Wednesday, October 14, 2015

like a moth, flying closer and closer to the flame

There's a danger in moving forward with sequels--today, The Final Conflict (aka Omen III). See, I glanced at the film's entry at IMDb and, while the original has a 7.6, the second film--which is quite well done--has a 6.2, and this third entry in the series has a 5.5. (The fourth, a made-for-TV movie, has a 3.8.)

(Not misquoting biblical passages this time. Instead, inventing apocryphal texts to quote.)

The earlier entries are more... original. More creative effort goes into them. If we're lucky, there's some novel notion that leads to the first sequel, but then it turns into a studio-driven exercise in cashing in. Writing duties are farmed out. Or worse, unrelated scripts are coopted to fit into an existing franchise. (This is what happened with at least one of the Hellraiser sequels, for example.)

Sometimes there can be a resurgence in creativity later--I think, for example that Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday is maybe the best of the Friday the 13th films, and it's the ninth entry in that franchise.

This film is not making any effort to be a horror film, and barely making an effort to be an antichrist film. Instead, it's playing like a not-that-exciting political ambition story--if ambition meant you aim for an ambassadorship. Impression I always got on The West Wing, not to mention that you barely hear about our ambassadors on the news, was that ambassadorship was like the offering the president gives to an also-ran who has no other place to be. These Omen films act like being an ambassador is a stepping stone to the Presidency. (To be fair, that was the case... what? once? With John Adams... except, it was more like his ambassadorship was a holdover that just got him out of the way for a while.)

This film has none of the paranoid energy of the original, nor the moral dilemma implicit in the second. It's just... tedious. While I saw this film sometime around when it came out, I didn't really know who Sam Neill was until the early 90s--the one-two-three punch of Memoir of the Invisible Man, Jurassic Park and In the Mouth of Madness. In those films, he had more of a presence, some charisma. Here, his Damien thorn is just flat, boring.

But, nevermind that. A bigger problem with a story like this (and really, the original as well, since it introduced those daggers) is in the potential deus ex machina (pun intended) of the daggers. As Damien just said, they are the only thing on Earth that can kill him. Forget that Bugenhagen said the child Damien could only be killed by all seven daggers, while the men with those daggers are acting as if one stab with one dagger can stop him. The logic in dealing with prophecy and prophesied weapons is flawed. There is no logical way for anyone to know that the Antichrist can be killed by just those daggers. Unless Satan has had some jackals impregnate women before and those children were only able to be killed with those daggers. (I had to doublecheck how Nero--one of several historical Antichrist suspects--died. Suicide, but it was with a knife. Perhaps it was one of those daggers.) I wrote this single scene story about twelve years ago about an unnamed hero confronting a villain who has a magical amulet that will destroy all of reality. The hero balks because, well, so what? If the villain is right, it won't matter afterward anyway, and there is absolutely no way he could know that he's right. As the hero puts it:

Let me throw something out there for you. Okay, you're a big magical beast demon thing living in the murk of prehistoric times, lunching on dinosaurs, bathing in fire and all that nice stuff. You decide one day to create a little charm that will erase all of reality. With me so far? ... So, you've made magical amulets before. There was that one that turned your mother in law into a frog. There was that one that gave your cheating wife warts on her nether regions. There was that one that... [The villain interrupts, then the hero gets on with it.] Well, all those amulets did what you wanted, but wasn't that just dumb luck? I mean, you're not God. You don't make the rules. You don't control physics or metaphysics or metamagicalysics or whatever you want to call it. How do you know it will work? There's no test market for erasing reality. So, how the fuck do you know your new little creation will erase all of reality? How the fuck do you know that little charm will do anything but shine a little brighter if you speak to it? You want to erase reality with trinket, go the fuck on and do it. And, when that thing turns out to be no more valuable than a cracker jack prize, don't come complaining to me.

And, back to the movie-- am I really supposed to care about these babies just because they're babies? We're talking about the beginning of the end of the world, here. I don't have time to worry about babies (or parents of babies) that I have not gotten to know so far. They're just extras.

Actually, this movie offers no one to care about, really. Can't root for Damien now that he's deliberately heading for the end of the world. And, Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow) just isn't that interesting a protagonist, certainly not as interesting as Jennings (David Warner) in the original. Nor is DeCarlo (Rossano Brazzi) as interesting as Bugenhagen (Leo McKern). And, neither one is as interesting as Robert (Gregory Peck) or Richard Thorn (William Holden).

Twenty minutes from its end, the film is almost getting interesting. I mean, it has had its moments. The opening sequence with the daggers was nice. The fox hunt was staged well. And, now that Damien and Kate have been talking about evil, it's like we've switched to an entirely different script.

Too little, too late.

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