Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

Being one of the worse box office bombs ever isn't a good start really is it. Yet to look at the trailer, the sci-fi fantasy aspect and the films title you could be fooled into thinking this might not be too bad. The title is pretty sweet if you ask me, definitely an 80's movie title right there.

The plot is set in 2080 and mainly on the moon which is now called Little America. A location where gambling, girls, criminals and all things seedy are rampant, a bit like Las Vegas in the old days. Eddie Murphy is a retired smuggler who runs a nightclub on the moon and wants a quiet life, but this is all messed up when some goons come along and force Murphy out by destroying his club under the orders of a mysterious kingpin. Its now up to 'Pluto Nash' to find out why, who is the man behind it all and try to get his club back, or what's left of it.

I think the first issue with the film are the visuals. The film is oldish but not that old and unfortunately the CGI effects are pretty poor. Shots of the moon, moving vehicles, the lunar surface and of course Little America just look average and obviously CGI. When we close in on the urban areas the sets aren't too bad in design but again its terribly obvious its all sets. It all looks like a very mediocre attempt at a 'Blade Runner-esque' grimy neon lit urban district. The colour palette doesn't really help with everything being grey and boring, yes I know its the moon and the moon is typically grey but come on. There were some nice 50's-esque designs on some buildings and vehicles though, there was that element throughout the film but it still felt drab and lifeless, virtually black and white.

Then you have all the interior sets, design and costumes...its all grey!! everything is grey! flippin' eck!. Not only that but the interior designs look so dated, like its all been reused from a 60's TV sci-fi show. I understand that doesn't necessarily make it bad, there are plenty of examples where films have deliberately gone down the homage route or retro design/vibe which can work wonders giving a great charm factor. The problem here is the film had a massive budget and you wonder what they actually used it on.

Take the robot character played by Quaid (and the maid robot character). What they have done is simply apply a lot of makeup to Quaid to give him a doll-like appearance, then he merely acts out the robot role. Now again this can be done and it can work but probably best in low budget films that have little choice. In a big production it just tends to feel lackluster, the maid robot was the same but dressed up in a sexy French number as if that makes it more acceptable. I did quite like the 50's sci-fi sense I got from Quaid's robot though, like a butch Robbie the Robot in human form...kinda hehe.

Whilst watching I also found the plot to be a tad confusing really, or at least it didn't make much sense because it was all a muddle of grey. There are a lot of character names flying about here, a lot of seemingly pointless stuff, aimless boring dialog and not much action believe it or not. We just move from one cheap looking grey set to the next with little to laugh, disappointing seeing as its supposedly a Murphy sci-fi action romp.

But is it? you think it is but its not really, its more like a 1950's nightclub murder noir homage, 'Harlem Nights' in space perhaps. I must admit to thinking of 'Total Recall' at times whilst watching, it has that kind of vibe going on, minus all the excellent action and blood of course. Do I get the feeling this was made and acted the way it was on purpose?...was it?! I'm not sure, I'd like to think that but deep down I really doubt it. I just think it was a poorly executed movie which had potential to become a bit of a classic. I can see why people might enjoy bits of it like Quaid's cheesy robotic performance and the minor visual gags dotted throughout, but end of the day this really feels like its trying to achieve what 'The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai' achieved.

I'm still not really sure whether or not this film was intentionally made like a low budget sci-fi B-movie for artistic reasons, or it just came out that way. The more I think about it, this might have worked much better as a short TV series, it certainly has the look and feel.