I adored this movie when it came out (as several of my friends who were dragged by me to the Parkway can attest), so I tossed the DVD version into my recently arrived Amazon order.
I rewatched it this morning, to have something mindless on while I did some household stuff. The first hour is pure comic genius. Laugh-out-loud funny. The second hour, where they get bogged down in bad visual effects, bad action, and bad drama, isn’t as good. I’ll remember that next time I watch it. Or inflict it on guests.
Oh, but the DVD has special features! Interviews with the crew! I think that might have been ever funnier than the movie itself. The director, Jon Amiel, got his start directing with various British Shakespeare companies, including the Royal Shakespeare company. So when he says things like “I wanted to make a character-driven visual effects movie”, it’s howlingly funny. Or quotes like how they wanted to show “very real people living very real lives in a very difficult surreal situation”. His commentary on the deleted scenes was excellent as well, with comments like “You know you’re editing right when you leave blood on the cutting room floor” (funny because the movie is still over two hours long, with many many many overlong bad scenes left in). At some point, I’ll have to go back and watch the movie with the director’s commentary, because somewhere in there he has to admit “Okay, you got me, I gave up on this picture about halfway through and went for the “so bad it’s good” level”.
Several members of the crew talk about the great acting involved. There are great actors (Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Stanley Tucci, Delroy Lindo), but this is not great acting by any means of the imagination. Of course, they’re not helped by the writing. Check out this set of lines near the end.
Swank: “We’ve got no communication. We’re probably 800 feet down, but we might as well be 800 miles. We’re in an unobtainium cigar tube, with the sonar signature of a rock. We’ve got just enough power to make the ultrasonics burp, but no one’s listening on those frequencies anyway. And…nobody even knows we’re alive.”
Pause. Eckhart dramatically turns his chair to face the camera.
Eckhart: “Okay, give me a minute on this one.”
The resemblance to the Blues Brothers (“It’s a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.” “Hit it!”) is uncanny, and yet is sad because the Blues Brothers was _meant_ to be a comedy, and the line “Hit it!” is a much better payoff.
The number of people involved in this is truly astounding. Especially from the visual effects side of things. At least four companies were involved for a year. For special effects so bad that Berardinelli invoked the original Star Trek film. On the plus side, in one of the featurettes detailing the visual effects, they revealed that in the birds scene (deliberately reminiscent of Hitchcock, one would assume), that the effects guys threw a trout among all the computer-generated birds at one point. So I had to find it. It’s at 8:59, if anyone cares.
Some brilliant stuff. I’d have a Core-watching party, but I think I’d be the only attendee. Alas. You’re missing out.