Sunday, July 21, 2013

In short: Stranded (2013)

The near future. A small US mining base on the moon, crewed by only four people - Gerard (Christian Slater), Ava (Amy Matysio), Lance (Brendan Fehr), and Bruce (Michael Therriault) - is hit by a sudden meteor shower that knocks out pretty much everything, from solar panels, through communications, half of the base's escape pods (and yes, this is the sort of base that has exactly enough escape pods for everyone on board, too bad if one of the pods breaks), to oxygen filters. If they don't have a very lucky hand with repairs in the next tens of hours, work that isn't exactly made easier by the fact that the moon base is designed by somebody unacquainted with the concepts of "contingency" and "fail safes", there won't be anyone left alive for any hopeful rescue mission.

To make a bad situation worse, one of the meteors that struck the base contained some sort of alien spores that infect Ava, induce an ultra-quick pregnancy, and result in a lot of crawling through air vents; that is, after the characters finally decide their problem isn't carbon monoxide poisoning.

Yes, yes, I know, Roger Christian is the visionary art director of Alien, but as a director, he's not only the man who made Scientologist wet dream and bane of eyes everywhere Battlefield Earth, but also a director whose other films aren't much better. Now, Stranded isn't as bad as Battlefield, which has a lot to do with the fact that this is a scrappy little low budget movie instead of a waste of money so painful it has become immoral.

Good, on the other hand, Stranded ain't. I don't blame it for its lack of originality (imagine exactly the film you assume it to be, and you'll not be surprised - well, perhaps by the unfortunate lack of man-in-a-suit-action), but I do blame the film for its lame execution of old genre standards. The problem isn't that I've seen all this before, it's that I've seen all this realized in a much less boring and drab manner.

While Christian's bland direction sure isn't helping much, Stranded's main problem is a script that seems hell-bent on prolonging the boring bits as much as possible: all that faffing about with hallucinations as an explanation becomes rather boring when the audience learns very early on that the alien menace actually exists; it's never a good idea when the audience has to wait for a film's characters to finally catch up and realize what we've known all along. The whole paranoia and etc angle is further weakened by the script never having established a baseline of what rational behaviour means with these characters, or really, the script never establishing any character traits for its characters at all. Half of the film consists of characters we know nothing about acting off, with no way to discern if they're going insane or if the script just can't produce believable human beings. Of course, given how little sense the set-up of the moon base makes, one generally tends to the latter interpretation.

But even once the traditional "people running through corridors" part of the movie has finally begun, there's little of actual interest happening on screen; suspense, excitement, or even action are clearly living elsewhere, leaving Stranded quite alone..

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