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The Omega Code is an incompetent stew of crackpot Christianity.

By Jesse Fox Mayshark

NOVEMBER 8, 1999:  I'd love to start this review by saying that Jesus Christ has a lot to answer for. But it wouldn't be fair. You can't really blame a 2,000-year-old messiah/prophet/ teacher/cult leader (take your pick, I'm being ecumenical here) for the crimes committed in his name.

And to keep a sense of perspective, as far as Christian atrocities go, The Omega Code is way, way down the list. So far as I know, no Jews were tortured, witches burned, or children sent on crusades in the making of this film.

Nevertheless, it is a very bad movie. Laughably bad. Too bad to be laughably bad, actually. More like vegetative state-ishly bad. If I were an evangelical Christian, I would be insulted that this incoherent, incompetent, pre-millennial jumble was supposed to be an expression of my belief system. But then, if I were an evangelical Christian, I would stop reading this review right now and throw it in the trash can before the kids find it.

The Omega Code was financed by what the credits coyly identify as TBN. For the uninitiated, that stands for the evangelical Trinity Broadcasting Network, best known for its Praise the Lord show and affiliated operations. According to the press kit, the film—like all good Christian projects—was the result of the kind of heart-to-heart father-son family values chat you can only have in the cockpit of your very own Lear jet. (Jesus wants us to be prosperous, you know.) Apparently, TBN founder Paul Crouch was cruising around with his son Matt when Matt "conceived of a movie that would deal with some of the apocalyptic messages in the books of Daniel and Revelations."

It took 15 years, but Matt Crouch—who runs a company called Gener8Xion Films, which is exactly the kind of clueless attempt at hipness that characterizes so much of the Christian media these days—finally got his movie made. Actually, he only produced it. He turned the director's reins over to Rob Marcarelli, who, the press kit says, "has worked with a distinguished list of commercial clients including McDonald's, Blue Cross, Pepsi and several national banks and insurance companies." (As for screenwriter Stephan Blinn, he "ghost wrote the sequel Lawnmower Man II.")

Hoo boy.

I don't know if it's good or bad that the final product is such a ridiculous, amateurish muddle. It's kind of reassuring to know that fundamentalists aren't any better at filmmaking than they are at rock 'n' roll. The chances of unsuspecting audiences being in any way attracted to Crouch and co.'s particularly smug, dumbed-down, xenophobic brand of Protestantism are pretty slim. On the other hand, some number of people (like, say, me) are actually going to pay money to sit through it.

The story is all about the end of the world, precipitated by the machinations of a media mogul/mad scientist/political potentate named, ahem, Stone Alexander (Michael York). He has acquired a CD-ROM purporting to crack "the Bible Code," which translates prophecies about Armageddon hidden in the original Hebrew text. Guided by these foretellings, which are mostly vague, portentous statements like "Ten horns unite world peace," the obviously evil Alexander gets himself elected head of the European Union. Right, the European Union. Are you scared yet?

As his right-hand man, Alexander recruits motivational speaker Gillen Lane (Casper Van Dien)—uh-huh, a motivational speaker—who slowly realizes his boss might be out for something other than world peace. Alexander's real goal turns out to be (gasp) formation of a one-world government based in Jerusalem. He even gets killed at one point and comes back to life with glowing red eyes, just in case you weren't sure what was going on. Meanwhile, two middle-aged angels dressed like Obi-Wan Kenobi flit around telling everyone the world's going to end soon.

Leaving aside the alarmist patchwork theology, the movie is stunningly lazy in executing its own numskull ideas. York flaps his arms a lot and is as threatening as a tranquilized emu. (Rupert Murdoch would have been a lot scarier. So would Ted Turner.) The only time he seems engaged in his role is when he gets to recite a snippet from Julius Caesar; British actors fallen on hard times always manage to work in a little Shakespeare. The film's conception of a sinister New World Order is equally ham-handed—three different times, Gillen Lane manages to evade the combined armed forces of the entire world on foot. Note to the militias: forget the land mines and bazookas, all you need is a good pair of running shoes.

The Omega Code ends the way it of course has to. The Anti-Christ—like all Anti-Christs in these movies—hasn't bothered to read to the end of the chapter and seems genuinely shocked when God turns up to wreck his plans. In the cheapest, cheesiest special effect in a film full of them, the digitally animated globe is engulfed in a sheath of light that heralds the "dawn of a new millennium." A couple of people in the theater behind me started clapping. Yea God!

The Omega Code bills itself as a Christian thriller, but like all attempts to sugarcoat theology it ends up weak on both counts. Nothing in it comes anywhere close to the wrenching force of faith made so palpable in Carl Dreyer's Passion of Joan of Arc or the Biblical reverence of Pasolini's Gospel According to Matthew. Both of those movies, the guys at TBN might be interested to know, were made by atheists. And they didn't fly Lear jets.

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