Last year when I reviewed the Sci-Fi original movie Sands of Oblivion I issued a plea to the Sci-Fi channel asking they "step away from these cheap horror productions for a while and get back to your SF roots. Give your producers and directors a chance to explore different frontiers of storytelling. Even a bit of tongue-in-cheek sword-and-sorcery could be a step in the right direction."
Well I don't know if anyone was listening but this past Saturday it certainly seems like the fates conspired to bring us something new, something different, because the original movie was *gasp*. .
ODYSSEUS - VOYAGE TO THE UNDERWORLD. I know this movie was probably really only made to cash in on the announced CLASH OF THE TITANS remake but the real question here is whether or not the Sci-Fi channel has finally broken out of it's bargain basement cheap CGI horror movie rut. Sadly I must issue the following warning before continuing this review:
Beware, TV viewer, the SCI FI 'original' movie! BEWARE!
So It Begins. .
Yes Sciffy did it again. They took what, on the surface, sounded like a great premise (a "lost" chapter in the adventures of Homer's Odyssey) and managed to churn out a laughable farce. Here the hero and crew don't bypass the island of sirens but wash up on it's rocky shore, thus providing the impetus for the tale that unfolds. Never mind that the writer's seem oblivious to the story of the Odyssey, much less it's outcome, they've heard of the sirens and their island and that's enough for them! So what if they kill off virtually all the crew? So what if a young (and very sighted) scribe, Homer, is now part of the crew? So what if they have re-imagined Persephone as a bitch-goddess Queen of the Underworld hell bent on world domination? So what if. .
I made it roughly three fourths of the way through this plodding pile of Harpy guano of a movie before the utter absurdity bred from a near total ignorance of actual Greek mythology by apparently ALL those involved with this production finally reduced me to such fits of hysterical laughter I had to leave the room. And still I kept laughing. How I did laugh.
There is only one way to sum this movie up: OMGWTFBBQ!
So you thought you knew all about the story of Odysseus and crew, how they were lost and adrift upon a fickle sea of fate, and that what Homer wrote was the definite article on the tale? Well think again! For the premise of this movie is it's the tale of a 'lost chapter' of the Odyssey, told in flashback by an aged Homer as he sits writing the tale. It's a fair parable that runs overtly long. Indeed I could write this off as typical Sci-Fi channel pabulum and leave it at that but that wouldn't make for much of a review, besides this "original movie" is far from the usual fubar fusterclucks sciffy produces.
Yes there were silly bargain basement CGI monsters, this should have come with a disclaimer stating 'a work of fiction based on paraphrased kindergarten cliff note's about Greek mythology', and the bulk of the story comes across like someone's FRPG game transcript made into a movie. But. .
What's even more amazing is who sciffy wrangled into starring in this turgid tale of tremulous torture. In a bit of turnaround Odysseus is played by star-villain Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns). Amongst the other familiar faces were genre actors such as Andromeda's Steve "Telemachus Rhade" Bacic. .
Stargate SG-1's JR "Lantash" Bourne. .
And. . . And. . . Actually that's it. The rest of the cast were filled out by an interesting and talented assortment of actors whose credits are primarily bit parts or one-shot roles in TV series. For instance the sultry villainess. .
Is played by Stefanie von Pfetten, who's had roles on other sciffy series like Battlestar Galactica and Eureka. So it's all veteran actors who know what they're doing, too bad the script writers didn't.
Hard to believe but it's true, it took two writer's to pump out this plodding parable? Well it did. Brook Durham, who brought us such brain rotting nonsense as Showdown at Area 51 and Mammoth; and Kevin Leeson, who was responsible for such reprehensible crimes against cinema as. . . As. ..
Actually this is listed as his first writing credit. So he's not been responsible for any reprehensible crimes against cinema, yet. But he does have a few assistant/second unit director credits on movies like Hollow Man II and Final Destination 3 and similar B grade flicks. Then there is the director, the poor slob that had the albatross of this schlock script hung around his neck, can we please give it up for the ultimate trooper: Terry Ingram.
Who is Terry Ingram? Well if IMDB is any guide seems like he's a director moving into the movies from TV work. His listed credits include episodes for such series as Odyssey 5, Mutant X, Relic Hunter, La Femme Nikita, Earth: Final Conflict, and Total Recall 2070. Lot of great sci-fi series on that list. I suppose that explains why the movie looks competently shot yet is slow, Mr. Ingram is used to a 1 hour format. This explains a lot. I'm sure he'll improve, once he realizes it's futile trying to unlearn the habits learned shooting episodic TV series and instead should put the best of what he knows to use.
And the CGI? Well. .
So, the writer's, Oy! Where to begin? Well for starters I'd suggest if they ever plan to write a movie like this again that they don't rely on stoner friends fuzzy recollections of mythology based on gaming experiences. Buy a book about Greek Mythology. Better yet make an effort to be authentic and DON'T MAKE CRAP UP. It's not that hard. Just get a reference on Greek myth and folklore, preferably one that also lists the various creatures and critters. I'm sure there's more than a few such references in most libraries.
Why am I being so harsh? Because we have quite a few interesting creatures populating our folk myth that the writers could have used, like the Callicantzari, instead of inventing bat-winged creatures. Granted I suppose that was just a ready to use CGI template and it's not fair to blame the writers, yet they provide the names/description in the script. That's what the CGI artists had to go on. And don't even get me started on the "Hellfire Cross" nonsense
Why is there a magical medieval sword in a story set in classical antiquity?
Alas I can probably guess. My wild and crazy speculation is the idea for the script came about when the writers were visiting their stoner friend(s) who started telling them about this crazy homebrew storyteller slash D&D slash Lords of Creation game that involved Greek gods, vampires, and a magic vorpal sword- Hellcross, +1/+3 vs. Demonic Creatures & Vampires- and they were all like, "Kewl, and then what happened?" This inspired them and they probably went home and started scribbling away, never once bothering to actually give a first thought to cracking open an actual reference on the period or source myths, which can sometimes happen when the muse is upon you.
You may have noticed, and are probably wondering, why I do not discuss the "story" much. To be perfectly frank 88% of the movie is the characters
sitting or standing around reciting banal dialogue. The remainder of the movie, wherein the threadbare plot dwells, is so transparent that to even mention in
passing what's going on is to give the entire story away. Seriously you could sum the plot up in a sentence or two. The movie looks very nice, the costumes
are great, but the script is a steaming pile of rotting goat entrails.
This movie was bad not because of technical flaws or faults but bad in a "written by writers who know (virtually) nothing about their source material" mutilated mythology sort of way. Which, for me, made it unintentionally funny. If you don't know anything about Greek mythology then you'll probably enjoy the movie, though you may not laugh quite as hard as I did. However there were no dancing girls. How can you write a sword-and-sandal movie and not include dancing girls? There should have been dancing girls!
All in all this movie was very silly and kind of fun. Too, shockingly, there was even a bit of gore. Better yet this may be part of a trend as Mr. Vosloo is slated to return to sciffy in yet another tale of mythic fantasy called, brace yourself, Fire & Ice. Mark your calendar for this one is coming from the director responsible for the bullet that Halle Berry's career somehow dodged, Catwoman. But wait, it gets better, the official site states this movie entered post after "4 weeks of shooting" and they promise it'll be FULL of CGI. This movie is thus virtually ensured to be epic scale badness. I can't wait!
Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan