If Michael Bay and Zack Snyder didn’t have the market cornered on style over substance, Stephen Sommers would be hanging around that corner. However, after story-telling atrocities like The Mummy Returns, Van Helsing, The Scorpion King and the abysmal G.I. Joe franchise, Hollywood decided to delegate Sommers to the kids’ table, pulled his exorbitant budgets, and let Sommer’s go-to FX company ILM free to work on more admirable ventures.
In this stripping away of Sommer’s toys, he really reveals himself to be as horrible a filmmaker as I always suspected. He fancies himself as an auteur, and that he may be, but his mediocrity is compounded as he stretches himself between the roles of director, producer, and writer.
The source material is a Dean Koontz novel (who I’m not terribly fond of either), and its really a sound, but often regurgitated, procedural of a police investigation dealing with supernatural entities. Sommer’s re-telling in screenplay form becomes quite awful, not so much in the actual telling of the story, but in the dialog, which feels so self-consciously clever that I would have pinned it as a Diablo Cody script — that she wrote when she was 8. You take horrible dialog and put it into the mouths of wooden actors and you have a recipe for a film more lackluster than the original table read. The banter between Thomas (Anton Yelchin) and his destiny-ordained-too-hot-for-a-guy-like-Odd-Thomas girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) is eye-rolling at best and intolerable at its worst.
The production value is fine given that Sommers had only $27M to work with — in comparison to the hundreds of millions he’s used to. Director of Photography Mitchell Amundsen probably had 1% of the lighting and grip gear he had on Transformers, but he made do, paying particular attention to making Addison look stunning — even in a bowling alley.
The FX work was ambitious beyond its budget. BUF’s Pierre Buffin is listed as a co-producer, so I suspect that the production got a deal on the FX in exchange for backend (never a good choice). The work on the “bodachs” is interesting and nicely animated, but not well integrated. Par for the course on Sommer’s films. There are some shots and sequences where the greenscreen compositing is shy near that of your average sitcom. A factor of the budget rather than BUF’s talent pool, I’m sure.
I will give it some credit for handling the conclusion comparatively well. But (without reading the novel) I will credit to Koontz rather than Sommers. And perhaps it remains slightly touching because I didn’t have to listen to Timlin reciting lines like she’s playing Tree #2 in a 3rd grade production.
Odd Thomas is an interesting concept that I wish would have been directed by someone less overrated who has some legitimate talent.
P.S. Perhaps I’m being a little harsh. I’m sure they are all lovely people.