Lies, Toys and Zombies (now in 3D!)

Blog by Alan Sharkey | 04 Oct 2009

According to the trailers for Pandorum, a sci-fi/horror movie out this week, it comes "from the producers of the Resident Evil series". I am not sure who this is meant to attract, unless it's gamers themselves.

This is obviously a mistake; for all the media suggestion that those who play games are drooling, sexually frustrated lobotomorons who go on some kind of homocidal rampage as soon as they have run out of three-letter swear words to initial their high scores with, they know that video game movies are awful.

Partially, this is because many good games, especially first-person shooters or third-person action games, don't have a compelling protagonist. This is because players control the protagonist, and when you are controlling a character, it's difficult for that character to be definable; too many cut scenes get in the way of the actual game, so the closest you get to defining a character is the way you play them. Then you transplant the character to a movie, and it becomes obvious how flat the protagonist is. It's not the only flaw with video game movies (see, for instance, the bizarre film of Super Mario Bros., which makes no sense even in comparison to the Mushroom Kingdom.) but it's definitely one of the worst.

The Resident Evil series managed to outdo most other video games by creating a flat, characterless protagonist who does not even exist in the games. It would be uncharitable to suggest that Paul W.S. Anderson wrote this character in to have a chance at ploughing Milla Jovovich. I will now just mention, on a completely unrelated note, that the two got engaged in 2003, and recently married.

It goes without saying that I consider it quite probable Pandorum will be along the same lines as most of Paul W.S. Anderson's work, cartoonish badly written hackery that's about as dark, edgy and scary as Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Please, if you're wanting to see a horror film out this week, go see Zombieville instead. I can't vouch for sure that it'll be better, or less schlocky than Pandorum, but it is a horror comedy with Woody Harrelson set in an amusement park, so at least it won't take itself so damn seriously. And if Pandorum does well, you might get another Resident Evil. Does anyone want that on their consciences?

The Invention of Lying is Ricky Gervais' new high-concept comedy, set in an alternate reality where no-one lies. I'm intrigued, being a sucker for that kind of high-concept thing, but on the other hand, I can't stand Ricky Gervais when he's acting in that particular smug, grating persona he does. Which is all the time. When he's meant to be an irritating arse, like in The Office, it works. But as a leading man, who can't seem to be anything other than smug or grating, you just want to punch him.

Completely unpunchworthy though are Pixar, whose original animated masterpiece, Toy Story - the film which started the production company off on a roll of pure, unadulterated win for the past 14 years (well, if we overlook the mediocre Cars, anyway) - will be showing on limited release this week. In 3D! As a fusty sort, perennially a couple of months away from pipe-and-slipperdom, I'd kind of suggest the 3D might be an unwelcome distraction, a shiny gewgaw on an already shiny red bicycle. But it's still Toy Story!