Yesterday I sat through a movie that I'd been warned about. A movie that, despite the writer and director's last collaboration being one of my favorite films of all-time, I put off in hesitation until yesterday. That film, of course, is Little Man.
But seriously, I loved 28 Days Later, despite it moving into a completely different third act that I would've headed. I even like The Beach, even though, wait, what the hell happened in the beach?A morally wounded Robert Carlyle, and DiCaprio eating frogs in a video game or some shit. Weren't they growing heroin? I seem to remember saying "I'd be taking a bunch of that heroin and offing myself out of my misery, cuz" while watching it. I dunno, I should try to give that another viewing. oh, and that UNKLE song with Richard Ashcroft.
Sunshine was probably the best looking movie I've seen in a very long time. It was fucking gorgeous. I'll chalk that up to Alwin H. Kuchler's* cinematography as much as anything else. But yeah, it started out with one of the most serially abused plots that science fiction has ever coughed up**. A crew of a spaceship is en route to shoot a thermonuclear weapon into the heart of our dying sun in hopes of re-igniting it. I guess that part's not so hackneyed, but lets look at this on simpler terms. A diverse (and brilliant) team is on a mission in an extremely remote and inaccessible part of the world when their mission gets sidetracked be the appearance of another craft either long thought disappeared or showing evidence of being there for an extremely long time.
sound familiar? It should, because it's been done to goddamned death. And while we're spared the image of Sam Neill sans derma***, there's still plenty of other tripe for you to swallow. While trying not to give away the plot for you auto masochists out there, I will say that there a a slew of completely absurd script turns that had me so bewildered by halfway through the movie that it was doomed from the beginning. Which is odd, because I like to think I'm great with suspending my disbelief (the first rule of appreciating sci-fi). I truly want to think this is possible. now am I a nitpicker. I don't count bullets in action movies and I don't look for continuity errors. and I'm certainly not a physicist. But when you have space travel depicted as being refined the way they do, nobody forgets a goddamned thing as long as it's important. Nobody displays the gross errors that take place in this movie more than once. It just don't happen.
But that's now where I'm going with this. My point is that I've seen this a hundred times, at least. and EVERY SINGLE TIME I'm excited in the beginning. As they show a spaceship going through an average boring day, I find myself genuinely interested and watching the way simple tasks are performed. I want to see where they get oxygen or what their meals are like or whatever. That's great! But then there's always some stupid shit that starts taking place as soon as they hook up with this supposedly dead ship. Thoughts become reality. The ship is possessed by the Norse god of death. Ghost poops. Whatever. There's no going back from something like that. There's no way this isn't gonna piss me off. You're already in outer space, or at the bottom of the ocean. There's no need to ratchet up the drama right now. Explore this a bit. You don't need to introduce a supernatural mystery or a god-like entity anymore. Why don't they aver get that?
I was talking with some friends about this earlier, and I was citing The Black Hole as probably the best example of this sort of plot working, and I think I may still stand by that, with apologies to The Forbidden Planet (specifically to Leslie Nielsen and the midget inside Robby the Robot)****.
The Black Hole is the first movie I can ever remember seeing, which probably has something to do with it. But everything from the design schemes to the killer robots to burial services (!) to fucking ERNEST BORGNINE IN SPACE. Seriously, how can you justify that guy being in space, EVER?***** and this isn't even going into the greater ideas that go into the film, the questions of what makes humanity and how or why someone would create a robot with the voice of Slim Pickens******. Goddamn I love that movie, and now I'm gonna have to go watch it for the first time in years. Yes, my rant is over that fast.
I am acutely aware of the frequent references to godawful science fiction movies here lately. I promise I'll try to stop. The worst part is that I haven't seen almost any of these movies in over a decade and I still remember them. I might be able to provide you with 5 or 6 facts that I learned in all of college. But I can name at LEAST 5 science fiction movies that Ernest Borgnine was in. Sweet fuck what is wrong with me? and my apologies, Ernest, for assuming you were dead.
*Strangely, the only other movie he's worked on that I've ever seen was the violently disturbing Ratcatcher, which didn't impress me much. He's working on the Wolf Man revamp next. huh.
**And that's saying something, no?
*** This isn't an indictment of Event Horizon so much as it is of Sam Neill, who I still somehow blame for John Carpenter's butchering of In the Mouth of Madness.
**** Strangely, Borgnine would appear again with Yvette Mimieux in a startlingly similar (albeit underwater-themed) movie with Walter Pidgeon from Forbidden Planet called The Neptune Factor, in which the most interesting thing is what Ben Gazzara looked like when he was young. I'll save you 98 minutes by providing you with that here. These footnotes are getting out of control. Imagine what it must by like to think this way, it's like a hamster trying to run in six different wheels. X-rays of my cranium have shown pretty much exactly that.
***** This is not the only, but probably the main reason why Laser Mission is the worst movie ever made. Man, I need a nap.
******I know, I'm more tired of them than you. But I can't question why someone would program a robot to have a thick country accent without pointing out that someone programed the downfall-of-mankind robot with a thick Austrian accent. Clearly the future hasn't lost their sense of humor. Good, we'll need it.