(Published in The Sunday Guardian, dated 8 January 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/where-sci-fi-goes-to-die)
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Max Minghella, Olivia Thirlby, Rachael Taylor, Joel Kinnaman
Director: Chris Gorak
Three years ago, Mark Wahlberg was terrorised by plants in Manoj Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. Now, as the world trembles before flotation-device-like beings that turn them into dust, Wahlberg’s Elliot Moore appears less sissy.
As Emile Hirsch, of Into the Wild fame, and Max Minghella, of son-of-Anthony-Minghella fame, play internet entrepreneurs trying to sell something that marries Facebook and foursquare, one wonders why they’d do this to themselves – the actors, I mean. But soon enough, one is trying to process the valuable lessons this film spews out, along with three-dimensional dust and debris.
Lesson 1: Equipment needed to fight diaphanous aliens
If you’re partying in a nightclub, the electricity goes out, and glowing shapeless arthropods fall from the sky, make sure you have the following – long legs, a good heart, and a brain that’s a violation of international air space.
Lesson 2: Hollywood still hates Russia
Swedish shark Skyler (Joel Kinnaman) admits at a board meeting that he’s stolen Ben’s (Max Minghella’s) brainchild. “It’s business,” he says. Ben cries, “It’s criminal!” Skyler smiles, “Welcome to Moscow.” And welcome to Hollywood, the land of Technicolor Dreamcoats and Evil Easterners.
Lesson 3: How to get laid in Russia
When you’ve been thrown out of a double-crossing weasel’s office, head to a bar. You’ll meet American chicks who’ve lost their way to Nepal. When these girls ask you, “Anyone here speak Russian?”, grin “Only what I learnt in Rocky 4...” That’s good enough for Americans in Russia – no, wait, Australians from America in Russia – who’ll overcome lesbian leanings and copulate with men to populate the earth. They’ll also giggle at “What’s the dress code for the end of the world? Jacket, no tie?”
Lesson 4: The stupider you are, the higher your chances of saving the world
It takes our heroes 40 minutes to figure out these blobby electricity-powered aliens can sense them because of the electrical impulses in their nerves. So they move at night (huh?), which means neither the aliens – nor we – can see them for most of the movie. It takes them longer to find a mad scientist manufacturing microwave-emitting machine guns inside a Faraday Shield, and a horse-riding commando wearing armour made of door keys, who tell them the invaders want electricity-conducting minerals.
Lesson 5: Blondes are dumb, but merit rescue
Anne (Rachael Taylor) is the second to panic, after the equally blonde Skyler. But unlike Skyler, she’s hot. Therefore, even as her vacuous brain kills everyone with a bulkier one, she must be saved until she can be replaced with an intelligent, if underage, blonde.
Lesson 6: It’s wrong to think embassies are alien-proof
Whaa...? Hey, but violating international diplomatic protocol could start a world war, no? Ohhhhh...
Lesson 8: How to blow up $40 million
The crew say they shot on location with 3D cameras. You suspect a good part of the budget was spent on hallucinogens. That makes you wish you’d been supplied with joints instead of 3D glasses.
Verdict: Of all Putin’s errors of judgment, allowing the filming of this movie in the Red Square may have been his worst.