5 - 1
It’s hard to say what’s worse here—the casting (Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle should all know better), the director (Brian DePalma, paying for all those ‘70s Hitchcock rip-offs), or the fact that this was one of the first films partially based on a Disneyland attraction NOT named Pirates of the Caribbean. Whatever the case, we wind up with an excursion into the galaxy that would make us want to disappear into the vacuum of space as well. And before you start shouting for Red Planet, remember this. It had a first time filmmaker who never sat behind the lens again. DePalma was a post-modern icon—supposedly.
Over the last 20 years, critics have come up with a few flawless truisms, and here is one of them—put Robin Williams in a narrative with knotty potential and he immediately sinks it with his shtick. What Dreams May Come would have been a masterpiece—that is, if Mork and his hirsute horribleness hadn’t stepped in to strip it of all its dignity. Similarly, Isaac Asimov’s tale of robotics and man playing God could have been terrific—that is, if Will Hunting’s halting therapist hadn’t shown up to still the waters. Playing an emotionless automaton should have been easy for the former funny man. Instead, Williams gave mechanized inertness a new, noxious name.
Ray Bradbury didn’t deserve this. His seminal short story, about a time travel excursion back to the age of dinosaurs gone horribly wrong, is a middle school English class staple. So to see dopey director Peter Hyams—he of Timecop, Outland, and the unnecessary 2001 sequel, 2010—handed the potential project doomed it from the start. Then, the subtle shifts in Bradbury’s prose was replaced with unbelievably bad CG monsters, a collection of crappy actors, and more misguided scientific explanations than a group of PhD candidates defending their dissertations. A noted example of “the butterfly effect”... and celluloid as stinkbomb.
Ha! Fooled you, didn’t we. You probably thought we were going to reserve the number one slot on our list for this fool’s paradise production from reigning Tinseltown Scientologist John Travolta—and your assumption would be close to correct. We did contemplate placing this L. Ron reject at the very top, only to have our crazy cult “so bad, it’s good” meter kick in. Still, this is an incredibly awful movie, a combination of the worst kinds of speculative retrovision—failed future shock and paltry primitive gruntings. It’s hard to get a handle on what’s more appalling—the make-up job for the giant Psychlos or the caveman couture of the man-animals.
If it wasn’t so pathetic, it would be laughable. Former wunderkind M. Night Shyamalan finally spent the last bit of his Sixth Sense/Next Spielberg credentials making a movie in which plants went on a rampage against mankind. No, not in a Day of the Triffids kind of carnage. No, our friendly neighborhood vegetation decided to release a neurotoxin which caused humans to kill themselves. Huh? Anyway, with questionable scripting and even more specious acting, this was a truly terrible attempt at terror. Leave it to the freefalling filmmaker to make things even more unintentionally hilarious by touting this as the scariest movie ever. Huh?