With all of this Mayan calendar talk that’s been going around for months (years?), I decided to spend my “last night on earth” watching movies (after all, what else am I going to do on a Thursday night?), and the obvious choice of theme for the night was Apocalypse movies! So last night I sat down and watched three science-fiction tales about the end of humanity as we know it. This post is going to be like three micro posts; that’s right, folks! Three reviews (count ’em, THREE) for the price of ONE! (see: free)
1. Ben-Hur: Vampire Slayer “The Omega Man” (1971, dir. Boris Sagal)
Sit down and watch CharltonHeston kill vampires in post-Apocalyptic LA for an hour and a half; what could be better? Not much, that’s what!
Then to add to the joy we have a subplot involving Heston’s character falling in love with Lisa — a woman who seems as if she might have been pulled out of any number of 70s Blaxploitation films, rightdown to her calling everyone a “mutha”; a chase through a baseball stadium; a motorcycle jumping over a car without a ramp; vampires with retinas that move around on their eyes (bad contact lenses); and some extremely, extremely cheesy acting from Moses himself.
Now, I’m usually a really big Charlton Heston fan, and I still am, and I love to see Heston really chew up whatever part he is playing, but he might over-chew this one. In fact it seems as if he chews the scenery so much that by the time he is done everything (including himself) is reduced to mush.
My favorite moment comes during a car chase near the end of the film when Heston flips his truck over (while wearing a shiny metallic, “bedazzled” jumpsuit) and climbs out of the wreckage with his clothes, hair, and skin completely intact…except for a slight smudge of dirt on one side of his face.
The Last Man on Earth (1964, Ubaldo Ragona) starring Vincent Price is a better movie than The Omega Man, but it isn’t nearly as funny (intentionally or not).
2. Fresh Prince: Vampire-Zombie Slayer “I Am Legend” (2007, dir. Francis Lawrence)
So here’s the thing about I Am Legend. It is an adaptation of the same novel The Omega Man was based on, but is not as enjoyable as that film. Where The Omega Man aimed decidedly at camp (and succeeded), I Am Legend aims for legitimate drama and doesn’t quite hit the mark. The Omega Man feels goofy and fun, but I Am Legend by comparison seems to have missed the joke.
Smith gives as solid a performance as can be expected — really were it not for Smith the film would be a total disaster — and manages to keep his character grounded at an emotional core as much as he can given the material. Smith even manages to capture some real chemistry with his co-star Samantha, a German Shepard.
So then what’s the problem with I Am Legend? Well, to be perfectly honest, everything else. Originally Ridley Scott was set to direct and the vampires-things were going to be done with makeup effects, but when the production changed hands all the practical effects work was thrown out and replaced with terrible looking CG.
Now, don’t think I’m being too hard on a film that is nearly six years old for having dated looking effects, because I’m not. Transformers also came out that year, and Return of the King (featuring the still impressive CG character Gollum) came out in 2003. So even in 2007 CG could be done in ways that are not jarring and obvious, but for whatever reason the creatures in I Am Legend looking jarringly fake.
All of that said, Smith’s character goes through a descent story-arc, and I respect the film for trying to treat the material seriously. I just hate that the elements didn’t really come together and “gel” into what could have been a solid horror/thriller film.
Watch it for the dog.
3. Apocalypse……how? “Crack in the World” (1965, dir. Andrew Marton)
Let me set the scene: A scientist wants to drop an atomic bomb into the Earth’s core so that man can “mine” earth and minerals as a form of “free energy”. That doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all, does it? But of course it is! When the bomb is dropped into the core it apparently hits a large pocket of hydrogen gas which was bubbling just below the Earth’s crust. This gas pocket caused the explosion to nearly triple in size and send a large crack circling the Earth deep below the sea.
First there are earthquakes, then entire islands begin disappearing ([insert LOST noise]) into the sea, and the scientists have to find a way to stop this disaster! But how?! I know! Let’s drop another atomic bomb into a volcano to counter react the pressure of the first explosion!
In my book there are few pleasures in life that match up to watching a laughably cheesy science-fiction movie, and Crack in the World practically takes the cake (and then throws it into the Earth’s core). The plot is nonsense, but it ultimately serves as a purpose of giving us lots of explosions and cheesy dialogue, which is nice.
In the scene where the atomic bomb is dropped in the volcano, a crew have to be lowered into the volcano with the bomb to make sure it clears rock ledges on its way down. One character (who was introduced only for this scene) expectedly meets his death, and the other nearly falls into the boiling magma himself.
When they finally pull the man out of the volcano they ask him how he feels. His response? “Medium well.”
And I’m very happy to say the entire movie is like that.
The Omega Man trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiNY3anKBa4
I Am Legend trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxRuW5bf4T8
Crack in the World trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxzvREM2S94?rel=0&w=420&h=315
I Am Legend makeup test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j22RthvabUM?rel=0&w=420&h=315
And here are some other Apocalypse movies for your consideration:
The Last Man on Earth (1964, dir. Ubaldo Ragona): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058700/
The Road (2009, dir. John Hillcoat): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0898367/
The Book of Eli (2010, dir. The Hughes Brothers): http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1037705/