THAT WAS THE 1990s -
PART TWO (1995)
1995 was a watershed year for celluloid sci-fi - and that's not just a bad dig aimed at Waterworld.
A critic once remarked that in Hollywood parlance, "hype" is just another synonym for "hope" - and 1995 was a year marked by big expectations and just as big disappointments. The previous year had seen the huge financial success of
StarGate, which no doubt meant that Hollywood "fast-tracked" several science fiction projects. But in their rush to get several hot properties onto our screens, Hollywood producers proved that they had no idea as what made those properties so "hot" in the first place.
Thus the year's biggest disappointments were adaptations of comic book or literary sources.
Batman Forever with its codpiece fetishism brought back what most comic book
fans feared: the superhero boy sidekick, in this case Robin. Out went the gothic broodiness of Tim Burton's original vision and in came an intensely annoying Jim Carrey as the Riddler. Despite a screenplay by its writer,
Johnny Mnemonic was turned into a bad Kung Fu-style movie. The cult British
Tank Girl comic book was also castrated for the big screen and Hollywood blew a golden opportunity by destroying a possible
Judge Dredd franchise from the word go by miscasting Sylvester Stallone. Hollywood simply didn't have the guts to give the material its due and gave audiences what they expected they would want.
One movie did have the guts however: the year's best sci-fi effort was a remake of
sorts of an old arty French movie - then again, that movie had Terry Gilliam . . .
*BEST OF THE YEAR*
A clever time travel plot, some excellent and original Brazil-like scenery, a fitting soundtrack (featuring Tom Waits), career best performances by Hollywood A-list actors such as Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt (both playing against type), good dialogue, a tout pace. Of course none of this would have happened with anyone else by director Terry
(Time Bandits) Gilliam at the helm. In a perfect world ALL movies would be made by Gilliam (and the Coen Brothers, of course) . . .
Perhaps the only movie to have captured the addictive thrill of virtual reality on celluloid,
Strange Days is an unconventional movie that works as both action thriller and intelligent sci-fi . . .
*PROBABLY THE MOST POPULAR/WORST MOVIE OF THE YEAR*
After the brooding Gothic darkness of Tim Burton's Batman Returns what the franchise needed was some dumbing down, an annoying Jim Carrey, some homoeroticism, garish production design, a meandering plot, unfunny one-liners, an extremely loud headache-inducing soundtrack. Not!
More docudrama than science fiction, this retelling of the doomed Apollo 13 mission to the moon was both compelling and accurate. It also clearly showed where the space program started to go wrong. It wasn't really Nixon, Vietnam or the burgeoning military budget that changed America's priorities, but rather public apathy. This mission set the tone: public interest in the space program would only be aroused when something went wrong in future . . .
City of Lost Children
The year's "other Terry Gilliam movie". Okay, he might not have directed it, but it had the director's stamp all over it: weird, surreal, dark and funny. French director Jeunet's next effort would be the inferior (at least compared to his previous output)
Alien Resurrection . . .
After the incredible financial success of Jurassic Park, Michael
(Westworld) Crichton was hot as film-makers trampled each other trying to buy rights to all his literary (?) output. The 1990s proved to be good for Crichton: there was also the ER TV series, the
Lost World: Jurassic Park sequel, and some other big screen adaptations such as The 13th Warrior (Eaters of the Dead),
Sphere, Disclosure and Rising Sun. With his technophobia Crichton seemed to have struck a nerve . . .
Congo counts as one of my favourite bad movies along with The
Mummy, Anaconda, Barbwire and Deep
Rising. Like these movies, its tongue is tucked firmly in its cheeks as it relishes in all the movie cliches there are!
Adaptation of the best-selling (and very good, by the way) novel by Robert Harris about what it would have been like if the Nazi's had won WWII. Nothing new, but the way Harris tackles this topic is very memorable.
Unfortunately this project got stuck in development hell for a long while before it was finally downgraded to being an HBO TV movie starring Rutger Hauer. Needless to say, the end product was extremely disappointing . . .
This one will probably age quicker than the other movies of the year, being so quintessentially 'Nineties . . .
One day in a few decades from now you'll watch this movie again and pull your face disclaiming "it's so 1990s!" Don't believe me? Back in the 1980s we thought we were so cool and today we squirm in our seats watching movies from that time. Don't worry - it will happen . . .
Anyway, Hackers features a bunch of kids who look like ravers, computer graphics and lots of techno music. At times it resembles a music video more than anything else . . .
Beginning of this year it was difficult to raise any enthusiasm for The
Matrix. Come on, we all thought, a cyberpunk thriller starring Keanu Reeves? After the disaster that was
Johnny Mnemonic? That was until we saw the trailers - and the movie itself!
Now, even if you're not William Gibson fan like I am then you would also probably be disappointed by this adaptation of the man's short story. Having recently watched the movie again (don't ask!) I thought that it would have been okay as a straight-to-video effort. Except it wasn't - despite the presence of low-rent "names" like Dolph Lundgren and LL Cool J. Most surprising was the fact that Gibson himself wrote the screenplay: didn't he realise that he was doing Bring Me The Head of Keanu Reeves?
A future world in which the principles of democracy are no longer applied after they had been found wanting. Like in
Back to the Future Part II, they found that getting rid of the lawyers helped expedite justice. Instead they have armed to the teeth "judges" that act as judge, jury and occasionally executioner.
Now, let's get this clear: the cult British comic book character Judge Dredd is a fascist! No two ways about it - except when it came to making the big screen movie they toned its implications down. In the end it came out like spin doctoring fascism. Unlike
Starship Troopers, Judge Dredd toned down the true nature of the future society it was depicting opting instead for the lamest of ass
1990s action movie before Universal Soldier - the Return . . .
This tale about an outsider albino teenager with strange powers might have appealed to gawky teenagers who felt like outsiders themselves, but the cliches it heaped upon one another comes from as late back as the 1950s . . .
Typical of 1995s sci-fi output, Species counts as one of the most derivative movies
made. It even ripped the creature from Alien wholesale! But it was sort of fun - partly because of the sexy Natasha Henstridge playing said alien, and it looked positively classy compared to
Species 2, an indication of how bad it could have really been . . .
Another cult British comic book character destined for, erm, castration at the hands of Hollywood. Without any knowledge of the comic book series it makes for an uneven and at times surreal movie. Some cool alternative music on the soundtrack, some okay one-liners, and probably the only movie to feature a relationship between a homo sapien and a mutated kangaroo . . .
More 1990s technophobia, this time aimed at the computerization everything. Our identities, it claims, are mere ethereal data floating around. At hacker's keystroke it can be altered and everything we have can disappear. Not that the movie dwelled on this too much, opting instead for a Pelican Brief type thriller in which the attractive Hollywood leading lady is chased around dark alleys by pursuers in suits a lot . . .
Village of the Damned
Something was amiss in this disappointing remake of the original 1960s classic by cult director John
(Halloween, Escape from New York) Carpenter. Maybe it was the small-town American setting, who knows? But the cast reads like a list of genre has-been's. For starters there's Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill) and Superman (Christopher Reeve) . . .
Tacking on techno buzzwords (like nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence and virtual reality) didn't particularly help this bog standard cop chases indestructible
Terminator-like bad guy . . .
The biggie of the year. This enormously expensive (I am sure that several African countries can relieve their debts with the money!) turned out to be nothing more than
The Roadwarrior on, er, water. Sure, some of the stunts were quite spectacular and exciting. There are some nice humorous touches and Dennis Hopper gives his usual exuberant turn as an over-the-top villain. In the end
Waterworld sluggishly made its money back and Costner decided that what the world needed was yet another post-apocalyptic tale in which he plays a bland, slightly balding with midriff outsider.