First up, I should qualify that this film was probably written specifically for me. Well, not personally, but demographically speaking. One of my earliest memories is the excitement I felt when my Dad brought home an anonymous looking VHS cassette and put it into the machine advising me to “wait and see” what it was. It didn’t take long for me to work it out though – that gloriously anachronistic prologue in blue, followed by the now-familiar fanfare and then the baffling scrolling yellow writing which always seemed to go on way too long, until finally we see that Star Destroyer releasing the imperial probes – one of which will eventually track down our heroes in their frozen fortress.
So yes, when Simon Pegg says “I really liked that T-shirt” about his beautiful Empire Strikes Back grey tee it was a poignant moment indeed. This film was meant as a love letter to Spielberg, specifically to Close Encounters, but whilst there are obvious elements that have been imported from his canon – the film is actually a love letter from Simon and Nick Frost to each other. And as that, it works well. In reality their characters in the film (Grahame & Clive) are a bit too old to be doing this whole nerd shtick – going to Comic-Con and then following it up with a road trip to all the best-known UFO hotspots in the US. Most men of their age would have settled down and given up these childish things but these two guys have stuck with it, clinging on to fleeting sci-fi success from the 90s and seemingly unable to commit to the real world. For me the story arc of Clive (played by Frost) was the less clichéd and more truthful one. What would happen if you finally did get what you’ve always wanted? You’ve been dreaming about little green (or grey) men for most of your life. How do you deal with the crushing and unavoidable anticlimax of actually meeting one? As the more introspective of the two, I found his reaction to their intergalactic hitchhiker much more engaging than the “let’s just get on with our adventure” reaction of Pegg’s Graham. The relationship between the two humans was well written, although I think it was hardly a stretch for them to play best buddies – the supporting characters were all fun, although not really given enough time to breathe and be sufficiently fleshed out. Kristen Wiig enters the film as a one-eyed creationist and ends it a very different person indeed. Whether her speedy transformation is symptomatic of her character’s underlying motivations, or whether it’s a sacrifice in the name of storytelling is up for debate. But then again, this is not meant to be an in-depth character study. In fact, the best character of the lot is the Seth Rogen-voiced Paul himself. Smart, and smart-talking, but with an appealingly dumb streak he manages to be worldly-wise and naive at the same time. And his verbal and physical delivery is spot on. And unlike computer-generated characters that are meant to resemble real people, you don’t have the problem of constantly comparing his skin tone / eye colour / iris reflex with what a photoreal person would actually do (see Tron: Legacy).
OK – so far this isn’t a review, more a jumble of thoughts vaguely related to the film in question. But I don’t care. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want. Apparently. Although I suppose I should at least get round to whether I thought it was good or not! I enjoyed it, on the level of spotting all the quotes and references lifted from other films (I’m sure there are many I missed, but off the top of my head we had Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Total Recall, ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The X-Files, Return of the Jedi etc.), and I laughed out loud a few times (which with me is more of an achievement than it sounds). Did it exceed my expectations? No. Did it change my life? No. Did it have the layers of storytelling like Shaun of the Dead? No. Did I have fun? Yes. Would I recommend it to you? Yes – if you’re a nerd like me, you’ll have fun.