Thursday, April 5, 2007

Planet Terror

dir. Robert Rodriguez

Planet Boringtown. Population: Stupid Rose McGowan's stupid limp.

April 4, 2007 - 35mm/AMC Empire 25

Right at the outset of the Grindhouse double-feature, during Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, Naveen Andrews (the only half-way redeeming actor on that show nobody watches called Lost) whips out a big container of balls! Balls! This container of balls gets busted and later becomes a big bag of balls! Ewwwww, balls! Testicles in a bag, that’s so, oh I don’t know, I’m reaching for the word… GGGRRRRRRRRIINNNNNNDDDDDDDHHHHHHHOUSE. Planet Terror is not the first instance of big-budget teste-heavy filmmaking. That credit goes to Robert Zemeckis’ simply testacular Christmas fable The Polar Express, featuring Santa’s gigantic scrotum of Christmas joys and toys for the kiddies. Did I mention Planet Terror has jokes about a big bag of balls? Sometimes the balls fall out of the bag, and it’s so gross! It’s so gross I forgot to react at all, due to Planet Terror being the most powerful roofie of a movie since Mr. Rodriguez took advantage of me with Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

If Robert Rodriguez turned in Planet Terror for his homework assignment from the prompt “Grindhouse,” he would receive a D+. There thankfully has never been a grindhouse movie resembling Planet Terror in any shape or form. There are jokes about testicles, guns, dead bodies, explosions, lopped limbs and rolling heads, far more reminiscent of Michael Bay and Tony Scott R-rated actioneers than any low-budget exploitation picture. The creativity and sparse genius of many of these exploitation/genre/grindhouse pictures has a great deal to do with the restrictions of working within the limits a small budget, short schedule and a specified genre. The filmmakers of yore would have to rack their brains and creative marrow to make their pictures stand out from the deluge of work being produced on the cheap. Whether the movie falls into the “Women in Prison,” “Car Chase,” “Revenge Western,” “Zombie,” “Haunted House” or “Heist” category is secondary to what the craftsmen actually squeeze out of it. It is not enough to make a “Women in Prison” movie, there are a billion of those. It's about making the best, craziest, most visually exciting "Women in Prison" movie you can make.

With Planet Terror, Robert Rodriguez works with no boundaries, save the debilitating limitation of his talent. He throws a load of crap up at the screen and every once in a while something sticks. It is bound to happen. This is a popular mode of expression. The animated television series The Family Guy is based solely on that principle, and is therefore funny 10-15% of the time. Planet Terror’s 10-15% ratio comes mostly from the strong, funny performance of Josh Brolin as Dr. Block, a few bits from Terminator star Michael Biehn and a brief appearance from the always entertaining Nicky Katt. The most unremarkable performance comes from the wooden (pun intended) peg-legged Rose McGowan. She is the hero of a story built around the concept of her stolen leg being replaced with a machine gun. Auteur Mr. Rodriguez came up with a thought (Machine-Gun-Leg!) and attempted to stretch it into an idea and finally a movie. It remains a thought, or an afterthought as one struggles to remember one memorable moment of a movie filled to the brim with unfinished thoughts doubling as “moments.” The result being repetitive jokes about balls and peg-legs, “gross-out” snippets of boiling bubbly flesh (which pale in comparison to similar moments in Slither) and a greasy BBQ restaurateur all seen through “Grindhouse vision.”

Planet Terror’s understanding of grindhouse aesthetics appears to be a movie print that has been scratched to all hell by projectionists that are more likely to be porcupines, rather than chimpanzees or humans. It is a nauseating, unnecessary effect that is very, very fakey and far from authentic or organic. I speak on this matter with experience as a projectionist with beaten up film prints. They look nothing like this. When a print overheats and burns out, there is no silly sound effect, and the movie does not continue. But hey, it’s all in the name of fun, right? Planet Terror’s computer generated scratches are an attempt to make the movie feel sleazier, but nothing can permeate Rodriguez’s slick, antiseptic green-screen playground.

Planet Terror is a visual, technical, emotional failure. It fancies itself a non-stop, heart-pounding romp, but is a self-satisfied bore. There is a funny idea now and again. I suggest you relish those moments, rather than feel guilty about enjoying the utter stupidity. After all, Planet Terror is not as egregious as 300, but it comes damn close. Balls! Testicles! Bruce Willis! Nuts!! Balls!


Jeff Larson said...

When El Rey called his truck the killdozer, I really wanted to scream out BRAWNDO!!!!! IT'S GOT ELECTROLYTES!!!!!!!

Imagine that stupid guy in film class whom everyone hates (you know the guy: he likes American Beauty and the Matrix sequels) seeing Romero and Carpenter movies, and then telling Rodriguez how much action and blood there is in them, and Rodriguez then stupidly thinking that that is the only appeal of those movies, and then multiply that stupidity by a million, and you'll come close to Planet Terror.

Kalen Egan said...

I'm going on record with: Hey, I thought this thing was pretty funny!

Jeff Larson said...

Man, you got some balls, a big gooey sack of them.

Anonymous said...

Was't the "i want your balls" idea from fight club? hmmm

Geof said...

I'm guessing you're someone who only finds Woody Allen movies humorous. Rodriguez wanted to make a tribute to schlock B movies - he does it brilliantly and you accuse him of stupidity. Pot, kettle?