Evolution Review

Andy Hall has reviewed the Region 2 release of Evolution. Great idea ends up as a disappointing comedy, and if you really want a copy, get the region 1 version instead.

The Movie
When a meteorite crashes into the desert, local college teachers Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and Harry Block (Orlando Jones) set out to investigate. What they find isn’t the usual piece of space rock though, as this one is teaming with basic single-celled life forms. Excited by this discovery, they take a sample back to the college lab. This is just the beginning however, as analysis of the sample shows that they have quickly evolved into more complex organisms. The organisms continue to evolve at a massively accelerated rate, and are soon up to basic reptilian creature development. Returning to the site, they find that the military have got wind of all this and have restricted the area and brought in their own expert, Allison Reid (Julianne Moore). With the creatures continuing to develop at an amazing rate the guys, with the “help” of local idiot Wayne (Seann William Scott) have to deal with the aliens before they start spreading across the country and the military before they do something heavy-handed and extremely stupid.

When this script was first circulated around Hollywood it was as a serious science fiction piece, and not a comedy. That’s the way it should have stayed. The premise of the rapidly developing life forms is extremely clever and original, and the strange alien designs are impressive. However, Ivan Reitman got hold of the script and reworked into a comedy which is a supposed update of his movie Ghostbusters. Indeed, the similarities are there to be seen, with strange creatures being successfully dealt with by a couple of college teachers, before the powers of government come in and shut them down, causing havoc by doing so. It’s pretty much there though, that the similarities stop. Ghostbusters had a witty script, some very funny sequences, and a very entertaining story; Evolution has rectal gags. Another key element in Ghostbusters’ success was that it featured comedians, rather than straight actors trying to do comedy. David Duchovny is OK at being funny, but he’s no Bill Murray. And if Duchovny wants to do different roles from the X-Files, picking a character like this is hardly diversifying. Julianne Moore tries her best, but the fact that her character’s main gag is that she’s clumsy and falls over a lot, coupled with the lack of spark in the romantic interest with Kane, means she’s always fighting an uphill battle. Orlando Jones is a good comic actor, but here he mainly has to scream a lot when alien bugs crawl up his backside. As for Seann William Scott, he seems to have mastered “dumb-ass”, but I don’t think his range goes any further, and it certainly doesn’t here.

The other problem with Evolution is that having turned it into a comedy…it just isn’t funny enough. Lavatorial jokes are the main order of the day, which is clearly a big step back from the humour of Ghostbusters. Just because the Farrelly brothers are churning out movies with tasteless humour it doesn’t mean it has to be copied. And the outrageous product placement at the end of the movie is meant to be a clever joke, but really it’s just outrageous product placement.

It’s certainly not all bad, as there a number of entertaining sequences when the creatures run amok, but ultimately this is a film with a really interesting idea that has been turned into something of a lousy comedy. Everyone here – with the exception of Seann William Scott – are too good for this nonsense. In a word – disappointing.

The anamorphic picture is generally up to the usual high standards of picture quality, but it loses a couple of marks for a bit of degradation in some of the darker scenes. Where otherwise it is fairly sharp, in these scenes it can look quite grainy.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track delivers the appropriate punch for the movie. It has all the power and directional effects that would be expected of it, and so is worthy of a decent score.

Video Extras
This disc harks back to the “bad old days” as when compared to its region 1 counterpart it comes up woefully short. The region 1 disc has a commentary, deleted scenes and multiple featurettes; the region 2 is missing these. Instead, some extremely dull and lifeless menus take us to the following:

The sole featurette is HBO First Look: “The Evolution of Evolution”. Introduced by Orlando Jones, it’s in the usual HBO style and runs for the usual fifteen minutes. It features interviews, behind the scenes, a very brief biography of Ivan Reitman, a look at the special effects with Phil Tippett and a glimpse of some deleted scenes (though obviously not to the same extent as the region 1 disc).

The Cast section gives a text-only biography and filmography information about the actors, but only the four main stars. Likewise the Filmmakers section does the same for the crew, but this includes sixteen people.

The Production Notes is more static screens of information, and shares some but not all its text with the booklet.

Finally we have the trailers section. The Theatrical trailer is presented in anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 and at least features a clip of a deleted scene, and another in which the dialogue was changed for a more general audience. The Teaser trailer features the tag line “Have a nice end of the world” which was later changed to “Coming to wipe that silly smile off your planet” after recent terrorist events. Finally there is a Trailer for Ghostbusters. This really should not be here as it just serves to remind us how much better a film that is than this one.

DVD-ROM Extras
There are no ROM extras on this disc.

Final Thoughts
A disappointing movie on an even more disappointing disc. If you really must get this movie make sure you acquire the region 1 version.

Andy Hall

Updated: Dec 10, 2001

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