Rod Steiger plays a priest in End of Days who ominously informs our hero Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that "There are forces at work here you couldn't possibly comprehend!" What the audience knows, and the backslidden Cane doesn't, is that the forces at work are none other than Beelzebub himself (Gabriel Byrne). Steiger's line would be the cue for an intriguing primer on the origin and nature of Satan—if this were an intelligent film, that is. Alas, we are treated instead to the priest following up with more obscurantisms like "You have no idea what you're up against!" and "You can't possibly understand what's going on here!"

Audiences, however, will wise up to what's going on here: simple milking of millennial fear for box-office dollars. The Devil in End of Days is only a stock villain, owing more to the T-1000 in Terminator 2 than to anything in Genesis or Job. The thoroughly formulaic action film discards biblical law as conveniently and proudly as it does the laws of physics. In fact, the only reason the film has any redeeming value is that religious leaders suggested script changes, correcting the filmmakers' assumption that machine guns and missiles could defeat Satan and suggesting instead that Cane trust God to win the battle. Yet even these mildly moving scenes of renewed belief reek of jumbled theology; judging by Steiger's odd proclamation that "God wants us to save ourselves," it is Cane's faith, not God's power, that combats Satan. And of course the movie features plenty of missiles and machine guns anyway, since audiences aren't likely to flock to see Arnold in a prayer circle.

Just because a movie is rudimentary, though, doesn't mean we can't learn from it. Take, for instance, the Vatican's reaction ...

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