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Event Horizon (1997)

by on 2010/10/07

An “event horizon” is said to be a point of no return, a cosmic Rubicon.  And like the movie of the same name, once you’ve been there you’re never coming back, not without an embarrassing mess.

As with Rodan my central question is whether to assign this effort a one- or two-star score.  Unlike Rodan I didn’t have much apathy here; this was reasonably competent in its craft, but also unpleasant and empty.

I’d seen Event Horizon before, in its original theatrical run.  I watched it with my father and can still recall my mortification.  Now, more than a decade later, was the bargain binned special edition enough to change my mind?  In a word:  no.

The Event Horizon is the name of an experimental space ship.  Powered by a black hole, it has the revolutionary ability to fold space, jumping instantly to any other point in the cosmos.  Seven years before this story’s opening, said ship vanished on its maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri, and now it has unexpectedly appeared in orbit around Neptune.  Laurence Fishburne captains the Lewis & Clark, a modest spacecraft sent to investigate.  Along for the ride is Sam Neill as the scientist who originally designed the Event Horizon.  Once the rendezvous is made, an assortment of Bad Things happen for the duration.  As if to explain, one character snarls, “When you break the laws of physics, do you think there won’t be a price?”

Whether the Event Horizon really broke the laws of physics, or just did something unprecedented, is not likely up for debate with this movie’s demographic.  Clearly I’m not a part of that group.  While blood orgy images filled the screen, I wondered whether the story was set unrealistically soon in the future.  I noted aspects of the movie that reminded me of earlier (but better) ones, or foreshadowed later (and also better) ones.  My mind wandered to things I’d read about “desktop” black holes in Italy, and how they confirmed the theories of Stephen Hawking.

The film is not without some interest.  It did get me nitpicking.  (Why seven years’ absence?  Why send a distress signal in Latin?  Why couldn’t the scientists have translated what a blue collar crewman figures out in just two scenes?)  I thought about how the movie was made, the stylistic devices employed to achieve certain effects.  (Micro-montage.  Lose the lights.  Put a psycho in the same room.  Distract the victim.  Speed up the editing.  And so on.)  Then I played an association game.  (Name some other movies with similar plot devices.  Sphere . . . Flatliners . . . Rashomon . . . hmmm . . . would Rashomon count?)

I suppose when you’re trapped in an empty room long enough, you eventually consider its construction.  This movie is not poorly-made per se.  It has occasional failings, but the fatal flaw is vacancy.  It has nothing of note to say.  Just sound and fury.  Lots and lots of fury.  It’s not exactly scary but it’s certainly unnerving.

At present it seems The Thing To Do to dismiss or disparage the director, Paul W. S. Anderson.  As a casual fan of his Resident Evil series, I’m inclined to cut him some slack, but he doesn’t always make it easy.  It’s not that I dislike science fiction or even horror, but there’s something about gore as a swap for substance that leaves me cold.  I suppose I’m old fashioned that way.  Either employ the “less is more” of Hitchcock, or offer us something “classic” enough that unconvincing effects would demand a deepening of themes.  I’ll continue to reserve judgment of Anderson’s work but, in the case of this movie, I not only kept an open mind, but gave it a second chance.  And while I’ll admit to enjoying some of his productions, Event Horizon is not one of them.

* *

Rated 18A for language, nudity, and extreme violence

95 minutes

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