Friday, April 08, 2005

Thumbnails on Koontz's paperback series Frankenstein and Robin William's sci-fi flick The Final Cut.

Koontz has kicked out yet another readable yarn: Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son. It's aimed at the small attention span set, but then that makes it the perfect book for soccer practice, beach trips, and other times when you are required to be somewhere where your attention is as fractured as a cracker on a toddler's high chair tray. (Went around the block for that one, didn't I?)

What's cool is it doesn't begin with the premise, "Oh that stuff that Mary Shelley wrote about never happened," which most writers would take just to make it easy on themselves. No, it says she just wrote the story on stuff she'd overheard at parties. It really happened in Austria not <Bela Lugosi accent>Transylvania</Bela Lugosi accent>, and the process conveyed near immortality on the Monster. The monster is a logical extension of what Shelley's tortured being that escaped to the frozen wastelands in despair would eventually become.

This is all tossed into the middle of a series of serial killings in Anne Rice land: New Orleans. Victor Fronkensteen, who's managed to extend his life through what he learned creating the monster, now lives there and is still cooking things up on the slab. One is a purposely-created autistic monster, because Victor wants to harness the intense concentration of autistics provided he can overcome the other problems of autism. Sort of like a well-adjusted Rainman who can break Volkswagens in half.

So this book is a big gumbo of wild ideas, chases, and even a cute homage to the Addams Family.

For those of you who just like a good yarn (without a lot of knit one, pearl two), check it out.

Oh, and the reason this is in novel form at all is because some TV production company spliffed the deal of the decade. They had Scorsese, yes Martin himself, set to direct because he liked Koontz's script, but then they made a bunch of changes neither liked, so they bailed and hence the novelization of the series. Memo to production executives: If you fuck things up enough that a giant of movie directing and a giant of fiction writing both abandon the project, perhaps you're doing something wrong and should consider a career in fast food or a professorship a gender studies dept (I think there will be a vacancy at CSU in Boulder soon).

The Final Cut is one of those near-miss flicks that sci-fi fans will gloomily include in their DVD collection, and mainstream viewers who rent it because of Robin Williams, if they manage to watch the whole thing, will wonder, "What the fork?"

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: What I'm going to reveal is, to me, some Capt. Obvious stuff given the nature of the intro rules on the "Cutters" - the people whose job it is to edit the deceased's recorded memories into a "re-memory" for their loved ones to cherish and enjoy. But for those of you who like to go unsoiled into that good night, surf away NOW.

The biggest sin of this movie is the pacing is glacial, which is meant to convey a feeling of foreboding and weightyness, but the actual result is to make one glance at the clock a lot or to study Robin William's face for reasons as to why it never quite gels esthetically. The acting is very understated to the point of being nearly nonexistent, and I bring this up only to scoff at the director's praise of the same (in the DVD extra features). He talks about how on the page the characters weren't really all that much but the actors just made them come to life, particularly Mira Sorvino (whom I love and inadvertently left off of my "will see just 'cause she's in it" list in an earlier post). Well, dude, they're just as flat as they were on the page, sorry to say.

But, it's a fun sci-fi idea, and we fans will forgive a lot when it comes to poking the soft gooey center of THE BIG IDEA.

See, in the movie, parents can have a chip planted in a baby's brain before birth, at a high price, that will connect up with the neurons and then record every moment of their lives, which can be loaded onto a computer for viewing after their death. This chip is undetectable so no one knows who has them and who doesn't. One of the conflicts is that people don't like that fact that half the population are recording devices that catch every detail they witness, which makes them unwitting stars in someone else's drama, and eventually viewable by the corporation that provides this technology.

Robin Williams' character is renowned among "Cutters" because he'll take on the nastiest jobs - meaning he will take the memories of someone whom everyone knew was an evil bastard, and edit out all the bad stuff and create a "good parts only" "re-memory" of the cretin's life. This is because Robin has a nasty SECRET in his past, which is spelled out in the first scenes of the movie, so it's not a secret to us, the viewers. And, right before that, as mentioned above, we get the rules that "Cutters" must live by, the primary one being that "Cutters" cannot have the Zoe Implant, as it's called, that records their life. So, here's the spoiler, it's pretty freakin' obvious that Robin has a Zoe Implant. Which is the other reason why this movie is drudgery to watch. There are no big surprises because we're given HUGE HINTS on the two primary plots of the film that only the most brain-dead viewers would miss. It reminds me of that great blonde joke where a blonde is descending a staircase, sees a banana peel lying there on one of the stairs, and says with resignation, "Oh no. Not again." The outcome is as inevitable as the treatment of a liberal guest on "Hannity and Colmes."

Still, sci-fi fans won't be warned away. We want our sci-fi, damnit, and we'll bore ourselves silly to get it. Btw, the movie is only an hour and a half long, so not much valuable lifetime is lost. But watch this in the bowels of the night when you can't sleep or something, don't waste a sunny day or miss a good party for this one.

Two final caveats:
1) Though a very flawed film in its own right, Brainstorm did this concept much better and is way more fun. I suggest that determined sci-fi fans see this one, too, if they haven't already.
2) The central secret of the icky guy whose memories William's "Cutter" is cleaning up is not appropriate for children, plus there's some pretty direct boinkage footage (just to make the point that ALL of someone's memories are recorded and viewable to a "Cutter").

Rock on wich'yo bad self.


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