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Volume 1 Issue 5 - Picking The Pockets Of Literary Corpses

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Brave New Robotic World

By Shorty LaBrea
jonmichaels@earthlink.net

Both Good and Evil take a moment to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee.

From the title sequence of Michael Crichton's Runaway, you would swear that you are about to spend the next hour and a half with the bastard child of Tron and Blade Runner. Using a blend of pornographically close shots ofelectronic "guts," lots of "state-of-art" (for 1984) computer graphics, and a title font straight out of the Star Trek movies, this appears to be another vision of the technological wonderment of the future. What Crichton gives us, however, is a sci-fi future that is not that different from the present along with the lesson that technology is not all that it is cracked up to be.

Magnum, P.I. runs around as a future cop specializing in shutting-down rampaging robots (Blade Runner, anyone?) and handing out philosophic worldviews verging on Ludditism. "Let me tell you the way the world is: Nothing works right. Relationships don't work right. People don't work right. People make machines so why should machines be perfect?" He is backed up by appearances from Kirstie Alley, Stan Shaw, and G.W. Bailey. (Hey, when is that long-awaited Police Academy 8: We're Milking This To The Bitter End ever going to come out?) Gene Simmons, blood-spitting bass player for KISS, plays Luther the evil genius who is using robots and "smart" bullets to carry out his nefarious plans, and is probably the best reason to pick up this movie. He does a great job as the bad guy rating very high on my Creep-Out Meter with his penetrating stares.

We take our robots very seriously around the RTC office, and Runaway is no disappointment. The robots in this movie are a little more 2XL and a little less Leon, but the fact that they seem so realistic is what makes it enjoyable. Let's face it, no one really expects Pris to be cleaning their house. Instead Crichton presents us with a world populated with little boxes on wheels that have electronic voices, grasping claws and wide variety of sensors. These are the same "servants of the future" that were presented to us years ago in those Bugs Bunny cartoons where the mice get into the "House of Tomorrow" and start breaking things so the robot-guy with the broom has to go around and sweep everything up.

Of course it would not be a Hollywood film if there were not at least one point where we scratched our head. What's up with directors casting their wives (or future wives) as hookers? Is it just me or does this trend tell us something about these people? That hooker at the bar in the scene where Luther is trying to settle his arms deal is none other that the future Mrs. Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin. (Yes, that hooker DID write Twister. Oh boy, somebody find my Pepto. Quick!) Need another example? How about Monica Devereux as the teenage-runaway hooker in Adventures In Babysitting who just happens to be married to the director, Chris Columbus?

One more thing, (you're not in the clear yet, Mr. Crichton) lose the two-minute, fifteen-second Selleck/Rhodes make-out scene with sparks flying (literally) at the end. (Yes, it IS 2:15. I timed it.) If you want the heroes to hook-up at the end, fine. I'll not be the one to stop conventions but I might protest loudly. But over TWO minutes! AND sparks! AND cheesy music! I don't care if the credits are crawling over this shot. My skin is starting to crawl. No wonder people are going to leave the theater, or shut off the VCR thinking this movie sucked.

On the Crichton directorial scale, Westworld is the best you are probably ever going to get out of this guy, while The 13th Warrior (oh yes, he took over after John McTiernan left) is so bad that it'll probably damage your brain upon viewing. Following these guidelines, Runaway approximates Coma-level (the movie, not a reflection on any kind of vegetative state this might induce). Though for me, Looker, holds a special place in my heart. It's probably just because of Susan Dey. "I think I love you, so what are you so afraid of." Michael Crichton definitely isn't the best director out there, but he can usually be counted on to bring you a consistently enjoyable film. (The 13th Warrior, excluded.)

 

 
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