In 1983, “Jaws” star Roy Scheider starred in “Blue Thunder,” a film about a cutting-edge helicopter designed for urban pacification, setting the bar for stories about political corruption and military overreach. By contrast, in 2005, some generically pretty people are involved in testing an AI-controlled craft in “Stealth,” and no one learns anything useful.
“Stealth” doesn’t have the courage to indict anyone for the failures of an abusive military program. The gimmick that sets off the AI-controlled stealth fighter is stolen from “Short Circuit.” A bolt of lightning is enough to scramble the fighter’s machine-learning brain — anyone that stayed awake in high school science should know this is not how lightning works on an airborne craft, but that’s the least of this movie’s problems.
A love story that feels shoehorned in, bad science, bad military tactics, and much more make this a miserable film experience. “Blue Thunder” pops up on cable. “Stealth” pops up in Wal-Mart dollar bins.
Nepotism is an unremarkable fact of Hollywood, until it goes wrong. Cue “After Earth.” In this decaying slice of pulp science fiction, Will and Jaden Smith play a father and son who feel like they’ve never met before crossing paths at craft services on the first day of filming. The plot is basic, hemmed in on all sides by outdated science fiction tropes and bad character names. Cypher Raige is a good name in a Japanese role-playing game. In “After Earth,” it’s a reason to laugh every time it’s said.
Bad Robot and J.J. Abrams thought they’d managed something by remixing a script called “God Particle” into another entry in their Cloverfield anthology. It’s a gag that worked to great effect with “10 Cloverfield Lane,” with its eerie “Twilight Zone” flavor. But “The Cloverfield Paradox” doesn’t launch.
The plot is ugly fare, set off by a poorly explained misuse of particle accelerator technology. It’s a garbled take on quantum entanglement, with the risks of opening up Lovecraftian alternate timelines literally called the Cloverfield Paradox. It’s an audacious move, the sort of in-universe stupid line that needs Samuel L. Jackson to deliver it. Here, though, it plops like a dead fish.
The movie doesn’t go out of its way to do anything intelligent, fun, or self-aware. It is deadly serious about its nonsense, and the ending, which seems to drop baby Clover into the ocean for some New York-toppling fun, isn’t enough to make the movie worthwhile.
Will Smith has trouble finding science fiction stories that fit him, and it’s bad luck that he’s on this list again. 2019’s “Gemini Man” can’t lay any responsibility on Smith this time. The faults rest in the overworked script, a pointlessly bombastic action-SF film that shares scant DNA with its original writer’s work.
A good story shouldn’t sound like a game of Telephone, and yet that’s what happened to writer Darren Lemke. His pitch floated around Hollywood for two decades, attracting big name stars like dandruff. All of them shook free until Will Smith and Ang Lee remained. Not much else did. Lemke seems as confused as everyone else with the results.
There’s something poignant buried inside “Gemini Man,” the idea that a clone could change the course of their destiny and become a person in their own right. That’s not what’s explored. It’s an epilogue tag, cutting off before something meaningful happens.
Like George Lucas, Christopher Nolan has a terrific imagination, and when given a script or a co-writer, the results are wondrous. But leave him to his own devices, and Christopher Nolan will make a pretentious film about how Christopher Nolan interprets what Christopher Nolan feels. “Inception” took its metaphors about the dreams required to fuel the creative process seriously. Its success gave Nolan the freedom to go further.
This content was originally published here.