Carpenter’s not-especially-subtle dig at film critics. Get it?
John Carpenter’s sci-fi satire falls squarely into the ‘great idea terrible execution’ category. It takes a really long time to get going – we don’t see any of the titular aliens until a third of the way through – though that wouldn’t be such a problem if the first third wasn’t so reminiscent of bad ’80s television. The production values are terrible; don’t get me wrong, I can handle low-budget, but this is just bad. Its biggest flaws are the awful acting (especially from Roddy Piper, a professional wrestler inexplicably cast in the lead role), shitty special effects, hokey action (including a pointless fight scene between the protagonist and his eventual buddy that goes on for over five minutes), repetitive, cheap-sounding ’80s-TV-show music (co-written by Carpenter), and characters whose behaviour is constantly baffling (seriously, Piper is incapable of convincing others to try the sunglasses by giving them a brief summary of what’s going on??). Some of Piper’s lines, such as “I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass – and I’m all out of bubble gum” and “Brother, life’s a bitch – and she’s back in heat”, are the sort of things that might have worked coming from Ash in the Evil Dead movies or Duke in the Duke Nukem video games (which actually ended up using them!), but they’re cheesy in a bad way here. The real shame is that the premise is so promising; it’s clear Carpenter had some interesting ideas, not to mention some worthwhile satirical points to make, but all was squandered in execution.
I’m almost completely new to anime (my previous experience is limited to Astro Boy and a couple of Studio Ghibli films), so I decided to try a few. Of the three I watched, this was the best and the one that made me most interested in seeking out more, perhaps in series rather than movie form. It’s a fascinating, moving story full of inventive ideas and incredible visuals. I really liked the strange soundtrack and have been listening to it regularly, especially the track ‘Kaneda‘. It’s so clear when watching it that there’s a wholly realised world and mythology at play, even if not all of it is included within the film itself. The characters are well-rounded, engaging, and easy to emotionally invest in. The ending is a tad head-scratchy, but not in a bothersome way. If you only watch one anime, I say make it this one.
This is visually and conceptually imaginative, and occasionally very entertaining (the dinner dance scene is particularly hilarious). Ultimately, though, it’s disappointing because it becomes too silly and doesn’t sustain its early promise; after a certain point, it also stops being funny, which is a shame. All of the actors do well; Catherine O’Hara and Jeffrey Jones are particularly fun, and Michael Keaton is certainly memorable in the title role. Alas, I’m finding the more Tim Burton movies I watch, the more he disappoints me.
Bruce Willis in his finest role. It’s long, big, loud, and a bit stupid. All told, it’s a very entertaining action flick and one of my favourite Christmas movies, though to be honest it was a little disappointing the last time I watched it for some reason.