Sunshine, Directed by Danny Boyle, 2007
Do you know what's worse than watching a simply bad film? Watching a film that comes so close to greatness that you can taste it, only to see that greatness torn away. We got some complaints for leaving Sunshine off SciFi Squad's Ten Best Science Fiction Films of the Decade and truth be told, I did feel a little bad about it. If I could've given Sunshine's extraordinary first half a spot on that list, it would be there, but the film's second half, where it suddenly decides that it wants to be Event Horizon, drags the whole thing down.
The premise is simple: the sun is dying and a team of astronauts must lug an explosive package the size of Manhattan to our neighboring star and try to ignite it again. For a long time, we follow this mission and this crew. We watch their daily lives, where they battle insanity by holding onto every scrap of normalcy they can possibly find. We see them deal with various problems, discuss the mission and repair the ship. It's straightforward and it's oddly compelling. Even if nothing extremely dynamic is going on, the fact that they're on this mission in the first place makes for thrilling viewing.
However, when the film feels the need to introduce a villain outside of the mission complications, the whole thing begins to lose me. Mainly because a cheesy burn victim shot like a horror movie monster is not nearly as frightening as a sun that will fry you instantly or the dark void of space, which will freeze you to death in seconds. If Sunshine had been a movie about the journey, I think it would be one of the great science fiction films. Instead, it's a movie about a Good Guy vs. Bad Guy conflict, so it's just a very good science fiction film.
Surrogates, Directed by Jonathan Mostow, 2009
Surrogates is one of those movies that makes me glad that Redbox exists. It's not a good movie. It's almost a terrible movie. I wasn't going to pay ten bucks to see it in theaters, I wasn't going to pay five bucks to rent the DVD and I certainly wasn't going to waste one of my previous Netflix slots on it. But I would spend a single crumpled dollar bill on it after picking up groceries. Honestly, if you paid more than a dollar to see Surrogates, I hope you feel at least a little bad about yourself.
There a potentially interesting story at work here. In the future, people stay in their homes and live through robot avatars called Surrogates. This way, they can live the life of a sexy, stylish individual who can get hit by a truck and not die. That is, until a terrorist group finds a way to kill Surrogates that also kills the human controlling them. And only Detective Bruce Willis can save the day, but he must do it...wait for it...without his Surrogate body. Dun, dun, DUN!
Once you get past the coolness of the initial concept, you get a very straightforward, very dull and shockingly short (80 minutes!) cop movie. An early chase scene, where Willis' Surrogate pursues a suspect while getting hit by cars and getting limbs ripped off is kinda' cool, but when you're best action scene occurs at the 30-minute mark and your climax is a total non-event, you have a problematic motion picture. Surrogates isn't even bad enough to warrant a late-night drunk watch, putting it in Movie Purgatory, that lonely film that sits on the Blockbuster shelf and never gets taken home by anyone.
Transmorphers: Fall of Man, Directed by Scott Wheeler, 2009
Obviously, Transmorphers: Fall of Man is production company The Asylum's attempt to trick stupid people into thinking this is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and buying it, only to realize too little too late. It's a system that seems to work out well for them, since they keep on churning out little miracles like Alien vs. Hunter, The DaVinci Treasure, Snakes on a Train and The Day the Earth Stopped.
In typical Asylum fashion, Transmorphers: Fall of Man features atrocious acting from people who wouldn't get a walk-on role in the world's worst soap opera, special effects that look like they were created for an early-90s PC flight simulator and a plot that doesn't have plot holes, but is itself a giant hole, sucking everything that resembles a story into a deep dark place, ensuring that nothing makes sense at any moment. The movie looks like it was shot on one empty lot. I'm fairly certain the budget was about $28.75, with most of that going toward the editor's Red Bull and cigarettes.
But you know what? Sooo much more better than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.