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The Omega Code (1999)

18 November 2003 by Gnoll No Comment

THE OMEGA CODE


1999, dir. Robert Marcarelli
100 min. Rated PG-13.
Starring: Casper Van Dien, Michael York, Michael Ironside, Catherine Oxenberg.

Review by Gnoll

You may not be aware of this, but much like in the world of Comtemporary Christian music, there’s a bizarre subculture of Christian movies that are exactly this close to being mainstream entertainment. Much like Christian music, these movies also tend to suck a big fat patootie. THE OMEGA CODE, released in 1999 among some controversy, is one of the higher-profile films in this genre.

I’ve been sitting on a DVD copy of this film for nearly a year now (well, not literally, because I do move around sometimes) since a friend presented it to me as a Christmas gift last year. It was presented under the pretense that I would eventually review it for my site, and it looks like I’m finally getting around to it. Sorry it wasn’t a little more timely, but I’ve never been known to be remotely relevant anyway, right?

THE OMEGA CODE certainly tried to get a foothold early with some cusp o’ the mainstream actors: Casper Van Dien, who you may remember from STARSHIP TROOPERS; Michael York, the scenery chewer best known for his role in the AUSTIN POWERS films; and Michael Ironside, an accomplished character actor and star of the cult film SCANNERS. Sure, they didn’t go out and grab Tom Cruise or anything, but these are far more recognizable faces than the general stars you might see in such an underground feature. THE OMEGA CODE was being built up to be quite a messenger for the religious word, and was planned to be this huge mainstream success.

Despite all of the hype, the film was an utter failure: poorly received by both critics and audiences, raking in a paltry 12 million dollars at the box office, and quickly becoming a punchline in pop culture. Still, they managed to get people talking, and were apparently successful enough to produce a sequel a couple of years later.

Casper Van Dien stars as Gillen Lane, a motivational speaker and Mythology and Religious scholar, who has doubts about the existence of a higher power but seems to be experiencing visions that he can’t explain. He’s also been intrigued by the theory of the Bible as a predictive tool, based on certian codes and patterns contained within its text. His marriage is on the rocks, but he loves his wife and daughter and wants desperately to make things work. Right when he starts putting things back together in his personal life, though, his abilities are recruited by Stone Alexander, the EU chairman, who is working to attain a goal of world peace.

Stone and Gillen manage to create a Global Union much like the European one that Stone is in charge of. Prophets warn that bad things are bound to happen, but nobody’s buying it. They’re just glad that the world is united. Years pass, Gillen is still seeing weird visions, and all kinds of crazy shit starts running through his head. Before long, he uncovers the truth about Stone’s motives, and learns that he has in fact stolen the Bible Code and is using it to play out certain prophecies. Stone asks Gillen to serve as his “prophet” in this New World Order, and his thug Dominic objects and murders Stone in the lab, blaming it on Gillen. The police go after Gillen, who recruits a reporter named Cassandra to help him reveal the truth.

Of course, Stone is not all that he appears to be at first glance. Turns out he’s more than just a globe-uniting politician: he’s the embodiment of the Prince of Darkness himself! This gives Michael York even more of a chance to ham it up like only he can. Two prophets appear from nowhere to warn Gillen of the Apocalypse, but he’s still a nonbeliever in all of that religious hoo-ha at this point. All he wants is to have his name cleared, but he’s an international fugitive at this point, so that’s not going to be an easy task.

Okay, and speaking of this whole interntational fugitive thing, when Gillan goes home to recruit the help of his wife, who is on the case? The local police. No FBI, no WBI or whatever would be the case in some Global Union scenario, but just average old city cops in their Crown Vics. No wonder Gillan manages to escape their clutches for so long. Eventually, though, he’s doublecrossed and back in the hands of Stone and his gang, and Stone in the process has achieved his goal of attaining the “final code”.

Stone goes off and fulfills one of the prophecies that the two random guys warned Gillam about earlier, and declares himself God. Members of the Union start thinking this shit is wack and seceding from the union, but Stone doesn’t care. He’s Satan, after all! Suddenly it looks as if the world is on the brink of the Apocalypse, and in order to save the world, our little secular doctor Gillan has to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

Let’s forget about all the God stuff for a minute and focus on the film itself: It’s a flaming piece of shit. The performances are abhorrent, the dialogue is about as polished as driftwood, and the directing recalls some of the finest made-for-the-USA-Network movies ever to come down the pike. The pacing was about as awkward as they come, I didn’t give a shit about a single character, and there wasn’ a single moment where I was even remotely thrilled or startled or anything. The reason why this movie sucks has got nothing to do with the subject matter. The reason why this movie sucks is because it sucks.

Throw God back in the mix, and it still sucks. I’ll admit I’m no Religious scholar, but I didn’t see the big deal with all the hoopla that surrounded it. So it takes some controversial religious theory and turns it into an Armageddon play, so what? Shit like this has been done dozens of times before. When the big Hellfire and Brimstone moments start going down and suddenly the God quotient gets turned up, it’s just plain hokey.

I’m no heathen or anything, but God and Entertainment to me are no Chocolate and Peanut Butter. You can use religious elements in a story, but when you get preachy with them, well, who are you really preaching to? Did anyone go into this movie who wasn’t already pretty well-entrenched in Christian Faith and come out all like “Yes! After seeing that, I’m going to start going to church!” Somehow I doubt it. Of course, Christian outlets decided to play movie critic when this film came out and all praised it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Just for shits and giggles, let’s take a look a couple of the gems said in a few of those reviews:

“I applaud its writer, director, producer, sponsors, actors, and staff for a brilliant piece of film making. It is THE film for Christians to recommend. It is THE film to take the ‘lost’ to see. We should support this film with the ‘best’ word-of-mouth-advertising we can give it. The Omega Code deserves all the enthusiasm of Star Wars.” – Douglas Downs, Christian Spotlight on the Movies

Yes, they did say “All the enthusiasm of Star Wars”. Really.

“WOW! I am impressed. Finally a movie with NO sex and NO profane language! NONE! Though some poetic license was taken just as was taken by Cecil B. DeMille in *The Ten Commandments*, this movie was as true to the Book of Revelation of the Holy Bible as I have seen. – Unknown Author, ChildCare Action Project

I hope those responsible for the Holy Bible are quite forgiving that you compared this work so strongly to their book.

Noted Apocalyptician (is that a word?) Hal Lindsey was a consultant on this movie, which was produced by the Trinity Broadcasting Network. If you’re not familiar with Mr. Lindsey, check out his website here and understand that the guy is a world class kook. I think you’ll quickly find out just what the intent of THE OMEGA CODE was to begin with.

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