Omega Doom (1996)
Hi all, Nate here. Looking though some old files the other day I found a snippet of a joint movie review that I wrote for some other guy’s site about 8 years ago and totally forgot about. It was only for the first 15 minutes of the movie (other dudes did other parts), but since that site has been shuttered for many years now, I figured I would finish the review myself. And that’s what we have, so let’s begin!
To start with, a most-helpful voice-over guy tells us that WWIII was fought with robots and nukes. It was quite nasty, apparently, and most all humans have either been killed or driven deep into hiding. Now the robots rule the devastated land, robots who all look exactly like humans (Terminator rip-off or massive cost-saving attempt, you pick). The only way you can tell them from real live humans is by listening to the sounds they make. With every movement of their limbs, a “robotic whirring” sound is foleyed into the soundtrack, hammering into us that these are NOT human actors, but ROBOTS! The robots also tend to dress like Eastern European gangsters and The Matrix wannabes, which I guess is fine, if you like Eastern European gangster robots who own The Matrix on DVD. Myself, I prefer my humanoid robots to look like Tricia Helfer the Cylon from Battlestar Galactica...
General note to military robotics engineers of the future: If you are going to build killer robots, please, please, please do not make them look like regular humans and outfit them with adaptable personality programs. That only encourages them to find feelings and love and stuff, because eventually they are going to want to settle down and find a boyfriend and decorate the guest bedroom in Early Colonial. Instead, I humbly suggest, you make all military robots large and dumb and programmed only to kill. I recommend the Combine Mark VI Ogre...
Go for the treads!
We hear that once all the pesky humans ran off, the robots “formed gangs” and started fighting each other. That makes zero sense, especially with robots. Monkeys, sure, maybe even prairie dogs, but robots? This movie would have worked just as fine if they had regular humans instead of dorkyass robots doing all the action. As well, we learn that there are no guns left on the planet! And the robots are always wandering around looking for guns. What? They are super-smart robot killing machines with plasma laser swords and crazyfast reflexes, why do you need our guns? And how the hell do you “run out of guns” anyway? There are more firearms in one rural county in Texas to last a thousand years of post-apocalyptic slaughter.
I have no response for this…
Anyway, we open our movie proper in the scenic city of “Buena Park, California”, which looks amazingly like Bratislava, Slovakia in February. The reason why Buena Park, California looks like Bratislava, Slovakia is that it actually is Bratislava, Slovakia, only with an artfully weathered sign that says “Buena Park, California” bolted to a cinder block wall in the background of one shot. How, you ask, do they pass off these drab, Soviet-era concrete buildings and Hapsburg-era cobblestone streets as a generally sunny and bright ville of Southern California? Why, through the ingenious plot device of the “theme park” with an “Old World Europe Land” attraction! How lame can you get? Why didn’t you just set your movie in Slovakia? Why try and force us to believe this is California? Because your target audience is mostly dumb Americans? Probably.
Two rival robot gangs have come to this place due to a rumored cache of guns hidden nearby. At one time each gang had a large number (dozens, surely) of members, but as soon as they saw each other they started fighting and now there are just a handful left. The two gangs are the “Roms” and the “Droids“, which are really goofy-sounding names that smack of uninventive scriptwriters and a general insulting opinion of the viewers’ average intelligence. Do you really think that sophisticated military robots would give themselves such asinine and juvenile names like Rom and Droid? I hate this movie. The Roms are all hot chicks with matching Katie Holmes haircuts and Ray-Ban sunglasses. They are said to be the latest in pre-war killing machines, though they look more like snooty French fashion models than murderous robots. There are just three of them left.
The Roms. Who makes their sunglasses?
The Droids are older models, though just as deadly. They all favor dingy, soiled leather trench coats and dark earthtone shirts and they look like extras from Underworld or bouncers at some dubstep techno club in Prague. There are four of them left, but we don‘t really get to know them that well. The seven total survivors of the Roms and the Droids are camped out in this trashed theme park, each waiting for the other side to blink. The thought is that they’re all waiting for someone to find the hidden guns for them so they can take “the treasure” by force. I guess they’ve been waiting here a long time (maybe a year if a cryptic line of dialogue is any help) and it looks like they might be here forever. It just seems odd that their programming would include a code line that reads, “Wait It Out”, but what do I know?
The Droids. Who turned off the lights?
Into this mess walks “Omega Doom“! He’s another ex-combat robot, though one currently unaffiliated with any gang. A pre-credits scene provided us with the nugget that Omega (going to call him that) was once hit in the head by a laser blast that damaged his “memory programming”. As such, he’s now a wandering wasteland hero type, going about the ravished world alone, undoubtedly trying to “find his purpose in life” or some other cliched tripe. Omega is also apparently Russian, or at least his Cossack fur hat and KGB overcoat would suggest. Did the Russians win the war? How is that possible, they can’t even build a decent passenger car. Omega is played by 52-year old semi-famous action star Rutger Hauer, really the only reason anyone would bother to watch this movie. He’s alright, I guess, but he’s no Dolph Lundgren.
Omega Doom (snickersnicker).
In the theme park Omega meets a talking, decapitated head of a “teaching drone”. Well, more like a “helpful exposition drone” as he provides Omega, and us viewers by extension, all the details of the two robot gangs and the guns and all that, getting us up to speed on the rest of the plot. Being a nice guy, Omega helps to “reattach” his head to some random headless body. This is accomplished through the liberal use of split-screens and low-rent optical effects, a depressing hallmark of this movie. The body is not a perfect fit, however, and frequent spasms cause him to flop around like a fish on the dock. The actor playing “Head”, as the credits call him, is some dude I’ve never seen before, but he has the unique ability to shake and wiggle his body like he’s either a backup dancer for some Your-15-minutes-are-up crunk rapper or auditioning for one of those overly-pretentious commercials for Abercrombie & Fitch where everyone jigs around and looks dashing in flannel.
The Head talks with Omega.
Omega’s arrival stirs up the two gangs, who have been content to hunker and glower at each other across the alley up to now. One of the Droids is especially upset that Omega ruined his fun with the decapitated guy (he was using his head as a soccer ball, which seems a weird anthropomorphic computer programming quirk). Omega realizes that he can play both groups against each other and does some underhanded double/triple-crossing to get all the robots convinced he’s going to help them find the guns willingly.
This Droid is not smart.
And so everyone wanders around for a bit in the darkened halls and foyers looking for things that probably aren’t there. You can’t help but notice that this entire movie takes place in an area about 40 feet square. One cobblestone courtyard and a few buildings fronting it are the only locations, the production must have been short on rent money that month. In fact, all the interiors might be of the same building, just shot from different angles, there certainly are a lot of familiar-looking doorways and halls. Rarely do you see a post-apoc movie with killer robots in a dystopian future that has such a small and intimate scope without any huge action set-pieces or flailing CGI battlemechs. Actually quite refreshing.
Eh, looks like Detroit.
Rutger Hauer is clearly enjoying his paychec…I mean, his role in this movie and glides through his scenes with an easy smile and an unwillingness to exert much energy. This is never more apparent than in is his first one-on-one fight with the Droid enforcer in the courtyard, brought on by some petty insults and hurt feelings. You’d expect some serious badass sword swinging from action legend Hauer, but instead he just zaps the bad guy with a laser, essentially off-screen, in an Indiana-Jones-pulls-his-revolver cop-out. His next two fights, also solo matches, are just as lazy and relaxing for the actor, relying on editing magic to make it seem like he’s doing more than just standing in one spot and gently waving his arms around.
He acts with his eyes.
In fact, during the climatic showdown with the Rom leader in the last few minutes of the movie, the fight is filmed in a half-dark cellar with MTV-style quick cuts. That means they can stick a stuntman in there wearing Omega’s coat and hat and have his shadowy form do some high-kicking ninja stuff that the 70-year old Hauer‘s body couldn‘t handle. It’s not hard to see that the stuntman is eight inches shorter and fifty pounds lighter than Hauer, and has a short haircut to boot, but at least they didn’t try and have the old geezer do his own stunts (imagine the insurance waivers!).
Can’t see a damn thing? That was their intention.
Ok, now there’s another robot here in the area, one unaffiliated with either gang. This one is also female, though more provincial looking than the sultry Rom girls, and is said to be a “merchant drone”. What that means is that this barmaid’s programming told her to come here, where a concentration of robots were, and set up a shop selling water. Why do robots need water? Do they have radiators? So, Omega goes into the bar and orders a glass of water. He also leers at the barmaid and covets her snow globe (seriously), but gets rebuffed by her. Can robots fall in love? Do they know what a tortoise is? Do they dream of electric sheep?
The drone chats with a Rom. In the dark, because fuck this movie.
Anyway, Omega gets ambushed by the sexy Rom chickbots and gets his brain probed. This gives us a blue-filtered flashback scene where we learn that the humans captured him and reprogrammed him and sent him into the city to figure out which robots are fit to live or die. Or something like that, it’s not clear and I don’t care anymore. The bartender bot is also working both sides it seems, though she’s more partial to Omega even though he’s far more likely to get her killed in a crossfire. The bartender has also found a single gun in the ruins, an old rusty six-shooter without any bullets, and she uses it to distract the bad Rom leader long enough for Omega to get the upper hand.
The drones and the gun.
In a muddled and unsatisfying ending, Omega kills nearly everyone, turns the town over to the bartender drone, and then wanders away into the snow like he’s in a Sergio Leone movie. We never see the humans returning, never get any sense of the future, never see any of the robots attain higher emotions. Despite some strong performances by some of the secondary actors, a few neat costuming choice, and some nice use of the rundown Warsaw Pact locations, it‘s hard to find much in Omega Doom that‘s worth remembering, let alone worth recommending. If you want robots on the rampage, you’re better off Redboxing Terminator: Salvation and calling it a day.
Red filter? Why?
(Re-) Written in November 2014 by Nathan Decker.
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