Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 21, 2019)
Kids sure do grow fast! In 1976, Damien Thorne was only five years old, but by 1978, heíd already turned 13!
Fast-forward three years and Damien stood as a 32-year-old man. This chronology makes no real sense, but itís the path chosen by the producers of the Omen films, and itís where we find Damien circa 1981ís The Final Conflict.
Damien Thorne (Sam Neill) acts as the head of a major corporation and gets the gig as US ambassador to the UK. Oh, and heís also the literal anti-Christ, a malevolent being who wants to possess power and spread evil.
When the potential Second Coming of Christ occurs, Damien uses all means necessary to find and kill the child. Only a small group of monks stands between Damien and world domination.
At least until the seriesí reboot in 2006, Conflict acted as the conclusion of the Omen franchise as a cinematic entity. On one hand, this seems due to the seriesí consistently declining economic fortunes.
Back in 1976, the first film grossed $60 million in the US, a nice sum back then. 1978ís Omen II brought in less than half that amount, but $26 million wasnít a shameful sum in that era.
And the $20 million of Conflict wasnít as bad as it sounds to modern box office ears, either. Conflict came up with sales that resembled those of that same yearís Friday the 13th Part 2 and Halloween II.
Both of those flicks did nothing to slow their respective seriesí progress, even though both represented steep declines in overall gross compared to their predecessors. So why did Fox bail on Omen after Conflict?
Good question Ė and one I canít answer. The studio did attempt to resuscitate the property with 1991ís TV movie Omen IV: The Awakening but obviously that relaunch didnít stick.
Itís also possible Fox thought the franchise seemed wobbly enough that no one could come up with a good way to continue it. This makes sense to me, as Conflict becomes a dull entry, even by this seriesí low standards.
I know many regard the first Omen as a classic, but I never found it to be better than just okay. Omen II also was a passable film that never turned into anything special or memorable.
Given my low expectations for Conflict, I canít say it truly disappoints me, but given the story, it seems like a severe missed opportunity. Whereas the first two movies focused on a young Damien who lacked the ability to spread his evil beyond a small radius, the Damien of Conflict boasts a much broader reach.
Given his age and prominence in both business and politics, adult Damien possesses the means to execute all sorts of nasty shenanigans. This means the film ups the ante over the smaller scale events of the first two.
Alas, Conflict doesnít manage to do much with its potential, as it prefers to stick with a simple tale in which those monks try to kill Damien and he fights back. The movie largely consists of one ďnear missĒ from the monks after another, replete with gory deaths.
None of this develops into a satisfying narrative, partly because we never really feel the threat involved. Neill plays Damien as little more than a ďBĒ-movie baddie, one who twirls his figurative moustache a lot but not someone who seems especially devious or impressive.
Given his career since 1981, we know Neill possesses talent, but he really does come across as one-note here. To succeed as he has, Damien needs to show charm and charisma, whereas Neillís Damien just seems like an ominous creep who smirks and glowers his way through the film.
That said, the script leaves Neill with so much awful dialogue that I donít know what more he couldíve done with the role. Everything about the movie seems stilted and often silly.
Conflict also becomes persistently boring, shockingly so given all the potential drama involved. Whatever the movie couldíve been, the end result brings us a flat snoozer.