments are surrounded by tedious, messy plotting.
The third and final portion is easily the most spare and low-key installment, building up to an inevitable confrontation between Aaron and Lucifer (Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad). As a fan of Cranston's, this was the segment I was most looking forward to, but the result proves spectacularly underwhelming. The final hour or so of Fallen is primarily dominated by a long, rambling, surprisingly uninteresting chat between Cranston and Wesley that peppers in surprise announcements every fifteen minutes for dramatic effect (attentive viewers will see one The Empire Strikes Back-inspired moment coming a mile away). Everything concludes with a quiet fizzle, wrapping up this long-winded saga on a disappointing note.
Equally disappointing is the 1080p/1.78:1 transfer, which rarely offers anything dazzling enough to remind viewers they're watching an HD presentation. Fallen basically looks like a very solid standard-def upconvert most of the time, and the slightly enhanced detail only serves to demonstrate just how low-rent most of the special effects are. The 2.0 audio also proves underwhelming, offering a track that really lacks punch during the bigger, louder scenes. I haven't seen the DVD version, but I don't imagine that this is a considerable upgrade. To the disc's credit, there is a brief new interview with star Paul Wesley (which is better than the Handful O' Nothin' provided on the DVD release).
I can't say I disliked Fallen, but it's an awfully big time investment without much of a payoff. Proceed at your own risk.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 247 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated