22 December 2012

POST-APOCALYPSE: DEATH BY NOT-AT-ALL-THE-BIBLE

No good reason that this should be a morning-after review, except that I didn't end up having time to review it on actual Fake Mayan Apocalypse Day.

There have been few moments that bonded me as permanently to the friends I shared that moment with as the first time I watched the trailer for Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 in college. An epically bad CGI demon, lots of doom-wracked voiceover, a lisping child reading from the Bible, inexplicable action scenes, and best of all Michael York, playing Satan, responding to the threat, "You don't have a chance in hell of getting what you want" by delivering with inordinate and shameless relish the line, "Oh, I'll always have a chance in Hell, David". It was like someone had reached inside my dreams and condensed them them into two minutes of the best bad movie ever.

Some time later, I happened to find a shrink-wrapped DVD package of Meggido together with The Omega Code for a giveaway price - $8.99, I think it was, but worth me to me in my heart - and snapped it up, and lo! Megiddo was not merely every bit the film I wanted and needed to be based on that trailer, but even more: one of the great So Bad It's Life-Changingly Awesome movies to come out during my own lifetime.

At least some of that badness is contextual: this is one of the weirdest damned sequels that I have ever seen, and trying so square it with The Omega Code is a fun exercise all by itself. Here, in short, is the plot: the nefarious Stone Alexander (York), philanthropist, industrialist, and EU president, is in the Middle East, and his being there triggers a flashback, though from whose perspective, it is difficult to say. We see here, anyway, that as a child in 1960, Stone (Gavin Fink) grew extremely angry at his newborn baby brother, David, for their mother died in childbirth, and so he attempts to set the baby on fire: but it is in this act of rage that he is inhabited by the spirit of Satan, which is our first discontinuity: in The Omega Code, Stone wasn't possessed until 1999, after he had been shot in the head. Because of this, the boys' father (David Hedison) packs Stone off to European military school, and here he becomes one of the great pupils of that institution, brilliant and ruthless even as he is evil. As a young adult (Noah Huntley), he begins making plans to insinuate himself into a position of international influence - taking an important post with the European Union straight of the academy, almost 20 years before the European Union even existed, no less - and basically alienating everybody possible, using the power of Hell to cow those who would oppose him in his small ambitions.

So far, so good: the continuity is wobbly, and buying 59-year-old York as a man in his early 40s at best is colossally amusing, but the idea of a sequel adding backstory for the only character to repeat in between entries isn't terribly bad, even if Stone Alexander being married doesn't seem to fit in with The Omega Code at all. It's not until the movie ends up at the turn of the millennium that it loses its mind: now all grown up, David Alexander (Michael Biehn) is Vice President of the United States, under President Richard Benson (R. Lee Ermey), and Stone is well into his plot as related in The Omega Code to take over the world using the EU as his puppet. In an early scene, David and Benson are watching the climactic scene from the first movie, in which Stone, having rebuilt the Temple of Solomon, is attempting to have himself crowned God there. Basically, then, Megiddo trades extensively on a knowledge of The Omega Code in order to do most of its narrative heavy lifting - and from this exact same moment onward, there is not a single scene of the new movie that can possibly exist in the same continuity as the original film, even making the unbelievable concession that, sure, his brother was a major face in U.S. politics, and somehow the original movie didn't bother telling us. In Megiddo, Stone's attempt to establish a one-world government triggers a resistance on the part of the United States that blazes into war, on the plains of Megiddo, of course, because that is where the battle between good and evil is meant to take place in the End Times, and that is where "Armageddon" comes from. Despite the fact that Stone was already dead long before any of that needed to happen - Megiddo is both alternate universe prequel and remake of The Omega Code that requires the continuity of The Omega Code in order to make narrative sense, and it's impossible not to think of it as anything but a massive exercise in dicking around with the audience.

Anyway, that is merely the tip of an extravagant bad movie iceberg. Having made the decision to jettison basically everything about the first movie besides "Stone Alexander is evil and bringing about the Biblical apocalypse", Megiddo first has to depend to a much greater degree on Michael York; and York repays the film with a performance that I cannot describe in words, because the English language isn't up to the task of demonstrating how richly, excessively campy he is here. This wonderfully excessive overacting will be our guide and companion through a movie that consists of almost nothing but dumbfounding problems: the flavorless performance Biehn gives as our alleged protagonist, a milksop who never does anything but look grumpy; Udo Kier, as a minion of Hell providing aid and comfort to Stone, wandering around looking like he's trying to eject his eyes out of his skull; Ermey, a remarkably poor bit of casting who plays all the president's moments of gravitas with a jolly bit of insincerity. And it goes so, so far beyond the acting, through a story that is an utter failure of coherence at any level: several times, a scene happens that seems divorced from anything around it other than the concept of Stone Alexander's all-encompasing Satanicness, like when he goads God into destroying the Roman Coliseum with a meteor. A scene that both fails to pay off later, and doesn't make sense in the moment, anyway: what does God have against the Coliseum, anyway?

The script wedges in details from the Bible and other apocalyptic literature that don't make any real world sense (a U.S./China alliance against Stone simply to justify a prophecy about "the kings of the East"), before deciding that, it was good and all that The Omega Code was a wimpy PG-13 thriller for a millenarian Christian audience, but Megiddo wanted to be a bit more mainstream, and so it devolves at the end into a series of action scenes - or rather, shots of action scenes that do not combine into anything meaningful or sensible. It was all directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, the only man to have directed two Leprechaun films, one of them being the legendarily stupid Leprechaun 4: In Space; that film's all-encompassing disregard for building up momentum is matched and bettered by Megiddo, in which everything that happens seems to do so in isolation, the protagonist never matters to anybody or anything including himself, and the climax involves God just straight-up saying "fuck it" and exploding a Death Star over everything.

What any of this has to do with Revelation is left as an exercise to the viewer; unlike the schematic Omega Code, Megiddo cribs madly from secular political thrillers, war movies, and '70s occult horror, pasting some Bible quotes on to keep from totally alienating the target audience. None of it makes any sense, and if there exists someone who could possibly extract some measure of spiritual inspiration, I'd love to meet them; as for me, I get inspiration of a very different kind, and since mine involves Michael York bellowing "Pray to your God!" in what is not remotely a tacky rip-off of Superman II, I'm fairly certain that I win.

6 comments:

Rebecca said...

I'm very disappointed that the phrase "God bomb" never appears here. I'm not disappointed that "God bomb" is the only thing I remember about the day we watched this movie.

Brian said...

This sounds... amazing.

Too be fair, the last two movies I watched were Pocahontas, for the first time since hating it in theaters 17 years ago (spoiler warning: It still sucks) and Pocahontas 2, so, really, almost any movie might sound amazing right now.

Benjamin said...

It makes me very sad to learn Michael Biehn was involved in this.

Tim said...

Rebecca- I gave great thought to using that phrase, but decided that it belonged to our youth, and was too in-jokey for anybody but the... 8? 9? people who were in that room.

Brian- OUCH. What, pray tell, caused you to throw away three hours of your life like that?

Benjamin- And he's terrible - like, boring, not crazy Yorkian hammy - which makes it even more disappointing.

Brian said...

Pocahontas because of a misguided attempt to both own, and thus watch, the entire available Disney canon. Pocahontas II because it was on the same blu-ray disc, and it was already in my player, and it couldn't possibly be any worse than the first one (unless you've taken a history class... wow) and maybe some latent masochistic tendencies.

Caleb Wimble said...

"Oh, my dear brother, these are not my ARMIES; these are my TROPHIES!"

I don't know if that was even the actual quote -- it's been something like a decade since my last viewing -- but I seem to recall every single line of York's dialogue being something equally, deliciously Iagonian. What a fabulously phantasmagoric shit show. Thank you for reviving this childhood memory, Tim.