Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie Review - Stranded

Of the three movies so far in this mini-marathon, "Stranded" is probably the most disappointing. 
Ark is a mining outpost on the moon. We don't know what they are mining be we do see a CG mining rig apparently shooting a laser into the moon's crust. Why it is called Ark is never explained. The base has a four person crew. Colonel Brauchman (Christian Slater), Dr. Lance Krauss, the base medical doctor, Bruce Johns, the base alcoholic engineer and Ava Camaron who's purpose is to have an alien baby later in the movie. By the way, the scene depicted on the poster doesn't exist in any way in the movie.

Suddenly, the base computer voice announces a storm coming. A storm? On the moon? Oh, my bad, it's a meteor storm. Apparently the base builders never thought there might be a meteor storm on the moon and provided absolutely no protection for such an event. The base suffers a lot of damage, including getting their solar panels knocked out of alignment and their communication gear damaged. They manage to get out a distress call to Earth before everything goes to hell.

Due to the damage, carbon monoxide starts leaking into the living quarters. I swear they were saying carbon dioxide which doesn't make any sense either. Why would the have a large supply of either? I could imagine carbon dioxide perhaps to cool the laser. That would actually make sense. Several reviews I read on this said it was carbon monoxide. The doctor starts explaining the effects of poisoning of whatever they were talking about. What he describes is carbon monoxide poisoning. In fact he sounded like he was reciting the Wikipedia article on it.

Whatever. Cameron is sent somewhere in the station where she has to wear a space suit. She finds all of them damaged except one. Luckily it fits. She finds a football sized (and shaped) rock jamming up the works and gets it out, nearly killing herself in the process. She notices something she thinks are spores on the surface.

The Colonel says to get that rock into isolation, we don't have time for this shit, we're trying not to die in the next 5 minutes. But Cameron and the doctor decide to investigate the rock anyway and sure enough, it's got something living on it. In an isolation box it starts to grow. Cameron, working with a small sample, and not even taking the simplest of precautions, manages to get herself contaminated with the spores. About 10 minutes later she's 6 months pregnant.

At this point the movie is starting to look like a cheap Canadian rip-off of "Alien". It was also reminding me of "The Thing".

Cameron has the baby (it actually crawls out of her from where you'd expect, instead of bursting out of her chest, thank God). It gives her a little kiss and takes off. It looks more or less human. The doctor and the engineer arrive too late to actually see this but arrive just in time for the afterbirth. The engineer gets blood all over his arms and face. He also manages to get bit on the leg by the alien baby but nobody believes him.  Since the doctor had warned about hallucinations from the gas poisoning, I was wondering if maybe the baby was just a hallucination. The director kept this pretty confusing for awhile and I didn't appreciate it.

The alien baby grows to man sized in another 10 minutes or so, kills the hapless engineer and assumes his shape. He manages to fool the rest for a couple of minutes but then they all start to try to kill it. Cameron, having just given birth to an alien baby is already pretty fit. They attempt to flush it out an air lock, but the doctor ends up outside.

The Colonel and Cameron realize there is only one thing to do, escape in the remaining undamaged escape capsule. For some reason, this takes a lot of confusing coordination between Cameron in the capsule and the Colonel in the base control room, which gives the monster enough time to get in the capsule himself and get blasted back to Earth. "Damn!" says the Colonel.

With the big red numbers on the wall saying they've got only 17 minutes of oxygen left, they settle down on the floor of the control room contemplating their deaths and the probable deaths of every one on Earth. With 3 and a half minutes of air left, they hear the rescue shuttle from Earth finally arriving. The Colonel says their rescuers will never get to them in three minutes. So they decide to run out of the base, unprotected on the moon's surface to the shuttle. The director, perhaps wisely, doesn't show this.

In the last scene, the capsule has landed in what looks like an abandoned industrial facility in Saskatchewan. The Colonel, now safely on the shuttle, calls back to his superior on Earth that whatever comes out of the escape shuttle needs to be killed immediately. Too late for that, the monster has already escaped and is busy turning it self into something that looks like the alien in "Predator". Roll the credits.

Besides the obvious bad things, like the wooden dialog badly delivered, the overall senseless behavior of the crew (like spending time on the stupid rock instead of trying to survive) and issues with continuity (the engineer kept alternatively appearing covered in blood and clean), I always have a problem with science fiction movies when the science doesn't make sense.

For example, this moon base was huge. It didn't look too big on the outside, but inside it was a labyrinth of hallways and hatches. The monster was hiding out in the ventilation system which had duct work large enough for it to walk around in upright. There were only 4 crew members, what was all this space for?

Also, the last time I was on the moon, the gravity was only 1/6th Earth normal. These people were walking around like they were on a sound stage. There was one mention of artificial gravity when Cameron went out to fix something and found the contaminated rock. Before she opens up the final hatch, she says she is turning off the artificial gravity. She then pushes a button on her boot which cause some lights on her boot to go from green to red. Was the artificial gravity built into her boots? How would that work? Then she climbs through the hatch and walks around like normal. I can accept a lot of things in science fiction if either it makes sense, is an established science fiction device (like artificial gravity or faster than light travel),  or it's alien. Alien baby crawling out of a women's vagina, I'm OK with that. Artificial gravity built into boots? Sorry, I'm not buying it.

I think there's going to be one more movie but haven't decided which one yet so stay tuned.

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