Wow. I mean just – wow. It’s staggering to contemplate that some producer group sat in a screening room and thought, “Wow, this is gonna be great!” Now, I know we weren’t walking into an Oscar contender or a cult classic, that much was evident. My companion and I hoped and assumed it would be a silly fun workaday puzzle movie, like the National Treasure movies, or even what 23 tried to be. At times, it even was that. I have a distinct memory of thinking, “huh, this is kind of more entertaining than I thought it would be.” It was a little overly spoon-feedy some – no, much – eh, really most of the time, OK, but that’s within expected parameters. It had big ideas, cool ones, about relativism and determinism, purpose and randomness. Hey, we thought, maybe this is one of those good movies with terrible scripts. Enter scientist son of a pastor (we’ve been watching Nicholas Cage for some time without knowing his deal or why he lives in a creepy ruin of a house) and the obligatory crisis of faith and then –
WHAM! A truly amazing sequence, shot all in one take! Cool! OK, great, we thought, slurping our sodas happily. Now we’re talking. Cage’s character talks weird, has no sideburns, and makes insane, counter-intuitive choices. “Hey looks like trouble over there. Let’s go over there!” We roll with it, it’s clearly not a smart movie, just a fun one. Then POW! Another jaw-dropping disaster sequence and then open wide for the Spooning. I’d like to take a moment here to acknowledge the background, or extra/crowds. They did some extremely fine work; I shouldn’t have noticed them, since their function is actually not to stand out, but the problem is that they were better than the movie they were in. They were great, real pros, acting their socks off.
Interrupting our little fate-versus-will mystery are a bunch of guys dressed like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all Chess King trench boats and Billy Idol hair. Creepy? Sure. Relevant? How? Are they a metaphor? Are they people who can sense the numbers? Why on earth – oh but that thought is interrupted by the stakes being raised impossibly, human-extinction-level high and you forget to be properly skeptical about the Spikes.
“That was a really cool first sequence, I’d sure hate to think they would ruin it with some dorky paranormal stuff.” You can sleep at night knowing that they did, they did ruin it, so terribly, so egregiously, that I wish I had been more intolerant of the script’s clumsiness and left, so I could remember this movie as something other than…wow.
Let’s just say the last shot (held approximately 8 minutes too long considering it didn’t have credits rolling over it) is pretty much the last thing you would expect to come from the beginning of this movie. It’s like ending Psycho with a colorful shopping montage. Wow. I give the filmmakers kudos for fully committing to an ending that others might have tried to mitigate or avert. They show some pretty hard core disasters in this movie, and there’s no fireman walking out of the house with the dog in this movie, no sir. They also fully committed to the immensely stupid surprise ending. There is a team of designers and effects people who clearly did the work of their careers on this ending (and it really does look fabulous), and all their labors did was make us hate this movie. Objectively, it’s beautifully rendered, and so so wrong. Why?
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 3/20/09
Time in minutes 121
Director Alex Proyas
Studio Summit Entertainment