Search This Blog

observation notes: The Land That Time Forgot

Though there are some that it would tell you this is a tie-in to the Will Ferrell debacle Land of the Lost, in truth it's another stand-alone literary adaptation, based on the novel of the same name by "Tarzan" creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, who The Asylum has adapted before for their Avatar tie-in, Princess of Mars. This novel has also been adapted before, but that was thirty-five years ago, and in that time there's been a significant development in the world of film directing that significantly changes the game and makes it unfair, even rude, to attempt to compare the two; because as good as the Samuel Z. Arkoff-original was, The Asylum has something Arkoff did not - C. Thomas Howell, acting and directing.

The story starts pretty much like "Gilligan's Island:" a small party on a brief ocean tour gets caught up in foul weather that somehow turns them around and strands them on an uncharted island on the other side of a time-rift (this last bit isn't like "Gilligan's Island"). Ashore, however, it's more dangerous than dead-adrift at sea, thanks to the island's prehistoric reptilian inhabitants - a.k.a. dinosaurs - who seem especially eager for the fresh food supply. Some cast members freak out, some are lost as a result, and ultimately, once given a moment to put the pieces together, those who remain of our party figure out that they're quite literally out-of-time. As though this inconceivable threat wasn't enough, C. Tom's trophy wife, who was too chicken to leave the boat so stayed to watch the boat, is gone when the others return to the beach. So is the boat. Thus their mission becomes two-part, survival and recovery, though admittedly most cast members seem far more concerned with the former than the latter.

A day or so into this and our party comes across - rather, he comes across them - a pilot with an unfortunate accessory who's also been stranded on the island, but for a year, and not one that coincides with their years (it's tricky, I'll admit, and kind of confusing, but only depending on how much you've had to drink.). In conversation it comes up that this bloke has seen a boat in the last day or so, and by his description, it's their boat, the boat they've been looking for, the boat C. Tom's arm-candy was last seen lallygagging about. On the way they stop over at the pilot's place, a rather lovely little cave stocked with artifacts and remnants from centuries' worth of stranded sailors, including Conrad, an elderly man claiming to be the skipper of a well-known vessel that disappeared 55 years ago, though Conrad's only been stranded three years (duh-duh-dummmmmmmmm).

As the plot thickens, the journey toward our party's boat continues, as does the terrorizing and killing by prehistoria. It's not a spoiler to say they find their boat, but fuck that, they find something better: a Russian sub. Only problem is, it comes with a lot of fit Russian soldiers, who also happen to have custody of C. Tom's sheets-treat. The rest, however, is spoilers, so I'll stop.

C. Thomas Howell the actor (War of the Worlds, The Da Vinci Treasure), as the elder vacationer, is frenetically in charge once the shit hits the fan, panicked but powerful, an unsteady stalwart a.k.a. a normal hero, not a scientist or a soldier or anything that especially equips him to handle this trauma; he's just a guy trying to stop himself from losing his shit after becoming shipwrecked on the other side of a time-rift on an uncharted island populated by ravenous dinosaurs and Nazis, who have custody of his wife. All this considered, I'd say he holds it together pretty good. As a director (War of the Worlds 2, The Day The Earth Stopped), he's at the top of his game, crafting a slick, concise sci-fi thriller.

Timothy Bottoms (non-Asylum film The Last Picture Show and "That's My Bush") is the grizzled sea captain, a burnt-out Jimmy Buffet, totally bummed to be stranded but, you know, dealing with it. It's this slavish concern, this borderline dementia that gives him a childlike wonder in the face of such horror, dangerously aloof, which makes him the film's most lovable character. 

And then there's Lindsey McKeon (Airline Disaster) as the lady-friend in the other couple, young and tightly-clad but stronger than your usual hottie-in-distress, fiercely sexy and brashly independent, real, palpable, the kind of girl you want with you in a crisis, or, you know, really anywhere: cute, capable, skeptically concerned and charismatic. Oh, and did I mention she's drop dead gorgeous? That helps. My only complaint is that her role should have been bigger.

Other acting standouts include Darren Dalton (The Day the Earth Stopped, War of the Worlds 2 [he must be a buddy of C. Tom's, because besides these films, which, like this one, Dalton wrote, he's also in a movie with C. Tom called The Jailhouse, which also coincidentally, or not, co-stars Lindsey McKeon. I'll be watching that soon and getting back to you with more.]), David Stevens, who plays the Simon Pegg-esque pilot and Patrick Gorman in the role of "Conrad."

I had a lot of fun with this one: the FX are bitchin' from dinos to insects, not drop-dead authentic but playfully believable. The story takes a couple nice turns in keeping with The Asylum's inventive narrative blending, and best of all, let's its action rely not on bloodletting, but on the tension of survival, a plot rich with highs and lows, peril and excitement. Bottom line? Incredible action, a great script, reserved, poignant performances and awesome FX make this one of the most thrilling films The Asylum has produced yet, and easily one of their most enjoyable.

Now if only I can convince them on my pitch for a sequel, The People That Time Forgot...

No comments:

Post a Comment