Omega Doom Reviews
Omega Doom is one of Albert
Pyun's android/cyborg post-holocaust films. Pyun has been quite prolific in
producing a whole host of similar films, including Cyborg (1989), Nemesis (1993)
and its three sequels, Knights (1993) and Heatseeker (1994). All of these
usually feature messianic androids traversing post-holocaust wastelands and
engaged in martial arts/kickboxing duels. Pyun's films tend to fall between the
occasionally quite interesting - Nemesis - and the merely mindless - Knights and
Cyborg. This one falls on the occasionally interesting side. The plot here has
been stolen wholesale from Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (1961) which is intriguingly
updated to the modern sf B-movie post-holocaust action playground with warring
factions of androids replacing the bandit factions of the original. On the minus
side there is the usual share of Pyun-esque silliness - Pyun's androids are
rarely ever more than standard action characters with occasional bits of
circuitry showing - and this features rather daft ideas like a bartender running
a bar for androids. Much is made of Rutger Hauer's titular android being the
first to adopt human characteristics due to a stray shot wiping his programming,
but the script either never explains the reason for the human-like behaviour of
all the other androids in the film or distinguishes Hauer's actions from them
sufficiently to make any sense of this point. The budget appears cramped - all
of the action is confined to a single ruined city block and neither warring
faction appears to have any more than three warriors apiece. But if one can put
aside the relative silliness, Pyun occasionally achieves an effective atmosphere
of hard-bitten cynicism which raises the film slightly above the average run of
the mill B sf action film.
Copyright Richard Scheib 1998
Our hero, the opening
narration tells us, is Omega Doom, a robotic soldier in a war between robots and
humans. The humans are nearly gone from the face of the planet. On a post-apocaplyptic
field of battle, we find O.D. in the midst of wrestling with one of the last
remaining human soldiers. Just as O.D. is about to wipe out humanity, a dying
soldier fires a last round and hits Doom "in his program." We're not sure where
that is, exactly, but it probably hurt.
When we see Doom again, he's wandering around eastern Europe, which is, conveniently, where Pyun can afford to shoot his movies. According to the script, he's somewhere in the U.S., but in an abandoned amusement park, which has an "Old Europe" section. It also has "Dodge City" and "Medieval Japan" themed sections, an acknowledgement of the fact that the basic story was stolen from A Fistful of Dollars and, in turn, Yojimbo.
Weisser pulls himself together.
Shortly after arriving in Euro Depression World, Doom meets the rest of the wacky cast of characters. The Roms, identical female robots with flapper haircuts, dark shades, and calculating demeanors, are at odds with the Droids, vaguely military 'bots who are a bit more aggressive and wild. The Head is a former schoolteaching robot whose body was stolen by the Droids, and Bartender is a service robot who (duh) tends bar at the local water establishment. An imaginative screenwriter might have given more of the characters actual names, but this is Albert Pyun we're talking about.
The Roms and the Droids are currently in a standoff. Somewhere in the park there lies buried treasure: guns. These have become scarce, and each side plans to use them to wipe out its enemies and defend itself against the rumored onslaught of humans who want to retake the Earth. Unfortunately, there are now too few individuals left on either side to risk a direct confrontation, and so each group waits for the other to find the weapons. Into this mix comes Omega Doom, who does his best to trick the Roms and Droids into wiping the other out.
Right away we know we're in Pyun territory because we have an enormously complicated setup that manages to neither make sense nor be all that important to the action that follows. Why do the robots need guns? They have weapons called shanks (or maybe shenks, or shinks) that seem to be higher tech than guns. And there is no reason for all the characters in this film to be robots. The only direct evidence we have that most of the characters are robots is that they make whirring sounds when they move. Quite a few scenes unfold sounding as if ED-209 is powering up in the next room.
Nothing impresses a flapper android
more than ammunition.
But Pyun has learned a thing or two in his nearly twenty years of moviemaking. Specifically, he's learned to cast the most prominent name he can afford in the lead role (in this case, Hauer), to find b-grade but competent actors for the major supporting roles, and to exploit the hell out of the talent pool of an Eastern European country for the rest. The cast list shows no fewer than seven Roms and eight Droids, most of whom are played by actors with Slavic names. This is kind of weird because we can only remember seeing four of each type of 'bot in the entire film.
In this role, Hauer is either putting forth a brilliant acting effort or coasting his way through yet another b-movie, depending on your perspective. If you think that Omega Doom should be a robot with no emotions other than the occasional smug, knowing look, then Hauer's the man for the role. If, on the other hand, he should have feelings like all the other robots seem to have, then it's pretty obvious that he's just stopping in front of Pyun's camera on the way to another paycheck. Granted, the script doesn't give Hauer many chances to display his acting range, but the other actors are playing robots too, and they managed to change expressions now and again.
Speaking of the other actors, we were minorly impressed with the appearance of Norbert Weisser as The Head. Weisser, a character actor with wildly fluctuating film credits, is called in on lots of Hollywood assignments (The Rocketeer, Schindler's List) where a German character actor is needed. With a name like Norbert Weisser, it is hard to accuse him of portraying Germans in a negative light.
Also hiding out in Omega Doom is the voluptuous erotic thriller veteran Shannon Whirry. Her fully-clothed appearance in this film is apparently part of her attempts to move away from a career as a t&a specialist, but judging by the calibre of her performance, she may find herself out of a career altogether. Memo to Whirry: There's nothing wrong with a career of taking your clothes off on film -- just ask Shannon Tweed. Why the sudden aspirations towards a "real" acting career? On the other hand, ending up like Maria Ford isn't a desirable thing either.
There are a couple of neat nods towards the (ahem) "cinematic roots" of this movie. The best example is the method of combat employed by the robots. Their shanks are a combination of throwing knives, laser guns, and those glowing frisbees the guys in Tron kept throwing at one another. It allows the androids to have some sort of weaponed combat in a world without guns (plain old swords wouldn't work too well on metal, we suppose), and it gives some of the showdown appeal of Fistful of Dollars. Unfortunately, Pyun lets us down once again. The fights happen so quickly and are edited so poorly that we never get a good look at how the shanks work. Still, they do make a cool noise when they power up.
Omega Doom may technically be one of Albert Pyun's better films, but at best it will still leave most audiences merely disinterested. If you're bothering to subject yourself to Pyun's glacially slow pacing and ridiculous stories, we suggest you rent films with higher kitsch value, like Hong Kong '97 or Spitfire. After all, if you're going to go out of your way to hurt yourself, you might as well do it right.
Movie Review: Omega Doom
July 24, 2006
As I wormed myself forward
into a subconscious delirium the night before last, I found myself striding in a
dreamscape featuring Rutger Hauer. But this was not one of those nightmare
visions full of obsidian and sulphur, fluctuating angles, and amassed infants
brandishing the face of Lance Henriksen, barrelled demons singing the praises of
Ted Danson’s nausea-combusting Loch Ness. Nor was it the sort of sleazy
grime-packed vitiation best found copulating in one of Burroughs’ westerns.
No, this was an anachronism stencilled with the ink of heretofore antiquity. For not only did the midnight express of illusion ride the rails of Rutger Hauer, not only did his skull-fibre provide a shroud for the night-sky itself, but, harking back to ancient China, I actually was Rutger Hauer.
There was a philosopher who used to ponder the imponderable back in the days of ancient China, back before people started to stroke their chins to the tune of anno Domini, and even before they started reruns of Knight Rider. He went by the name of Chuang Tzu. One night Chuang Tzu had a dream where he was a butterfly, and then upon awakening knew not whether he was a man who dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly who was now dreaming he was a man.
This philosophical paradox, this cerebral conundrum, is how I now view my venture into the night-clad reverie of evenings hitherto. I was Rutger Hauer; even now through the nebulous gaze of reminiscence I can accurately visual the details. The unusual perspectives, the strange linear dimensions, the skewed revival of bygone particularities, all unwashed by the eroding liquid of being awake. Could it be true that I am indeed Rutger Hauer asleep, dreaming he is a Gen X-wannabe with too much time on his hands?
This mental preoccupation is not only laced with implausibilities along the magnitude of space, but is also gilded with the membranes of time. My bodily transposition did not take me to the Hauer of today, where he scampers about starring in schlocky science fiction and shoddy horror. It took me to the Hauer of 1997, where he scampered about starring in schlocky science fiction and shoddy horror.
With the mist of dream-amnesia dispersing, allow me to recount the turbulence suffered in my dream.
I was on the set of the film Omega Doom, standing opposite an intern for Fangoria, an inexperienced twitch-athon gawking the sclera off the shells of my eyes. A few passive words later and I was off to film the apogean scene, the climax of a few weeks worth of fun, games, and other idioms out on location in Eastern Europe. This apex of the narrative has me battle a female reject from The Matrix. Leather carapace and Ray Bans, she antedates the heavy black and combat verisimilitude of Neo and company by two years. And despite being a homicidal android, there’s a certain air of the amorous about her.
The scene is, I am resurrected following a temporary decommissioning care of the nasty animatronic siren. I then proceed to destroy her, save the heroine, and take leave to the barren planes of dirt, grit, and sand. It was then, in some cheeky stomp of synchronicity, that ‘cut’ was yelled and I woke up.
Many questions were left sans answers. Gaping chasms of plot-holes. Fissures the size of Kentucky in massive fits of yawning.
A die-cast need to know took me to the Sci-Fi Channel that next day, where as luck would have it Omega Doom was set to be broadcast.
Seems Hauer’s reappearance on the plane of life wasn’t quite the Lazarus moment I had preconceived. Hauer plays Omega Doom, a robot on an Earth shaken with the frost of nuclear winter. Turns out these robots only data process evil. They took over the planet and caused the last crumbs of humanity to skulk into hiding. But Omega is different - due to a rogue bullet in the cranium, his evil circuits have become defective, resulting in only the nicest of nice thoughts to reverberate in his wiring.
Walking the arid land like Cain or Patrick Swayze, he eventually comes upon a small derelict town where two factions of robots are having a mini-civil war over a cache of weapons that may or may not be lying around in the vicinity. What with all those phantasms of bunnies, laughing babies, and other clichés of cuteness rebounding off his CPUs, he can’t help but eliminate the ne’er-do-wells and foist a flaming fist of peace on the community.
He does this. And all while skipping around the place all like a Russian stereotype wearing something akin to an Ushanka - a Russian fur hat. Reasons for this never amble this direction throughout the film, so I’ll assume that rowdy frat boys on vacation nearby amalgamated Hauer’s shampoo with green hair-dye, causing a most psychedelic outbreak of verdant dementia. Thus we have him attiring his head so as to not distract too much from the cinematography and screenplay.
Shoulda let him go hatless.
I never thought I’d say this about a Rutger Hauer film, but since we now seem to possess some sort of psychic link, I feel it’d be a disservice to not make my chagrin known. The debasing of my senses arises from a terrible story, ramshackle acting, tedious pacing, lousy effects, imbecilic dialogue, and banal photography. At least half of that cavalcade of negation can be redeemed with the presence of Hauer, but alas too much goes on while he’s out soaping himself in the hotel Jacuzzi.
So does that mean that nothing has been learned to assist in my philosophical predicament? Why not commute my mind to the rancid joy of The Hitcher, or the soiled excitement of Night Hawks? Well no, Omega Doom is integral. Explicit is the reasoning for the seemingly arbitrary dream-travel in which I participated.
Rutger Hauer is Omega, he is the end, the finale, the conclusion and resolution and retribution all in one. The corollary of this is that I am Alpha, the beginning, the initial. But my part is superfluous except for providing something for Rutger Hauer to consummate; all I have done is flicker a seed or two, whilst he forms and moulds it all into a zenith of a close.
Despite this, at least for the time being, one inquiry fails to be gratified. Am I he dreaming me, or am I me dreaming he?