Thursday, May 1, 2008

Solar Crisis (1990)

In the near future... the sun is preparing to expel a solar flare so powerful it will cremate the Earth. Sounds like a good time to me! The DVD case for this movie really intrigued me. The movie has Charlton Heston, Peter Boyle, AND Jack Palance. Digging just a bit deeper onto the back of the DVD case gives me one, big, big concern.

Directed by: Alan Smithee


Basically, if a director has a movie taken away from him, and the studio recuts the movie in a way the director dislikes... that director can request that his or her name be removed from the film, and the pseudonym Alan Smithee be attached. Generally, when you see Alan Smithee (or any variation of that name) you are in for a bad BAD movie.

So, I am, as you can imagine...concerned.

At the start of the film, my fears are not lessened by one of the most bizarre opening sequences I've ever seen. We get the slow text crawl explaining the situation. No issues there, then we cut to...another slow text crawl. We see a quick scene about the anti-matter bomb "Freddy" whining about his suspension coils being too tight (yes, a whiny 5-ton anti-matter bomb). Soon followed by... another slow text crawl.

I am still concerned.

The main plot is simple. The sun has been getting hotter for several years now, threatening life as we know it. Scientists have discovered that a large area of sunspots is forming, and the expected solar flare could be so severe that it could reach the Earth...completely destroying life as we know it. Of course, there are complications. One, some members of a large corporation still on the almost desert-like Earth, IXL, seem bent on seeing that this solar flare actually DOES hit the Earth. Two, the navigation system on the 5 ton anti-matter bomb wasn't perfected, so someone has to pilot the bomb into the sun. This leads to my favorite edit in the movie. This fact, that one of the most important members of the ship will have to fly into the sun is completely glossed over by a quickly edited in "ok, it's time to go, let's move" line, and we jump to some sub-plots.

Sub-plot #1: Admiral Kelso (Heston) discovers his grandson, Mike, on Earth has gone AWOL from a military academy. Mike's dad, and captain of the ship Steve Kelso, seems to be way more concerned with trying to get inside the pants of the bioengineered "Magician" (meaning she can pretty much do anything) on the ship. Admiral Kelso decides to leave the ship, and return to Earth to try and find his grandson. Meanwhile Mike meets up with a crazy-eyed "Travis" (Jack there any other kind of Jack Palance?) to try and get to a space shuttle to get up into space to reunite with his family. Palance is just a nut in this movie. The best way I can describe Travis is an insane Mad Max. He runs around grunting and screaming, not making a whole lot of sense most of the time.

Sub-plot #2: Returning to the IXL group, one of their "hitmen" sneaks himself aboard the spaceship, somehow, and implants (?) some...thing? into Alex's eye or something. Talk about not explaining anything, whatever it was though...the bioengineered Alex is now under IXL's control. The plan to disrupt the mission is well on track.

Even though Alex is now unwittingly on the other side, it seems as though things are looking up for the Captain's chances on getting what he really wants out her. Soon after a shipmate dies trying to fix a radiation problem on the ship (possibly caused by Alex hmmmm???) you see the two getting very very close to each other.

Looking again at the back on the DVD, as there's a whole lot of nothing happening at this point during the movie, other than Travis' "Mad Max" posse learning about the plot to destroy the Earth, and doing very little about it... I notice one of the big selling points of the movie is that the visual effects were done by people who worked on Star Wars and 2010. And I'll admit, the special effects haven't been too bad, nothing too special, but better than I probably expected given everything I had thought coming into the movie.

You know what? Marvin, the Android from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy whined less than Freddy, the Anti-Matter bomb. Just sayin' he's really annoying.

A bit of a sidetrack here. A while back I reviewed "Sunshine"; a movie, again about the sun causing global disaster (albeit, in Sunshine the sun was dying, not getting super-powerful as is the case here). And in that movie, a character came back seemingly from the dead (and 7 years after his supposed death) in almost monster form as a figure that says we should not meddle in the ways of nature. We now have the exact same character in Solar Crisis, in the form of IXL's leader Arnold Teague (Peter Boyle). He's purposely sabotaging the mission to the sun because 1. he doersn't believe the solar flare is coming, and 2. if it be it. That's the way it's supposed to be. Another interesting comparison: both movies have a major oxygen incident which basically turns the mission into a suicide mission for all on board the ships. I just found these to be very interesting similarities between two rather different movies.

As we careen towards the movie's end. The Kelso family saga kind of fizzles out when Mikey escapes from the IXL baddies, and then just runs into his grandfather and is saved. Kind of a letdown, I think Heston was in this movie for all of 10 minutes...and his most memorable line was "You tell me you love me before you leave this room."

So we go back to the ship, and all heck is breaking out. Things are falling apart, stuff is exploding, FREDDY GETS PUT ON MANUAL DETONATION MODE and FINALLY someone suspects sabotage. You think? After bringing the crew 2 seconds away from certain death, Alex miraculously saves the day, and then is all things Freddy the be the traitor. Captain Kelso yells at her, but she, using her womanly charms, manages to knock the good captain unconscious and steal the anti-matter bomb and she flies it into the sun herself. That's right, even after finding out this crazy woman's brain has been possessed, and nearly killed the entirety of the human race...Captain Horndog here still lets Alex get a little too intimate, and again gets burned. What a doofus.

Here's where the entire movie throws up it's hands and goes "I dunno anymore." They show Alex flying into the sun, being surrounded by splashes of yellows and oranges, then...Captain Kelso says "Let's go home" and ROLL CREDITS! Talk about leaving absolutely everything open. Allow me to list what we don't know still:

1. Did Alex actually fly the bomb to the correct place?
2. Did the bomb deflect the flare as they hoped?
3. Does the crew make it back to their docking station (they did only have 31% oxygen which should have only gotten them 1/3 of the way)?
4. What happened to IXL?
5. What happens to EARTH?
6. Does the Kelso family reunite?
7. Why am I thinking this hard about this movie?

Surprisingly, despite more red flags going in than your average NASCAR race, I rather enjoyed this movie. The acting wasn't great, the effects were mostly decent (getting a little rushed at the end), and the story was passable until the very end. I was surprisingly entertained by this movie. The final conflict scene on the ship in particular was surprisingly tense. If I were to grade it, I'd probably give it a B-, definitely above average, but not a masterpiece.

Next time (much sooner than this one I promise), I'm going to review 10.5. A TV miniseries from the mid-90s.

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