No-name production company, B-list
actors, unknown director… This has B movie
written all over it. Just about a single notch above straight to video
So with that out of the way, let me say I am fucking shocked. This is an intelligent and subtle movie. OK, coming from the person who considers Cherry 2000 to be a work of genius, sure, but I mean it this time. Actual characters with real consistency, charm, and common sense. Snappy dialogue. Sensible exchanges. Independence Day, Battlefield Earth, 4/5ths of the Star Trek franchise… put together don't quite have the class of this movie. It lovingly skips and dances over the clichés, constantly edging and nudging, always acknowledging your movie watching reflexes, playing with your expectations. I kept expecting to get mad at the characters and never got the chance once.
Peter Weller and the supporting cast get their acting on Shaolin style. Have you seen so many ridiculous attempts at actors trying to be military men (let alone military men in space) that you've forgotten entirely what it might actually seem like? Patrick Stewart, bless his heart, has had nearly a decade of practice, and Robocop smokes him cold in his first scene. I wanted to stand up and salute. And yet in the same moment he could convey such a sad and thoughtful presence.
There were moments of real visual brilliance, scenes which were crafted with such understated horror, such practiced, unassuming creepiness, as when the Davids march out of the base, over the dunes. Sure, there was some sloppy foley work and vintage looking stop motion, but frankly, if I could have given the director a hundred million dollars, I wouldn't have added a dime to the budget. The claustrophobia of the makeshift sets, and in general the creativity demanded by the constraints of the project make it stronger than if ILM did all the work for your imagination.
The subject matter is Shakespearean in scope: evolution, war, love, greed. At this point I start to wonder where the hell it came from. No surprise, it's only Philip K. Dick (uh let's see, Blade Runner, Total Recall) with the original short ("Second Variety"), and my personal hero, Dan O'Bannon with the screenplay. That man, in addition to screenwriting Total Recall, is the Blofeld-esque mastermind behind no less inexplicably wack movies than Lifeforce, Dark Star, Heavy Metal, and… you guessed it. Alien. The movie that started it all. The director, Christian Duguay, deserves no small part of the credit either, and this movie seems to have been good for his career, which had thus far included a lot of television and several Scanners sequels, but has moved on since to more pop cinema stuff (Joan of Arc, The Art of War).
For me, this is the movie equivalent of having Wolfgang Mozart and Jimi Hendrix crash your local dive bar and play a three hour set. You heard it here first. Rent that shit today. You can thank me later.