• Film reviews

    #608 – Evolution (2001)

    Evolution (2001)

    Film review #608

    Director: Ivan Reitman

    SYNOPSIS: When a meteor falls from outer space into the Arizona desert, two local college professors make an amazing discovery: the meteor contains microscopic alien life. While the two think they’ll be rich and famous for their discovery, the microbes begin to evolve at an accelerated rate, and soon become full-sized creatures who threaten all like on Earth…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Evolution is a 2001 sci-fi film. The film opens with a meteor crashing into Earth somewhere in the Arizona desert, with signs of microscopic alien life. Two college professors make the discovery and keep it to themselves, thinking it will net them the Nobel prize and other such fame and riches. They learn upon examination that the microscopic life forms are evolving at an exponentially accelerated rate, and will quickly develop to be a threat to mankind. Teaming up with a trainee firefighter and a government scientist, they go about trying to stop the evolution before it is too late. One of the most notable things about this film is it obviously wants to be the new millennium’s Ghostbusters: from the director of Ghostbusters, who rewrote the originally more horror/thriller based script to turn it into a comedy, the main characters working at a college/university, and even Dan Akroyd having a minor role. I don’t think it’s up for debate that this ambition went largely unmet. The film isn’t totally terrible, but fails to achieve it’s objectives in a number of ways. The story is very predictable, and offers very little surprises, with the usual thing of the military taking over and cutting the main characters out of the loop, forcing them to save the world on their own. There’s also not enough battling with the creatures too, which somewhat makes sense given they are microscopic for a chunk of the film, but when they are combating the monsters, there’s nothing special or exciting about it, whereas in Ghostbusters had the super cool proton packs and gadgets. It might be unfair to keep comparing a film to another one, but in Evolution‘s case, I think it is completely fair to do so, considering that it clearly wants to be a new Ghostbusters.

    While the leads David Duchovny and Orlando Jones turn in good performances (Duchovny wanting to take this role to move away from his role in the X-files by taking a film about aliens is a bit humourous), they don’t really have the chemistry to carry a lot of the scenes. Duchovny is obviously playing the Bill Murray/Peter Venkman role of the dry humoured personality, while comedian Orlando Jones does the more expressive stuff. This overlaps with Seann William Scott’s role as the trainee firefighter Wayne Grey a little, but he has a more youthful edge to appeal to a different demographic. Julianne Moore as Dr. Allison Reed is introduced as an attempted serious, but clumsy character, but that clumsiness never shows up again, which is odd. There’s some deleted scenes which show it again, but it’s odd that’s left in there at all. The biggest drag in the film is probably the crude humour. While it starts out building up different kinds of humour, it quickly devolves into crude and cheap jokes that offer nothing new. Again, while Ghostbusters blended in the adult humour perfectly with it’s supernatural theme, Evolution tries the same, but comes across a bit of a child’s attempt at adult humour. The film very rarely recovers it’s footing in this regard, and feels like it’s run out of humour fairly quickly.

    The well known actors, as mentioned, do turn in good performances, but there’s often not much to work with in terms of story or unique things for them to do. The creatures are sometimes creative in their designs, but there’s not nearly enough variety in them, and neither do they look “alien” enough to stimulate the imagination. The climax is a bit boring too, with the cast attempting to stop a giant blob by spraying some anti-dandruff shampoo up one of it’s orifices. Overall, Evolution has some entertainment value to it, but it is always going to draw comparisons to Ghostbusters, which it can never meet, thanks to it’s humour constantly misfiring, and a plot that fails to evolve itself beyond it’s very typical cornerstones.

  • Film reviews

    #571 – Jason X (2001)

    Jason X (2001)

    Film review #571

    Director: Jim Isaac

    SYNOPSIS: Serial killer Jason Voorhees is being held in a top secret underground facility. Orders are given to move him out for study, but the facility’s director, Rowan, believes he is too dangerous to move. Jason manages to break out anyway, and is only stopped when Rowan traps him in cryogenic storage, and unwittingly, herself too. Rowan awakes in the year 2455 on board a spaceship orbiting the Earth, but the people who brought her to the ship also brought Jason too, and he has thawed and ready to kill…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Jason X is a 2001 film and the tenth film in the Friday the 13th film franchise. The film opens up showing Jason Voorhees being contained in a secret research facility, as previous attempts to kill him have failed thanks to his ability to regenerate. The director of the facility, Rowan, is given orders to transfer Jason out of the facility for study, but she believes Jason is too dangerous to transfer, and wants to cryogenically freeze him. It doesn’t matter anyway, as Jason breaks free of his confines and gets busy cutting through everyone he sees. Rowan manages to lure him into the cryogenic chamber and freeze him, but an accident means she is sealed in and frozen too. Over four hundred years later, Rowan (and Jason) is discovered and brought aboard a spaceship to be revived. Not realising that they have brought aboard a relentless killing machine, Jason picks up where he left off and goes about slaughtering the crew, while the survivors try and work out a way to stop him. The film is about what you’d expect from a slasher film, as Jason mows down people constantly without any rhyme or reason. The sci-fi twist to the typical Friday the 13th film could have two outcomes: it offers a fresh take on the formula, or it can be a travesty of messing with a tried and tested formula that shows a series has run out of ideas. In this case, it is certainly the latter. The sci-fi setting is barely explained: humans have moved to a new planet called Earth II because Earth has become too polluted, but this is mentioned about once. We don’t know anything about this future, and what technologies exist, and not knowing what is possible just leaves things very confusing as if the film makes it up as it goes along. It feels like the film just doesn’t try to take advantage of it’s new setting, and just sticks to filling the film with sex scenes, partial nudity, and slashing without really giving anything new to offer.

    I’m not really sure what the film wants to do: it’s obviously not meant to be a really gritty horror film, as there’s no real suspense, overly visceral gore, or jump scares, and as mentioned, just falls back on randy young people having sex to appeal to it’s young adult audience. There’s no creativity with the kills (maybe one or two) or anything unique about them that the setting gives them. I feel like it would probably be easier to stop Jason on a spaceship, as there’s nowhere to really hide, doors can be secured pretty easily, you could lure him out an airlock and wouldn’t have to confront him at all. But I suppose that wouldn’t make an interesting film. I’m not even sure the film wants to be taken seriously. It does try to inject some comedy by having the characters say really awkward puns and quips, but they are all just so oddly timed and out of place that it’s baffling what you’re supposed to take away from the film.

    There’s quite a large cast of characters, most of whom you’ll never get to know because Jason kills them off fairly quickly. You can tell right from the off what cliché character they are meant to be. There’s no real development in any of the characters, even the lead, Rowan, just doesn’t have any personality, and we have absolutely no idea about who she is and any details about her life. Jason is more or less the same as he has always been, which is good, but the “Cyber Jason” that emerges when Jason’s body is repaired by the cyber nanobot…things isn’t going to become the new Jason: he just becomes a cyborg which is pretty silly and over-the-top, but again, that might be what the film is going for?

    The setting of the spaceship has a fair amount of detail, but the CGI is fairly dire. I don’t think it would have been good even in 2001. The whole film just feels like an episode of a TV series, from the sci-fi corridors which could have easily come from an episode of Star Trek, to the threadbare plot that would have fit neatly into a forty minute episode: the film itself barely stretches over the ninety minute mark. Overall, Jason X just seems like a bit of a mess: it doesn’t have the suspense, jump scares, or gore to make it a decent horror movie, but it’s attempts to be funny and poke fun at the franchise, whether deliberate or not, are never delivered at the right time, and your often left wondering just what the aim and tone of this film is meant to be.