by Mel Valentin
If you haven’t heard of The Asylum, you should count yourself among the fortunate few. The Asylum specializes in expertly timed low-budget, straight-to-DVD efforts that rip off Hollywood blockbusters by borrowing everything from the premise, to the title (with slight variation), rushing them into production, and releasing them on or near the date of said blockbuster. For The Asylum, the name of the numbers game is simple: create just enough brand confusion that unsuspecting video renters will confuse one of The Asylum’s lesser efforts ("War of the Worlds," "King of the World," "Transmorphers") with the real deal (Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ "War of the Worlds," Peter Jackson’s remake of "King Kong," "Transformers"). Wait, here’s another one: "I Am Omega," The Asylum’s attempt to rip off Richard Matheson’s seminal science-fiction novel, "I Am Legend," and, of course, the latest adaptation starring Will Smith.I Am Omega rips off I Am Legend’s basic premise, the last man on earth (or in this case, Los Angeles), who, immune to a devastating plague that’s wiped out most of the world’s population, fights to find a cure while battling horribly mutated, cannibalistic survivors, except in this case, the lone human survivor, Renchard (Mark Dacascos), lives in a lightly fortified Los Angeles suburb, while doing nothing more than picking up supplies, battling and killing mutant survivors, and setting up bombs around Los Angeles. Apparently, Renchard believes that blowing up Los Angeles will help solve the mutant infestation. He’s also not immune from the blood-borne virus, just lucky apparently.
"Please, Lord, make it (the pain) stop. Please."
When he’s not having nightmares about his wife and son, both killed by the mutants, a scene he couldn’t possibly have witnessed, or, as mentioned setting up bombs around Los Angeles, Renchard keeps his computer up and running, hoping that another, non-infected survivor will contact him. When a survivor, Brianna (Jennifer Lee Wiggins), does, Renchard is so far gone that he doesn’t believe his eyes or ears. It doesn’t help that Brianna closely resembles his wife (they’re played by the same actress). Brianna claims she has a cure, but is somehow stuck in downtown LA and in desperate need of rescue. Renchard refuses, but the appearance of two soldiers, Vincent (Geoff Meed, who also wrote I Am Omega) and Mike (Ryan Lloyd), changes that. They claim to be from an uninfected community, Antioch, and want Renchard’s help in finding and retrieving Brianna. To prove their seriousness, they blow up his house.
From there, I Am Omega devolves into a sub-par rescue and flight scene, with Vincent proving to be more of a hindrance than a help, Renchard finding Brianna quickly, and both fighting off mutant hordes (okay, five or six) before Renchard’s strategically placed bombs go off. And if that’s not enough, Meed throws in a third-act betrayal that’s as nonsensical, ludicrous, and hilarious as his redneck character’s penchant for calling Renchard “compadre.” Meed obviously didn’t care much about narrative logic, just throwing in a reversal to force a final fight scene between former allies (as badly choreographed as it is ridiculous) and, thankfully, the end credits that finally put I Am Omega out of its misery.
The tagline for I Am Omega promises hyperbolically that “The Last Man Alive Must Battle a Planet of the Dead.” With a probable budget in the six figures and a 12-day shooting schedule, the director, Griff Furst, obviously had few resources to work with. It probably didn’t help Furst that Meed probably took the second male lead to save on the budget (he gives a truly awful performance), but at least Furst had a lead actor in Mark Dacascos better than the material (if not by much). I Am Omega’s short production schedule left Furst with little else to do except to use cheap, handheld cameras (watch out for all the swaying) to shoot I Am Omega. Since filming in Los Angeles was also limited, Furst had to use nearby locations, including Oxnard, as a substitute. He probably also had to shoot the city scenes during the weekends and in lightly populated commercial areas (the better for them to look deserted).As for the visual effects, the less said the better. They look cheap (because they were). When Renchard’s house is “destroyed” by a rocket-propelled grenade, the effects kick in, but it’s obvious the house is untouched. The next, odd angle in the scene is meant to hide that simple fact. The final shot of the destruction of Los Angeles is just as unconvincing. At least the practical, makeup effects (e.g., the mutants, blood, and gore) are better, if, alas, no less derivative than everything else in "I Am Omega." Ultimately, for all the obvious energy that went into "I Am Omega," there’s next to nothing to recommend here, except for connoisseurs of exquisitely wretched straight-to-DVD efforts (you know who you are). Then again, if a campfest is what you want to see, why not check out "The Omega Man," the second film in Charlton Heston's loose, dystopian trilogy (the other two being "Planet of the Apes" and "Soylent Green").
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originally posted: 01/31/08 03:40:48