09 July 2009

Flashback at the movies: Megiddo- Omega Code 2

MEGIDDO: OMEGA CODE 2 (106 minutes)

Given my past experiences with the subgenre of Evangelical Christian Apocalypse films (everything from those Mark IV films from the seventies to the Gary Busey epics of the early nineties to the most recent spate of theatrically released films like Left Behind and the original Omega Code), I walked into Megiddo: Omega Code 2 with a mental checklist of plotpoints to expect: European character actor Antichrist (Michael York, the only holdover from the first Omega Code, kicking it up to unhinged Pacino levels), condescending and vague ethnic stereotypes, sub-‘Made for Sci-Fi Channel’ effects, utter disdain for Europe and Africa and their people, horrifying violence undone by CGI representation of divine energy, climactic religious awakening for the male lead (Michael Biehn!), the complete absence of Canada, and the inescapable corruption of the sacred to fit the template of a lackluster action-adventure thriller. All were present in abundance.

Starting off in Omen-ripoff territory, Director Brian Trenchard-Smith (Dead End Drive-In, Leprechaun 4: In Space) gives us the missing childhood years of Stone Alexander (York), the surrogate human body for the devil. He tries to burn his baby brother alive, then gets sent to military school, hooks up with a Satanic priest (played by Eurothriller Mark of Quality Udo Kier), exerts his youthful and evil will, then marries a lovely Italian stereotype who becomes Michael Mann regular Diane Venora. All this while becoming the multimedia mogul who eventually encompasses government, broadcasting, and smting his enemies on a semi-regular basis. Now, a word or two about York’s performance; this is the kind of camp feast that would strike silent film audiences as excessive, equal parts Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Darwin Mayflower.

Anyway, the objective is world domination. The way is through global ecumenism, feeding the hungry, and gathering the sovereignties of nations like baseball cards. The means are Biblical prophesy. And the execution is almost generic enough to slip on by, despite being stuffed to the gills with B-movie character actors like like R. Lee Ermey, Franco Nero, and David Hedison.

So it struck me as odd, given the recent willingness of Hollywood to delay, pull, or do rewrites and reshoots with any films dealing with violence, war, and terrorism, to watch a film with so many shots of people running from collapsing buildings, being crushed and mutilated by debris, and assaulted by the power of both the forces of hell and the power of heaven. Did the film’s distributors even consider delaying the film for a little while, given the reticence which even the most hardened connoisseurs of onscreen carnage have shown regarding movie mayhem? For that matter, what of the film’s near-triple digit body count? It is honestly difficult to say which film, this or Pearl Harbor, is the more shameful in its depiction of the horror of war, hiding the blood for its PG-13 and sending precisely the wrong message about violence to an impressionable audience.

The film’s screenwriters (which include perennial threat to cinema John Fasano, who did a lot of damage to the script of Alien3 and was responsible for Another 48 Hours) do not do any favors to the Divine, portraying God as being ethnically partisan and prone to the human conceit of waiting for dramatic moments to garner more attention. It is a disheartening distortion of sacred text, like making the Bhagavad-Gita into a turgid drama about golf, or turning the Koran into a murder mystery.

But this empty effort takes the psilocybin surreality and nightmarishly epic scope of the Book of Revelation and dumbs it down and amps it up with guns and so-called righteousness in a near continuous five-minute orgy of tanks, guns, hackings, an unnatural eclipse, and a CGI-devilbeast that looks like it escaped from a scrapped Castle Wolfenstein sequel from around 1991. Oh, and did I mention that there’s also the inescapable love story subplot that apparently must be included in all films now in order for them to be made?

It seems that once again Christian audiences are so starved for entertainment that fits their aesthetics that they will make a point of supporting as base, empty, and avaricious a film as this. Those who enjoy the ludicrous and the socially destructive may find plenty to enjoy, and fans of euro-cult character actors will have struck gold with the embarrassment of embarrassed supporting cast members. But for anyone who expects some degree of theological complexity or coherent story-telling that isn’t cribbed from other (and better) movies, Megiddo: Omega Code 2 is exactly like the wasteland to which it reduces countless foreign buildings and landmarks.

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