Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

In anticipation of forking over multiple dead presidents, a healthy kidney and sacrificing a pair of white doves to enter the local googolplex cinema to see 3:10 to Yuma, I indulged in a Christian Bale-o-thon this weekend. Well, OK, two DVDs don’t make a “-thon” but it’s a little more focused than my typical viewing habits.

The two films I watched this past weekend were Reign of Fire and The Prestige. Both qualify as Mystery Science Theatre designates. In fact, Michael Nelson of the real MST 3000 has a Riff on Reign of Fire available for the low, low, LOW price of $2.99!

Some of the blurbs on Reign of Fire from the Rotten Tomatoes site are pretty amusing:

…perhaps the heaviest, most joyless movie ever made about giant dragons taking over the world. – S. Burns, Philadelpha Weekly.

It’s hard not to like a film that has skydivers jumping out of a helicopter to catch flying dragons in a big net. – A. Cawthorne, BBC

Falls neatly into the category of Good Stupid Fun. – Ty Burr, Boston Globe

Ty Burr’s (one of my favorite film critics) succinct assessment says it all. Reign of Fire was a weird combination of flying Godzillas meet Road Warrior. At least they didn’t make the dragons into some misty mythological critters, but instead, there was, er, “science” (loosely speaking) associated with the beasts. They were something like seventeen million year locusts, hibernating under the earth to emerge and then blast everything organic to ash which they then consumed. There was apparently only one male dragon among the entire population of thousands of female dragons. So there was the key to the dragons’ demise. Oops. I guess that is a spoiler. I did like the notion of the dragons’ two glands in their jaws, the contents of which, upon mixing with air, combusted. Other than Mattew McConaughey’s thoroughly over-the-top acting (really, he didn’t need to try so hard to be a lunatic), the film wasn’t too bad for the genre. But remember, I am a SciFi Originals aficionado, and howlingly bad premises and dialogue are my cup of tea. As for Bale, well, a guy’s gotta make a living, I guess. He restrained himself considerably more than the winceworthy McConaughey, but was “reduced mainly to batting his sensitive eyelids” as per Chris Jones’ review in the Chicago Tribune.

The Prestige was a better film, less about illusion and magicians than full-blown crazy obsession. Hugh Jackman and Bale were convincing as driven, uber-competitive madmen, but the smaller parts really stood out: Michael Caine as the veteran magician-engineer, and Andy Serkis as “Igor” to David Bowie’s marvelous Nikola Tesla. I just ate up the Tesla scenes. However inaccurate it may have been, Tesla’s machine was mesmerizing with its eldritch* electrical charges. It was cool to see such a well-known inventor get a fictionalized role in a film.

The following summarizes The Prestige nicely:

Part ‘Sleuth, part ‘Itchy and Scratchy’ and part science fiction – J. Beifuss, Commercial Appeal, Memphis TN

A Bale offering that I took in some time ago was the dystopian sci-fi flick Equilibrium. The critics roundly splatted that, but I didn’t think it was as pretentious or dull as some of the pop cultural twits made it out to be. Again, I’ve always liked these films of dystopia, notably Children of Men, Blade Runner, and my all time favorite, A Clockwork Orange. Equilibrium would come in below these in my top 10 favorite movies about a Grim Horrible Future. Now what I’d really like to see is a movie adaptation of Oryx and Crake.

*An adjective used especially for Warren.