Planet Terror Review

The Film

Just before he left our national game, Jose Mourinho said something very telling. Likening his former squad at Chelsea to dairy products, he pointed out that you need the best eggs if you want to make the best omelette. What, though, if you are trying to make an omelette that is merely trashily tasty? This thought put me in mind of the words of one reviewer pointing out that when U2 made their album Achtung Baby that they had spent an awful lot of money to get the rough and ready lo-fi sound of many a feedback peddling indie band. Like Achtung Baby, Robert Rodriguez' Planet Terror does try to use the best eggs to make something deliberately imperfect. And like the reviewer I quote, I am left thinking why would you spend all this money on roughing up an over produced movie rather than embrace the frugal production values of the films which inspired it?

Extending the eggs metaphor, Planet Terror illustrates how to make a competent meal whilst using the biggest kitchen, the best chefs and the largest pan. For something supposedly inspired by low rent Grindhouse movies of icky effects and ropey stories, Planet Terror is rather too crafted and over resourced. Like other films from Robert Rodriguez, it feels like the kitchen sink approach obscures heart and simple functionality. If ever a director needed to make a film to remind himself that human beings are not made of pixels, and to rediscover passion and warmth, it's Rodriguez. Planet Terror could have been that film as it has a charm in its exploitation roots, but Rodriguez ends up pleasing himself in a flurry of digital effects and dense homage.
The story does sound promising when a small town is exposed to chemical weapons and Zombiefied chaos ensues. The characters are drawn from the usual world of directors like Russ Meyer with a stripper, a gun toting avenger and a mad scientist, and this helps bring some humour and welcome spontaneity to the film. But then, hasn't Rodriguez done all this before with From Dusk Till Dawn? Events work themselves through and the story even jumps a reel to make clear how ropey it's all meant to be. Even this jump in story is a bit of a screw you to the audience who may have wanted some more exposition but Rodriguez doesn't want to explain himself as much as he wants to create an elaborate in-joke.
When this director cares about what he is doing and invests emotion into his work he has shown he can make cracking movies. Desperado is unmatched as an action film, and From Dusk Till Dawn is terrific fun despite the dull opening, but recently Rodriguez has got lost in the business of making films which tell you how clever he is and display his versatility. For all of its one legged stripper, gags about sausages and intestines, and cameos, Planet Terror is too self involved to be really funny or entertaining. It confirms what an achievement some of the movies that inspired it are because they are just as much fun for a fraction of the cost, and it confirms that Quentin Tarantino can't act and that his schtick is becoming old. It made me want to dig out all my John Carpenter movies, or some Fulci, but it didn't make me want to watch it again for some time.
Still, who can blame Rodriguez for getting away with making six out of ten movies where he gets to blow stuff up, ogle gorgeous women, and employ most of his friends. He even gets to credit himself in the following never-ending categories - writer, director, executive producer, producer, music, editing, and visual effects. He is clearly a clever man having a lot of fun like a contemporary like Del Toro, but don't forget that good old Guillermo has delivered truly mature films as well as bubblegum movies. Like my eggs metaphor, Rodriguez' latest is one joke extended too far. Nice eggs, shame about the omelette.

The Discs

This is a two disc set with disc one containing a longer extended cut of the movie and most of the extras appearing on disc two. The main feature is accompanied by a director commentary and an audience reaction track. Visually, the film has been transferred well with excellent sharpness and good contrast. The deliberate ageing of the film apart, the image is very good with my only criticism being a lot of speckling at times in lighter tones such as McGowan's flesh above and the night sky above her. The film is presented anamorphically at 1.78 and dual language options of Spanish and English 5.1 are offered. The surround track has very effective rumble and bass to complement Rodriguez own score and the plethora of bangs and bumps in the film, and the dialogue is mixed well and clearly without any distortion. The surround is well distributed between the side and rear speakers with dialogue only from the centre, it is quite easy to lose yourself in the audio and the 5.1 mix is very solid overall.

Rodriguez' solo commentary is confidently done and this is a man who clearly enjoys watching his own films. He mentions that his inspiration for the film was eighties exploitation and especially the work of John Carpenter, tells us that the pegleg gag in the love scenes was McGowan's idea and spends a lot of time admiring the CGI effects. He even says there is more footage to come for an even longer DVD release. The only other extras on the first disc are a poster art gallery and trailers for this film and other Dimension discs.

The remaining extras are a number of short featurettes and comes on a single layer disc. First up is a commentary from Rodriguez on some of the effcts he did for the film, explaining the pegleg and the ageing of the film's look. Next are two documentaries celebrating first the women and then the men who lead the cast in the film, where Rodriguez explains that he cast the film before completing the script so he could write to actor's strengths. A piece on the film's stunt work follows, and finally the director talks about his casting of friends in cameos as a doctor, an orderly, and an estate agent.


Well this is a fine treatment with a lot of extras which will play well to those who love the film. I did enjoy it, even if the inspirations for it are more worth your time, and I would recommend it as fun rental.

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Last updated: 19/04/2018 01:07:02

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