Gregory Widen’s The Prophecy is an extraordinary, imaginative film that shows angels in a much different light from the celestial beings humanized by television shows like Touched by an Angel and articles in Reader’s Digest. Widen’s angels are brutal, savage, animalistic. Rather than create an angel mythology out of whole cloth, Widen mined the Bible for angelic references to show us that angels are, in their hearts, killers.
This central theme is stated quite clearly when Thomas Daggett, the protagonist, says, “Did you ever notice how in the Bible, whenever God needed to punish someone, or make an example, or whenever God needed a killing, he sent an angel? Did you ever wonder what a creature like that must be like? A whole existence spent praising your God, but always with one wing dipped in blood. Would you ever really want to see an angel?”
Physically, Widen’s angels display birdlike behavior, given that their true forms are winged, eyeless humanoids. They perch like raptors, a bizarre affectation that works very well in the film. Uziel, Gabriel’s lieutenant, scents for the angel Simon like an animal would, and their subsequent fight is extremely brutal, without human finesse or mercy. After stabbing Simon, Uziel literally digs into the wound, trying to pull out his heart.
Uziel’s autopsy scene further shows how separate the angels are from humans, from the lack of growth rings on their bones to the bizarre makeup of their blood (chemicals usually only found in an aborted fetus). Hermaphroditic, lacking eyes, they’re just different.
Later, we see the Archangel Gabriel literally tasting the shed blood on the wardrobe after Uziel and Simon’s fight, able from this to determine that it came from Simon. Not even a higher order of angel like Gabriel is exempt from this kind of base animalism. They’re not beautiful, celestial messengers of God, but are, in Daggett’s terms, “creatures.”
In addition to their bestial nature, the angels in The Prophecy are bizarrely childlike in both temper and behavior. The entire conceit of the film, that certain angels became jealous of humans for being created with souls and acquiring God’s chief affection, is essentially a gigantic, millennia-long temper tantrum. A war, with casualties and spiritual consequences that affect the spiritual future of the human race, based entirely on envy.
This is shown most clearly in Gabriel, arguably one of Christopher Walken’s greatest roles. He contemptuously refers to humans by the juvenile term “talking monkeys,” but can’t even drive a car, showing an immature helplessness. During his confrontation with Simon, Simon tells him, “Sometimes you just have to do what you’re told,” which is very reminiscent of a parent scolding a child. When Simon won’t tell Gabriel where he’d hidden Hawthorne’s soul even after being tortured, Gabriel stamps his foot and shouts in a childish fit of pique: a mini-tantrum.
Perhaps the best indication that the angels are emotional children, bereft of a father as a result of their ruinous war in Heaven, is when Gabriel tries to entice Thomas to fight alongside him: “Nobody tells you when to go to bed. You eat all the ice cream you want. You get to kill all day, all night, just like an angel!” Gabriel’s speaking ironically about the bed time and ice cream, but the language he uses still evokes images of childlike freedom. Despite his contempt for humans, he is himself beneath them in maturity and ethics.
And what of God in this war-torn universe? The only time we hear of Him is when Daggett asks Gabriel, “If you wanted to prove your side was right, Gabriel, so badly, why don’t you just ask Him? Why don’t you just ask God?”
Gabriel’s answer is poignant, and in many painful ways puts him on the same level as us: “Because He doesn’t talk to me anymore.”