Event Horizon (R)

8 Stars

There are natural forces that govern the universe.

And there are theoretical forces that may govern a fictive universe.

Good science fiction attempts to bridge the gap between the two realms. By taking unanswerable questions of physics and applying theoretical possibilities past our limits of understanding, one may craft a compelling story.

An event horizon, in general relativity, is a boundary in space-time beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer. It is the point of no return, the moment when escape from a gravitational pull becomes impossible. They’re most commonly referenced surrounding a black hole.

(Side Note: In Mr. Peabody & Sherman the protagonists perilously approach such a boundary.)

Event Horizon falls prey to a common error in semi-recent science fiction: A drastic overestimation of our species’ developments in space travel. First of all, apparently we’ll still be recording ship’s logs on compact discs. This film is set in 2040, and it’s doubtful our explorations will spread to Neptune by then.

To hazard a charitable guess, this is an attempt to break convention in common science fiction thrillers. It certainly seems to be the case amongst other aspects of the plot.

Take note of Cooper’s ultimate fate. Richard T. Jones, whose voice I recognize, plays the kooky black guy.

Sam Neill and Larry Fishburne turn in strong performing leads as Dr. Weir and Captain Miller.

I’d place Invent Verizon more in the horror genre than anywhere else. So judging it as a horror movie, I give it eight stars and call it great.

To draw connection to a completely dissimilar film, it’s reminiscent of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. It tells a complex story that, due to production issues, builds on a cracked foundation.

Plot description that explains, “It’s left up to the viewer to interpret,” usually means the narrative’s incomplete.

So there are loose threads in the Extent Orion quilt. But most of the fibers are strongly woven with thought provoking ideas.

Profoundly dark musings, mind you; never forget it’s smart, but still a horror movie.

A vivisection takes place. Vivisecting, no matter how tasteful the visual conveyance, is never fun.

That’s not to say it’s poorly crafted: The CGI’s generally good enough, the special effects are sound, the gore isn’t over the top and the tide of tension undergoes a steady ebb and flow.

If you’ll allow the limitations set by the technology available in 1997 (in terms of CGI and production design) and can stomach a handful of unsettling scenes, then check it out for some thrills and chills. (It’s available to stream instantly through Netflix, and has been since my freshman year of college, six years ago. I doubt it’s going anywhere soon.)

But if you haven’t seen the movie and are sensitive to spoilers, stop reading.

To continue my introductory discussion of science fiction and the application of natural forces, the viewer will buy into a theoretical force if it compels the story forward.

When it comes to Event Horizon, I’m fine with everything up until they board the actual ship. The stuff with the magazine centerfold is intelligent and easily acceptable.

Then, things get a little shaky once you start to consider the implications of the ship’s consciousness.

What’s with the ice crystals? Was there a spill of liquid nitrogen? Did a change in atmospheric pressure trigger the freezing effect on the ship’s interior?

I believe there’s a subzero answer to these questions. Seems like someone fell in love with the idea of using the term ‘corpsicle’ in dialogue.

Okay, first of all, they had two options for explaining the darkness inhabiting (or possessing) the ship. The reappearance of Weir towards the end, when he battles with Miller in the hellish core, is a physical incarnation of the entity.

The nature of that demonic being is what the film’s final cut never nailed down. They could either call it Hell (a concrete location defined by religious beliefs, but at least a colloquial construct of reality), or generate their own mythological realm (the parallel dimension governed by chaos.)

Ultimately they choose not to answer the question, leaving it up to the viewer’s interpretation.

I don’t appreciate incomplete narratives, but I understand production difficulties. I just wish they’d picked a side and stuck with it. The majority of misunderstanding stems from this sole incongruence.

As I mentioned before, certain forces govern our reality. It’s simple enough to believe that the Event Horizon passes through this chaotic dimension (be it Hell or otherwise) but the affect it has on the ship requests a distant reach for our brains to continue the suspension of disbelief.

There’s a bevy of examples, so I’ll list a quick few. One of the main problems is what I call, ‘an incongruence of metaphysical properties,’ or the misalignment of surreal forces.

The quick and easy i.e.? Telepathic abilities don’t include clairvoyance.

Actions are governed by motivations, and for the plot to unfold the way it does, it would be according to the ship’s mandate. We can assume the ship’s all knowing and all-powerful, because it telepathically dissects the crew’s memories and locates their fears. Furthermore, it projects hallucinations onto their consciousness.

Even further, it can cause objects to vanish, like Miller’s gun. Meaning it can literally manipulate the fabric of existence.

If the ship has the ability to alter reality, its initial antagonism seems unmotivated and inexplicable. Why string along the entire crew through this revelatory process? What does the ship (or the evil entity possessing it) hope to gain through tormenting the individuals?

There’s an inconsequential argument to be made here. Perhaps the entity’s wish is to let the three crewmembers escape, thereby spreading…what, exactly? Hell on Earth? Why does Starck seem to be the only one ‘infected’ so to speak? The final scene suggests her mind’s plagued with the same malady inhibiting Weir’s character at the film’s open.

That being the case, what assumption can we draw from this implication? That events will play out in a similar manner for Starck as they did for Weir? That’s impossible; the Event Horizonis half destroyed and returned to Earth. Will she rein terror across the planet? The manifestation of that development seems inconceivable.

To pile on top, soon after the film begins, Weir dreams of the corpse floating on the Event Horizon’s flight deck. Thereby suggesting clairvoyance.

So you can see how the power imbalances, the inconsistencies between frames of reference, and an ending of minimal consequence add up to a deceptively contrived narrative.

A glaring error left un-snipped: What’s life going to be like for smiley Justin, after the macabre experience he’s been through? It’s almost cruel to let him live; disfigured, traumatized, psychotic and likely suicidal.

Then again, I have confidence in the writing’s veiled attempts at defying convention. Take Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) execution of Dallas (Tom Skerritt) in Alien for example, or more recently David (Michael Fassbender) in Prometheus. The tortured, tormented crewmember never makes it home.

It’s thoroughly twisted, but it seems the only impetus behind retaining that character’s life. Actually, it’s humorous when you consider his character’s position in the majority of the story. He’s lying comatose on that table (potentially infected with chaos and/or Hell, by the plot’s logic) and he never proves a danger to anyone but himself!

Poor lad. Let’s hope therapy helps.

As a side note, Samuel L. Jackson finds himself under similar circumstances in Sphere, where a group of scientists inhabiting Deepsea Habitats study an extraterrestrial object. The loose threads are more numerous and far less satisfying than Event Horizon, but the crew undergoes a similar fate where an evil consciousness delights in telepathic torment. Sphere’s un-good, even if judged as a horror; don’t waste your time with that submarine wreck.

Further side note, when Event Horizon gained its cult following, the demand for an extended cut became inevitable. Unfortunately, the director, Paul W. S. Anderson (not to be confused with P. T. A., the director of Boogie Nights) couldn’t cobble together much extra footage. According to Anderson, some footage had been stored in an abandoned Transylvanian salt mine.

I’m not sure why. I don’t remember any vampiric salt miners in Event Horizon.

The intercepted audio recording is the perfect microcosm for the whole film.

It’s creepy and ominous, and a believable mistranslation. I’ll even allow the idea that their manner of speech transforms to Latin.

And hey, for fun, let’s forego all discussion of computerized auditory scanners.

Who was the message, “Save yourself from Hell,” intended for?

And who had the wherewithal, after passing through the chaotic dimension, to broadcast the warning signal?

Oh. I get it.

Once infected, the spread of Hellish dementia’s a gradual multi-stepped debilitation.

First comes the transformation of basic speech faculties. After that, the craving for sadomasochistic orgy manifests.

Silly me. It’s all coming together now.

Better start rewriting this review.

Perhaps I’ve passed the event horizon…

(See what I did there?)

Gravity (PG-13)

4 Stars

Wildly disappointing.

Far and away the most overrated film of 2013.

Sound like I’m jumping on with all the naysayers, but I felt the same about the crummy dialogue long before hearing a critic rave about it.

I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about Gravity. It’s the perfect example of how nefarious the awards system can be, and don’t appreciate the avalanche of critical acclaim it’s received.

Especially when there are tons of better movies from this past year deserving the praise.

Alfonso Cuaron did not deserve best director for this picture, and it’s to the Hollywood Foreign Press’s great discredit that he was awarded the Golden Globe for such a mediocre product.

I haven’t received a legitimate argument for why he won the award, so I’m assuming it has much to do with his ethnicity. Every article I’ve read on the subject, seems to suggest he won Best Director for ‘good reason,’ but then never goes on to cite why.

Because (much like an auteur) he personally wrote, directed and edited his own screenplay? It’s written poorly, and Steve McQueen accomplishes a similar feat with 12 Years a Slave.

I don’t enjoy badmouthing movies. Cuaron worked hard to put this together, and seems like a nice man.

But I have no issue with Cuaron, and appreciate his efforts. I take umbrage with the hype and accolades Gravity has received since its release.

Okay. I’ll talk about the movie for a moment before complaining some more.

I forget where I heard this, but somebody put it perfectly when they said Gravity felt like “it began in act two, and ended halfway through act three.” So if you’re looking for a well-constructed, polished and original narrative, look elsewhere.

If you live under a rock, you mightn’t know it’s ‘visually stunning.’

There are three or four solid moments, where the tension’s high, and the plot stays on a compelling track.

The 3-D is sharp. I honestly have no idea if it’s the sharpest I’ve ever seen, but I don’t “feel like I’m in space.”

That’s bullshit, and I’m sick of hearing people say that.

(Okay, here we go again, beware the spoilers below.)

The four good scenes are thus: 1) the fire extinguisher 2) Sandra flipping end over end 3) Clooney being detached and 4) Clooney’s ghost showing up.

Now. I would rather not lose Georgie boy so quickly. I care zero percent about Sandra’s plight, because I have no investment in her character or conflict. I have no context in which to place this individual, so I’m just supposed to care about her because she’s an astronaut in trouble? That’s a lot to ask from your audience, and it doesn’t make for compelling storytelling.

When Sandra’s finally in a somewhat safe location, I realize I’ve nothing tethering me to her character.

Okay, so she’s safe – what does that mean to me in the grand context of the film? Well, she’s halfway to making Clooney’s self-sacrifice worthwhile.

But all for what? It’s unclear why she’s out there in the first place! What do I care if she gets home?

What’s consequential about her getting home? She survives dull circumstances with nothing at stake. There’s no grand scheme here.

This is what I’m trying to get at, my proverbial audience – this is shallow writing.

For example, if we’d seen Sandy make a costly mistake early on (during the absent Act I, perhaps) we might care about her character overcoming this lack of confidence; these feelings of apprehension and indecision.

Gravity is an excuse to do visual 3D tricks in space, and while that may appeal to some, I much prefer the story come first.

I wish ghost Clooney was really alive, and hitchhiked on the tail of a passing comet. That’s the kind of outer space visual I’m looking for. Now that we’re out here, might as well venture a little further from the Earth’s atmosphere, right?

I’m kidding, but seriously.

I heard someone on NPR (I believe) mention how Cuaron’s ability to bring together diverse groups to make this film is to his great credit as a director.

First of all, it’s a movie about two beautiful white people, and that’s it. As noted above, the entire conflict of the movie hinges on your unquestionable compassion for Sandra’s character.

Secondly, how in fuck does this have any bearing on the resulting film that’s produced?

There is zero correlation between a production team’s level of diversity, and the quality of the motion picture.

I find this mildly revolting. Movies’ should not be awarded points for this sort of reason.

Gravity’s mediocre at best, and not worth revisiting for my tastes.

Sorry, Fonso, I bet you’re a good dude, but I don’t love your film.