Thursday, July 9, 2009

THE LAND OF THE LOST AND TERMINATOR SALVATION - A DOUBLE BADASS MOVIE REVIEW

Both of these movies are big for the summer,and they have a lot in common. Read on.

My attachment to LAND OF THE LOST is a deep one. As a kid, I used to hustle all angles to watch the Krofft Superstars reruns after school 5 days a week. SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS was usually what I got stuck with, but from time to time, THE LAND OF THE LOST was on, and that was what I was after. I was interested in the horrible special effects and the constantly elusive main storyline. Were these people ever going to get out of this land? Furthermore, would I ever be able to see the pilot that was referenced with some serious banjo action in the theme song? Well, my father recognized the interest level, and with a few well-pulled strings, he was able to secure an afternoon for my brother and myself with Wah Chang, the special effects man behind it all. My afternoon with Wah Chang and the things I learned from him are for a different post. But what needs to be made clear here is that I HAD TO SEE THIS MOVIE.

Surprisingly, LAND OF THE LOST is not much like the original show. The pseudo-seriousness of the original series has been thrown out of the window with the baby and the kitchen sink. There are no kids around. This is adult fare, with nonstop breast groping, double entendres, and a hallucinogenic interlude that would've made Hunter S. proud. This film contains a few laughs, but it belongs in the recesses of one's mind, much like the original. The new film feels like the old series, but it doesn't. The world feels like the lost world, but it isn't. The dinosaurs are in place like in the original lost world, but then again, they aren't. The new LAND OF THE LOST is literally a "dirty mirror" view of an already compromised story. The wholesome, family nature of the original has been erased, and an unshackled, more sensual nature has been constructed. The film feels like it has assumed that I am still at my parent's house watching crappy television. It treats me like I still eat crude sugary foods and over-processed snacks yet I am in my late 30s. I don't see how else they could have presented it.

I decided to use TERMINATOR: SALVATION as my LAND OF THE LOST chaser. But if I am to follow through with the metaphor, it felt like I was in the wrong bar, and the bartender was spilling the drinks.

I went in to this film knowing that it was hated by most. Sometimes that works for a movie. Sometimes a bunch of bad press makes a lousy film slightly enjoyable. The problem with TERMINATOR: SALVATION is that like everybody else, I had already seen most of the key scenes in the promo blitz. I felt that I was merely playing connect the dots between already familiar scenes, and that gave a general, pedestrian deja vu vibe to the entire film.

The TERMINATOR: SALVATION plot starts somewhere along the many time-traveling plot-lines that the Terminator series has foisted upon us over the years. The main idea is the "big secret" that was given away in the preview trailers, namely that the Terminators have managed to replicate a human so well that he doesn't know he is a robot. This is amusing at first, but only hints at the existential potential and becomes tedious. The references to the previous movies are all there including a boom-box playing "You Could Be Mine."

In short, bi-ped killer robots are ridiculous, impractical, and basically silly. The original TERMINATOR was a b-movie featuring a musclebound, inarticulate Austrian. Somehow we are now supposed to accept this series as something more along the lines of the Matrix series with Christian Bale. But the bottom line is that it is still a b-movie, trading on b-movie concepts that really don't have the substance that MCG would argue justifies a fourth film.

By the time the CGI Arnold shows up at the end, any self-respecting filmgoer has lost all interest and is waiting for the thing to end. I know that is how I felt.

LAND OF THE LOST is a celebration of the impossible, and it hurdles in that direction with abandon. TERMINATOR: SALVATION is a celebration of the impossible as well, yet somehow it desperately clings to the possible. The Terminator series could use a shot of Will Farrell. The series needs to aim itself at the teenager sneaking into the hard R-rated film like I used to. TERMINATOR: SALVATION is a light PG-13. It is not of the same tribe as the original. The Terminator series started as nonsense. Most sci-fi has an element of nonsense, but the stranglehold on nonsense that the Terminator series carries is so far-fetched, that the only direction its sequels should pursue is that of self-parody. The heavy-handed seriousness of it all isn't just hard to take, it is completely impossible.

John Connor needs a trip to the LAND OF THE LOST with Dr. Will Marshall ASAP. Now THAT would be a good movie.

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