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Now in Release
DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
Starring Peter Weller, Andy Lauer, Jennifer Rubin, Roy Dupuis.
Directed by Christian Duguay
In a great commercial, Screamers looks like a tear 'em up, glue you to your seat scary thriller of a roller coaster ride. In said commercial, it emphasizes that Screamers, is from the author of Blade Runner and Total Recall. That writer's name is Philip K. Dick, who Cranky was very much aware of in his SF salad days, though he preferred to read Asimov and Herbert. Which is just as well, since Screamers is based on a short story Dick wrote in the early 1950s. And Philip K. Dick wrote a lot of short stories. A lot. A whole lot.
Nevertheless, Cranky does not make comparisons to Source material, which should make Mr. Dick's ghost very happy.
On the distant planet of Sirius B, a new element has been discovered which brings tremendous benefit to mankind. Unfortunately the mining of said element releases radioactive gasses which essentially destroy the civilization of the planet. Back on Earth, the corporate types (who see the profit) and the scientific types (who see the disaster) go to war over the mining of the element. But the war takes place not on Earth, but on Sirius B and it has raged for ten long years.
Twenty, if you believe the soldiers. Blatant continuity errors like that usually mean that someone on the Production Side was more concerned with the look and feel of the movie instead of the core story. Blatant errors like that make Cranky nuts.
Then again, there's radioactivity all over the place. Maybe they're fershlunget in the head. OK, we'll go with that and move on.
The Alliance, whose troops are headed by Col. Hendricksson (Peter Weller) have created an ultimate weapon. It is called a Screamer. It sense biological life and then cuts it to pieces with a rotating blade. It is a flying sword, if you will. And it is intelligent. It can reproduce itself, and is beginning to evolve into new forms that it's creators had not imagined. Now, all human life forms are not safe. Alliance forces must wear electronic "tabs" to fool the machines. Else, they are as trapped in their bunkers as the enemy, members of the New Economic Bloc (NEB) is.
But then, the NEB sends a soldier through the wastes to request a negotiation. Screamers go munch munch, but the message gets through. A spaceship crashes. One gung ho survivor named Ace (Andy Lauer). Hendricksson takes Gung Ho into the wastes and there they find a little boy, David, whom the Screamers have left alone. To protect him, they add David to their party and head for the NEB bunker, where they will find two more "warriors" and a woman who takes Hendricksson aside and gets naked.
By now you will probably be bored out of your minds.
Remember what I said up top about the Production Side? I meant it. Screamers *looks* great. It really does. There is a true sense of alien desolation about this planet (most of which was shot in a salt mining pit in Canada). There is true style to many of the camera movements. All lovely to look at, if you can keep your eyes open.
But you don't give a damn about any of the characters. Each is so severely stereotyped that no character development is possible. Testosterone flows in bulk from every pore of every Alliance soldier; even the women.
But, even moreso, the Screamers *aren't scary*. Sure, an arm and a leg goes flying here and there, but the Screamer effect is (to put it mildly) chintzy. If the body parts are supposed to fly, the silly little machines should, IMO, make everything a gory mess and not clean up after themselves.
Which they do. Really. If you're going to scare the living daylights out of an audience, do so. And don't make the things so cuddly looking, in a very sharp edged sort of way <g>. In short, all the money that went into Screamers to make it look like a big budget production makes it *look* like a big budget production. The script, by the writer of Alien, is sorely lacking.
It costs Eight Dollars to see a movie here in New York City. If Cranky could have set the ticket price, on his legendary in his own mind scale of One to Eight, I would have paid
Looked Great. Less filling.
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