Hey undereducated screenwriters! If aliens are going to invade us, the only thing that is unique to planet Earth is … life. They don’t want our water. They don’t need our minerals. And if they have the technology to travel millions of light years, they probably don’t need slave labor. So, lets work on something that might be really intriguing. For instance, that they are so advanced that we can’t even HOPE to guess why they are here. Its simply beyond us. But…I guess that would lead to audiences feeling stupid, which would, in turn, lead to lower box office revenue. Instead, people will go see Adam Sandler movies, and keep him rich.
So, as you may have guessed,I’m not a fan of the latest movie supported by Russian director/producer Timur Bekmambetov who brought us the hyperkinetic Wanted, and will soon be bringing us the hyperkinetic Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This time around, Bekmambetov has taken production designer-turned-director Chris Gorak under his wing. Gorak’s first film was a critically successful little film called Right At Your Door. He even won some prizes at Sundance for it. The film was made when Gorak decided not to buy that Big Mac for lunch and instead use the money to make a movie. Now, as so often happens, the award-winning director is giving a larger project, with a larger budget, and all the strings that all that implies — like answering to people who control the money. The award-winning director loses control of his vision, and the project becomes a mess of mediocrity.
The film starts with Sean, played by Emile Hirsh, the only name with star power enough to draw in any fans. He and his buddy, Ben, (Max Minghella from The Social Network) are on a flight to Moscow to present a new social website they developed only to find that the idea has been stolen by associate Skyler (Joel Kinnamen from nothing really of note). Determined not to let the theft of their potentially million dollar idea ruin their night, they go out clubbing, where they meet non-Russian hot chicks. Dialogue ensues that feel like it’s a transcript from a pick-up artist handbook. Shallow, mundane, and feebly unclever. Skyler also shows up and joins a stunning Russian lady. So now we have the players: The brilliant programmer (Ben), his likable-but-less-ambitious sidekick (Sean), the pretty-but-not-as-pretty-as-her-friend-heroine (Natalie), the beautiful-yet-dumb-model-type (Anne), and the Douchebag (Skyler). I could pretty much wager who will be the victims and when they will be victimized.
Speaking of which — this is the time where the victimizers show up. The clubbers gather outside underneath lovely Aurora Borealis lights up in the sky — only its yellow. And out of the sky fall gossamer webs of light. Everyone is awestruck and enamored. One lands right in the middle of the crowd. A police officer approaches with his nightstick to poke the thing that fell from the sky. He immediately gets turned to ash in an effect that must have been found in the computers at ILM — an R&D remnant as they tried to figure out how humans would be vaporized in War of the Worlds.
NOW people run in a panic to the safest place they can think of — the dance club. Somehow in the fray our heroes end up in the basement which somehow is safe against the onslaught, but not before we witness Skyler sacrifice his lovely date to the invaders by closing a door on her. I guess we needed to show that he is an asshole — more so than heartlessly stealing Ben’s idea out from under him.
An arbitrary amount of time passes — 27 days comes to mind, but I’m not totally sure, or do I care — They have eaten through the club’s supplies, and finally decide that it’s about time to head out. They find that everyone is gone. The city is empty. And production has saved millions of dollars on extras or practical FX for dead bodies. They come up with a plan that they should get to the US Embassy. Obviously, in a situation where the entire local population is mysteriously vaporized by nearly invisible alien beings, the US Embassy will probably be safe due to diplomatic protection they can provide.
As they make their way across the city, the put together that the aliens seem to be based on some kind of electrical system. And that when they are close, devices that run on electricity goes crazy. OK — I’ll buy that. It’s even kind of interesting, and a good way to reveal the presence of the creatures without resorting to lots of expensive effects. But then Sean (the dumb one of the two buddies), suggests that they hang light bulbs around their necks as an early warning device. Now, I’m not a physicist, and I know that math can sometimes be hard, especially with electromagnetism. But, I am PRETTY sure that having a loose light bulb near an electrical field will have as much success of illuminating it as giving it to Uncle Fester and having him put it in his mouth. I could be wrong. But — we have to roll with it because it becomes a key plot point — that, and quite a few other Physics 101 students would cringe at.
They rest of the movie is a ten little indians as each of the heroes and the people they meet are turned to dust by evil electrical beings. But they have found hope and a goal – a submarine sitting in a deep area of the Moskva River. I dunno, does the Moskva or Volga reach open water for a submarine to get to? Maybe — but at this point, I’m resigned to whatever. On the way, they meet a group of guys who have begun to find the weakness and have been trying to fight back in the name of Mother Russia. During an altercation, they break a piece of the alien off. There is, evidently, something INSIDE the electrical field, thereby taking a concept that is interesting, and regressing it back to a 1950s alien invasion movie — albeit with silly CG, rather than silly alien masks.
The group DOES get to the sub, but in the process, Natalie is lost and left, and Sean has to convince the Sub Captain to wait as he goes to rescue her. And off he goes, backed by his new-found Russian friends to fight the bad guys.
The film is really implausible at every turn. I know it’s an alien invasion movie, but it still has to live in a foundation of reality. I found myself shaking my head with every scene, varying in strength based on “that’s unlikely” to “what the hell is going on?” I cared about no one. I was rooting for no one. And the aliens weren’t even very impressive. And to top it off, the final song feels like it was pulled from a local garage band from 1983 whose inspiration was Swedish rock band,Europe.
I can only say that I hope Gorak goes back to his roots and gives us something that will affect us more than Emile Hirsch running around throwing douche-y lines to everyone from girls he’s trying to pick up to lifeless mannequins. The guy just can’t stop talking.
And to top it all off, they couldn’t come up with ANY good posters: