Mad Prof. Mike's Headbanger Movie Reviews

1998 by Mike Marano

Hello, America!! This is Mad Prof. Mike with the Headbanger Movie Reviews!!

DEEP RISING is a crappy movie. It isn't plotted, it's stitched together like a Frankenstein's monster out of everything from THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE to ALIEN, to DIE HARD. This movie ain't pastiche, it's puree. It's written and directed by Stephen Sommers, the guy who brought you those Disney Tom and Huck movies (ick!). So it is with deep shame that I say that I enjoyed this moron movie, much in the same way I enjoy the company of my really stupid cousin, Ernie. Like my really stupid cousin, DEEP RISING barely makes sense, yet is very charming... and like Ernie, it's heart is in the right place.

Writing a favorable review of this flick makes me feel like I did when I was twelve, and had to save Ernie from kids who picked on him. I can't go into the plot, 'cuz like I said, there is none, but I will say that the flick features a mighty fine critter by Rob Bottin and company, and that the actors are all good. Special kudos go to Kevin J. ("Philip Swann") O'Connor for keeping his twitchy, overwritten, comic relief nerd character bearable; Djimon Hounsou for keeping his name on the credits; Anthony ("Dr. Chilton") Heald for being at his hateful best, and Famke Janssen for doing a lot with a nothing part.

Here's a spoiler. Skip ahead to avoid it. In the last ten minutes or so, DEEP RISING becomes a Cthulhu Mythos story, or at least a snap shot of one. When is Hollywood going to make an honest HPL movie, using cool multi-million dollar SFX technology to communicate that daemonic, cosmic madness that HPL and his cronies communicated for a penny a word?

On our headbanger scale of 1-4, DEEP RISING gets three guilty pleasure headbangs

Up front and on the table--I hate Michael Crichton. To me, he's the great Mentos kid of publishing; he writes himself into a corner, pulls some implausible way out of the corner out of his hat, then pops a crunchy, minty confection in his mouth and gives the smarmy high sign as the world looks on admiring his chutzpah. I wouldn't be so hard on the guy if I thought he couldn't write, but he can write brilliantly when he wants to. C'mon, Crichton, put away the Mentos and write something real, dammit!

Crichton's novel SPHERE is the only book of his I know of that has a real ending--and it's a character driven ending, too. Pretty special, for a guy who has openly expressed his contempt for character development in fiction (really, he has). With this in mind, and the fact that Barry Levinson directed, I was looking forward to the film adaptation of SPHERE. And for the most part, SPHERE is a damn fine film.

I won't go into the plot (why? you've all seen the TV ads), and I won't mention the acting (you know they're all good). But I will say that Levinson's team of writers (including Paul Attanasio of Donnie Brasco and Quiz Show fame) did an outstanding job of making a tight, fast-paced and plausible SF/Horror flick. There are moments that gave me the kind of "Oh-My-God-What-Are-We-Dealing- With?" heebie-jeebies I've only felt before while watching some of Nigel Kneale's finest works. Levinson--the guy who made Diner, for cryin' out loud--has a great touch with action and horror scenes.

Then the whole thing falls apart. Levinson and company screwed up the one good ending Crichton's ever came up with real good. Judging from the way the last half hour unravels, I smell last minute rewrites, or maybe studio tampering. SPHERE is a real fumble. BUT, if you want to see it, don't wait for cable or video; what's good about SPHERE works best on the big screen. On TV, it'll look as murky as an episode of SeaQuest, watched through sunglasses.

On our headbanger scale of 1-4, SPHERE gets two and a half headbangs (and an "A" for effort).

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