A lot of things were swirling through my head when I first heard that Alex Proyas was stepping back in the ring and putting on his Sci-fi hat. Excitement, anxiety, anticipation....doubt. Ole' Proyas has been coasting on the coolness of The Crow and Dark City since the 90's, so much so that people usually forget about the lackluster I, Robot and Garage Days...but it's hard not to let him do it. Those two movies were just that cool and I was hoping for a return to the dark and gritty style for this new sci-fi flick about earths impending doom. Did I get it? The answer is a resounding "Ehh...not really."
At first I worried that the film's major flaw would be from casting Nicky Cage in the lead role. (if you're a long time reader, you know how much I love Mr. Cage ::sarcasm:: ) However, after actually watching the film I was pleasantly surprised that Proyas used Cage for what he's good for. Being a kind of weak, pathetic, disconnected weirdo...and not the dual-pistol wielding action hero of which he gets cast for WAY too often. Heck, Proyas even capitalized on all that cranial real estate and cast him as an MIT professor, giving way to a legitimate excuse as to why he has such a freakishly large forehead. Score one Proyas.
The film's actual flaws rear their heads in the form of cookie cutter suspense and then the studio blowing their HUGE CGI NUT all over the last 10-15 minutes of the film. Seriously...it was like watching a really drawn out bukkake scene that you got tricked into watching on some friends computer. Or Goatse...or both on a dual monitor display. In 3d. This film actually had me interested and engaged on pure suspense alone with very little going on in the special effects department aside from one very tastefully done airplane crash. That's impressive for a sci-fi movie to do anymore. Why go and waste it by whipping out proverbial CG-Johnson to compete in some weird dick measuring contest with Roland Emmerich?
Also, let's talk about this music for a second. Marco Beltrami teams back up with Proyas from his work on I, Robot for this ridiculously tense string & horn fest. Don't get me wrong, a proper suspense score can really set the mood for a suspenseful thriller. Bernard Herrmann's work with Alfred Hitchcock is probably the most classic example of what some strings can really add to an already suspenseful film. You can NOT, however, rely on a score to add all the suspense to fairly mundane scenes. The music in this film was so constantly tense you'd think that a space alien was about jump through the floor in damn near every scene. Having a beer and watching the news is not that thrilling, please do not score it as such.
With all that said, this movie was telling a pretty decent story, albeit a fairly predictable one, especially with Proyas at the helm. (He's a nut for pasty other-worldy things controlling our fate) I'd actually advise checking this movie out if you don't have anything else to do and want a fairly competent suspense/thriller that isn't another freaking government and/or super spy centric romp. Sci-fi has had a really dry spell as of late, and this wasn't entirely a bad addition to the genre. Kind of an "The Arrival" meets "The Number 23" as a squeal to "The Da Vinci Code" that wishes it were "Pi". Ugh, now I feel like Dennis Miller.