Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Nightflyers (1987)

Here's a movie that deserves a review more than most movies I review. See, some of the movies I review are definitely bad or arguably quality. The quality films I never have much to say about. Mostly I reiterate why I think the movie is quality and why the movie seems to be a quality movie. Yeah, I can go on for a while about how a good film might have good effects, good acting, good directing, and good pacing, but honestly most of the good movies I watch and review are relatively boring to review. The same is obviously not true for an utterly terrible movie. I can go on and on and rant until my fingers bleed about how a bad movie is literally the worst thing ever. At the same time there are many mediocre films I review as well, with most of them presenting their own unique problems.

Most of the movies that I analyze are mediocre films. Ones that have the ability of both being much better and much worse films than they are. Each is fun to review because they all present a unique challenge for review because, to be a mediocre film you have to either succeed or fail in different categories or you have to  be an utterly cookie-cutter film with no real quality besides not being terrible and having some competence. Well, Nightflyers is a mediocre film on a whole, but has both very good and very bad qualities to it. It's based on a novella by George R. R. Martin that I've never read before, although it seems as though it was better received than the movie was at least.

I've seen reviews of this film go anywhere from saying this movie is amazing to saying it is the worst thing ever made. I like films like this simply because of all the differing opinions and because I think the truth of this movie lies somewhere in between the two extremes although I have to say that the visuals of this film really put it into the realm of more negative than positive.

There are way too many negatives aspects of this movie. The pacing is all over the place, never feeling consistent and never feeling comfortable with the pacing of its story. The characters are pretty one-dimensional despite the film having the feeling that everybody involved wanted the characters to have more meaning than that. The sets are generic. The scenes are either too light or too dark. The visuals throughout the film are such a mess that there's no way to accurately describe how much of a mess they are. And the directing of the actors is sometimes absolutely baffling. I have to point out that Robert Collector, the director of the film, did ask to have his name removed from the credits after obviously some issues during editing. He is instead credited with the pseudonym T. C. Blake. And the editing reflects the idea that no director really seems to have had a say in the final cut of the movie. It's all over the place, rarely has a consistent pacing, and works against itself constantly. Visually, this film is a trainwreck, possibly one of the biggest trainwrecks in the visual department that I have ever seen. It is ugly, drab, and never really feels comfortable with its style or visuals to the point where I had trouble believing this was a horror film or believing it was a sci-fi film. My suspension of disbelief was absolutely shattered time and time again. I also have to add that I hated the opening narration. A film that is any good doesn't need an opening narration. This one didn't need it either, but there it was.

That paragraph right there seems to be saying I didn't like any aspects of the film at all... but that's not true. I liked some parts of it, and that was some of the most disappointing aspects of the movie. The script and the dialogue were really well done, reminding me of better science fiction films all the while I was watching this one. The story is pretty solid, being an odd amalgamation of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Event Horizon with maybe some Alien mixed in for good measure. The villain is reminiscent of HAL (VERY REMINISCENT), and I kind of liked that, especially because this movie is nowhere near as pretentious as 2001 certainly is. Although I hated the psychic aspects of the movie, the psychic characters were some of my favorites, and the backstory of seeing a specific psychic as a witch was actually intriguing. I liked a great deal of the science dealt with in the film, and the premise of the people on the expedition going to find extraterrestrial life was one that I thought was both fun and interesting. The crazy computer plot was enjoyable, as they often are, and the gore was both tastefully done and well crafted. I did like some of the costumes (the ones that were not incredibly 1980s). And the middle of the film was pretty good in general.

So, here were many aspects of this movie I liked... and there were many aspects of this movie I couldn't stand at all. Overall I mostly enjoyed the film, finding it more entertaining than not even if it was incredibly derivative at times. The visuals on this thing are terrible though, reminding me more of 1950s sci-fi B-movies than late 1980s horror sci-fi. That's basically unforgivable, really taking away from any positives this movie could have offered. I think it's a slap in the face to say this about any film, but this movie would have worked better as a radio drama... at least then I wouldn't have had to stare at the rotten visuals for 89 minutes.

I can't recommend this film. In fact I'm actively going to tell people to stay away from this flick. It's not good enough to spend the time watching, and it's not bad enough to deride. This would be a prime candidate to remake with better visuals and a better cast. (Although I will admit that most of the actors were pretty decent, some moreso than others though.) It's basically an utterly mediocre film that doesn't add much to the genre and is entirely forgettable and very drab. I bet tomorrow I won't even remember I had ever watched it, and sadly... that's all for the best.

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