Monday, August 15, 2011

The Omega Man (1971)

Credentials: 6.6 out of 10 ( / 59% Certified Rotten (
Plot: The year is 1977 and Earth has been decimated by a supervirus released during a war between Russia and China. Way to go guys. Anyway, most of the Earth’s population is dead and the rest have turned into silly-looking albino mutants. The closest thing to a normal person left on the planet is Charlton Heston, for God sake. Heston plays Robert Neville, the last man on Earth and a military doctor hell bent on finding a cure to the supervirus. Better late than never I suppose. Meanwhile, the mutants are hell bent on killing Neville because he is “a user of the wheel” as they put it. Meh, I guess Texas has killed people for less.
Thoughts: I hate to play the “not as good as the book” card, but there’s no way around it in this case. I’ll make it quick like a Band-Aid. Ready? At no point during its 90 minute run time does “The Omega Man” even come close to doing its source material, Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend,” justice.
                The only way the film could have treated Matheson’s work with less respect would be to have had Heston using copies of the novella for target practice. Maybe that was a deleted scene.
                “The Omega Man” breaks a handful of the cardinal rules of cinema and ends up looking like a second rate, cheap knock-off instead of a legitimate Hollywood movie.
                During far shots of a supposedly deserted downtown LA, you can see cars driving along the stretches of road the filmmakers didn’t shut down. Hmm… so Heston is the last man on Earth, except for those people in the other cars? Congrats filmmakers, you’ve taken me out of the movie before it even got going.
                Also, the movie features SEVERAL jump cuts.
Now look, editors have a tough job. No one notices what they’re doing unless it’s incredibly good or… as is the case here… an unmitigated disaster. No movie with any sort of budget should have jump cuts in it. Ever. No excuses.
Charlton Heston, one of the most notorious hams in movie history, is our acting main event. Sadly, he doesn’t deliver the bacon (or any other pig product) like he usually does. I mean sure he holds conversations with a bust of Caesar and wears more track suits than Sue Silvester, but I wanted some more over-the-top and wholly unnecessary shouting.
I mean, we got some, but not nearly enough. Certainly nothing as memorable as: "Soylent Green is... (Spoiler Alert to all my readers in 1973)... people!" 
 Instead, we get one insanely creepy scene where Neville lovingly caresses a mannequin. Thankfully, he gets interrupted before he could start rounding the bases with his plastic gal pal.
    I feel like I'm repeating myself but: Another bad movie, another uninteresting set of villains. The mutants with their silly robes, extra pale complexions and big speeches aren’t scary or menacing in any way.
It’s extremely hard to take someone seriously when they say things like “users of the wheel.”
By the by, just where the hell did they all find those matching black robes? Did they hand sew them? Where did they get the thread? Are those sunglasses they wear handmade also? Surely if the mutants don’t like the wheel, things like synthetic fibers and plastics aren’t kosher either…
Also, they hate technology, but they use a catapult. Certainly no technology there... this is what happens when bad writers try to be clever.
With plot holes like that, it’s clear the script is a sorry state of affairs. It’s just not possible to care about anyone or anything in the movie.
None of the side characters manage to distinguish themselves in at all. The side plots are there solely to pad the run time.
When you consider Matheson’s smart and depressing novella, the script for “Omega Man” looks even worse.
The fact that screenwriters John William Corrington and Joyce Hooper Corrington were able to take a fully realized vision and still somehow drop the ball is a startling display of mediocrity. Although to be fair, there have been three stabs at adapting “I Am Legend” and none have been any good so maybe it’s harder to pull off than it seems.
Or maybe a good writer hasn’t ever been given a crack at it.
:01- Take that you damn dirty ape! Wait, what movie is this?
:09- Damn right there’s no phone, there’s no spoon either.
:13- Simmer down ladies, it’s just a shirtless Chuck Heston talking to his reflection. Nothing to see here.
:16- I’m so tired of the whole jive-talking, zombie druid with an afro cliché.
:32- Maybe he’s allergic to shirts.
:39- “Take him to… the little room!” Oh no! Not the little room! Anything but the little room! Worst threat ever? Yes.
:43- So, Neville’s punishment for being a “user of the wheel” is to wear a giant dunce cap?
:44- I’m sort of rooting for Neville to get killed and an hour’s worth of end credits
1:13- God, can’t keep a shirt on Neville. Should’ve just done the whole movie shirtless. Cut the wardrobe budget in half and hired a real editor
1:17- Shirtless again! Twice in four minutes! Insane

Video Evidence
Heston on trial
This is what happens when the NRA gets their way

                So there you have it, “The Omega Man.” Maybe one day a writer will get “I Am Legend” right. I mean, someone other than Matheson. Or maybe three strikes and we’re out.
                Bumblebee tuna.

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