by Craig Conley
Project Omicron: A Film by Jared Whitham
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"Project Omicron" is presented under the guise of a low-budget, retro-50's sci-fi art film, complete with alien spacecraft, top-secret government missions, and time-warps. William Maier III stars as a troubled military pilot, at times seeming to impersonate Johnny Depp impersonating Ed Wood. The film is both deliberately campy and eerily psychedelic, all the while underscored by quirky music from DIY-extraordinare Sir Millard Mulch. But the satiric surface of "Project Omicron" is merely a disguise to hide a deep and complex psychological message. Gifted children, perceiving themselves to be "different" from those around them, often develop a public mask to hide behind. They are painfully aware of something alien inside of them, and this alien nature is of itself threatening to others. Well-meaning parents may instinctively notice the alien nature behind the mask and try to kill it so that their children can integrate more easily into societal norms. "Project Omicron" is a cunning metaphor for this phenomenon. The story follows a young boy and his father as they witness the landing of a U.F.O. in their backyard (think "Mars Attacks"). The father murders the alien inhabitant with a rifle, and the young boy solemnly kneels beside the body. Haunted by this event, the boy grows up to follow in his father's footsteps as a military pilot, struggling to meet unrealistic deadlines and to work with people whose reality is so different from his own that they appear totally insane. He finally finds himself piloting a reconditioned alien rocket, and upon leaving the earth's atmosphere realizes that he has lost all contact with mission control. His struggles to regain contact are futile, and for the first time he slowly sheds his societal mask and mutates into his true, alien being. A time warp occurs during the return trip to earth, and the alien lands in his own backyard to confront his father and childhood self. For his son's protection against difference, the father kills the alien. The boy kneels, clearly mourning the death of his own future individuality. The best dialogue in "Project Omicron" centers around "the war that is within us all." Indeed, this film challenges the viewer to confront his or her own inner battle: conforming to mediocrity versus daring to be unique. The film seems to suggest that we CAN ultimately discover our true selves even within the confines of society's laws--but at what price?